Friday, December 17, 2010

Grilled Tomatoes

I'm all for adventure and carpe diem and all that, but ultimately I like regularity. Especially time spent with  family and loved ones.

I've been going to the same place for breakfast for some time now ~ maybe close to a year and a half?

And I love having grilled tomato for breakfast. I don't especially like their grilled tomato though - it's always underdone. And I've taken to reminding them to cook the tomato a bit more - results have been iffy.

So, the last time I was there (very recently) - they had a new guy and of course I asked for the usual stuff I ask for. And of course the new guy didn't understand. To cut a long story short, the older staff came over and took the order, usual instructions noted.

When the order arrived, I was slightly shocked and totally amused. The tomato was burnt almost to cinders.

It turned out to be not such a bad thing though. Blackened tomato is absolutely delicious! I'm asking that all my future tomatoes be done this way!! Haha. Mmmmmmm.

Pai Tee vs Taco


The first time I bit into a pai tee, I thought taco! Same idea after all ~ crunchy shell with filling.

Pai Tees are much smaller though. And while the taco is a meal, the pai tee is an appetizer. Fillings are usually thinly sliced vegetable either raw or lightly fried. Well I haven't yet come across other kinds - perhaps if I went on a Pai Tee odyssey I might!

The best pai tee I had were ones in Penang and the place that served them was so quaint. A little house on a slope with cute furniture. Eating was alfresco in a patio in front of the house. There's even a swing under a tree on one side of the patio. I wanted to sit there, but one couple was already and (selfishly) remained there the entire time I was at the place!

Friday, November 5, 2010

High and Dry - Squids and Cuttlefish and seaside memories


So I've been away for far too long! It's been work, work, work. Oh, but I do love my work. Given a choice between blogging and work, I choose work. Sometimes. OK, most of the time.

Oh, I did say I write for a living right.

Anyway, so I've wanted to put this picture up for the longest time. I've just come back from the supermarket where it was taken, ages and ages ago. It's amazing how there's always interesting stuff to be found at the supermarket these days. It used to be one only sees exotic food stuff at the outdoor market or the farmer's market. Well not anymore babe!

These are dried cuttlefish, from which yummy dishes can be made out. If you like like salty, (really) chewy stuff. 

For me, they are more like comfort food. 

Once upon a time ago, I used to go to the seaside a lot. (Eek, corny central - I know, who hasn't right). Anyway, it didn't matter what time of day it was. Swimming, eating, swimming, eating. Evenings were usually for the wonderful array of cooked over the fire kind of stuff (read eating, lol). 

Although every other person was barbecuing or stir-frying or deep-frying something, the area was never stuffy or smoky as there was the perpetual breeze from the sea. So the smells were never overwhelming. A whiff of salt one moment, barbecued chicken the next, charred squid the next. Oh yummmmmm... can you see me, in your mind's eye, closing my eyes, inhaling deeply, going back into that long ago time? Big smile. Sigh.

One of my favourite things to eat by that seaside was charred squid. It was fun even to see how it's prepared. After burning the poor (dead) thing to black, the vendor then uses a heavy iron hammer to beat the beejezus out of it till it's all white(-tish) again. You then stick it in your mouth while it's warm. Salty and so melts in your mouth! 

The memories! Gosh!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When the Queen of Cheese meets the King of Fruits

Queen of Cheese... that's me.  I think I have great taste in music but seems like most everyone around me don't think so. I mean I love the (early) Beatles, ABBA, Elvis, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Isley Brothers... hmm, should I go on?

King of Fruits... that's the durian. Mention durian and it always is amusing (to me) to see the plethora of reactions it elicits. From a vehement yukk to a feverish yumm to the milder it's ok la. To hear the adjectives attached to the fruit. I can collect enough material to do a chapter on antonyms and synonyms. Stinky, creamy, sewage smell, disgusting texture, heavenly. You name it, I've heard it. :)

Personally, I like the fruit. It is sweet, yet not so, more like a milky creamy kind of sweet. 

It has a distinct scent too. I wouldn't go as far as saying smelly. Smelly is something offensive and no matter how many people tell me it is smelly, I can't possibly agree. It is perhaps an unfamiliar category of sweet, maybe cloyingly sweet to some. 

I saw a man, just recently, all on his average-sized-own, go through at least 8 jumbo sized fruit. That must be some kind of record. And I bet he was sick that night. But then again. Surprise me right? Myself? I can only eat 2 pieces (usually); egg me on, and maybe I'll eat 3. Pieces mind you, not the entire fruit!

... worth a voyage to the East?

A friend from Argentina (the cute Luis B) sent me the following quote by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace about what he said about the durian in 1856;

"The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. ... as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good for the Goose?

I had soup some time ago. It tasted good until I got almost to the bottom and the main ingredient showed.

Actually I'm not really squeamish about food. I am Asian after all. (haha, don't I love this excuse..)


Throw in a friend who feels strongly about such exotica... and voila. The whole dining experience takes a fun turn.

Monday, August 16, 2010

26 Teaspoons of Sugar - A Malaysian Obsession

Fun Fact 1 :
That's how much sugar Malaysians reputedly down on a daily basis.

Fun Fact 2 :
And that Malaysia is the 8th highest sugar consumer in the world.

Source :
A fellow Malaysian some months ago whom I suppose knows what he's saying since his work involves affairs pertaining to domestic trade and consumerism. 

My own preference :
I love my local frothy milk tea (refer picture) but every time I patronize a local coffee shop aka kopitiam, I must always remember to add the phrase 'less sweet' (kurang manis) for my coffee or tea order as the default setting is at least 2 teaspoons of sugar topped with a generous dollop of sweetened condensed milk. Mmmm. Yumm. Haha.

Ouch :
Malaysia (allegedly) has the fourth highest number of diabetic sufferers in Asia (1.3 million in 2010) and most overweight and obese people in Asia with more than half of adults either overweight or obese. Double ouch.

What I thought was kind of amusing :
was that a local (and quite influential) consumer association is pushing for colour coding on product labels to refer to sugar content. Red for high, orange for medium and green for low.  It makes me wonder what that suggests about the average Malaysian buyer.Wait. Does that include me as well?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gaga Over Coffee


I had my first coffee only in my late teens. 

Coffee drinking was (and still is) strictly an adults only activity in my family. But this was an exception. It was one of those cold sensation numbing fall days which only a hot drink could remedy. I'd run to the vending machine in the class hallway but there was no more hot chocolate. Only coffee! Aargh. So what's a non-coffee drinking person to do but right?

I can't remember the specific day or time; I only distinctly remember thinking 'wow, this is bitter'.  (Come to think of it, no wonder that's all that was left). And no, it didn't turn out to be a 'and as they say, the rest is history' kind of thing.  I continued drinking coffee after that fateful day, although again more out of necessity than passion and quit after college, sticking to Milos and teas for years after.

In the last few years though, I've rediscovered coffee (re: the kind in the pic above, exotic sounding names, nice (ceramic or china, no styrofoams please) cups and all). And love it. Especially so in the last one and a half years :)

Plus I derive comfort from these little nuggets of information gleaned from the internet, which I happily cut and paste and (hopefully accurately) paraphrase  from  Positively Coffee.

1. Coffee does not have any substantial effect on the risk of cancer of either the pancreas or of the kidney. (yay!)

2. Drinking coffee is not a causal factor in the development of cancer at any body site. (double yay!)

3. Drinking coffee may be protective in relation to liver, lower bowel and ovarian cancer as well as against the development of Type II diabetes. (yaay!)

4. A cup of coffee may help increase performance as well as exercise for longer before exhaustion. (woohoo!)

5. Moderate coffee drinking contributes to one's daily fluid intake, essential to both well trained and recreational sports men and women. (yayyy!)

6. Drinkers of more than 3 cups of coffee a day show lower levels of some liver enzymes in the blood than drinkers of less than 3 cups per day and in those non coffee drinking individuals. (woohoo!)

7. Research shows an inverse relationship between coffee drinking and the development of Parkinson's, with the exception of women undergoing hormone therapy. (woohoo!)

8. Moderate coffee consumption (2 regular cups of coffee according to UK Foods Standard Agency) among women trying to conceive, during pregnancy or whilst breast feeding is perfectly safe. (yay!)

9.  Moderate amounts of caffeine significantly improve alertness in sleepy subjects. (It is well documented that stopping for a caffeine containing drink, such as a cup or two of coffee, and a short nap are the most effective counter measures for alleviating driver fatigue) (triple YAY!)

And they say this too on the same site; 
"It is clear that for the majority of healthy adults coffee can be enjoyed in moderation (4 to 5 regular size cups a day) helping maintain important body fluid levels as well as increasing alertness; and keeping us going throughout the day."

So. I'm healthy. I'm an adult. And if it's on the net, it must apply to me too... musn't it????

Still, much as it is heartening to know how wonderful coffee is for my health, I still much prefer tea. It's just a family, tradition, habit kind of thing....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lemonade weather


Blessing or otherwise, Malaysian temperatures remain at around the mid 80's throughout the year. Except during the wet season, when temperatures dip to the low 70's. Or during the dry season, when temperatures hover closer to the low 90's. 

Something like 30 years ago, it used to be one could safely group the months by how much rainfall (and by extension, temperatures) could be expected during those months. Now it's anybody's guess. 

Like this month of July, we should be experiencing hot, dry weather. Instead, we've had only 3 maybe 7 at best, of such days.

Even a trip to the east coast recently saw some so-so weather. I don't mind it though. In fact, I adore overcast skies. I like to spend time outdoors and it's not too pleasant if it's too hot. Sweat and stuff like that you know.

Anyway, so what does one do (read drink) on hot, lethargy-inducing days? Hot chinese tea is great of course. But sometimes I like to cool down with lemonade. The local version uses local ingredients for sure. No lemons, just lime but usually it's likely to be calamansi, lots of sugar (by default; one needs to specify reduced sugar if such is preferred) and ice. So cool, so refreshing. Ahhh. And beat this. A tall glass of this for less than RM2 (just under 50 US cents). Ha.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot and spicy - when green means fire


A big segment of Malaysians (well Asians for that matter) love, I mean LOVE their food hot. 

I am no different. I love my food hot but I prefer to have control over the degree of hot as opposed to having them done hot. So chili on the side, in a little dish, is, in my opinion, a brilliant idea! The ones in the picture are fresh ones, but sometimes they come pickled as well. Hot and sour. Yumm!

Someone I know remarked that we Asians have a thing for pain. If it has anything to do with food, I say bring it on! Lol.

Unlike Jane, hot shouldn't be plain. Good thing there are many (simple) ways to add interesting details.

Add light soya sauce for a little saltiness. Ta Daa. Hot and salty.

Or if you have a sweet tooth, add dark sweet soya sauce. Ta Daa. Hot and sweet.

Squeeze some lime juice for a wonderful zing to the soya sauce-chili combination. Ta Daa. Tangy, hot and salty or sweet.


Oh, before I forget. There is chili and there is chili. The green ones in the picture are the extra-hot-burn-your-tongue variety. Locally, in English, they're known as bird chili. Not everyone is familiar with that name though. Try 'chili padi' and you're all set. Lol. Even the green ones set your mouth and lips (or any part of your skin that comes in contact with it) on fire! You have been warned. Lol.

The larger (even when red) ones are extremely mild besides these little fiery bullets. Lol.

I use a lot of lol's in this post.  It's a reaction to hot.  Lol.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Driving holiday in Malaysia - food tips


Traveling has become so easy. It must be. Right? Otherwise the Malaysian no-frills airline wouldn't say 'Now everyone can fly'! Right. Last year I flew all of 3 times. And none yet this year.

Anyway, I was at a travel agency one fine day. They had a very stylish display of reading material so I decided to check it out.

They were some very nice magazines but it was a little foldable brochure on driving holiday trips that caught my eye.

It was the chocolates (sic) and junk food on the list of essentials to bring on a driving trip that made me go whaaaat.

Why would I pack chocolate on a driving trip??

No.1  This is a tropical country. It can get really hot in the car. No.2 Chocolate melts. Unless they're M&Ms.  No.3 Bananas are healthier. And this is a tropical country? That makes them cheaper too.  Rastalis (my favourite banana variety) taste way better if one has to gorge on one thing. 

And that other essential. Junk food? Pardon me while I barf. I've never fancied any of that dried, sweetened, preserved stuff. 

Which reminds me of a family I saw on a picnic sometime ago. They were stuffing down bags of different varieties of chips; potato chips, different flavours. Wow. All three generations; grandmother, parents and children. All shoving down crisps and crackers. Grandma was passing out the bags too. My grandmother never fed me junk food. And I think junk food had existed back then!

My mother packed super delicious (and wholesome) food like sandwiches on picnics. And rice! Mmmmm. We'd have grilled fish too. Mmmm. Now that's food. :) We usually had 2 types of sandwiches. Egg sandwiches and sardine sandwiches. Mmmmmm. Now that's food. :)

Please don't pack chocolate or junk food on a driving trip. Pack bananas instead. And cookies. Okay, I do have one food vice. But only when I travel! Not just any cookies mind you though. Hazelnut cookies. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

The tea experience - superstitions? abound. language hurdles? of course!

Chinese tea. Steaming hot. The perfect drink to accompany lunch.  In Asia anyway. Among the Chinese anyway. The older Chinese anyway. Or maybe it's just me. And a handful of health-nuts and traditionalists. :) For the record, I'm part Chinese. :)

But that doesn't make me an expert at tea drinking. Not even remotely. But I do know how it makes me feel. Refreshed, cleansed and rejuvenated.

I looked up some (web) experts on tea - who knows where they get their source from - and found a quote that I kinda like. According to them (a few had the quote on their sites - not that this lends validity to the quote - they probably copied off each other - same thing I'm doing now. Haha), according to an ancient Chinese proverb, get this :

Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one

Wow, right? Who would've guessed. Guess this might one day be the basis of a new diet fad. What am I saying? It probably is already.

Anyway, the three cups of tea in the picture were actually part of a lunch for two. According to someone I know, whose sources have yet to be verified, the third cup is for any unseen guest sitting at the table. Not to say I am superstitious but I'll buy that if it's all the same to you, thank you very much!  Besides if it does no harm to anything or anyone, then I'm all for it! :)

Among the many many types of Chinese tea, my personal favourite is the emperor tea, which I was introduced to just last Chinese New Year. 

A few weeks passed by before I had another opportunity to dine at a Chinese restaurant. And there, armed with a new tea repertoire, I announced (with a somewhat arrogant(ish) air), that I wanted emperor tea. The lady did not understand me. So thinking that language was a barrier, I said it in Chinese. I said Wong Cha. She still didn't have a clue. I repeated it a few times. 

Remember how practise makes perfect? I thought maybe it was my pronunciation. 

WONG Cha. Wong CHA. Woung Charr. Pfft. I even tried raising my voice. What the heck, right? Still no success. So I gave up and ordered the house hot Chinese tea. 

Much later, I lamented to friends about the scarcity of Wong Cha. Instead of sympathizing, they burst out laughing. One said, well of course my dear, you should have said Cha Wong. Well, duh. Blame me for my poor Chinese but I wonder if it's such a stretch to figure out Cha Wong from Wong Cha! 

I did manage to order Cha Wong at another establishment, but I only wanted one cup. The lady said not possiberr. Ah well.