Monday, February 21, 2011

Macarons - Pierre Herme, Paris

Macaron in a pack of 7. Infiniment Caramel, Menthe Fraiche, Infiniment Chocolat, Rose, Mogador, Chuao, Creme Brulee, (Flavours - from top to bottom)

I have resisted eating macarons since they became a celebrity of sorts sweeping around the world. The pastel colour often turned me off. I prefer the normal limited range of light brown to chocolatey tone that I am used to. Further, I thought it was expensive. But then I would not reject an offer if it comes from Pierre Herme that is if I am not paying the Euro 2 - 3 for each 'cookie' that is just 1 1/2 inch in diameter. One can probably get half a kilo of local biscuits with that kind of money.

Beloved and often 'copied' by established baker and the person-in-the-street, it comes with a crusty exterior and soft, yielding and often chewy texture. Depending on the flavour it comes in sweet, sometime sour but mostly felt rich and milky like ganache and jam should.

My wife came back with these from Paris esp. for me. Am I singing the praises? Despite the shocking colours and its small stature, I must say that Monsieur Herme has taken the mundane chore of baking to greater heights but not great enough for me to sing. It tasted great though. It's texture is a mix of the smooth and rough, crisp, soft and elastic. The flavours within the fillings can range from the chocolate, berry, fruity to even green tea!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Farewell to my favourite Nyonya - A memorial

The versatile Bunga Biru or Bunga Telang - the flower is used to get the blue hue in the nasi kerabu, blue pulut etc.

Another year has gone by according to the Chinese lunar calendar. It was another CNY trip to Penang, a pilgrimage that I have made every year since 1987. I have always looked forward to these trips as I have great in-laws, great friends from my wife's side and Penang’s food to make my stay enjoyable.

This year's trip was very different as my wife and I missed a very good friend who passed away not too long ago at 49 of an heart attack. She was a rugged lady that enjoyed the outdoors. She has trekked various hills and went on exotic trips.

Now a familiar face is no longer with us. We have never failed to visit one another homes in Penang and I like food prepared by her. Simple kuih-muih (desserts) to sophisticated Penang Nyonya delicacies. She was also a great cook. Obviously the culinary skill was passed down from her grandmother.

I thought her passing away hurts my wife a lot as they were close. They went on holidays together with their families (many times 3 generations were in tow) to Cameron Highlands, East-West peninsula, Bangkok, North Thailand and U.K. I believed they could and intended to grow old together. I was an outsider 24 years ago when I visited my wife-to-be hometown. My favourite Nyonya came and checked me out. After all my wife and her were buddies from school. I was treated to one of Penang’s best lobster dish in Teluk Bahang aka “End of the World” (now no more in existence) and from there, was included into their closely knit friendship.

Through the years she had introduced me to some of the best Penang food. Seafood in Bukit Tambun, Teluk Bahang, Batu Maung, Teluk Tempoyak. Best Laksa in Balik Pulau and the list goes on. One evening she brought five huge grilled mud crabs from Batu Maung restaurant to my in-laws home. She knew I like these. It was the best of the crop as these crabs were packed to the brim with roes. No kidding, every nooks and corners were filled up. I had one and was totally satiated.

She was also instrumental in educating me especially on some of the great Nyonya kueh and dishes which she will personally cook. Who could forget the milky texture and melt in the mouth pineapple tart. The kuih kapik and numerous other kuih.

I visited Nyonya's mother 2 weeks ago. I took the opportunity and went across her house to an empty piece of land where I took some shots of the “bunga biru” she pointed out to me two CNY ago. It was upon my enquiry where the blue colour of the blue pulut (glutinous rice) came from. The shrubs were still there, very much alive, the flowers in brilliant blue. A reminder and a memorial of her zest for life, diligence, kindness, generousity and loyalty. Rest in peace.

The blue pulut (glutinous rice) and kaya (coconut milk jam) made by my favourite Nyonya. A beautiful and tasty combination.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yogyakarta Food - Mbak Eko

This is the best of the entire meal. The picture tells the whole story. Grilled to perfection.
The name of the restaurant 'Mbak Eko' sounds like 'Empat Ekor'. There are many of these scattered around the city. It is the equivalent of the Malaysain "tai chow". If I am not mistaken 'Mbak' is the Javanese word for 'older sister'. The 'm' and the 'b' are consonants blends and can be heard individually.

The food in Jogjag is different in taste from back home. It is to be expected as the sauces used are different. Beyond that the degree and proportions also differed. The most exciting part to the local cuisine will definitely the varieties of chili condiments to complement and to bring out the best in their food. But alas my stomach is not too fond of it.
This is a local fish in sweet and sour sauce blended with some eggs and also corn starch reminding me of the Chinese food back home.
Deep-fried sotong in batter. I like the sotong to be tender and not overcooked. The batter should be salted and pepperised.
Local masterpieces. Tofu and tempe. Fermented soy beans (tempe). Sour and firm texture. The tofu was excellent.
The style is decidedly Indonesian Chinese.
Overcooked to me but it was the norm for my friends.
This alpukat or avocado with chocolate is too tame for me in comparison to those I got in other parts of Indonesia.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Super Tanker - Lip Sin Hawker Centre, Penang

This year must be a good year for Penang. There was a perpetual line formed at Coffee Bean in Queensbay Mall. Mind you, these were not just young people. The entire spectrum of the demographics was represented. The Mall was jam-packed. Traffic were crawling and I packed far from the epicentre. The night scene was equally festive. The sliver of land between the mall and the sea has a long column of stalls selling a wide variety of food and stuffs. The Bayan Baru/Batu Maung seaside is devoid of traffic and is quite unappetising compared to yesteryear. The crowd, hawkers and tourists move on to better grounds.

Even at SuperTanker, the Char Koay Teow had customers crowding around the stall waiting for the orders. Sorry no service to the table. All disposable. Cash on delivery at the stall. At RM4.00 a plate during festive season is pretty reasonable after all the plate of noodles is comparable in size and substance with good ole KL servings. For the critique on the taste - read on.

My cuppa of milk tea. Ahh.. a bit too sweet, though taste-wise pretty good.
The CKT was average. I was happy that it was not oily. The ingredients were all there in sufficient quantities. But then my wife, a Penangnite, reported that it was mass-produced - a few plates at a time. That figured. I joked that we should ordered a plate that had to be done on its own - like a mixed noodles plate of beehoon, mee and koay teow!!!
The curry's lemongrass shined through. The fragrance tingled at my nostrils. I was won over. The curry paste was quickly stirred in and the milky soup turned fiery red. The onions, ginger, chili and garlic did their job and voila a small masterpiece. My grouses - the chicken was served in chopped up bits, not whole, and the serving was small.
But I was shocked at the small size pan mien at RM3.00. There was no meat, my son informed me. And I had to ordered another bowl of curry noodles for him. Moral of the story - be forgiving, after all its new year. They must have ran out of ingredients.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Peel Road - BBQ Pork and Braised Pork Knuckle

 It's 1:30pm and the food was disappearing fast. Opens at 11:00am until sold out.

One of the coolest CNY, weather-wise. Mr. Sun did come back with vengeance on certain days. But then it was pleasant year. But I must sympathatise with my friends in Segamat and other areas affected by the deluge of rainwater, it must be a demoralizing CNY. Speaking with a friend, he told me that they were better prepared than the last big one in 2006 and 2007. To him it was an inconvenience. The triumph of the spirit.

And surprise, surprise a sedentary drive home for those moving out of KL on Tuesday and Wednesday. But Saturday and Sunday were quite bad esp Sunday. Those who left after 1030am or 11am from Penang were in for a horrid 12hours drive where one can complete the journey in 3 1/2 hours during normal days. I left for Penang at 1015am Sunday and was safely home at 415pm. I was fortunate to have push for a slightly early drive home.

About 2 weeks ago I was at Peel Road on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Spoilt for choice - they have YTF and a host of other food. Peel Road is known for its car workshops and the food stalls. Everyone of them merits our customs as they have proven themselves over time and deserve the accolades especially when serving the discerning local residents for so long.

We ate at a decrepit stalls. It was packed to the brim and we were sitting at the worse possible place available. The sun was shinning.But the food was great!

Part of the food chain in Peel Road. Excellent Tofu Far to start the meal!
Simple condiment and a bowl of soup to accompany out meal.
Melt in the mouth Char Siew (BBQ Pork). Well caramelized 3-layer goodness.
Another melt in the mouth dish. Braised One Bone Trotter.. Gelatinous skin and super soft and velvety layer pork. Should I say suck-it-in goodness.
Healthier favourite and crowd-pleaser. Roast chicken. Cannot get it wrong order.
And for those spicy food lover. This sweet and sour sauced Tilapia has well-textured and firm meat. A definite recommended order.
The aftermath! A total wipe out.
Peel Road.