Thursday, April 28, 2011

Flavors of Peranakan from home

Peranakan cuisine, or more fondly known as Nyonya food, is always tantalizing to taste not to mention appetizing with its unique exotic and rich flavors.
Originating from the creative blend of Chinese and Malay and possibly other ethnicity, the cuisine is famous for its strong taste and aromatic scent.
It is no wonder, as the main ingredients or secrets to perfecting this cuisine are the spices (also known as rempah in Malay)

The Peranakan cuisine is uniquely found only in Asia; specifically only three places: Penang (Malaysia), Malacca (Malaysia), and Singapore.
Despite being home to the exotic cuisine, the tastes and style of cooking in all the three places are distinctly different.

The history of Peranakan cuisine dates back to the 17th century when the Malacca Sultanate pay homage to the mighty Chinese kingdom in China during the Ming Dynasty period. To strengthen the diplomatic ties between the two kingdoms, the Emperor of China married his daughter to the Sultan.
The arrival of Chinese on peninsular coast of Malaysia introduced many more inter-marriages; between the Chinese and the local Malays.
This, gives birth to the unique ethnic group known as the Peranakans.

It is easy to understand why the Peranakans are mostly clustered in the three places; Penang, Malacca and Singapore as the trio have one thing in common: international trading port thus making them the homeland of the Peranakans.

The mixed marriages also created the fusion of both Chinese and Malay cuisines, introducing the mixture of the use of exotic spices from both ethnicity.

If you ever land in Malaysia or Singapore, don't forget to try the Peranakan Cuisine.
I can recommend if you need any guide :)

This post features some of the common Peranakan food, and also homemade dishes.
These are dishes from home, with lots of love and no, I am not responsible for preparing these dishes.

Jiu Hu Char (Stir-fried jicama with cuttlefish)
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Jicama is the main vegetable in this dish; also known locally as Mengkuang and may be accompanied by shredded carrots and cuttlefish.
In some versions, you may find minced pork meat in it too.
Variants of this dish could differ in the additional pork meat/chicken, and the use of soy sauce. Some could appear darker while some would be lighter; like the one shown above.
The Hokkiens in Penang also have their version which they call "Mengkuang char"
It is a matter of preference, and this is definitely the one dish to try when you attempt Nyonya food.

Kiam Chai Boey (Salted vegetables stew)
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This is pretty much a mixed vegetables dish, or in the Hokkiens' version, leftover dishes all thrown into one with added salted vegetables in a sweet and sour soup.
It is a favorite among the Chinese/Nyonya during the Lunar New Year, as there will be lots of leftovers after the reunion dinner.
The stew is infused with tamarind juice, assam and dried red chilies to give it that spicy sweet and sour taste. Sometimes, fermented bean paste (tau Cheo) may be added in as well.
The salted vegetable is actually a preserved version of the green mustard vegetable, known as Kiam Chai. It does not matter if the fresh vegetable is used either.
This is definitely a favorite dish among the families, and appear on many menus in the restaurants as well.
This is something which you cannot find out of this place.

Assam Fish
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This is a homemade version and the fish is marinated with tamarind sauce and fried.
It was quite tasty and appetizing as well, with its sourish taste.

This is another homemade recipe, and is like a fusion of assam curry and masak belanda of fish fillet.
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The taste was simply amazing and it is just so appetizing that one could not have enough of it :)
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I love Nyonya/Peranakan food, and I guess it just runs in the blood of the family due to the ethnicity of our forefathers (and mothers).
I promise that the Peranakan/Nyonya cuisine will be one of the most mesmerizing experiences with its savoury dishes.
Make it one of your must-do in your itinerary when you visit Malaysia, for an unforgettable food experience!~

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fried Brown Rice

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Brown rice is well-known for its high fibre and also an excellent source for iron, magnesium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, protein, manganese, selesium and gamma-oryzanol.
It is funny how people always compare the brown rice to the white rice, don't they know that white rice is actually brown rice itself too?

White rice is the processed brown rice; which was one of the earliest forms, and latter is preferred these days due to its high nutritional value.
White rice has been the popular choice all the while and is the staple for Asian cuisines and dietary supplement.
However, brown rice is the primary source of the nutritions as white rice is the processed brown rice which had the essential nutrients removed during the processing.
The processing of the brown rice into white rice makes the latter easier to cook and faster too.
White rice, in comparison to its predecessors can be stored for a longer time frame; making it a more favorable choice as families stock up on their source of carbohydrates.

Nowadays brown rice is recognized and is making its way to most kitchen shelves due to its nutritional values.
Parents are even opting to feed their children brown rice instead of white, which to some elder folks, is not a wise decision as brown rice is harder to digest in a child's developing digestive system.

Whether it is brown or white rice, the Asians simply could not escape the fragrance of this source of carbohydrates in this daily meals.
Rice is not just a main source of carbohydrate and energy, but also the secrets to anti-aging.

This fried brown rice was a home recipe, and it is just the same as preparing the usual fried rice except that the white rice is replaced by brown rice.
Throw in eggs, diced vegetables, sausages or fish cakes and voila, fried rice for everyone!~

One more benefit for brown rice?
It is also good for weight loss, due to its high fibre content which can help to curb frequent hunger pangs.
So, eat healthy and stay healthy!~

Kuih Kosui

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Found this at a morning market in Penang; the lovely Kuih Kosui.

This is a Nyonya kueh, which is a soft and sweet cake and can be found in two flavors; pandan and brown sugar.
The right way to eat this is with freshly grated coconut sprinkled on the cake.

It is shaped like a small bowl as that was the way it was made; by shaping the mixture mould in the bowl.
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It can be quite sweet too, as the Nyonyas/Peranakans have a sweet tooth for their desserts and cakes (sweet treats).
Not one for sweet stuffs, I enjoyed this particular version very much as it was not too sweet and was just right for my taste.

Priced at RM0.60-0.80 per piece, this is definitely a great choice for afternoon snack or morning bite :)
Maybe someday, I will learn how to make it too ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Little Taiwan in 1 Utama

Shopping can be exhilaratingly fun (only girls will agree with me) but it can be exhausting too, especially if you have spent long hours at the mall.

Shopping for food, to me, is an even more challenging task due to my picky (and probably fussy) choices for food for the time of the day.

1 Utama is a large shopping mall and home to many brands of clothing, home appliances, etc, and even eateries. I am not new to this mall (it is one of my favorite mall too), but I still find it hard to decide what to have for lunch/dinner whenever I am here.

There was this one time, however, where I was a little lucky as I stumbled upon a Little Taiwan on the Lower ground of the New Wing.
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The cafe is relatively new, and the bright lime green colors of the cafe are just attractive to any passerby.
The food served here are halal; and the style of their Taiwanese food is infused with the local Malaysian flavor.
It is not surprising, as the owners are local Malaysians themselves, but I applaud and at the same time, curious with the results of this unique fusion.

Bubble Milk Tea with pearls is a signature drink made famous by Taiwan.
This is the green tea version, which was one of the recommendations on the menu.
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It was a rather unique taste; and the intoxicatingly exotic taste of the green tea overcame the dairy scent of the milk, making it appealing even to non-dairy lovers.

Spicy noodles with fried fish
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The serving in the large bowl itself is enough to send the 'stuffed' signal to the mind.
It is unique how the fried fish was served in a separate plate from the bowl of spicy noodles although it does makes sense as the fried fish could end up soggy when it is soaked in the noodles.

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The fried fish tasted slightly salty but it was tender to taste. The serving was definitely more than enough for a single person.

The spicy soup tasted like a mixture of tomyam and curry powder used in instant noodles, but it was still quite tasty nevertheless.
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Fried chicken with clear soup noodles was about the same as well.
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The noodles were quite nice; perhaps it was to my liking :)
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The serving was not exactly small; or maybe it was more than what I could take, but I do enjoy the food here.

The best way to finish off a Taiwanese meal, in my opinion is to have a refreshing bowl of Love Jelly (Ai Yu Bing), which is my favorite dessert!~ :)
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The one they have here definitely have my thumbs up!

Who'd have thought that the Malaysian version of Taiwanese food could taste so good even though it was not prepared by the Taiwanese themselves?
I enjoyed the food and the superb Malaysian service/hospitality here too and is definitely recommended.
I am looking forward to my next visit here too.

This goes to show that Malaysian Can indeed do anything :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dining at a marketplace

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Marche' Marketplace restaurant at the Curve is a unique dining place ; which conceptualized on the marketplace environment.
It has been a while since I have peered into the windows of the place whenever I walk past here and finally, I have made my way into the marketplace for lunch while I was there for shopping.

The marketplace dining was brought over from Switzerland; specifically by the Swiss group; Movenpick (famous for their ice-cream).
The atmosphere of the place simulated that of an actual marketplace; whereby stalls were set up with displays of the fresh fruits, vegetables and raw ingredients used for their cuisines.
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The stalls are the station counters; which are categorized into the appetizers, starters, soup, pasta, main (grills, pizzas, etc), desserts, cakes and pastries, and beverages sections.

This ordering card is given upon entering the restaurant; and is to be carried by the customer until he/she exits the place.
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It is used for ordering from the stalls and also for the staff to track the items to be billed at the end of the meal. If the card is full, you can request for another.

There are a variety of fresh fruit juices; which are freshly squeezed on the spot. I was sitting at a place facing the fresh fruit stall, and I could not resist the temptation of ordering one of their special concoction of the day!

This is the orange, carrot and strawberry juice (the juice of the day) and I am singing all praises for it as it is a combination of all my favorites!:)
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It was good; and I even enjoyed the bites of the expensive Korean strawberries at the bottom of the glass.
It was a little expensive though for a fresh fruit juice; as it was priced at RM12.90 for a small glass like this.

Grilled Quarter Chicken
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This was priced at about RM17-19.90 I think, and it comes with a side serving of mashed potatoes.
Adding a corn kernel would take an additional RM3.
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I chose the fresh seabass to be grilled on my plate Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
It was okay, but I have a complaint; the scales were not properly removed and there were scales from the fish between mouthfuls of the fish meat.

To me, dining at Marche was like dining in a high-class market environment; but at a few times higher than that of the local market prices!~ (There were lots of variety though, and is a systematic setting for a full course meal)

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Chinese course dinner @ Sea Palace

Chinese are one of the biggest food lovers in the world; they eat on every single possible occasion regardless whether it is a celebration, gathering, or even in bereavement.
It is no wonder that the Chinese cuisine boasts of the largest myriad of cooking styles and delectable dishes in the world.

A friend of mine has lately organized a dinner gathering in conjunction with his firstborn's full moon (way overdue!) and his own modest affair of marriage (he did not have the usual banquet earlier).
Venue of the celebration?
Sea Palace Restaurant at Taman Pekaka, Sungai Dua, Penang.
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At one glance, the Chinese denotation of the restaurant's name led me to associate this restaurant to the famous Overseas Restaurant; but no, this is a restaurant owned by a different group.

Dinner was a really simple and private event organized for only close family and friends; therefore it was a really small gathering that took place in a privately booked room in the restaurant.

I was pleasantly surprised at the dishes which were served; as it was not the usual course dinner you get at a wedding dinner where the dishes were served in due course.
This, was served all at one go; as soon as the kitchen was done preparing them.

Braised shark's fin soup with crab and shrimps
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Crispy roast chicken
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Braised mushrooms with crab and seafood
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Stir-fried prawns with nestum
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Steamed red snapper the Teochew Style
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Stir-fry lotus roots with lotus seeds and assorted vegetables
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Braised spare ribs in claypot
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Braised homemade beancurd with sweet peas and carrots
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The chilled honeydew sago was the grand finale to the full course meal.
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It was a major letdown though; as there was barely a hint of honeydew scent in it and all I could make out was spoonful after spoonful of shaved ice with milk.

Food was overall not too bad; perhaps it was due to the specially made dishes for our party only since it was on a weekday.
I was really stuffed; the servings were just too huge for everyone!

Improvement on the dessert is definitely needed; since they do host wedding banquets here too~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Can I have more Japanese food?

Before I say no to Japanese food due to the alleged radioactive contamination issue, I kind of momentarily forgot about the whole warning against my favorite cuisine and succumbed to the temptation at Sakae Sushi.

This is my version of the story; I had lunch with an ex-colleague at Sakae about a month ago, and it was then that I realized that I have not had salmon nor Japanese food for quite a while already (since my home dining episodes started).
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It has also been some time since I have stepped into Sakae Sushi and I was enticed by the alluring new dishes on their menu.
I have been wanting to come back to try one of their new dish on the menu, and finally, I have the chance, and yeah, it was right after the issuance of the radioactive warning (how smart of me, right?)

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I was really early on a Saturday noon; and the place was just starting up.
It was just too bad for me that their system could not boot up and thus our orders had to be taken manually.
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(their implementation of technology in their ordering system had always impressed me :)

Etiquettes of a Japanese meal:
1. Green tea (hot or cold as the beverage)
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The Sakae sushi exclusive green tea; which is my favorite green tea too due to the unique and exquisite taste it leaves on one's tongue after consumption.
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2. Wasabi and soy sauce (choice of sweet or salty) to dip your sushi in it
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3. Never forget your chopsticks in any Asian meal!~
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My must-have whenever I am in Sakae or any Japanese restaurant for that matter...
Salmon Teriyaki
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(Over the years I have noticed the significant decrease of the serving here)
This is one of my favorite fish, and it is a healthy choice due to its rich properties of Omega 3.

Chicken Katsu Don
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This is the star dish I have been eyeing from the menu and the main purpose of my visit to Sakae Sushi :)
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Stuffed shitake with salmon on a skewer (RM12.90) is an appetizer which was delectably good (well, at least for the mushroom and salmon lover in me).
Pricey yes, but the taste was good and had me wanting more.

There was an ongoing promotion for Citibank cardholders at that time; whereby the you could buy one maki and get another for free.
California Maki
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Soft shell crab maki
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If you ask for my opinion, I don't think this is really good, and the serving size was just disappointing too. Well, I guess I can't ask for much as it was after all a promotional item.

It was just so unfortunate that my craving for Japanese food was recent and I was advised against the cuisine for a while.

In the meantime, do join in my prayers for the speedy recovery of Japan from the recent disaster, and may they be blessed with clear skies soon~

Monday, April 04, 2011

Pickyeater eats at home

I am going to start the food log for April with some homecooked food which I have had the fortune to enjoy more recently.
Yeah, my dining out trips have taken a back seat lately; occurring in rather sporadic patterns and homecooked dishes are taking the front stage.
Still, I have lots more under my sleeve to blog about and there is even going to be some travel food SOON ;)

Stir-fry dou miao (pea shoots)
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One of my favorite vegetable is this tiny and crunchy bites of a shoot and the dish is relatively simple to prepare too.

Stir-fry bean sprouts
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This is a juicier, fairer and fatter version of the pea shoots, and I've always referred to them as cousins :)

Deep fried fish with soy sauce
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Another version of fish; with fermented bean curd sauce (Tau Cheo)
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Assorted fishballs soup
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It's lovely to have dishes like these served hot on the table for dinner every night, so even if I don't get to try new food out there, I am not complaining! :)