Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Come Eat With Us: Fish & Co

We went to Warisan Square a few nights ago with the aim of eating at a new Chinese restaurant but as we passed by Fish & Co, we changed our minds when we saw the large portions and the happy customers who filled up every seat. So we had to have a piece of the action too, especially when we spied two different groups of friends eating there who gave us their enthusiastic thumbs up sign. (Btw, I used the small digita cam because I was too shy to take pics of my food in a densely-crowded place.)

Fish & chips

Frankly, this was the best out of the three orders we tried. The chips were big and meaty, almost like those we ate in Perth (that's in Australia, dears). The fish was enveloped in a crisp, fragrant batter but was a little disappointing because I think they used dory, which is about the only fish you get if you order fish and chips in KK. No cod or halibut, so sad. The portion was big, but it got a little boring after a while...fish, chips, chips, fish. Wey loved it, and proclaimed it the best fish & chips in KK and I have to agree.

Seafood platter

Blah! Hubby had this and he was so bored, he crossed over the table and grabbed a bite of my assam laksa before I could stop him. The prawns were dry and tasteless, the calamari/squid rings tasted bland and had a refrigerated smell. I think they just dotted butter over and grilled it. That's fine if the seafood is very fresh, but I can think of so many better ways to cook seafood.

Penne with mussels

I just didn't like this. It was unusually sweet and the mussels were tough and tasteless. I took a mouthful, then another, then decided I wasn't going to eat something I didn't like so I went next door and ordered a bowl of assam laksa (the great thing about these kind of restaurants is, you can eat outside food because all the tables are laid out along the shopping lane). It looked terrible, but was good enough for Hubby and me to fight over, down to the last spoonful! I think that's because we both didn't want to eat the penne or the mixed seafood.

I'd only go there for the fish and chips. If you find they have anything worth eating, tell me.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Come Eat With Us: Welcome Seafood Restaurant

We come here whenever we want crabs. Their crabs are the cheapest in town (RM18/kg or US$5.50/kg) but lately its always sold out (as is the case tonight) even when we get there at 7:30pm, or what's left is too small. The food's pretty good (for KK standard) and prices very reasonable. It's casual, and most people prefer to sit out under the stars. But be warned; they are always full and its a long wait for the food. Tonight, being a Sunday night, we waited ONE hour.


The restaurant is at the far corner of the row of shophouses behind the well-known Supertanker Restaurant in Penampang.

Mongolian Pork

I doubt you'll find this anywhere in Mongolia. It's fried pork with a yummy heavy cream sauce that's slightly hot.

Steamed fish

We brought this to the restaurant (Hubby's friend caught it today in Kudat, north of KK) and it was GREAT! My favorite part of any fish is the dorsal fin and the surrounding flesh, which is especially smooth and flavorful.

Baby geoduck clams

I always find baby geoduck clams bland, unlike the bigger ones. So much shell and so little meat. It almost makes me guilty eating it.

Teppan tofu

Wey's favorite. I didn't even get a bite. He said to make sure I get the omelette in the picture-other places usually don't show off the heat of the cast-iron plate this way.

Sabah veg

This veg, known locally as sayur manis ('sweet veg') in Malay or sujaicai in Chinese, is native only to Sabah and is a must-eat for all locals and tourists. We love it simply fried with garlic. Crunchy and sweet with a mild, unique flavor.

Butter prawns

For those on Lipitor, the fine shreds are egg yolks cooked in butter! Yummy, especially with the crunchy fried curry leaves but a little too oily.

Sea snails

I wouldn't touch escargots (once was enough, especially with blue cheese) but these are from the sea...quite tasteless actually but they're fun to eat. Gives a good chew (not much meat though) and the fermented bean curd (yes, Chinese blue cheese) dip was very salty but sooo good!


You get them out with a toothpick.

The total bill for 9 people came to RM167 only! That includes a small charge for cooking our fish. Definitely reasonable. I'd say its 8/10.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fried Tamarind Prawns


500g large prawns, shells on
2 T wet tamarind seeds (assam jawa)
1 t salt
2 t sugar
2 T warm water
5 T veg oil
1 red chili, sliced

1. Trim the prawns' heads, cut shell along the back to remove the dirt vein.

2. Mix the tamarind with the water, salt and sugar and add the prawns to mix well using your fingers. Leave for at least one hour.

3. Heat oil in wok till very hot and fry prawns 3 to 4 at a time till firm and cooked. Dish out. This will give a dry version (picture).

4. If you like it saucy (I prefer this), pour away the oil, add the marinade to the wok and when its hot put the fried prawns in, the sliced chili and toss a couple of times. Remove.

Update: I have made a better version by just frying the prawns in very hot oil (add minced garlic if like) and when both sides of prawns are crisp, add the tamarind which has been mixed well with 1/2 cup water. Season with salt and sugar. This gives a more saucy dish.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Shanghai Fried Sticky Rice Sticks (Chao Nien Gao)

Note: For a better, updated version (with experience comes improvement), see this post.


This dish doesn't seem to be well-known outside of Shanghai but I liked it the first time Hubby brought me back to his mom's (best Chinese food cook I know). I think most Chinese in Malaysia have ancestors from Southern China and so are more familiar with the sweet brown sticky/glutinous cake that's served during Chinese New Year and so, like me, are surprised when nien gao (sticky cake) is served stir-fried and savory. Nien gao is mochi to the Japanese and ttgeok to the Koreans, both of whom stole the idea from the Chinese, if you ask me. Besides stir-frying it, you can also make a soup dish out of it. Serve Shanghai nien gao with oily chili sauce (Guilin chili sauce is good), or make a sauce with lime juice,light soy sauce and fresh hot chilies-real yummy.

Sticky rice sticks come fresh and dried. The fresh version is smoother in texture. My kids even eat it Japanese-style: just grill it and dip in (Maggi) soy sauce. However, the fresh version is only available when Grandma comes back from Shanghai (another 3 weeks!). The dry rice sticks come in 500g packs and you have to soak them with room-temp water at least 12 hours before cooking.

Dried nien gao being soaked

*500g nien gao, soaked overnight & checked to make sure nien gao aren't sticking together
*10 dried Chinese black mushrooms (shiitake), soaked & sliced thinly & marinated with a little sugar and light soy sauce
*200g Chinese cabbage (wongbok), cut into 1/2 cm slices
*100g canned bamboo (winter bamboo or 'doong xun') is best, cut into thin strips
*200g lean pork, sliced & marinated with salt & pepper
*1/2 bulb garlic, chopped finely
*2 stalks garlic leeks (optional), sliced 1cm diagonally
*salt, white pepper
*msg or chicken stock granules
*3 T light soy sauce, or to taste
*1 T oyster sauce (optional)

1. Put 2 T veg oil in a hot wok and add the garlic, fry 20 sec (do not let it brown) then add the pork and mushroom. Season with some soy sauce. When half-done, add the bamboo and fry till meat is cooked. Remove, add 2 T oil to the wok and fry the wongbok for 2 to 3 min, then add the leeks, season with salt. When veg is wilted, add the fried meat mixture and season with salt and pepper. The veg will give out some water and that can be used in the next step.

2. If you want a less oily version, just add the nien gao to the meat and veg after Step 1, increase the heat, add 1/2 ricebowl of water, and season to taste with the oyster sauce or stock granules and light soy sauce. Check a piece of nien gao to see if it has softened; it should bend over if you hold it. This method will give a starchier dish because of the large amount of water added.

However, true Shanghainese-style fried nien gao is oily, so you have to fry the nien gao separately in oil. If like, season with light soy sauce (not authentic but gives more flavor) and stock granules or msg or oyster sauce (which is not true Shanghainese style because oyster sauce is Cantonese), then add the cooked meat and veg mixture, one or two tablespoons of water if needed and season to taste. However, because this method uses more oil and less water, you should fry this amount of nien gao in two or three batches.

Tell me if you like it!

Thursday, May 24, 2007



This is a probably the most famous dish of the Kadazans, the largest indigeneous group in Sabah. I've never made it until tonight and it turned out great! It's so easy to make too. Years ago when I was working in a bank, a hinava competition was held during the Kaamatan Festival (rice harvest festival) and I can't remember whether Dolly or Francesca's entry won but I took down both recipes so one of them mustn't been the winning entry, the other my pick. I've combined the two and given the credit to both.

Dolly and Francesca's Hinava

1 kilo king mackerel fillet, skin on & cut into strips or small cubes
juice from 10 limes
3 to 4 small red shallots, sliced or chopped finely
1 T finely julienned ginger
2 large chilies, cut into fine strips
4 to 6 small chilies, cut finely
bittergourd, cut into very thin short slices & mixed with salt 15 minutes
'bambangan' seed, grated (optional)

1. There are 3 ways to prepare the fish:

a) Pour boiling water over fish in a bowl and drain well. Probably the best way.
b) Put fish into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds and drain well. I did this tonight and the fish turned out a little coarse because it was cooked through and it broke up easily. Some people serve hinava mashed up. Yuks.
c) This is probably the most authentic way: steep the fish in the lime juice for 10 minutes. However, you'll need lots of lime juice. The citric acid will 'cook' the fish on the outside but leave the inside raw, giving it a smoother texture and a slightly chewier bite. I like this but will only attempt this with an absolutely fresh fish. Hubby will have to go fishing...

2. Wash the salted bittergourd twice with plenty of water to remove the bitterness and some of the salt. It should still taste slightly bitter and saltish.

3. Mix the fish with the lime juice and leave 10 minutes.

4. Mix everything together (using hands so the fish doesn't flake too much) and add more salt and lime juice to your liking. If you run out of lime juice by now, use rice or sushi vinegar.

5. Chill in fridge till ready to eat.

This may be an acquired-taste dish. Ming loves it but Wey wouldn't touch it.
This is like a raw fish salad so it goes with something stronger, like a curry or something deep-fried. You'll find this dish in 5-stars hotels here this time of the year because the Kaamatan is celebrated end of May. You won't be able to get the bambangan (a brown-colored fruit that looks like the mango inside but is very fibrous and pungent)anywhere but here and omitting it is okay too.
*I find that traditionally hinava is always made in a fish:bittergourd ratio of 90:10. However, we like it about 70:30 so its really up to you. In the pic above, I took away some of the veg to make it more authentic-looking...

Leaf Salad Dressings

Xmas2006 351a

In response to Raina's desperate requests for salads (whenever I eat leaf salads, I always wonder, when I'm shoving the uncooked greens into my mouth, how I could've reduced myself to that level...), here goes:

This first dressing is my standard if I serve leaf salad:

Whole Grain Mustard Dressing

1 cup balsamic or fruit-flavored vinegar (I like raspberry)
2 T whole grain mustard
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 t salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

-Blend everything (except olive oil)in a bowl, add olive oil in a trickle and whisk well. Keep in fridge.
-Toss with greens and root veg such as carrots, jicama (sengkuang), tomatoes or whatever you've got. In the pic I have oranges slices, lettuce and home-grown rocket (yes, they grow very well in Malaysia, alongwith basil and parsley) and black olives. You can add pine nuts and canned anchovies to give it a Mediteranean flavor.

The next one is from a book called Top Secret Restaurant Recipes. I was ecstatic when I first tried this because when I was a little girl, my mom's best friend's hubby was the area manager of Malaysian Singapore Airlines and he used to bring home gourmet food (in those times western food was rare and a big treat) and one of them, turkey sandwiches, had a dressing that I love and have always wanted to taste again, and this was it!

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup honey
2 T Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

-whisk together; drizzle on before eating.

Some tips:

1. Do use a salad spinner to dry the greens.
2. Always toss dressing and greens when about to eat unless you are doing coleslaw and potato salads which will taste better if you mix in the dressing earlier.
3. Be creative. However, remember to be careful. Not all veg can be eaten raw because some veg are actually poisonous in their raw state. So I think the Chinese are smart to stir-fry their veg (so tasty too) and you also don't get E.coli poisoning like what they had in the US last year with spinach.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm Back!

Been busy the last few days. Thanks to those who actually called to ask if I'm ok because they didn't see any new posts!

Its sad but God's name is being used by a lot of people including so-called anointed 'men of God'(a term used carelessly most of the time) for different reasons/gains. The lesson I've learnt the last few days is to not fear man, but to seek God even more.

By the way, I've edited the post on Royal Palace to include my review of their dinner food.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Come Eat With Us: Royal Palace Restaurant

This new restaurant in the new DJunction building across the Merdeka traffic lights, Penampang is the eat of the town, especially on Wed., Sat. and Sun. when all dimsum is RM1.98 (US$0.57) per steamer. After 3 failed attempts, Hubby gave up and brought me there yesterday, a Thursday.

We like it. Probably because we have tried about 4 other new dimsum places in the last 2 months, and been disappointed each time. One of them is Four Seasons in Asia City. A 5/10, this place serves dimsum on trays according to your order. Our order took 30 minutes and was cold when it arrived. And it didn't taste any better than Foo Ping, which, like I said, I fiercely avoid. Four Seasons is also expensive (hargow at RM6.50 per steamer, almost twice that of Royal Palace), the place was littered with tissues on the table, on the floor and service was very slow. Notice you're getting two reviews by the way.

Royal Palace is big, with about 30 tables and the decor is quite pleasant. Dimsum is served from trolleys so they are hot. I was happy to see that the size of each dimsum was dainty as they should be, because dimsum (meaning 'point the heart' in Cantonese) is meant to be eaten slowly, over cups of good tea, good company and even a couple of newspapers. Dimsum should not be monstrous like those in western countries (I suppose western mouths are bigger in size and volume) or eaten quickly like a burger. I love the dimsum in Melbourne, especially those in (have to ask Yi) , but honestly after a couple of golfball-sized hargow, siewmai, egg-sized beefballs and jindui, my throat becomes constricted and I'd be bulimic. Haven't they figured out that if they serve dimsum dainty, people will have more stomach room to eat, in variety and quantity, thus ensuring the restaurant's cash machines will always be full?

Right. I have learnt something from the waiter at Royal Palace: come on those discount days at your own peril. You not only have to grab the dimsum from the buffet table yourself, you may not get that many choices. Ok, I made the second point up myself but you go figure. What you pay is what you get.

Everything considered, I'll be eating at Royal Palace whenever my mouth craves for dimsum. Besides being only 5 minutes away (yay, no need to go downtown!), it really is the best so far. However, nothing's perfect. They could do with more variety (where's the fried cuttlefish, the malaigo, the stewed beef tripe, the black sesame rolls ) and since the size is already small, it would be very welcome if they would give the traditional four instead of three (with the exception of hargow, which comes in four) pieces of dimsum per steamer.


Yi: My first pic using the food mode in the DSLR (beaming with pride). Wait till I learn to shoot RAW and tinker on the computer...


I think I'll be nice and give my first 8/10 of my restaurant reviews. Just to make sure its not a mistake, we've booked a table for tomorrow night, a sort of pre-Mother's Day dinner. Keep you posted!

18 May 2007

Looks like many of you dislike the food at Royal Palace. I was there yesterday for dimsum and this time the choice was even less, forcing me to order a tasteless bowl of noodles for RM12 (US$3.5). However, I still think the dimsum is better than any other in KK...

Mother's Day dinner last Saturday was a real bummer. Mother-in-Law (henceforth MIL) had ordered Set B, the better set dinner. When the 3rd course came, somebody questioned if we were getting the right dishes and sure enough they had been giving us Set A (the cheaper set) instead. To compensate, the captain agreed to let us have a complimentary dish, and I chose fried noodles (not to be too opportunistic). When the bill came, they charged us RM28 for the noodles, the captain couldn't be found and the one we talked to said she doesn't know anything about it. The place was packed and we decided to settle the bill rather than wait. Although the food bill was RM228 (Set A), we paid about RM270 because of the taxes and tidbits etc. That would have been fine if the food was good, but it wasn't! We thought maybe the quality was down because it was full house but from your feedback, it seems nobody had a good thing to say about dinner at Royal Palace. So I'll go with your comments and my judgement and give them a 6/10 for their dinner food.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Japan: Asakusa, Kamakura & Mt Fuji

OK this is the last of the series on our Japan trip. Hope it has been a good trip for you.

May 2005


At the entrance to Sensoji

Asakusa (pronounced "a-suk-sa") is the more traditional area of Japan, with lots of temples and older buildings. The Sensoji Temple with its big lantern at the entrance is a famous landmark. This is also where the important festivals are celebrated. Probably because this area is more traditional, the restaurants here supposedly serve the most authentic Japanese food. I saw several stalls selling hot sembei (rice crackers) in Asakusa and Kappabashi, which is nearby. It would have been interesting to wander around the area to get a feel of old Japan but temples weren't our thing.


Beyond the entrance but before the temple grounds are hundreds of little shops selling souvenirs and traditional Japanese snacks such as rice crackers and mochis (glutinous rice cakes). Speaking of that, I love dungo: grilled glutinous rice mochis on sticks with sweet soya sauce...yummy!



Ming begged to try fugu (pufferfish). I said I don't like Russian roulette.



Setting out from the Davis' house in Setagaya-ku

Waiting for the train

Gaijins sitting on the courtesy seats

The Japanese are helpful, polite and law-abiding. In public places nobody talks loudly (very different from the rest of Asia, especially China) and in enclosed places such as the subway compartments, nobody talks. From young, the Japanese have been taught to respect each others' privacy bubble as they live in such a highly populated country. It must've been a shock for them to see Megan lying on the seats and kicking her legs in the air because the Japanese all got up and went to the next compartment...

We still laugh about that night in the Ginza station. It was midnight, we were lining up for the next train. Thousands of people in suits and officewear were everywhere, just off from work. The train came, people packed in, the whistle sounded, the station master in white gloves came and stuff more people in. I saw people gasped with their mouths open and eyes wide as the doors closed and the space tightened...especially hilarious was that pretty, well-dressed girl whose face became distorted against the glass. We stood there on the platform laughing till we ached...and I thought they exaggerated it in the movies!

The whole troupe


Talking owl

Street in Kamakura

Kimono girls


Bento lunch



Train station in Kamakura, rustic and cowboy-town like.

Mt Fuji:

On the ferry

Going up Mt Fuji

Eating the black eggs boiled in the mineral pools

Down the mountain

Cable car ride

Mt Fuji is very elusive. The two times I've been there I've never seen the mountain the way it looks in pictures, with a snow-top cone. Apparently it is very rare to get a clear day over the mountain.

Vending machine

Ming loved the vending machines which were everywhere and spent most of his daily allowance on them. Cola is about the only fizzy drink they sell. The rest are non-gassy like all kinds of tea (very nice!), lemonade, pocari sweat (I guess that's what you drink when you sweat, not what the drink is made of...) etc.

The last time we went to Mt Fuji, we stayed at a ryokan (Japanese inn). This time we didn't make prior arrangements to stay in Mt Fuji, a big mistake. Walk-in rates were very high and the place is big so it was hard to check out the rates from place to place on foot. So we saved our money and went back to the city and splurged on dinner. If you go to Mt Fuji, you must stay at a ryokan; it'll make all the difference.

All-you-can-eat shabu shabu


The guys had all-you-can-eat shabu shabu while the ladies had sukiyaki. I believe what we had was Japanese beef (very likely wagyu) but it sure wasn't Kobe beef. In fact, we checked the supermarkets and never once saw Kobe beef. There were lots of delicious marbled beef, and despite the high prices we knew it couldn't be Kobe beef because a friend who lived in Japan told us he had a Kobe beef dinner for US$1000 for 2 persons!

Misc Notes:

Yummy ramen

Most of us think of Japan as a very expensive city. We found it to be the same as other big cities, maybe even cheaper than many European cities. When we weren't eating Daisy's kitchen up, we usually had simple meals outside like ramen, fresh egg noodle in a strong dashi-miso soup with thin slices of pork and bamboo. Affordable and super yummy.

Pachinko and games parlour

Inner Tokyo with a population of over 12 million is the most populated megacity in the world, yet it is also one of the safest cities. Daisy's house had no grilles, even on the ground floor patio door. We walked home from the subway station every night with total peace of mind. In KK (population of maybe 600,000; hard to say with so many transient illegal migrants from Indonesia and The Philippines) my house is grilled up and down and the week the alarm went faulty the burglars came. The Japanese have my admiration for maintaining such a safe, efficient and courteous environment. It may be a concrete jungle like other big cities, but it has kept its culture and character. We are planning another trip, this time not just to Tokyo but also to Hokkaido. Care to join?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Japan: Ginza

May 2005

The commercial property in Ginza, Tokyo is one of the most expensive in the world. However, its not that frightening. You can still have a good lunch, buy a couple of leather belts and accessories like I did in the top departmental stores such as Mitsukoshi, and still live to write about it. Just stay away from those expensive cafes and don't eat dinner there.


Just like any CBD, but better. There are art galleries, cafes, lots of major departmental stores (Matsuya, Printemps, Matsuzakaya, Seibu...), boutiques, restaurants and some florists shops that had beautiful flowers of unusual colors and outstanding arrangements.

Sony Building

You can spend a couple of hours here gawking at the latest Sony products and inventions. Even I came out awed. And tired.

Kabukiza Theatre

Sushi platter

We found a place where we could have an oil-free lunch of sushi, udon and chawan mushi while the boys went downstairs to a fancy restaurant for soba and tempura.




I love the backstreets with their little shops. There's so much to see even if you don't buy. By the way, the weekend is the best time to stroll Ginza as the main promenade is closed to traffic.
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