Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Restoran Pao Xiang Bah Kut Teh

The bak kut teh broth was originally made with tea, hence the name. Over the years, it has evolved into a consommé of complex herbs and spices to cater to the growingly complicated and demanding tastebuds. Still, the very essence of the comforting combination of tea and meat never left us. And it’s evident on every table in any bak kut teh restaurant.

Is it true that Chinese tea actually washes away fat, a line we so want to believe and as advised by the elders? Well, let’s see - it doesn’t contain much fibre to absorb the heart-clogging triglycerides we all love nor acidic/hot enough to cause the saturations to disintegrate. So, had our parents lied to us all these years? I don’t think so. They’d probably heard it from their parents as well. I came to a conclusion that it’s no more than to make us feel less guilty after that surrendering act of biting into a seductive cut of belly and letting the aroma that can only be described as impossible take us into momentary divinity.

There’s now a healthier alternative. Don’t stretch your imagination too far because it’s not to the extent of going manic organic or popping some new anti-bkt pills. Nothing vegetarian meat of sort too. There’s just less fat in every bowl that will, hopefully, prolong our lives by another 10 minutes with each sip of the soup or a bite of the fat. And that, I think, it’s already a new milestone for bkt.

It was also at this very restaurant that I learnt of a new side dish that had lived among the Hokkiens for the longest time. It’s called ju yau gou or lard cakes. Made mostly of lye water, it was meant to simulate the same texture of cooked, semi-solid lard. The cubes are independently bland but once dipped into the bkt broth, give this feeling of biting into that sensuous layer of pork belly that has been well-simmered. It's fake orgasm at its best. Of course, there will be people who question the usage of lye water and….the fun of a fake orgasm. What do I think? As long as it yummy...

I did say that there's less fat in every bowl. Now how on earth is that possible? Apparently, the meat is tightened using strings before being infused with flavouring ingredients. This method causes the exertion of higher pressure on the meat, and with sufficiently high heat, is able to squeeze out the molten fat between the skin and the meat. The heat also reduces the broth to give a richer taste. And if that's not healthy enough, the soup is supplied with herbs of medicinal purposes although I couldn't detect any but the usual Chinese angelica and 5-spice powder. It's good morning mental exercise in this restaurant too, as customers strategize to secure any of the limited tables.

There's one question on my mind, still. Now, if the oil's been extracted from the pork, does that mean that it's now IN the broth? The subject of evaporation is of no relevance as the smoking point of lard is somewhat between 120 to 220 degrees Celcius, which by then, would have mostly dried up the pot. So, how healthy is it, really?

(The above load of crap scientific analysis came from, yes, the same person who had 1 bowl each of spare ribs, pork knuckle and trotters to himself.)

Regardless of the fat-washing tea myth, the high smoking point and the lye water, I think the fact that the soup is flavourful and the flaky meat falls off the bone easily and that the collagen (or fat) literally melts in the mouth should guarantee another visit.

*Alerting fellow babitarians*

Lard cake cubes

Gigantic spare ribs

Individual serving of knuckle

Individual serving of trotters

Restoran Pao Xiang Bah Kut Teh
No. 45, Lebuh Bangau
Taman Berkeley
41150 Klang
Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel: (+6012) 263 8869 / (+6010) 278 7230

Friday, October 23, 2009


This is perhaps the most celebrated unit at Orchard Central.

With each visit, we observed an ever growing legion of fans queuing outside the restaurant - mostly young folks and stylish working adults. Not to say that this is just a place to be seen or plain happening. The food here is homely good, in my opinion. On our third visit (within the span of 2 weeks) somewhere in July, the waiting list got too long for us and we resorted to a nearby restaurant for dinner instead. It’s now October and if the trend is true, then the waiting list must have gotten even longer and the crowd may have just spilled to the nearby escalator.

It was everything Japanese about this imported teishoku (set meal) chain. Not in a classy Ginza-Roppongi kind of way but it’s what most Japanese eat on a daily basis. Restaurants such as this can be found everywhere in Japan – subway stations, shopping malls, villages, etc. Not on top of Mount Fuji though. Generally, I like them because the food is delicious (disregarding the use of Japan’s national treasure – MSG), the servings are substantial, there’s free drinking water and service is prompt. And we've not begun on the many varieties of condiments! As a foreigner in Japan, the installation of vending machines to ticket orders is helpful in lowering the language barrier. Fun too! No such machine here though.

In comparison, Ootoya is definitely more upscale than the other famous chains like Yoshinoya or Matsuya (a perennial favourite of mine!). In fact, I wouldn’t even put them in the same category. Their dining experience includes a well decorated interior, comfortable seats and attractive utensils. But it doesn't translate to exorbitant prices. Looking at the online menu on their Japanese website, prices are relatively average.

The food. Well, where should I start? My favourite - the fried chicken with sweet and sour sauce. I know what’s on everyone’s mind. Aiyer, Chinese also got sweet and sour dishes like that la. So different meh? Well, yes. The typical tomato-based sauce was replaced with a kurozu sauce made of black vinegar. So, it was sour without being fruity. Got to like the interesting choice of vegetables that went with the meat like lotus roots too. I chose the sweet and sour chicken because it was rated as the top favourite dish (genki) among customers on their Japanese website. The grilled fish was not far behind. We've tried both the atka mackerel and the Alaskan red snapper. The atka mackerel, to us, was more flavourful and firm. By the way, don't underestimate the size of the fish. It's rather huge, even to me. On our second visit, I had the other dish where the picture was superimposed in the menu - the Ootoya Special Dish, which consisted of a piece of croquette, deep-fried chicken and a sunny side up for a smoother bite, I guess. The desserts in the menu looked tempting but luck was never on our side as the bestsellers were always sold out by the time we placed our order. The only dessert we managed to grab was the green tea ice cream parfait. The combination of Japanese sweet potato and matcha ice cream worked well.

Definitely money well-spent, for the quality and quantity of food that we’ve got. It’s good to know that there’s a dependable, reasonably-priced restaurant that serves a slice of tasty, regular Japan that’s nothing of pretense and mediocrity. Now, please expand! And make more desserts!

Fried chicken with sweet and sour kurozu sauce (black vinegar)


Charcoal grilled minced chicken and herb

Charbroiled Alaskan red snapper

Ootoya Special Dish - croquette/deep-fried chicken/sunny side up

Green tea parfait

#08-12 Orchard Central
Orchard Road
Tel: (+65) 6884 8901

They've visited Ootoya too:
The Travelling Hungryboy

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 52): Sunday Morning

What I miss the most on a Sunday morning? A bowl of noodles, a cup of tea, an hour or two reading the Sunday papers and JUMBLE - followed by a few more hours of sleep before systemically deciding on how to enjoy the best day of the week. I long to be able to do that with no deadline, no bus schedule and no shit from anyone on my mind.

We all need a break from competing with ourselves and trying to make every minute more constructive than the one before. Let's just make some time to be away from it all and enjoy the things that used to make us happy. That's what you are all about.

I'll learn to get there again.

...Sunday morning and I'm falling
I've got a feeling I don't want to know
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It's all the streets you crossed not so long ago
Watch out, the world's behind you
There's always someone around you
Who will call, it's nothing at all...

(Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground & Nico)

Simple prawn mee from a stall a few doors away from the Kung Fu Smooth Ban Mee shop in Taman OUG.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ion Food Hall

Generally, I don't succumb to the hype of a new something in town. Not cool. But something did change my mind. At least in the case of Ion Food Hall. It was the raved Salt Caramel Roll from Arinco King, which I thought sounded really good. Think about it - salt and caramel. What a fantastic contrast of flavours, right?

I was informed by the apologetic and pretty staff that it’s usually sold out by 3 pm. Come weekends, it’ll be around noon. Reservation was advised but it would make me look desperate. I struck out the option immediately. And that marked my next few futile evening visits to the food hall. Okay, maybe futile might not be the right word here. I mean, I did manage to try out some other things.

Nice takoyaki from Tsukiji Gindaco.
Warning: The queue is really long.

Pork Katsu, a signature from Ginza Bairin (a famous chain in Japan).

Arinco King’s Caramel Sand. Boh hu, heh ah ho (not Japanese but Hokkien, which literally means get the shrimp if there’s no fish). In other words, a consolation. The vanilla sponge was good, given its cotton soft texture.

Arinco King’s Salt Caramel Roll. Hooray.

Arinco King’s Green Tea Roll. This, to me, was THE fish.

Famed Scott's Road Beef Noodle at Food Opera (foodcourt). It came with a generous serving of beef, tripe and meatballs. Adding some sweetness to the sauce would be nice.

Chicken wings at Food Opera (foodcourt). A random find.

Other things that I’ve tried included duck rolls from Modern Peking Duck, plum sauce pork burger from R Burger, grilled pork salad from The Orange Lantern Wraps and Rolls and assorted hawkerfare from Food Opera.

On a Saturday evening, when one least expected, I managed to get the salt caramel roll. Even the staff said that I was lucky as they stocked in more for the weekend. Some parts were relatively saltier while the caramel tasted bitterer that what I’d expected. But the overall taste was joyful. My favourite of the 3 rolls offered by Arinco King was the green tea. Fluffy sponge made with good quality matcha powder and filled with light, fresh cream. Really nice, especially when they don’t include sweetened azuki beans.

I was there again last week. The food hall was still very much alive with youngsters happily savouring small cups of Japanese desserts and a fully occupied Food Opera. With the advantages of a strategic location and exclusive imports from Japan, I guess the food hall will be around for a very long time.

Ion Food Hall
B4, Ion Orchard


Here’s wishing all Hindu devotees a blessed Deepavali. Invite me to your house! I’m craving for a good briyani and mutton curry! To the rest, happy holiday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yang Kee + Otak-Otak Place

Oh yes, a food crawl. Which means there'll be a sequel!

The second stop brought me to a residential area that was as unfamiliar to me as Tanjung Tualang and Nibong Tebal. With the help of my faithful 2006-2007 edition of a certain brand of KL’s printed map, I managed to get there in 20 minutes. Not too bad, HairyBerry. I beamed and was very confident that I would be among the first to arrive. But I was not aware of the extremely limited parking spaces surrounding the wet market. Damn...That aside, the wet market was a food haven! At that point, I must admit that I was jealous of the residents here. Besides the colourfully canopied, tantalizing stalls filling up every inch of the market, there were also many restaurants within the vicinity that exude a certain old kopitiam charm. There is NO reason to not to have breakfast in Taman OUG, absolutely NOT! The most attractive, to me, was an impossibly crowded pork noodles stall that spilled out from a cornershop to the adjacent alleyway. It was a sight to behold; the blistering sun, the steaming soup, sweat, chunks of minced pork, the Chinese newspapers, and lard – all the essentials to a hearty bowl of ala wet market pork noodles. I’ll be back to give this a try, definitely.

Back to Yang Kee, the menu was a spread of mostly divergences of the signature beef noodles. The virgin that I was had the infamous dry version with egg noodles and a bowl of soup consisted of beef, tripe and beef ball. Too bad about the rather soggy strands of noodle as it would have enhanced the overall experience, given the well-seasoned minced pork topping. I can’t help but to compare this to Ngau Kee, which offers a sweeter, stickier topping and springier noodles. Some had the lou shyue farn that proved to be a better choice. I wonder if the minced pork will go well with thick rice vermicelli. Another important dish that we shared was the braised brisket with daikon. I could almost salivate, fantasizing about the toffee-coloured braise as it presented itself in front of me. Despite a tried and tested (and loved) formulation of cinnamon, star anise, soy and pepper, there was something that didn’t feel right. It was a certain powdery substance that somehow brought the whole fantasy to an abrupt end. Thank goodness for the soft cuts of brisket, complete with a good amount of attached fat. As for the daikon, too hard for a braise, I thought.

The table was filled with talks of the declined standard of Yang Kee. The virgin wouldn’t know. His mind has wandered off to the pork noodles stall.

If a few hours of songs from the 80s and 90s don’t warp one back to the days of being playful and free, perhaps a visit to Otak-Otak Place will. We were at this local-themed cafe right after a karaoke session at Neway. Local in the sense that the dishes were everything a Malaysian can relate to; otak-otak, nasi lemak, roti jala, chicken rice, mee rebus and asam laksa. Oh, and a cup of hot teh tarik with cream cracker. Local also relates to the props the proprietor used as decoration – toys and games that we all loved when we were young like toy soldiers, Happy Family cards and Lego. I wished they’d offered bottle caps for us to play as well but perhaps it’d be too noisy for a restaurant setting.

Thanks again, Precious Pea, for organizing this outing. It was certainly memorable and we should do this again when you are back. Great meeting my other blogger friends as well! I’ve not met some of them since my first gathering at My Elephant in 2007! Time does fly when we’re having fun, doesn’t it? Maybe the next crawl should..erm, MUST end with a dinner or supper. In the meantime, eat well!

And thanks Simon for the yummy buttercake from Taman OUG wet market!

Yang Kee
52 Jalan Hujan Rahmat 2
Taman OUG
Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur
Click here for Precious Pea's earlier experience.

Otak-Otak Place
Lot LG 311B
Lower Ground Floor Oval
1 Utama Shopping Centre
Bandar Utama
Tel: (+603) 7727 4181

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 51): One Great Herb


You’ve shown us that it’s not always about the food or the photos or the words. It’s what you honestly believe in that makes it all real and beautiful. I think for that, you are already a winner.

Congratulations on your success and I’m looking forward to meeting you in Singapore.

The above cool badge is designed by the multi-talented QwazyMonkey.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


A reservation was made, the menu was studied, the reviews were re-read and more importantly, the stomachs were cleared.

It's amazing how far people we would go in preparing for a buffet.

A few items on Jing's Weekend Ala Carte Brunch Buffet menu are limited to one serving per table. These are the must-have items like crab and novel fish. With such rule comes an expectation that these dishes will be the major highlights of the brunch. Quite true in the case of the deep fried soon hock or marbled goby; fried to golden crisp (love biting the fins) and drizzled with an intensified soy sauce. No cumbersome crab for us that day as the whole process of dissecting the crustacean itself could cost us a significant duration that was best spent on better things instead; like the endless selection of dim sums.

One of the many dumplings we ordered that afternoon; steamed crystal abalone dumpling. My favourite was the single huge meat dumpling served in a bowl, drowned in a mixture of black vinegar, soy sauce, chopped red chillies and coriander.

At the barbecued meat station, we ordered the crispy roast duck that quickly became a favourite with its crackling exterior and savoury meat. There was the steamed chicken with wine, served with jelly fish and ginger/coriander sauce as well.

If this was not a buffet, I'd only needed a bowl of rice to go with the steamed fillet of Chilean seabass with preserved vegetable to substantiate my brunch. But it is a buffet and carbs should be consumed wisely. So, no rice unless the other dishes are really awful. Having said that, I was glad we made a last minute decision on the enticing stir-fried E-fu noodles with brinjals. With a simple sauce, some aromatic oil and smooth textures of the noodles and brinjal strips, the dish was all the exclusive carbs we were compelled to succumb to.

There must be a slot somewhere that can still fit in a meat dish or two before desserts, we convinced ourselves. So, I guess the perfect transition dish would be the sweet and sour pork; deep-fried lean cuts of pork coated with an appetisingly red tomato sauce. A good sweet and sour tomato-based sauce, to me, lies in the density of the flavour. Or in a more domestic sense, the choice of brand. It's more of a Heinz here, which is a good thing.

I don't recall any particular favourite dessert, even with the inclusion of egg tarts. Towards the end, a plate of minimalistic fried cubes was revealed at the desserts station. How fortunate of me to not be the first taster because as it turned out, those were cubes of deep-fried durian custard. Apparently, the custard was really dense. There was durian flesh in the filling too. I guess that must be right as the flavour got stronger as the minutes painfully went by.

Honestly, I lost count of the number of dishes we had that afternoon. It must have been between 15 to 20. Or more. We started off at 12 pm and ended around 2.45 pm (yes, that's about 15 minutes before they closed). Believe me, it's not really an achievement anymore. We've done better.

With each dish, I reminded myself that this is a buffet and that reasonable taste and quality are all there is to be expected, regardless of a restaurant's prestige. I mean, is there such a thing as a gourmet buffet, especially with this kind of pricing? I definitely had fun stuffing myself silly with commendable Chinese dishes from Jing. A nice place to eat, chill (it's the weekend, afterall), eat more and in between, drink plenty of water because some dishes are quite heavy on MSG. That's my major concern.

Oh, and by the way, Jing's latest menu has changed slightly since I last visited. So, go their website for the latest menu.

One Fullerton, #01-02/03
1 Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213
Tel: 6224 0088

They've been to Jing:
Camemberu (Part 1)
Camemberu (Part 2)
Timeless Facade
Wen's Delight

Friday, October 2, 2009

Teochew Mooncake With Preserved Vegetable Paste

It made me wonder if the ancient mooncake used to contain secret messages were of this shape. Conveniently perceived as a huge wife’s biscuit, or any typical Chinese pastry for that matter, it’s the perfect camouflage.

My first taste of the preserved vegetable mooncake must have dated back to the primary school days when the snow skin version made its debut. I was too captivated by the coldness and modernity of it and hence, never really took the time to appreciate this Teochew delicacy. If this was anything average, its existence would have perished years before we were introduced to the champagne truffle design. I'm not sure if it's still as well-received as it was decades ago but it did occur to me that many are still unacquainted with this classic.

Generally, we see preserved vegetable as nothing more than a source of salt and perhaps some crunch to dishes like braised pork, steamed fish or even as condiment to a bowl of plain Teochew porridge. Surprisingly, the chewy paste that consisted mainly of it was mostly sweet and just faintly salted. I’m guessing that they’d done some washing with the vegetable or had customized a certain preservation process for this need. The burst of flavours within a bite is blissful. All thanks to the black sesame, candied winter melon bits and tangerine peel. There’s another pulling factor for me as well - lard, the traditional butter that makes it significantly more aromatic. We don’t get much lard-based Chinese desserts these days and I believe availability has reduced to mostly wet markets. In fact, that’s where momma got the Teochew mooncakes.

Rather interesting to note that despite having tasted this for many years, I’ve always thought that it was homemade and sold solely in the wet market in Jinjang Selatan. Well, the oily packaging bearing the restaurant's name is usually disposed by momma before I can lay my hands on the mooncake. With the recent discovery of its origin, I think it’s time to pay this 90+ years old Teochew restaurant in Setapak a visit.

There’s a sense of nostalgia in this whole experience, especially when Setapak is very close to the district where I grew up in. And may I just say that there are some pretty solid restaurants there.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone! I’ve always thought that the term Mooncake Festival is somehow more appropriate, given our tropical climate. I mean, here where got autumn one?

Setapak Teochew Restaurant (文良港潮州餐室饼家)
283 & 285, Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel : (+603) 4023 8706

Some info on this restaurant:
A Place where Time stood still