Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Central Asian Feast (Uzbek Cuisine)

As an adventurous type of eater, I am always eager to try out new stuff. Chances are that some food do not really suit my taste buds, and I'll just simply call it a lesson when it turns out. It happened that day when an Uzbek friend of mine from Kyrgyzstan brought me and the other friends to an eatery, which served Central Asian cuisine with an emphasis on Uzbek and Uyghur cuisine, and there was one particular dish that immediately put me off it.

This was the culprit: LAGHMAN

This Chinese Lamian-inspired (拉面)noodle is handmade through a series of meticulous processes, starting from preparing the dough to twisting, stretching and folding it into strands. As a result, the noodle has a very tangible texture and it is best served in piping hot soup. Ingredients such as beef, tomato, long bean, bell pepper, onion can usually be found in this elaborate dish. I must say that this was indeed a great food to pamper a hungry tummy, IF they did not add Cosmos caudatus, a.k.a Raja Ulam into the broth. I am not a fans of that herb, while in fact, I hate it. Well, do note that I am not saying that this dish is miserable, but it is just my personal issue of not liking the added herb. Period.

Here comes my favorite dish of that day: MANTOO

This is something similar to the Chinese Duplings/ Jiaozi (饺子) or the Korean Mandu. What impressed me the most was the minced beef filling which was absolutely nice. The filling was comparably "wetter" than any other similar things that I had before, and it was very tangy.

 And then...

This is Kazan Kebab. Kazan is kind of like a big cast-iron boiling pot used by the Central Asian to prepare some of their prominent dishes such as Polov, and it is used, though quite rarely, in the cooking of this kebab dish as well. The meat was very tender and it tasted rather mild.

This is Kaurma Lagman or you can just simply call it as stir-fried Lagman. I would very much prefer this over the soup-based Lagman as it does not have that pungent taste of Raja Ulam.

Characterized by having a depression in the middle, the Nan or Uzbek flatbread is a staple and significant food amongst the Uzbeks. They usually serve it with the soup-based Laghman, and will tear it into irregular chunks before eating. I have no idea on why they do so... As a bread-lover, you most probably can guess that I like this very much though it is quite tasteless.

All in all, I really enjoyed what I had that day. It's a good change from what I am eating everyday after all, and I would not mind to have something like this again, but PLEASE, NO RAJA ULAM! HAHA

Monday, 27 July 2015

DayS out in Klang

Emerging as one of the most notable earliest human settlements in peninsular Malaysia, the prehistoric town of Klang is reputed to be the birthplace of Bak Kut Teh, which literally translated as "meat bone tea" in vernacular Hokkien. Rumour had it that the famous dish was invented by the labourers working at the wharves to provide them with enough energy for their uphill works. There are actually a couple of interesting variants on the origin of this dish, so you might just as well spend some time to do some research if you are keen to know the story behind it.

what is Bak kut teh?
Well, it is basically a dish comprised of pork simmered in a complex herbal broth for hours, and additional ingredients such as Chinese Cabbage, offal, fried tofu puff, Shiitake Mushroom may also be included. It is normally served together with you tiao (fried dough) cut into pieces as well as oolong Chnese Tea.

I have been to Klang twice in search of the "heavenly" Bak Kut Teh which people are raving over, and the first time I was here:

Seng Huat Bak Kut Teh, Jalan Besar, Klang

Located in the vicinity of Klang Bridge, this coffee shop is known by the locals as 桥底 (Under The Bridge), and its stone-throw distance from the Klang's KTM station is indeed an added convenience to the people. This place is said to serve the best Bak Kut Teh in the town, and is always packed with foodies. It also attracts a number of celebrities to patronise the shop.  I've heard a friend of mine saying that the Bak Kut Teh served here is no longer up to par, while in fact it's getting worse with the course of time. There is another friend who resides there told me that this place is not the best, and that's why I went to Klang twice......

Here comes the acid test:
This place serves the Hokkien style Bak Kut Teh, which uses more soy sauce in the cooking, and therefore the broth is darker and saltier. It does not have the expected strong herbal taste, instead, to be frank, the saltiness is way too overpowering. I am not saying that it is bad, but it is just not to my liking. After all, it is still better than many Bak Kut Teh in some other places, which are more like "Pork simmered in CLEAR SOUP".

Ah Meng Bak Kut Teh, Taman Sentosa, Klang

This place seems to enjoy brisk business as well though it is less famous than Seng Huat on the internet. I was brought by a friend from Klang to here as she said that this is the best shop for Bak Kut Teh.

Well, to be honest, this is much better than what I had at Seng Huat. There are two main reasons why I think so. Firstly, the Bak Kut Teh here has a stronger herbal taste. Secondly, the broth is thicker and has a very tangy aroma of lard, which is something that tickles my fancy.   

*Gulping down a lot of oolong Chinese tea after the lard-laden breakfast to dilute the copious amount of fat* HAHA!!

See YOU!!


Friday, 24 July 2015

Compilation of Malaysian Cendol

What would be a better thing to do than devouring a large bowl of Cendol on a scalding hot day?Well, for the uninitiated, Cendol is a popular dessert in South East Asia and it is typically comprised of shaved ice, santan (coconut milk), green jelly noodles (worm-like swollen jelly), gula melaka (palm sugar) as well as azuki beans (small red beans) or Kidney beans. Residing in this hot pot of Malaysia, Cendol has become another necessity for the dwellers besides air-con. This phenomenon is clearly manifested by looking at how people flock to "Cendol shops" day after day as if their craving for Cendol never cease to exist. Spurred on by this "golden" opportunity, multitudes of eateries bring in ice-shaving machines to start their Cendol business while some vend it by the roadside, creating inspiring stories of success.As an avid Cendol lover, I would never hesitate to order the dessert whenever it is available in any places. Throughout the years, I have had a great deal of Cendol in my tummy and therefore I decided to compile some of them which I think is worth mentioning.

Disclaimer: The sequence has no association with the ranking.

1) Teochew Chendul

First established in 1936 at Penang road, it is of no doubt one of the longest sustaining cendol vendors which later become renowned amongst Malaysians. They have a lot of outlets in Peninsula Malaysia and have won praises from the customers not only for the Cendol itself, but also their Asam Laksa.

What makes their Cendol unique is most probably the addition of salt into their coconut milk. Well, some people find it very palatable with the saltiness, but some do not. I have no problem with the salty taste as it certainly is a good change from the usual Cendol. However, the price doesn't come cheap, it costs RM6.30 for the original including GST. Apart from the original Cendol, they also offer Durian Cendol which I do not think it is anything to shout about.

2) PappaRich

As a Malaysian franchise eatery which offers a wide variety of prominent local delights, Cendol of course is available on their menu. It does not really sweep me off my feet, but I reckon that it is still worth mentioning if compared with many other Cendol out there which is a downright disappointment.

3) Big Nyonya Restaurant, Melaka 

Located in the bustling area of Jalan Merdeka, this restaurant offers you a very authentic Nyonya style Cendol. I was somehow amazed by how nice the Cendol tasted after a dubious mouthful, and finished it in no time.The coconut milk was so fresh which I could essentially sense it with my nose. Nevertheless, the serving was very small. Well, it doesn't matter as long as it is nice right? After all, quality precedes quantity.
4) Jonker 88, Melaka

Simply by looking at the long queue, you can tell how famous the place is. For decades, it has been the rendezvous for Asam Laksa and Cendol lovers. Finding a vacant seat would always be a hassle, and it is no surprise that you might need to share a small table with strangers.

I have to say that I do not like the Cendol served there as I find the taste of their palm sugar a bit peculiar, and the coconut milk is not up to par. Well, it's merely my own stance, so you can disagree with me.

5) Street Vendor near SJK(c) Yuk Chai Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Run by an Indian proprietor, this Cendol place is mainly patronised by the students in the vicinity. Business is brisk especially on a hot sunny day. Unlike some of the places out there, they use very fresh coconut milk which helps them to stand out from the others, and I like their Cendol with glutinous rice very much. Do note that you might need to collect your order by your own as they seem to have not enough manpower.

The rice indeed gives a pleasant texture to the dessert. Not to mention that they too serve Indian Rojak (Vegetable fritters, boiled potato, yellow noodles, cucumbers, fried tofu, turnips with peanut gravy) which is something that goes well with the Cendol.

6) Madam Kwan's

Prized at about Rm10 per bowl (including GST) , the quality of the Cendol here is strictly ensured to not being compromised. The crucial ingredient, green jelly noodle has a very strong aroma of pandan leaves, and it indeed brings the overall taste of the dessert to a whole new level. Not to mention that the palm sugar used here is very nice as well.  

7) Golden Delight Rojak and Cold Drinks Centre, Miri, Sarawak 

AHAA! This is a very popular dessert shop in Miri, located in the proximity of Mega Hotel. Well, you must check this place out should you happen to be in the city. The place is jam-packed most of the time, rendering the atmosphere sultry.

One thing I must compliment about the Cendol here is the green jelly noodle (or what we call jendol in Malay) which has a chewy texture. HMMM.. I will talk more on this later. 

8) Ah Yeo Ais Kacang @ Jubilee Ground Hawker Centre, Kuching, Sarawak

Best thing comes last! THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST CENDOL I HAVE EVER HAD! By the way, what makes it so special?

Well, the green jelly noodle has a pleasant chewy texture just like what they serve at Golden Delight in Miri. As a matter of fact, most of the places that serve Cendol do not have that chewy texture in the jelly. It actually surprised me a lot when I first tried it last year because all the while I thought that the green stuff is tough in nature. I was wondering why the chewy texture so I asked the proprietor, a very cheerful man, and he told me that the green jelly must not be refrigerated to retain its chewiness. Apart from the jelly, the coconut milk is somewhat mild if compared with the one at Teochew Cendol, but it is very thirst-quenching. Never miss out this place if you ever visit Kuching!