"The fish has a slight creaminess, a mark of freshness"
Is it any wonder that the best seafood gulais (a watery gravy infused with spices and pungent ingredients sans coconut milk) are located down by the riverside. Afterall if you wanted to find fresh river fish, wouldn’t riverside restaurants be the logical purveyors of them?
I remember that when I used to travel around Perak with my dad as a young girl, the riverbanks around Kuala Kangsar is where we stopped for fresh gulai tempoyak ikan patin. Tempoyak, the pungent and almost unbearable gloop of fermented durian achieves its full potential in a gulai. So thus, in Temerloh (where the craze for gulai tempoyak is just as prominent) we needed no instructions either than to head on towards the river.
Warung Mek Afidah was already buzzing with people by the time we pulled up. A rule of thumb- find places where there are loads of people eating. “Try and come a little early,” said my friend. “Then you don’t need to fight as much and food will be fresher”.
Gulai tempoyak is of course on the menu. Here the patin fishes, though not wholly wild are actually reared in the river itself. So even though they are in cages, there is plenty of room to swim around with fresh, flowing water running through ensuring the fishes have a clean, wholesome taste.
The gulai tempoyak in Pahang is definitely a spicier dish than Perak and it gets those sweat glands running. Typically you will be eating it during the hottest part of the afternoon. The gulai gives you heat and mellowness at the same time, a nasal cleaner and appetite opener. Cooked with old cucumber it is a brilliant dish of few ingredients and balance of flavours.
Avanti at Sunway Lagoon is participating in the annual Gourmania held from the 1st to 30th November. Start your meal with the crispy soft shell crab with pear endive. It's done fried like tempura with the salad that tastes a little like Waldorf. Magtagliati pasta, are thick ribbons slightly cooked with braised venison. Before the main meal, cleanse your palates with an espresso sorbet and coconut candy.
Our pick for the mains is the pan-fried veal served like a Swiss roll hugging cream cheese with sundried tomatoes. This is tender and rich. For dessert, there is bitter-sweet chocolate mousse cake and praline ice cream. The Gourmania menu is priced at RM88++ without wine and RM138++ with wine. There's also a second menu for about RM108++ without wine and RM188++ with wine. This menu boasts scallops or baby lobster starters and a tenderloin or dover sole main. Continue reading »
"End your meal with some crispy lotus filled pancakes"
“Okay, grab a prawn by the tail and peel it off like a coat.” So I grasped the slippery tail and slipped off the slick shell. It shrugged off smoothly leaving quivering pink flesh just balanced on the bottom shell. Of course at the same time I was also trying to suck off the juices from the said shell. It always pains me that parts of the prawn that soaks the marinade and sauce is the part that people discard.
The mantis prawns (which looks like a langoustine) came to our table hot and crisp. At South Sea it is fried in butter with scallions, garlic and chillies forming a crunchy exterior. You can munch most of the legs and shell after you’ve sunk your teeth into the soft, succulent flesh. It has that juice dripping-down-your-chin appeal to it. I imagine the skin can make a great bar snack, crispy, salty and addictive. Don’t waste the carapace either, because you can crunch that down too and lick all the goodness right down to the gritty eyeballs.
Earlier we started the meal with some geoduck sashimi. The seafood here is über-fresh since South Sea has a modest array of tanks outside. The weird-looking geoducks were fished out alive before sliced into sashimi. I seldom order geoduck but when I do, sashimi is the way to go. It has the consistency of firm abalone and delicious with wasabi-soy. They also provide a hearty clear broth, where you can dip in your slivers of geoduck cooking it into tender clam pieces. It’s the myriad textures of this deep burrowing sea critter that makes it a popular request at fresh seafood restaurants. The broth itself is good enough to slurp on its own while you await the next dish.
The fish here is simply steamed garoupa, firm and flaky. My sister claimed the head straight away. The fish is fat so the cheeks are puffy and full of meat. The soya sauce itself is delicious poured over rice.
It was about 11am in the morning and we are having a great conversation about the business of food. “When we first came up with the idea of an Asian Food Channel, the idea wasn’t an obvious one- it is now
but not in 2004,” said Hian the Managing Director of AFC. He’s a bit under the weather drinking copious amounts of lemon tea but still… More »
"Simple food made delicious"
I was ending my meal with a shot of icy cold lemoncello. I like it when my drink matches my outfit. Yellow, mellow, cold and slightly wet (it was raining afterall). Yes, it was a review on a stormy Friday night in Bukit Bintang. If there’s any restaurant worth braving the insane KL traffic for, it’s Chiaroscuro. And let me tell you why.
It’s the sheep’s cheese ravioli. I’m going to dispense all ceremony and start with the dishes I love first. The ravioli my friends, the ravioli. This one is made fresh and stuffed delicately with pecorino (the hard cheese of champions in my humble opinion). Then as to not distract you, it’s then drizzled with truffle honey and crushed pepper. That’s all and it’s divine. The saltiness and slight tartness of the cheese pockets with that sweetness of honey and peppery afterbite. Mmm… I could eat this all night.
That’s what I like about Chiaroscuro. It’s simple food made delicious. It doesn’t complicate your tastebuds, it doesn’t confuse your sensibilities with something unfamiliar. It just gives you what you want in an Italian meal and then some. But wait, try the pannacotta. Now I was never a fan of pannacotta but here they make it so creamy, I wondered why I never ordered the darn thing in the first place. Again clean flavours, good ingredients- it comes soft and wobbly on the plate ringed by a sunburst of berry coulis and runny jams. It’s the tartness of the fruit sauce that elevates this dessert into a tasty revelation.
Now that we’ve dispensed with my favourites of the evening, let's get back to the very beginning. Starters here are good classics like the buffalo mozzarella stacked with eggplant parmagiana and tomatoes. It’s fresh and earthy and if you must order another starter have the beef bresaola. This is air-dried salted beef aged until it becomes the dark red of old blood. It’s even earthier and slightly musty. Makes me think of deep cool cellars of Chianti, swilling and tasting while eating hard cheese and cured meats to enhance the taste of aged grape. I decided I preferred bresaola to carpaccio as it has more body to it and is saltier with a pronounced cured taste. This comes with a light mushroom salad and lemon dressing.
Now if you are lucky, on their special menu you might come across the homemade duck foie gras and pork terrine which according to my friend is so delicious, non-pork eaters might want to consider defecting for an evening. This is a soft and tender foie gras that simply melts on your tongue leaving a rich, indulgent aftertaste. Forget the bread, you can just cut this with a fork and eat it like a pudding.
One of the highlights of the Asian Culinary Forum was meeting Madhur Jaffrey and Martin Yan. Madhur, who I think is the funkiest dame of food writing (she was wearing a sort of leather/PVC tights while giving the inaugural speech at the first ever Asian Culinary Forum), is full of anecdotes and information. This is ASIA
She's been to the spice islands of Banda, Ternate and Tidore. On the twin volcanic island of Ternate, with the BBC crew as she was talking on camera backing the sea, when she noticed smoke coming out of the volcano. Turning the camera crew around, they filmed a small eruption, "so being a food writer is exciting," she said. During lunch I approached her with a book to sign. The lady I was behind had a whole stack of her Indian cookery books. There was one of her in a sexy sari sprawled behind dishes of exotic Indian cooking. Cool. The girl beside me with a newly bought biography of hers waiting for a signature whispered to me. "She's really famous isn't she?" "Uh-huh".
Jaffrey has an approachable movie-star aura about her (well she is a movie-star afterall) yet she's also someone you would love to have a cup of tea with or a glass of wine. Because she also oozes a vibe of having lived a very interesting life with no signs of stopping.
Martin Yan during his speech, jumps from topic to topic like from… Continue reading »
The title says it all. That's how good Japanese food is in San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco and California as a whole is a haven for foodies. The climate makes it easy to get fresh vegetables. Asian ingredients flourish here and Chinatowns in this part of America is well stocked. If there's a place where opening a good Asian inspired restaurant is a surefire thing, San Francisco will be it. My friend Aaron who grew up near Clement Street, a famous street where all kinds of Asian restaurants jostle together said he was spoilt for choice when growing up. There are all kinds of restaurants there, Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Indian and so forth. He even knows where good Filipino food is. "There used to be this shack where you have to walk across a rickety bridge and they had this cracked jug where they served their beverages..." I reckon if he comes to Malaysia, Bagan Lalang
is his kind of place. Point is, don't try and pull a one over a person from 'Frisco'. They know their stuff.
Here are my Favourite 5 places to eat in San Francisco.
Shimo @ 2339, Clement Street
is just a normal Japanese eating house, no frills. The sashimi and rolls are so stonking fresh it actually saddened me a little, knowing that it would be a while before I eat Japanese again in Malaysia. The mackerel is delicious, grilled with juices… Continue reading »