Friday, August 28, 2009

Soon Wah Seafood Restaurant

Chinese baroque?

There’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing families of few generations boisterously having meals in a restaurant. And some of us did just that, on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon. Reservation is advised, here. Well, we did but perhaps we were late or outnumbered by a larger family, our only option was the table left at a corner, which was basically miles away from the air-conditioning system and nearest to the door. So, imagine when you are about to chill and someone just opens the damn door, causing the faint cool air to escape into the hot outdoor. It happened throughout the meal. Not so heartwarming a lunch afterall, eh?

Sweat and tears aside, some dishes here were quite interesting. I wouldn’t say that geography played a part as there was nothing Hokkien about the signatures despite the Klang postcode. Simply, interesting.

Soon Wah is famous for its fish soup, served in a stainless steel pot. In the rich, briny stock was a mélange of ingredients such as large chunks of fish, Chinese cabbage, beancurd, yam strips and my favourite, garland chrysanthemum. There’s something about this, what I would call, oriental aragula that makes soups tastier by providing a slightly bitter zing. Aromatic and crunchy as well. Kudos to the constant supply of heat that kept the soup boiling. No 10 minutes paraffin wax business here. Refill of stock is welcomed, so no worries about the pot getting all dried up. A meal by itself with just a bowl of white rice.

Another signature we had was the pork served with watermelon. It was on every table. Loosely inspired by the Italian staple of parma ham with rock melon, maybe? Rather ingenious. Fried and glazed, the tender pieces of pork, when eaten with the sweet, cool watermelon balls were scrummy. No irrelevant taste of mayonnaise detected as well, so that’s cool. Too much mayonnaise in fruit-related dishes in dai chow these days, I think.

Apparently, the Three Cups Chicken is quite the hit with the regulars too. Elegantly presently and garnished with a topping of basil leaves, the dish that’s synonymous with Taiwan was good. The amalgamation of sesame oil, soya sauce and rice wine was flavourful, threefold. Like the garland, basil leaves added extra taste and aroma to the dish as well.

Stir-Fried Potato Leaves

I pushed my luck a bit and ordered the Hokkien Mee, despite it not being a signature. Definitely not my day as it came rather watery and dull. There was no shine which meant it lacked the essential amount of lard oil. Then again, if you like the wet and slightly sweet type, this is for you.

Before this lunch, Taman Berkeley was no more familiar to me than UCLA, Berkeley. One trip around the neighourhood had already shown some probable good eats like the infamous pan mee and the perpetually impenetrable bak kut teh havens. With the long weekends coming our way (at least one in every month!), friends have made travel plans across the globe.

Me? Probably a makan tour of Taman Berkeley.

Soon Wah Seafood Restaurant
69, Tingkat Bawah
Jalan Angsa, Taman Berkeley
41150 Klang, Selangor
Tel: (+603) 3343 8055

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rochor Duck Rice

When one is on the bus, there are a few things that may be of interest. TVMobile, conversations among aunties about their children’s irresponsible spouses, the incessant, rapid flow of foreign languages/dialects and couples engaging in some major smooching fest. Talk about entertainment, eh? Unless the window is plastered with nauseating, translucent advertisements that restrict my view, the attention has always been on the rows of shophouses I see along the way, in hope of finding an interesting eatery.

I was not aware of this strip as my regular bus route is way off the central district limits but it was she who made the discovery while traveling along Beach Road. The shop's bold name might have piqued her interest, I guess. The best duck rice in Rochor?

To get there, the wiser choice would've been taking the bus from town but feeling adventurous as always, I decided to walk all the way from Bugis MRT station to Beach Road, via Ophir Road . The row of shophouses along Bali Lane sang to me of bohemian rhapsody and I’ve always wanted to check it out ever since. A posher Dunlop Street comes to mind.

We arrived in front of the restaurant, with me perspiring profusely after the walk. There was only 1 occupied table. Sort of doubtful with our choice, we circled the area in search of alternatives. Steamboats, bak kut teh, nasi padang, rice, and we ended up in front of the same shop again. At this point, I was famished and yes, soaked in my own sodium bath. Die-die lah. Let's go in!

A dish I aimed for that night, the herbal mutton soup, was sold out. Thank goodness for the other signature dishes that were still available; braised duck and herbal duck soup. As we waited for the dishes, we saw a healthy flow of customers, mostly opting for take-outs. That explained the rather empty restaurant, I guess.

Duck Rice

Ten Herbs Duck Soup

Kway Chap

Duck Meat Noodles

What I found interesting on the plate of duck rice was the inclusion of cooked vegetables and wood ear fungus, which gave some sweetness (the vege) and crunch. The rice cooked in herbal stock was flavourful and fluffy. Rochor's braised duck was one of the better ones I've tasted in recent times. The generous splash of savoury reduction came only slightly sweet, which was nice. I've tasted another famous duck rice in Bugis where the braising reduction was so sweet, I cringe each time I recall the saccharine nightmare.

Bak Kut Teh aside, I'm not much of a herbal soup fan. Especially when it's considered a tonic for women. But it's a signature and it must be tried. Definitely potent and heaty. I liked the prevailing aroma of Chinese angelica and cinnamon in the warm concoction. Quite appetizing, I must say. The pot came with pieces of duck that were flaky and infused with flavours from the gamut of Chinese herbs. We've tried other dishes as well like the kway chap, which despite the usage of good pork belly, was not melting soft.

If I were to choose a favourite dish that night, it would have been the combination of duck rice and chopped, preserved vegetable. Simple, tasty and just honestly hearty. Like my nasi padang experience of just white rice and some sambal belacan and asam pedas gravy.

Rochor Duck Rice
327 Beach Road
Singapore 199560

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tale-A-Tale (Part 48): Of Family And A Blissful Oreo Cheesecake

The box of Oreo cookies was screaming rip me, master! since I received it as part of this year’s Eat With Your Family Day campaign. A wonderful gesture, I must say. On that day, employees are encouraged to leave work on time and have dinner with their respective families. So, I guess the cookies will come in as dessert? This annual campaign aims at creating awareness on the importance of bonding between family members and I agree that there’s no better way to it than by sharing a meal together.

It didn’t mean that much to me though, as my meetings with my family have been limited to the weekends when I travel back to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore. But of course, without having to serve overtime on a workday meant that I had some free time to call the folks back home.

Okay, this is getting all too Hallmark-ish.

So, I did rip off the box, two months later. And baked an Oreo cheesecake to share with my family and friends. I guess technically, I did celebrate EWYFD afterall!

Yeah, I know. Many would say that baking an Oreo cheesecake is like a secondary school project because it’s rather simple. But a beginner like me will beg to differ. My objective was simple; to just bake an edible cake. In fact, that’s the question I've always asked my victims as they taste my science projects; whether my stuff was edible or not. I’m not being pretentious but you should try some of my totally-cannot-make-it cakes. Think mud.

I got my recipe from here, Kraft’s official website. Can I just say that the website is amazingly full of simple yet interesting recipes (despite most being repetitious with only the slightest of alteration in ingredients). Searching for the word Oreo alone will generate a result of over 600 recipes! Okay, now I feel commercial. At this point, let me just mention that this is NOT a sponsored post.

The original plan was to bake a Chocolate Bliss Cheesecake but I discovered that the bag of chocolate buttons I intended to use had passed its shelf life. So, only Bliss Cheesecake it’d be then. Using the mortar and pestle pair to grind the cookies for the base was fun but energy-consuming. With that, I’ve excused myself from running that evening. About a cup of sour cream was added, an idea that spurred from the few related recipes I gathered via the search result. I’ve also omitted the vanilla extract, for it was to be served to some Muslim friends also. Extra cookies were quartered and thrown into the cheese mixture, for extra crunch.

We all know and appreciate the fact that size does matter. So, when a 9 inch springform pan was specified in the recipe, anything smaller will result in catastrophe that is not unlike volcanic eruption. Mine was an unfortunate 8 inch. I contemplated for a good minute while the mixer was still running and decided to pour everything into the smaller cavity. The reason being the non-presence of baking/raising flour. It did fill nicely, to about 0.5 cm below the rim. And I felt confident and proud of my logical hypothesis.

You know, sometimes, the ego needs to be bruised in order for us to grow. And grew it did, my cake. Half of the circumference spilt and the cake, despite its rather golden complexion, looked like a mess. Some parts fell onto the heater and generated some smoke as they burned. Bring on the duck or salmon already! But that was not the worst part. After baking in the oven for an hour, it was still wobbly. And I was already late for a karaoke session. I had to prioritize. So, I immediately took the cake out from the oven (hey, I'm just following the recipe) and asked my dad to put it in the fridge after an hour of cooling in room temperature. And off I went to sing my lungs out.

A good 4 hours of frolicking with the microphone over some old and new Cantopop tunes (loved Eason Chan's songs from his H3M album), I was back in the house, hoping to see a chillin', settled cheesecake. In the aftermath of the spill earlier on, it looked rather unpleasant with the broken edges but was now much firmer. Releasing the latch of the pan, I found the cheese mixture bonded well with the cookie base. Cool.

The taste was not too rich and aptly sweet. Rather light too, perhaps due to the inclusion of (sour) cream. My parents liked it, so did my friends.

Self-indulging karaoke session aside, I guess my late EWYFD was well-spent. We should do this more often. And if the economy does recover next year, perhaps we’ll be given something more luxurious. Like roast duck?

On another note, I am both thrilled and sad to announce that MY BAKING IDOL, FatBoyBakes will be conducting his first baking class on 22 August 2009 (Saturday) at The Cooking House, Desa Sri Hartamas. Well, mostly thrilled lah because I believe he's going to bring the house down with his brand of humour and more importantly, practical tips in perfecting bakes. I must say I've learnt quite a lot from his online recipes. And sad because I won't be able to attend his class as I will be in Singapore this weekend. So, if you are game for some educational fun on baking this Saturday (10 am to 2 pm), go sign up for his class now! Click here for more details.

All the best, FatBoyBakes! You'll do more than well, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nasi Padang River Valley

Rice With Asam Pedas Gravy

Sambal Belacan

As cliché as it may sound, bliss really does come in the simplest of forms. Like plain white rice eaten with a good gravy, just. And that was all I needed here, that night. Well, not to say that the rest of the dishes were bad, of course. In fact, I find the fried chicken with sweet/spicy sauce and fried fish rather engaging. The squids, I thought, were slightly undercooked though. Clearly, my heart was sold to the combination of rice, asam pedas gravy and sambal belacan. Adequately spicy with a nice touch of sourness (tamarind paste, I presume), appetizing was the best word to describe both the condiments. Loved the tinge of exotic belacan flavour as well.

I am officially hungry, again.



Sweet/Spicy Chicken

Fish (Tongkol, I think)

Sambal Sotong

Nasi Padang River Valley
55, Zion Road
Singapore 247780

For more details, click on the links below:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Restoran Lan Je @ Kota Damansara

That name. There’s something about it that tickles.

Our first visit was greeted by a closed shop, a few days before the arrival of the lunar new year. We were of course, very disappointed because it has been on top of our makan list for quite sometime. Came a few months later when Lyrical Lemongrass was recovering from a (normal) flu and craved for something light and healthy. Like fish, steamed. Perfect!

There were many reasons to like the signature steamed tilapia. Firstly, it was fresh. And being cultured (no, they don't speak French) means that the earthy smell was kept minimal. The good steaming ensured every bite of the white flesh was flaky and tender. The sauce itself was simply a mixture of sesame oil, light soya sauce, fermented bean paste (tauchu) and juice from the fish itself. In short, great to go with white rice. We were told of the only 2 different varieties of the dish; spicy and non-spicy. There's no special ingredient to the spicy version. Just more chopped cili padi only lah. I’ll have you know that it'll be easier to distinguish these two than the normal and garlic chilli sauces from I’m Lovin’ It. Go for spicy. It's ooohmp-er. They were pretty generous with the chopped ginger and garlic as well, which made the dish even more flavourful. No one shares their fish here, so don’t be the first.

If I knew, I would have substituted the other 2 dishes that we had with another steamed fish. As pretty as it may look, the sweet and sour chicken balls dish was bland. The balls were hard too. No complaints on the stir-fried Chinese lettuce with fermented beancurd but yeah, I’ll still sacrifice fibre for the fish.

Back in those days, this African fish was not very much in demand and people would joke about the unhygienic rearing methods. The meat also smelled earthier and the only choice we had was the generic red type. Fast forward to recent years, we see new breeds that taste better and are more competitive in terms of price. It's a whole new market, judging from the number of freshwater fish restaurants that are opening faster than the fishes' mating rate.

I've learnt through some websites that tilapias are also known as aquatic chicken, due to the inexpensive cost and high adaptability. Trust me, it won't be long before some health-conscious (and creative) people start rearing their own tilapias. Or how about organic freshwater tilapia, people? As for me, I'll just stick to specialists like Lan Je where the only time I'll sweat is when the chilli's too hot.

Restoran Lan Je (Outlet)
F-50G & 51G
Jalan Teknologi 3/9
Bistari "DE" Kota
PJU 5, Kota Damansara
47810 Petaling Jaya
Tel: (+60)12 669 9919 / (+60)16 618 9919

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Crazy is when you have 5 people sharing more than 40 dishes among themselves. There's nothing kiasu about it. In fact, it just proved that the Weekend Chef Treat Omakase lunch (ala carte) buffet spread was good. And unlike the typical hurried buffets, we totally enjoyed the relaxing pace...until the last hour when we were kan cheong to complete the menu. Special thanks to the accommodating staffs who helped us in achieving the feat!

There were 7 types of dishes to choose from; cold (appetizers), grilled, deep-fried, warm, salad, main (carbs) and desserts.

The starter of a plate of fresh sashimi was almost perfect. This was followed by an selection of assorted sushi of equally fresh cuts of maguro, sake, hamachi and ika. I should note that both the sashimi and sushi are limited to 1 serving each, per pax.

My favourite cold dishes were the Kamo Roast Yaki (Roasted Duck Breast), Hiyashi Tomato and Chiharu Karupacho. I've never had carpaccio done this way. The hamachi slices were mixed with crunchy daikon shreds and soaked in zesty ponzu sauce. An interesting combination that can be emulated in my very own kitchen, I believe. Throw in some soba while I'm at it, wouldn't you agree? Subarashi!

We strategized to optimize our capacity by limiting orders of the ubiquitous grilled and deep-fried dishes to 1 portion each. If the stomach was as elastic as rubber, I would have ordered more of the compact but tender Tori Tsukune (Grilled Chicken Meat Balls) and the Tebasaki Shioyaki (Grilled Chicken Wing), which was lightly coated with salt. A nice touch.

From the warm list, came a dish that, to me, had defined my Chiharu experience. The Gyu or Beef Teriyaki. As the name had suggested, there was nothing fancy about it. Just a piece of meat and a sauce. But the execution was as good as ala carte buffets can get. The medium well cuts were moist and went really well with the sweet teriyaki sauce. It was so good, we had seconds. The sauce complemented the soba and udon too, an experiment we conducted while waiting for more dishes to come. By the way, both the zaru soba and udon were wonderful, given the al dente texture.

When it came to desserts, I was hoping for matcha and goma ice cream because to me, these two flavours generally gauge the quality of desserts in a Japanese restaurant. Surprisingly, neither was on the menu. Instead, we were offered what I would consider as novel flavours such as raspberry, passionfruit and tiramisu. Being the reluctant alcoholic that I am, my favourite that day was definitely the creamy and slightly intoxicating Baileys ice cream.

This restaurant of a thousand spring is definitely worth a revisit.



Some of the cold dishes

Hiyashi Tomato

Satsuma Age Yaki (Grilled Fish Cake)

Tenpura Moriawase

Gyu Teriyaki

Some of the main dishes: Zaru Udon, Nori Chazuke (Seaweed Porridge), Zaru Udon



779 Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 269758
Tel: (+65) 6769 1929

We conquered Chiharu's Omakase lunch menu:
Keropokman And Momo (Part 1)
Keropokman And Momo (Part 2)
Xiu Long Bao

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Daily Grind

The cakes at The Daily Grind are excellent. That coming from a salt, and mostly salt fan kind of mean something, doesn't it?

If I could equate the cakes there to songs, it'll be along the likes of Maroon 5's Sunday Morning, Feist's Mushaboom, Chemical Brothers' Let Forever Be and 方大同's 愛 愛 愛. Feel-good, delicious tunes that will certainly bring some Chill to one's weekend.

Hummingbird Cake

Red Velvet

Lemon Drizzle

I've tried a few of their creations and my favourite has got to be the Hummingbird. The ingredients (coconut, pineapple, banana, pecan, sugar and cinnamon) were well proportionated, providing the cake with an unforgettable, plethorically rich taste. The cheese coating, coupled with dried pineapple pieces just sent both the cake and I to higher ground. There's also the Red Velvet which is basically a butter cake. Sexy, sweet and rich (from the butter cream coat), what's there not to like? And on another visit, I've opted for the Lemon Drizzle. What can I say? It was 愛 愛 愛 (愛=love). Zestfully tangy with a sweet touch, this was a champion as well. And there's this Peanut Butter Banana Pie that I've yet to try. Certainly looks good.

What can be better than spending the afternoon chilling in the cool interior of The Daily Grind, watching BangsarWorld go by, with some delightful desserts in front of you. Bring a laptop along, should you need to get connected. Wi-fi's free here.

Aaaah, sweet dreams...are made of these.

The Daily Grind
LG 8 Lower Ground, Bangsar Village
1 Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar Baru
591000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+60) 3 2287 6708

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 47): iPie

What’s this again?

Apple pie.

Hmmm, but very savoury-looking. Like chicken pie only.

So, do you like it?


You knew that your ~RM50 (S$20.10) was not spent in vain when they didn’t spit out the snack that you had so arduously prepared.

It was my first non-mathematical attempt at a pi(e). Certainly more fun than deriving 3.142 despite the exhausting preparation (I had to peel and cube 9 apples plus 1 pear), endless mixing/rolling of the pastry and washing.

They say that confidence is half the battle. Usually, in my baking battles, confidence comes in form of a recipe from the ever dependable Fatboybakes.

His apple pie recipe was of course, well-written and easily understood. But I felt rather adventurous that day and decided to make some alterations. So, here’s what I did:

1) Added a pear to the filling.
2) Replaced clove powder with some ground cardamom seeds.
3) Added some leftover chopped walnuts from the previous bake.
4) Used brown instead of castor sugar.

I like my filling fine and soft. So, I coarsely chopped the cooked filling before covering it with a layer of pastry. Oh yeah, the pastry. Custard powder definitely gave it a pleasantly sweet aroma. The main problem I had with my pastry was the texture. Perhaps it was my mixing technique, but I had to use 4 egg yolks instead of 1, in binding the mixture to form a decent dough. Definitely need more practice in that area. Anyone wants me to stir their dough?

The best part of the whole pie-ing process was the assembly. I used egg rings as moulds instead of a pie dish. No particular technical reason for the substitution, really. Just thought that it would be fun, in a creative sort of way. And that had resulted in a relatively (much) thicker skin with respect to the height of the rings. Say the rings were 2.40 centimetres tall, the skin was about 0.50 centimetres thick! That’s about 20.83% of the rings’ height. And since there was no way of stretching it further without breaking the dough, I had to live with the thick skin. Perhaps I should stick to conventional baking dishes the next time.

As I waited for the pies to bake, ideas for the next project started running in my head. Chocolate with banana, pecan/walnut with peanut butter, etc etc. A hummingbird pie, anyone? Or how about a savoury crust with sardine sambal filling? I like!

In the last few minutes before the pies were taken out of the oven, I could already smell the wonderful combination of butter and custard from the living room. Damn, I should have added cinnamon and some drops of vanilla extract as well, for the extra kick.

Despite the distasteful appearance, I thought my virginal pies had an edge with the inclusion of cardamom, complete with a slight spiciness. And that kind of grew on me with every bite. Most of my friends enjoyed that taste too, so I guess the approach was right. I liked the subtle sweetness of the brown sugar as well. The thickness of the crust was way beyond optimum but thankfully, tasted rich. It would have been better had I served it with some ice cream and fresh fruits. Would have because I was already late for my next appointment.

Oh, I made a special pie for myself and had it for breakfast the next day (an aptly Monday). What’s so special about it, you might ask.

5) Included a happy ingredient

3 tablespoons of cognac.


Thanks Fatboybakes, for the inspiration and recipe. You rawk!

Click here for Fatboybakes’ original apple pie recipe.

And here to check out his creations, including some excellent pies.