"Anyone for blue rice?"
Now here's the thing, if you're not from Kelantan and spend most your life as a West Coaster, the chances of coming across Kelantanese food in your daily life is sporadic at best. That is unless you really seek it out. So when in Kelantan, let your tastebuds go wild. Hence first stop from the airport should be this bustling little roadside stall selling all you need for a good, bracing Kelantanese breakfast.
They have laksam here and nasi dagang and nasi kerabu as well as all sorts of kuihs. They even have duck rendang and nasi Jawa which you eat with satay and kuah kacang (their version is of course sweeter). In amazement I watched local punters carrying plates laden with rice and lauks to their table (I am not even sure I can eat all that for dinner much less breakfast). All hail the magnificent Kelantanese appetite.
I of course had to try a bit of everything. Nasi Kerabu is the disturbingly blue rice that tasted really different from anything I’ve ever eaten- it’s so alien to me that it could have come from Venus and I’d be none the wiser. All nasi kerabu comes with its accompaniments such as sambal nyiok (pretty much dry-fried coconut with hints of fish), budu (salty, local fermented prawn gravy with chillis in it), bbq chicken, salted duck’s egg, bqq beef, ulam (a fragrant bouquet of local leaves shredded finely), fish crackers and solok lada (a boiled large chilli stuffed with fish paste).
It’s a real mouthful isn’t it? Frankly nasi kerabu is an acquired taste. Those who love it, dream of it at night while us lesser mortals try it and move on to something more familiar. Though the rice is okay enough, I found the pile of ulam that you're supposed to mix it with a little too herb-y. I much prefer the nasi dagang. The Kelantanese version is white glutinous rice speckled with lots of wonderful browns and khakis unlike Terengganu’s which is all white. Nasi dagang is one of my favourites eaten with a nice tuna curry (KB’s is of course sweeter but delicious). Here they also eat it with a nice chunk of duck rendang cooked until soft. It's barely 8am I and am eating duck slow cooked in oil and coconut and spices and who knows how much sugar. It felt a little wrong but its so tasty, I finished the whole lot in no time.
Finally, after much compiling, deliberation and argument, below are the nominees for the 1st Annual Foodsters Awards in the 10 categories. We'd like to thank everyone who nominated their favourite places. A special thanks goes out to masak-masak.blogspot.com
& ^^Living in Food Heaven
^^ for taking some time to nominate as well.
It was great fun compiling the nominations. We've even got some places we've never heard of that made it to the nominations.… Continue reading »
I suppose you can call it Crabs cooked in Spicy-Coconut Gravy. Now everyone in my house likes, no loves crabs. My sisters when they come visiting thinks they've hit paydirt if I'm cooking it the day they mooch. Both my sons can eat it for lunch and dinner. Even my daughter who does not like seafood, sits for ages at the table cracking and sucking crabs.… More »
"Fantastic barbecued chicken that runs out if you're unlucky"
You gotta have a strong stomach and nerves of steel if you want to open a restaurant in Damansara Perdana. Why? Many a good restaurant have fallen down trying to stand up in this restaurant forsaken place. The line up includes Eagles Nest Steakhouse with its 'this is how a steak should be' fundamentals, gone! Gusto's with is value eats and cozy ambience, gone! and the restaurant cemetary list goes on. Now, when someone opens up a restaurant serving BBQ chicken & steaks; and names the restaurant something like Pannaz, I dunno.. how long do you think this place will last?
Despite the odds, here are some facts about Pannaz that you need to know about. Firstly, the young chef owner used to work in Marche and left La Bodega to set this place up. Secondly, this place is full during lunch and dinner, something which is almost unheard of for a new place of 3 months serving Western and no liquor in Damansara Perdana.
One lunchtime, We found out that it is the BBQ chicken that people keep flocking here for. Perhaps this place has a fighting chance after all. Chef Annaz (perhaps now we have a clue why this place is called Pannaz) sources the chicken fresh daily and if you want some, you have to be an early bird to get it. There's nothing to this dish, but it's definitely something. A quarter chicken is marinated in thyme, olive oil, coarse pepper, some salt and herbs. This gets grilled over a BBQ and then gets a once over in the oven. It comes with mash potatoes that makes you go 'where did you get this' and romaine salad that is just so deliciously crunchy. If this sounds like I'm just lifting the menu description to write this review... you know what... I kinda am because it is true.
"Fresh fish and chillies, this dish has oomph!"
The mere scent of sambal belacan brings back fond memories of my grandmother rhythmically pounding away spices in the backyard while my aunt foraged for fresh herbs from the garden to throw into the pot. Coming from the Northern region, I am embarrassed to admit that I am rather unfamiliar to my southern counterpart’s cuisine aside from the usual Pongteh and cencaluk. Yes, we all may come from the Straits Settlement states but the fare differs in terms of name, taste and ingredients. Hence, an invitation to join a foodie group to a specially cooked lunch at a Malaccan home was quickly accepted without hesitation.
So one weekend, I found myself at Baba Ee. No, you can’t pop by when you feel like it because like all Peranakans, the chef requires ample time to prepare for the meal with the strictest requirements. Dishes served will be based on availability of the freshest ingredients procured. For example, gragao shrimps to make cencaluk are only available during certain periods of the year. Moreover, the chef’s mother (who is still hale and hearty at over 90 years old) constantly checks on the quality of what comes out of the kitchen. God forbids if she finds a dish that falls short of her exacting standards!
Stepping into this humble home of 4 generations, I can see Baba Ee’s passion for cooking. He loves feeding people and provides his 2 cents on the intricacies of his dishes. Everything is cooked from scratch without MSG, as what we eat is what he would serve his own family. Neither has he any desire to expand his labour of love beyond his home.
A simple round table is set outside in the garden as dish after dish is laid out until the table heaves from the weight. Counting 7 dishes in total, we cautioned our tummies for the onslaught ahead.
First up is the itik tim which is salted vege duck soup, also known as kiam chye ark to northern Peranakans. The broth is boiled overnight and the soup bursts with flavor. Great to warm up the appetite and cleanse the palate. Next is the ayam pongteh which is chicken stewed in tau cheow sauce, shallots and gula Melaka. Baba Ee also noted that pork belly can be sinfully added to this dish. There are potatoes to soak up the sweet sauce which goes great with rice. The Sey Ark is superb, which duck slowly stewed in herbs and spices and slathered with thick homemade chilli sauce. The meat is deliciously tender without any typical gamey taste. The chilli sauce is a perfect accompaniment to spice up the meat. Fresh cucumbers provide a cooling respite if you’re not used to the spiciness.
We know it’s always on Sunday night in the US so this means you will be watching the repeats on Monday night but what a good excuse to meet up! It might stave away those Monday blues just thinking about having a few friends over, eat good junk food and look at dresses and hear teary acceptance speeches.
Here’s 5 Favourite Snacks that… More »
"Delicious dipped with toast"
Well it goes to show that you learn a new thing everyday. I was looking down on a small brown cake-like object, drizzled in ghee with fried onions scattered on top. It reminded me of one of those thick old coins back during the Chinese Empire. This is harissa, an aristocratic delicacy from Johor. Since I have never tried it in my life, I opted for it, ‘as is’ in its natural form. How you eat it is either with pepper or dipped in honey. Here goes…
Right, it has a meaty taste and a grainy texture from the oats in it. And the ghee that binds it all together makes it rather tasty if a little worrying looking at the amount pooling on the plate. Strangely enough for something so savoury, dipping it with honey brings out the flavours well.
I am still not too sure what to make of it. With one bite, I think “I like it” then with another it tastes a little too gooey, a little too odd and I think “not really”, then I have another bite and it melts in my mouth with a cereal aftertaste that is rich and a meaty flavour all meat-lovers adore and I think “yeah pretty good”. I guess you have to come here and taste it for yourselves because it certainly is worth trying once if only to marvel that someone actually thought this up.
Ungku Anna whose recipe is translated on my plate explains that it comes from her family tree whose roots include the last Sultan of Riau. It was a food that was either created or evolved in the royal court probably brought in by traders, a result of some intermingling of cuisines. Answers to my questions were rather vague. But anyway once it was recieved, it became an aristocratic dish, eaten within the nobility which explains why in my 5 years of studying in JB I had never encountered it before. Strange brown eggs bubbled in herbs? Check. Pisang goreng with sambal kicap. Check. Spaghetti in my laksa? Check. Harissa. Nope.
What Ungku Anna and her family have done is packaged it and made it accessible for public consumption. So if you’re from JB and are craving for this, then Fiescanto Café serves one of the best harissas (I have this on good authority from a true blue Johorean) outside of the Southern State. At the moment they use the ‘batang pinang’ part of the cow for their harrisa hence it’s quite a premium product. But they have plans to branch out to a more affordable line later.