November 13, 2011

Here’s a thought

It has been stormy. As things are trying to settle itself in this new environment, emotionally life was shaken by the few takes. Over the weeks, while I’m swamped with work and maneuvering the unusual, surprises bite me. Few times.

But before that, the last gastronomical adventure took me around Pengkalan Weld. The place is famous for the houses in stilts, built along the straits and and categorized by clans and Chinese surnames.
Walking on the wooden planks, every steps creaks and to the residents it became daily rhythm of life. The creaks vary by speed, weights, walking style and of daily routine sorts. (ahem!) And while I walked out from the neighborhood, I spotted this little restaurant, Kar Bee Cafe with a line of people waiting. It is a seafood place servicing noodles and porridge, where you pick your choice of seafood, carb, soup base (or porridge) and wait.

That evening I feel like having Tom Yum with thick beehoon (rice vermicelli), prawns, fried fish and squids. Using the plate stacking system, I’d say they are pretty fast for a restaurant with just one cook. And the continuous buzzing gas-flame that whirrs loudly, a sign of a good ‘wok hei’ (a very hot stove, to a point of slight burnt, significant in Chinese cooking).

So I slurp away my noodles, and first thought it felt like under salt. Or not. Second slurp, I could taste the sweetness of the fresh seafood. And later it all came in harmony it was perfect. Perhaps over the years, I have gotten use to stronger stock that it somewhat camouflaged the freshness of ingredients used. Here, it reminds me of the ‘just-right-subtleness’ stocks and it brings out the seafood flavors better. Kinda like my grandma’s cooking, slightly under salt but the protein taste better.
So the meal came up to about RM 15++ with generous portion, definitely fresh and wholesome. Twas a good meal!

Kar Bee Cafe,

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And about the emo-surprises.
1) I missed an accident by inches on one of my drive back from Penang to KL. Mr. Sleepy 3 tonne lorry decided to sway to my lane at 1am. My massive honking woke him up or otherwise, catastrophic.

2) I had fever, and I pop in aspirins, thinking it would go away. But it didn’t, next day woke with a woozy feeling strange metallic taste in my mouth and sores on my tongue. Couple of hours later, my tongue hurts and it bleed. Then I lost my sense of taste for few weeks. Doctor couldn’t find anything wrong about it and told me about tongue cancer and ask me to observe for and anomaly. Tongue cancer!? Thankfully, the sores went away 2 weeks later and I regain my taste bud again. But during that period, it’s was depressing. I didn’t even know how to share it and kept it to myself for that 14 over days. Depressing shit.

3) The passing of an inspiring musician that I had briefly work with, Brian Tan of pancreatic cancer (during my 2 weeks of tongue/mouth observation). Depressing that he had left and more depressing thinking about what will happen if it I had cancer. Sounds silly, but I couldn’t escape thinking about death, funeral, love, family, friends and all.

Geez, it’s far off the usual foodie post, but it did wake me up on life. Still recovering from the depressing thoughts, but have set some priorities right too. Stay tuned !

October 15, 2011

From the pearl of orient

And it has been about 3 weeks now that I’m living in Penang. Yup, if you didn’t know already, work sent me to this lovely island and I’ll be based here for some time. I do miss Klang Valley but settling here isn't too bad. To begin with I got a lovely condo by the sea. The layout of the place had all the rooms and the living room with sea view.


So when I’m not work, and not staring blank at sea from my room, I go stuff myself silly. Well, it’s Penang folks, there is always something to munch on, every corner, all the time. So last weekend I went to look for char kuey teow. I have sampled few including the notorious ones, the hidden ones, the dancing ones and so on, and I think I found my favorite.

This is char koay teow @ Sin Guat Keong Kopitiam. They only sell from evening to late night, and it’s char koay teow with a twist; by adding deep fried mantis prawns at RM 5 per plate.


From a distance I could already hear the clanking of their wok and when I got to their stall, the air is filled with aroma of chilies, charcoal and awesomeness. So I ordered my portion, and before anything, it’s served. This is fast! Super fast! The glistening flat rice noodles is packed with flavours, of being spicy, salty and this unexpected sweet-ish taste. The fresh prawns with the plump cockles and the meaty mantis gives a lovely combination to the oily charcoal scented noodles. Makes me salivate just to rewrite the experience again.



And unlike the other infamous notorious yet arrogant char koay teow stall, this guy is very very friendly. His wife and his workers have a welcoming gesture despite swarming with orders and work. And they love sharing their stories whenever they can. I chatted with the wife, shyly but proud she told me about all the media feature they had over the years. Their char koay teow stall has been around since his grandfather’s time. That’s like 3 generation ago, and the same night I was there, his teenage son is helping and honing the cooking skills under the watchful eyes of his parents.

Then I asked about the speed, how could they serve it so quickly. The trick is pre-fried koay teow. As part of the preparation he would pre-fried plain koay teow and upon orders he would refry them again with the rest of the ingredients, plate by plate. That way they could serve it faster and at the same time keeping the ingredients cook time and taste, just right.


Thumbs up for char koay teow @ Sin Guat Keong Kopitiam.

86,Lebuh Kimberly, 10100 Georgetown, Pulau Pinang

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August 25, 2011

Hip Hip Hooray.

And here it goes.

I guess I have got to stop starting my entries on being apologetic for non regular updates or so. Life has been hectic. Over the past months, there were some travelling, show producing, house renovation, working assignments outside Klang Valley and all that jazz.


collage: bens’, bea;s wedding, assam laksa, nasi lemak

Right now, I am in Penang. The ‘rojak’ of cultural integration and street food abundance. I look forward to every meal and I am equally surprised with the space available in my stomach. And reasonably priced too.


collage: curry mee, nasi kandar, ais kacang, lengcheekang & sunset bridge

And another reason I blame of lack of post is... my outdated camera. Hang on EOS 60D. I will be back. Soon.


collage: sunday roast, wholemeal sandwich, piggy door stopper, tommy le baker & night bridge


… Selamat Hari Raya !

July 12, 2011

Comforting porridge

And it bring back a lot of memories whenever I eat  porridge. Back then, porridge is one of the few things I hated, same goes for bitter gourd, durians, canned black beans fish and etc. I couldn’t remember how it all gradually became my favourite food as I grow older. Having porridge for lunch was like a regular affair, especially for my dad. Even though Cantonese, I think my dad grew up around the strong Teochew community in Kedah and Penang making Teowchew porridge a regular lunch for us. But be it Teochew or Cantonese porridge, I just simple don’t like it. Whenever mum cooks them, I thought someone at home is sick. And when she does cook it for lunch, I would cycle out from the house and head over the nearby Thai food stall for lunch. Of course I would get a good scolding when I got home later.

So, somehow somewhere between the times that I am ready to leave home for tertiary education, I mysteriously discovered a new appreciation for porridge (and also the rest of the food that I hated earlier).

It is comforting and it feels like home. Really.

And one reason that I like to cook them is, they are really easy. For Teochew porridge; just boil it with water and prepare some side dishes and for Cantonese porridge; just chuck everything in timely and let it cook.

Here’s my Monday comfort dinner:

CMCC porridge (kinda mouthful to name it, but it’s: Chicken + Mushroom + Clams + Century Egg porridge)


Using Asian agak agak techniques, boil some rice (washed) with a knob of ginger and some dried oyster. While waiting for it to simmer, soak some mushrooms and prepare the chicken. I use chicken thigh particularly. And once it come to boil, add in the chicken. Once the chicken is cook, debone it and shred the meat. The remaining of the bones can go into the porridge. Then wait for the porridge consistency to thicken up.  In between that, give it a good stir to avoid if from going lumpy and burnt. After a reasonable amount of time, add in the shredded chickens, coarsely chopped  century egg and diced mushroom. And of course the pacific clams, and the brine is optional. A dash of sesame oil and salt to taste.

Bring to boil and it’s ready to be served with a dash of pepper and a whip of soy sauce.




June 26, 2011

‘Spring clean’ lunch

Once in a while, you got to clear up the fridge. Thing about grocery shopping is, I tend to over do it, sometimes. So it’s like spring cleaning the freezer day. I found half a chicken in the freezer and knowing it’s been frozen there for a while, best way to deal with it is to cook it in stronger flavours.

So a quick curry chicken it is.

I pounded a mixture of garlic, ginger, turmeric, white pepper, star anise and close together. Finely diced some onion and chop the chicken into bite sizes. And a bowl of thick curry paste.

And I got some idea to make spiced rice, so using the same pounded ingredients, I sauté about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and add in 1 stick of cinnamon. Then I fry together with some rice (washed then strained to get rid of excess water). Then pop it into the rice cooker and a slab of butter.

Back to the curry, sauté the rest of the pounded mixture, add in the onions and let it turn golden and aromatic. Then add in the curry paste and give it some time to turn slightly reddish. Then add the chicken, and give it a good stir fry, coating the chicken with the paste. Then enough water to preferred consistency, and let it simmer till it’s ready. Salt and pepper to taste.

And within minutes, rice is ready and serve it hot with the quick curry chicken.




May 9, 2011

A night of discovery

And when I received the invitation to Le Meridien, from Damien, it seemed pretty mysterious. From the e-mail, first thing that came to my mind was … blindfold dining? Well, it wasn’t of course.
Braving the horrible Friday traffic, and end up taking LRT to Le Meridien, we (qwazy monkey) are the earliest to arrive (and possibly the last two to blog about this). Gathered with Cumi & Ciki and Fat Boy Bakes, then greeted by Damien who organized the event.
Still with no details on where we’ll be dining, we start off with flute clanking session at the Conservatory. Flows of Mumm’s Champagne makes ice breaking easy, and soon KY Speaks joined us at the bar. The servers brought this lovely looking amuse bouche; of 5 different types. Pacing myself, I tried the tomato and strawberry gazpacho served in test tubes, pan seared tuna sashimi and sesame wakame salad, and martini of tomato salsa with mozzarella mousse and pesto.
The gazpacho is a good start and it has the right blend of tangy and saltiness. But the camel inside me wished it could be a bigger portion. Alternatively, sip in more tubes. And the pan seared tuna was a good compliment. I guess it’s the current hot spell that I chose the fresh and cold alternatives; martini of tomato salsa with mozzarella mousse and pesto. Although not served in a martini glass, the layers of flavours are great; with the creamy mozzarella the jellied tomato and the sharp pesto trace.
As dinner begins, we were directed to Favola, the Italian restaurant of Le Meridien, where executive Chef Antoine Rodriguez awaits us like a happy Santa. In his thick Italian and Malaysian accent, Chef Antoine certainly has larger than life personality and even greater reputation in the industry. Passionately he introduced us the next course of antipasti duo (a formal before-the-meal servings). But before that (that makes it a before the antipasti i.e. before-before meals, LOL), a quick introduction and sampling of tomatoes, mozzarella cheeses and some wholesome bread.
Antipasti duo is served, starting with freddo; (the cold dish) of smoked salmon with cold cucumber and macadamia puree. The combination of cucumber which is usually waterish is being given a bodied texture by the macadamia nuts and it became this lovely green paste. The smoked salmon sits on it with glory and take it all in one bite is just splendid. The cucumber paste lingers on your palate and your breath is filled with the smoky salmon scent. Excellent!
And that just made a great line up for caldo; (the soup dish) of wild mushroom risotto with clear beef broth and pan seared duck liver. This unassuming dish is my favourite for the evening. The rich beef consommé with the silky rice works like genius. If it is not as comforting already, the risotto dish is paired with pan seared duck liver. Spoon in the rice, a dab of broth and a cut of liver, it is all the basic flavours and simply umami-ish. This dish is so good, I kept talking about it for weeks.
And just when we thought the dinner will continue on, we were asked to leave. In a good way! It would be at Prime for the mains. By now, we figured out the system, the discovery journey is dinner around Le Meridien’s restaurant selections. Starters at Conservatory Bar, appetizers at Favola, mains at Prime and desserts … somewhere.
Prime, is the famous steak house which has won numerous awards throughout its term. We are quickly reunited with Chef Antoine again (some shortcut he took from the kitchen) and once we entered the room, lo and behold - blocks of beefs presented to us. And yet again it’s the enlightening session where chef explains on the different beef grades, the origins, the feed and the all that is relevant.
Quickly and gracelessly we moved to our seats, anxiously waiting for the mains to arrive. Throughout the evening, in between waiting we were also given pairings of drinks from champagne, prosecco, red wine & ... to go with. And so, the beef dish is served!
It is again a duo dish, of charcoal grilled blackmore wagyu chuck flap tail marble 9 with roma tomato confit, brocolini and braised intercoastal on mascarpone polenta. That is mouthful, just to say it out and to eat it. The wagyu, cooked medium rare, locks in all the necessary flavours; of the freshness and the beautiful fat marbling. The braised intercoastal portion is yet another dimension by itself. With the signature BBQ sauce pairs up so well, it is an embrace to the sexy Argentine-Tango dance. (What?!)
Being tipsy and full, the restaurant hopping continues. The last stop would be at Latest Recipe, for desserts. Flouncing our way there, while trying our best to hold in the tummy and look sober, we were presented with the dessert platter. It is comprise of honeydew sago shot, carrot cake, lychee tart, choc mousse with citrus jelly, vanilla crème’ brule, and agar agar.
There is always room for dessert. And the night is end with White Russian (cocktail), coffee, laughter and good company. Thanks to the team that efficiently manage the evening. The discovery journey has showed the essence of each restaurant and the thinking process behind it. Note that the restaurant hopping is not available to the public, but we all agree that that the same concept can be a great dining journey itself to those who are interested.
I will come back for the risotto.
p/s: Must not forget my flash gun next time

March 17, 2011

Restoran Bukit Tinggi BBQ

It has been my fourth trip to this place and I am just about to blog it. Qwazy Monkey introduced me to this place, and it instantly become one of my favourite place, despite it’s arrogant flair. VERY.

About 40 minutes drive from Damansara to Bukit Tinggi, (not Klang) through Bt. Caves then Karak Expressway (towards Genting Highlands), you will quickly escape the bustling city and be greeted with greeneries as far as it goes. You will come to a small very-Chinese village which is easy to spot on your right and soon after it’s the exit to Bukit Tinggi/Janda Baik on your left. The restaurant is right behind this BHP petrol station. Confusing? I’ve  attached the goog-map for your convenience at the end of the post.

So the 10 of us arrive at noon, and we quickly being asked to sit. They don’t allow you to choose where you want to sit, and you have to follow their instructions instead. Being a regular, Qwazy Monkey ordered their signature dishes (almost all of them actually) till the captain stop us for ordering more. Yeah, they stop you.There’s a policy of no over ordering as the crew just do not tolerate wastage, and there is no take-away policy too. Cannot tapau!

While waiting for our food, I was drawn to the ceiling. They are filled with umbrellas. No idea what about it and I dare not to ask why either. All the umbrellas had signatures and messages on it and they are hung upside down. I couldn’t stop imagining if there is a sudden strong gush of winds blowing and how the dust, debris and possibly dead insects that has been accumulating would fall upon us. Since no questions allowed, the hanging ceiling umbrellas remained mystery.

The walls are pretty ‘bare’ where it’s constructed by sandwiched planks of wood with empty wine bottles, liquor bottles and sometimes bicycle’s rims. Interesting shades of greenish-colour they form. And looking at the conditions of the bottles, it could tell that the restaurant has been around for quite a while. Again, no questions asked, so the age of the place is equally a mystery.

Then first dish is served, spotting this quirky Cantonese name: “wu li dan dou” which means ‘chapalang’ or very-mixed matched. Doesn’t look as appetising, but this rice dish took me by surprise. With a mystery (you will see frequent use of this word throughout the post) stock, and grilled vegetables and gourds, it's comforting. It’s a lovely consommé with cooked rice and it is paired with the earthy flavours from the cabbage, mushrooms, grilled peppers and pumpkins.

Proteins are served next , and we have the “hoi sin bou”, roast juicy chicken and roast rack of lamb.

“ Hoi sin bou” which is a pot of seafood is a simple steamed seafood dish. On different occasions, you get different potpourri of sea produce, depending what’s the fresh the cook could get. It is steamed over a refreshingly mystery stock and I can definitely taste a hint of chinese cooking wine. Served along with the steamer pot, it is kept warm till you finish the last bit of it.

Then the roast chicken came. I love the smell, the color, the charred-crispy skin and the ohmygod-juicy meat. I am guessing that it involves a two-step cooking process here. First it is cooked in a hot oven covered with a foil. This helps to make the meat juicy and produce more essencely-sauce. And toward the last cooking mile, the foil is removed and with a honey glaze rubbed on the top, and a high oven heat,  it gives a lovely skin-crisp hot chicken! And the chicken-juice. Itellyiu, it’s awesome!

Then, roast lamb is served. The rack of lamb used is imported from New Zealand, and it is given an interesting twist; to me it's like a combination technique of the West and Chinese way of roasting. The meat is superbly tender with it’s distinct lamb-slightly gamey and the skins reminds me of skin of a Chinese roast duck. And that zing! from the homemade mint sauce. It is sharp yet tangy and cuts very well with the lamb fat. Zinggg!!

And with that much meat, we need some green balance. Something unusual from your regular veggies, this is stir fry green chillies with garlic and a dose of soy sauce. It spots a lovely crunch with a mild heat and a surprisingly sweet after taste. When the dish is being served, a friend forgotten about the no questions policy and he started to ask if this is “yong toufu” (stuffed bean curds/veggies) dish, and he got the sharpest gaze from the server and in her high pitched fortissimo reply, my friend was warned, if he ever wanted “yong toufu” he can go have it in some other restaurant! And then there was a moment of silence!

Chomp Chomp Chomp!

And remember the earlier “hoi sin bou'”
…once we finished the seafood, they took the steamer pot back to the kitchen and the cook make a lovely water cress + oyster mushroom + “tien chat'” ( seeweed-like) soup. With the earlier stock plus the excess sweet drips from the steamed seafood, this is really good.

And that was almost the end of the dishes, and we wanted more. We asked to have another dish added, but the captain refuse to put our order in. He insist that we should finish up everything on the table first. And when we did, we asked for him again. This time after inspecting our table, he just walk away after we said we wanted another tofu dish. The thing is, there were no acknowledgement of our order, no eye contact and he just walk away. That left us wondering for the next 15 minutes until they brought us the signature tofu.

Looking simple, this is one of the best tofu dish I had so far. The tofu as fresh as the morning dew (quoting Iron Chef’s dub, as I am typing this) is paired with a kungfu-fried sunny side up (or INSIDE, in this case) and a generous drizzle of the local Bentong soy sauce. Spoon a sandwich of tofu + egg + soy sauce, and you will get the silky runny egg yolk oozing out with glory. I can’t help but to order a bowl of rice to go with it. Ah, heavenly!

Despite their eccentric and arrogant flair, this restaurant is one of the best kept secret. Be prepared to deal with the not-so-friendly and in-your-face service staff and the cook, but for the great food that they have, I’d say it’s worth the tolerance.

Here’s a summary on how to deal with the restaurant:
1. Sit wherever you  were told to, even if there is aplenty of tables to choose from or even if you wanted a table with good ambient lighting for photography, you can’t choose. Just sit as instructed and sit quietly.
2. DO NOT walk into the kitchen! Friends who was curious walked in to take pictures and they were chased away by the cook that was watching some HK TVB drama on his DVD while he grills the fish.
3. DO NOT make comments about the dish in front of the service crew.
4. DO NOT tapau or takeaway. It’s strictly prohibited
5. DO NOT be surprise if they walk away out of a sudden, abruptly. Even before you finish your sentence.

Restoran Bukit Tinggi BBQ
PT 15792 & 15793, Jalan Bukit Tinggi, Bentong, Pahang, 28750
Tel : 09- 233 0330

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February 10, 2011


Interesting how a random lunch outings lead to series of discovery of similar taste buds and crave for good-ol’ hometown-ish cookings. I think this is also the ‘northern’ thingy, where most Penang’ites, Kedah’ans, Perlis’ian and Perak’ian share in common. They so love their food. Wait I think all Chinese do. Including the partial Chinese, and the dan lain-lain (pun intended and, and not being racist). <—these days say something discomfort even at your own blog you ‘may’ get RM6m legal suit.

So after a heavy lunch, the conversation goes on … and it’s mostly about food. Actually just about food. And without question, it sparked up my let’s-rush-to-cook thingy. Dashing off from office with the unusual amazingly smooth Thursday traffic, I got happier when I’m able to get all the ingredients I had in mind from my trusty lil-vege-shop. The plan for dinner is to make stuffed bitter gourd with salted fish + pork marinade and pineapple prawns.

So once I got home, I start to cut the bitter gourd into 2 inches length wise and cored the seeds. After washing them, soak them with same salt just to cut away excessive bitterness. Thaw minced pork, while waiting get into chopping garlic, slicing ginger, julienne half an onion, diced a handful of carrot, and chopped some 2 chilli padi away. While waiting for the frozen pork to unfroze itself, peel the prawns, slice the pineapple and pop some rice into the cooker of course. And do something decent with the coriander. 

Then, next 20 minutes while watching TVB drama on TV, knead the minced pork with a dash of sesame oil, two quick rounds of soy sauce, pinch of pepper, half a teaspoon of oyster sauce, half a teaspoon of molasses sugar, and a teaspoon of corn starch. Once it get all mushy, add in a pinch of chopped garlic and ginger. Add in the diced carrots too. Now at this time, scissors in sufficent mui heong salted fish into the meat loaf. Lastly sprinkle some wolfberries. See the whole idea is simpler than the name of the dish - ‘Stuffed bitter gourd with salted fish + pork marinade. So what’s next is merely assembling, by stuffing them into the earlier brine-soaking bitter gourds. Arrange them on a place and steam it. For about 20 minutes or just when the bitter gourd turn pale and soft. You don’t need any other sauce preparation as, the steam and the dish itself will work it’s magic to allow a sufficient shallow sauce. Seriously simple !


And the next dish, while waiting for the gourds to steam, coat the clean prawns lightly with corn starch that has been mixed with black pepper and salt. Coat them lightly, which is like, pick up the cleaned prawns with chopstick and front-back-dip-repeat onto the flour and sizzle them into the hot frying pan like. Do not overcoat. Nasty and rubbery they would be. And pan fry the till golden crisp, all curled up and set aside.

Then the simple sauce, sauté ginger and onion, adding in garlic and chilli when it get aromatic. Slide in the pineapple, and I use the canned pineapple rings here, as they spot a sweeter flavours from their sweetened marinade mix. Once it gets sizzling, add in like 4 table spoon of the earlier can leftover syrup. Add in a pinch of salt then the stems of coriander together with earlier crispy plump prawns. A quick stir fry and throw in the balance of the coriander leaves. Then serve-lah.


The dish today is inspired by meat+vege/fruit-combi. Both dishes have the right mix of both vegetables / fruits and protein. And just so you notice, there is no exact measurements mentioned this time. I just feel the best rule of thumb is cook by taste. Your own taste.

Here, try your version and drop me a feedback!


January 28, 2011



I have been bad!

My apologies being being un-disciplined, uninspired and being missing in for the past months. There is a long list of belated festive greetings and interesting food and places that I have ventured yet to be featured. And to feel even worse, I still get visitors stopping by and read the old posts and hoping for new posts.


Chaokar Smokes would be a two years soon, since I started in Feb 2009.

2010, is a great year. And for 2011, I am going to adhere to how things started. *Fingers crossed