Thursday, 21 June 2018

Ho Chiak Dim Sum @ Pandan Indah

Since the one and only dedicated dim sum restaurant, One Nite Dim Sum, relocated to Taman Bukit Beratai in Ampang some three years ago (though they've since returned to my neighbourhood albeit to a smaller lot less than a year later), their previously occupied two lots were taken over by another dim sum restaurant.

Actually, I've no idea what the place is called since there's only a Chinese signboard but from their receipt, I gathered that it's known as Ho Chiak Dim Sum @ Pandan Indah.  You must be wondering what took me so long before I even ventured into this dim sum place.  Well, that's because I noticed that they're barely crowded each time I passed by...and I know that a good dim sum place, especially if it's the one and only dim sum place, will be packed to the brim in my neighbourhood.

Oh well, better late than never, I finally ventured in one fine day.  Right off the bat, I noticed that the steamed items here are steamed to order when I was presented with a tray of yet-to-be-steamed dim sum for my selection.  All the dim sum items are priced between RM2 - RM7.50.

"Siew Mai" (Steamed Pork Dumpling) @ RM5.50

Another type of siew mai (I find their siew mai filling isn't chopped finely enough).

It seems their steamed beancurd rolls come in three variations...this is the one with minced pork & prawns @ RM5 (you get one roll filled with minced pork and one filled with prawns).

Bean Curd Roll with Minced Pork only (the third one comes with minced chicken).

Another steamed item @ RM5 with some sort of a fish (+ pork?) filling on top of pan-fried tofu slices in a sweet and spicy sauce.

The "Char Siew Pau" (Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns) @ RM2 was acceptable but the bun could be a tad more fluffy in texture.  Though the char siew filling had the right colour and texture, it wasn't particularly my favourite as I've had some awesome ones before.

After trying a couple of steamed items, I'd say they were fairly average and none stood out memorably.

But that does not include the "Lor Mai Kai" (steamed glutinous rice with chicken) @ RM4.80 which was undeniably one of the better ones I've eaten thus far.

The glutinous rice was not only tasty but steamed till really soft (and that's how I like it) and coupled with a flavoursome minced pork filling too.  So good! ^o^

If there's just one item I could pick from here, it'd be this.  I'd be happy with just this lor mai kai for breakfast.  Each time we're here, we must order this! ;)

Between the steamed items, the fried ones undoubtedly fared better.  Starting with the Fried Prawn Beancurd Roll @ RM6, this one is at its best, utterly crispy, when freshly fried.

But if they happen to give you one that's already fried and sitting in the glass cabinet, the bean curd sheet may not be as crispy.  The prawn filling of this is minced, you don't get whole prawns like the ones from Loong Seng (which is still the one to beat).

There's also another type of Fried Beancurd Roll @ RM6 with a filling of minced pork, prawns and vegetables.

This one is rather value-for-money as you can see just how jam-packed and generously plump the filling is.

The Fried Wantans are as they should be...crispy.

The "Fried Wu Kok" (Yam Puffs) @ RM6 had a brilliantly super light and crispy crust (very much like the ones I love) but the char siew filling was more or less like the same ones from the char siew pau.  Though I've had better ones before, this filling still fared much better than some of the char siew fillings in other dim sum shops.

The "Char Siew Sou" (BBQ Pork Puff) pastry, topped with pork or chicken floss, wasn't particularly flaky with the same tasting char siew filling again.

Of course, Stuffed Eggplant @ RM5 is always a must-order for us since we love to eat eggplant and this one has our approval.  I liked the sauce that the eggplant was braised in which had a gingery taste to it.

The char siew-filled Steamed "Chee Cheong Fun" (Rice Noodle Rolls) @ RM5.50 with "ma lai chan lat chiew" (cooked sambal belacan) was just ok.  There's also a version with prawns.

The Fried "Lor Bak Gou" (Radish Cake) @ RM7, one of the more pricey dim sum items on the menu, delivered in terms of taste and was nicely fried with lots of crunchy bean sprouts and Chinese chives.  So delish! ^.^

If you like the plain pan-fried version, they have that too.  The Fried Radish Cake @ RM5.50, crisp and fragrant on the outside and soft on the inside, was just as good.

The Porridge @ RM5 with bits of century egg, salted egg and minced pork, topped with a few crunchy slices of "yaw char kwai" (Chinese crullers), had just the right texture and consistency.  I like how fresh and finely julienned the ginger was too that added freshness to the mild-tasting porridge (some might feel the flavour is a tad too light).

My Personal Opinion

If you're expecting trays after trays of dim sum steaming and fried dim sum items filling the cabinet for your immediate selection, that's not the case here.  All the steamed items are steamed to order while most of the fried items are fried to order.  I reckon that's how they keep things fresh and wastage to the minimum when they don't have a high turnover.

That may be one of the reasons why they don't seem crowded (the other would be that their prices may be a little higher than norm) as I, too, passed them by when I found their cabinet devoid of dim sum items.  I guess one shouldn't "judge a book by its cover" which, unfortunately, I was guilty of and that's why it took me so long before I tried! >.<  If you enjoy other dim sum items more than the steamed ones, then you should not overlook this place.

I actually found those items to be better tasting than its predecessor, One Nite (Dim Sum)which occupied the space previously.  Since trying this place, I've been back regularly for their lor mai kai, fried lor bak gou, stuffed eggplant, yam puffs and the various fried beancurd rolls.  At least now I have a not-to-say fantastic but certainly decent dim sum venue in my neighbourhood (after all, the place is called ho chiak for a reason...kekeke!).

Ho Chiak Dim Sum
17-19 Jalan Pandan Indah 1/22
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9134 8131

Monday, 18 June 2018

What's the easiest way to cook potatoes?

Some might argue that the easiest way to cook potatoes is to steam or boil them.  I agree...but who wants to eat bland potatoes? >.<  So, for me, the easiest way to cook potatoes, that come out absolutely tasty, is to bake or roast them in the oven.

I have posted a blog post before on how I bake Jamie Oliver-style potatoes (which I learned from Jamie Oliver obviously).  I would blanch them in boiling water first (to soften) and toss them around in the pan to fluff the edges of the potatoes, that way they'd crisp up nicely when baked (as Jamie would say).

But that means I still had to take an extra step (of blanching) to cook the, that's not the easiest way, is it?  The easiest way, by my definition, is to just chuck the potatoes into the oven and have them finished cooking by the time my protein (usually chicken) cooks (which is 30 minutes at 200°C).  Well, I tried that before.  I cut them into rough chunks and threw them into the oven but the potatoes didn't turn out soft enough by the time the chicken leg was ready.

One day, when I was buying cooked potatoes wedges from the supermarket, it dawned on me that I had cut them wrongly.  Cutting them into chunks meant they were too thick and won't soften in time.  I needed to cut them into thin wedges.  Now why didn't I think of that sooner? ;)

So, the key is to buy smaller potatoes!  Cut the potatoes lengthwise into half (this will give rise to thinner wedges) and cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges.

Season the potatoes wedges with salt, freshly cracked black pepper and smoked paprika.  Sprinkle with dried parsley (if desired) and add a good glug of olive oil.  Mix evenly.  The smoked paprika gives it a subtle hint of spice but if you need more heat, add an additional sprinkling of cayenne pepper.  And all these seasoning bottles should be readily available in the pantry of someone who cooks.

Spread your wedges in a single layer over a sheet pan lined with baking paper.  Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes.

Mix the wedges around to get a more even charring.  They'll come out looking nicely charred and just soft enough with a slight crisp around the edges.

Now, isn't that the easiest way to cook potatoes? ;)  One that yields delicious potatoes at the same time.  No more doing an extra step to blanch the potatoes (sorry, Jamie, I'm always trying to find the easy way out) and having another pan to wash up.  In fact, you don't even have to wash the sheet pan.  Just discard the used baking paper.

More importantly, if you serve roasted potatoes as a side, they'll finish cooking at the same time as (say) your roast chicken.  If you like your wedges to have crispier edges, cook them in a separate tray from your chicken.

But if you're feeling a little lazy at times (we all go through such 'spells'), then you can make a great one tray meal by chucking in the chicken, potatoes and whatever vegetables of your choice into one tray.  However, do note that if done this way, the juices from the chicken tend to flow into your potatoes rendering them not as crisp.  But hey, I don't mind that at all since I got away with cooking something the easy way.

Baked potatoes are always welcome as a side dish to any main :)

Ever since this method proved so successful, I've been making potatoes this way frequently...not only as a side dish but as a snack to munch on when hunger strikes at odd hours.  Hey, they still make a much health-ier snack than (say) Pringles or Mister Potato Crisps! :P

And what's better than tasty baked potato wedges?  Tasty baked potato wedges with a mayo dip...that's a little bit spicy and a little bit garlicky (which I saw from an episode of Patricia Heaton Parties, whose best known for her role on "Everybody Loves Raymond").

To make the dip, I fry one clove of minced garlic in 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.  Just warm the garlic through, do not brown.  Add in 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika.  Add that to 2 tbsp of (store-bought) mayo, stir to combine....and voila, the dip is done.

This easy-to-assemble spiced dip goes really well with potato wedges, fries or just about any fried snacks.  A little bit more work to make the dip but so worth the effort.  You can make a bigger portion of the dip if you have a lot of potato wedges to go through....haha! ;D

I've always thought that the potatoes I buy are local potatoes since they're the most common type sold in wet markets.  I never knew what they're called, I just call them potatoes (though I'm aware of some of the names of imported ones like Yukon Gold, Russet or Chat potatoes).

One day, while shopping at Aeon, I finally took note of the product tag...and realised that they're actually called Holland potatoes!  But if you look closely at the tag, Holland potatoes are not from Holland....they're from!

Anyway, irrespective of where they're from or what type they're, try this method of baking the potatoes.....and you'll forever realise (like I have) that you've found the easiest way to not only cook potatoes....but cook utterly tasty ones at that! ^o^

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

Like many around the world, I am saddened and join them in mourning the passing of one of my most beloved celebrity chefs, Anthony Bourdain.  Though I do not know him personally, yet I feel keenly for the loss of this talented man. :'(

From the first moment I 'met' him (on TV) through his first food series, A Cook's Tour in 2002, I was hooked.  I watched diligently every episode of A Cook's Tour, No Reservations and The Layover.  I also watched him (as a judge) on Top Chef, Top Chef All-Stars and The Taste.  The only series I didn't follow was his latest award-winning show, CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and that's because it's shown on CNN and not the other usual food and travel channels.

Since news of his death broke, I've been reading article after article written about him....and also watching some heart-wrenching, touching tributes of those who knew him.  I've been so preoccupied with this (+ I wasn't in the mood either) to write any blogposts this week...but I felt the need to write this as a tribute in memory of him.

Quoting his mom, "He's absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this."  I thought so too.  I guess everyone saw the happy side of him on the outside so much so that even his closest friends did not know the demons he was battling inside.

We will always wonder why...why he did what he did.
But we'll probably never know why....only he did.

I was looking forward to his future 'projects' (whatever they might have been)....and then this tragedy happened.  That means we'll never get to read his autobiography or memoirs (something I was hoping to read some day).  I remain forever a fan of him...and his 'works'.  Right now, I only have two (graphic) novels which he co-wrote....Get Jiro!

...and Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi) remind me of him (perhaps now's the time to have his other books grace my bookshelves).  I'd want to watch re-runs of his shows (and probably include Parts Unknown this time round) to remind myself just how brilliant a storyteller, Emmy-winning travel host, bestselling author and gifted chef, with a larger-than-life personality, he was.  

I hope he's finally at peace.....and on board a never-ending 'happy train' to where he wants to be amid all his favourite food that he has tasted from all his travels.

I (along with many people in the world) will miss him dearly.
Good night.....and sweet dreams! T_T

Friday, 8 June 2018

Ramadan Bazaar 2018 @ Pandan Indah

It's that time of the year again!  I'm always a happy camper when the Ramadan comes around.  It's the time I 'dedicate' a month (well, at least 3 weeks) of my eating life to seeking out food at the Ramadan Bazaar in my neighbourhood.

This year is no different...and this being my fourth year on the Ramadan trail, I know exactly which ones I want.  Oh, and the three blog posts I wrote for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 serve as a good reminder too of what I liked and what I didn't.

And one of the very first stalls I sought out this Ramadan was this Cucur Udang @ RM6 (which saw an increase of RM1 from last year).  I guess the price increase was inevitable seeing that they have maintained their prices for the last 3 years.  It's served with both a sweet chilli sauce and a kuah kacang (peanut sauce).

The Cucur Udang costs RM6.50 if you add additional tauhu goreng.  Although they're called prawn fritters, there are a lot more vegetables (like onions, carrots and chives) than there are prawns (I'm not even sure if there are any).  They're still as good as I remembered them from last year.

There's also this other type of cucur udang....smaller rounded ones that have more flour in its composition. Fried till crispy on the outside, these ones cost RM1 for 7...a real good deal :)

The fried popiah, with a filling of finely shredded sengkuang and carrot, had very thin and crispy skins and costs RM0.50 a piece.

The same stall also sells these small banana fritters called Jemput-Jemput (or Cekodok) Pisang @ RM1 (for 7 pcs).  Full of banana flavour, with a crisp outer layer and not too sweet...certainly one of my favourite Malay kuih.

The second thing I look forward to during Ramadan is nasi lemak since I don't get to indulge in it for breakfast in the mornings.  I bought a Nasi Lemak Bungkus @ RM1.50 from one of the stalls on my first was alright.

On my next visit, I got acquainted again with the nasi lemak stall (from 2016) that I liked very much and immediately got down to enjoying their Nasi Lemak Rendang @ RM4.50.  The rendang is more of a dry-style and the meat is so tender...loved it! ^.^

So much so, I had to have the Nasi Lemak Rendang Ayam @ RM4.50 too.  The rendang ayam is so tender that the meat is falling apart.  I love the perfumy aroma the daun kunyit (turmeric leaf) brings to the rendang. They also have fried chicken and ayam cooked in sambal.

As for the the Nasi Lemak Sotong @ RM4.50, they do it with two types of squid here...the dried squid and this one with baby squids.  The sambal, more sweetish, not spicy, is always packed separately.

Of course, no nasi lemak indulgence is quite complete without my must-have Nasi Lemak Kerang @ RM5.50 (with fried egg this round).  This ended up to be my most visited stall this Ramadan.

I also enjoy a good Nasi Lemak Udang @ RM4.50 when I find them as not many nasi lemak stalls make this udang sambal petai (they call it bitter beans, I like to call them stink beans).  I like how the prawns (there were three) can be eaten shell and all but I don't eat the stink beans (of course, there were only two) coz they're called stinky beans for a reason...they stink! >_<

I came across a new stall (maybe not new but one I didn't see last year) when I was attracted by the looks of their Ayam Goreng Berempah with Nasi Kukus (steamed rice) @ RM6 which comes with two types of sambal (I liked the fresh sambal).

I can see myself getting this again.  It was only when I reached home that I noticed that they even have their own wonder it's good (as those who are confident of their food would usually want to advertise their products)! ^_^

As the steamed rice was insanely mushy, I'd rather just have the Ayam Goreng Berempah @ RM4 a piece which was totally aromatic with spices and lemongrass flavour on my next visit.  It's nice golden hue tells me that at least the oil is still fresh (and not old and overly used).  I'd always ask for a bit of those crispy lemongrass and spices (remnants fished out from the oil at the bottom of the wok)...those are the best parts! ;P

Just like last year, Mat Rock's Nasi Sotong Goreng Kunyit @ RM8 (last year's price was RM7) was another hit with us.  Their Mat Rock Ayam Goreng Kunyit truck clearly advertises their name.  This time they were parked at the end of the bazaar which made the queue more manageable (previously they were parked in the middle of the bazaar with long lines of people queueing and obstructing the next few stalls).

The key to its deliciousness is obviously in the marinade used for the chicken, squid, prawns and beef (I tried the beef once but found the meat to be too tough) coz the cooking of it is just dumping all the proteins and vegetables in a hot wok of oil.

I personally like Mat Rock's Nasi Udang Goreng Kunyit @ RM8 (an increase of RM0.50 this year).  I suppose it's still good value seeing that they give 5 fairly big prawns (the prawn heads are the best as they trap in the aromatic spices).  This time I made sure I asked for a little sambal on my rice lest I be charged for separating the sambal (like last year).

The Nasi Kerabu @ RM8 didn't turn out as well even though all the necessary ingredients were present like blue-tinged rice, raw vegetables (of cabbage, taugeh & long beans), keropok ikan (fish crackers), kerisik (toasted grated coconut), salted egg and various herbs (of shredded lemongrass, bunga kantan & daun kesom) with two types of fresh chillies sambal and a curry sauce.  The taste was a bit muted though as there weren't quite enough fresh herbs.

I had it with this fried fish which I noticed was a little different from the usual fried turmeric-laced fish or ikan percik.  The lady seller said that the small fried fish is stuffed with a minced fish filling but I tasted some sweetness, so there's definitely some grated coconut in there.  At least it wasn't overly sweet like some solok lada (stuffed green chillies with fish and grated coconut) I've had before.  I quite like this stuffed fish.

When it comes to say, I always use my eyes to judge which stall is good.  I look for a stall where their 'stock' of satay is aplenty with the desired grilling marks on the sticks of satay.  I zeroed in on my stall pick with ten sticks of Satay Ayam @ RM0.70/stick and was more than happy with the taste (so, no need to try more stalls).

I found a new stall selling Fried Baby Crabs @ RM8 which reminded me of the ones I first had here. Nowadays, they're commonly found in places where beer is offered as it's a snack that goes great with beer. These ones were ok but I found them to be not crispy enough so the crab legs tend to poke the insides of my mouth which made them a little difficult to swallow.

So, we obviously didn't finish them at one go.  Later that night, I reheated them in my toaster oven and they came out super crispy.  The legs were much easier to digest much better than when I first bought it.

The smoky aroma of this as one passes by the stall is pretty difficult to resist.  So, I got me ten sticks of these Muar-style Otak-Otak @ RM0.80 a stick.  These were alright, nothing special.

This Pulut Panggang (or grilled glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves) @ RM0.50 a piece wasn't very memorable either.  The could-be-softer glutinous rice, with its spicy coconut and dried shrimp filling, didn't have enough of that panggang flavour.

The Kuih Sago @ RM0.50 or steamed tapioca (sago) pearls dessert is one of my favourite kuihs...and this one is flavoured with rose syrup.  The texture was soft but chewy, with a rose-flavoured fragrance, and this one wasn't very sweet.  I exercised great restrain and only subjected myself to just one piece of sweet kuih this Ramadan.

I've been hitting the Ramadan bazaar trail since Day 5...with eating at all other places (during dinner) coming to an almost grinding halt....kekeke!  Aiyah, it's only once a year...must eat my fill....and after almost 3 weeks of gorging, I mean eating moderately (ahem!), I'm done.  Till we meet again next year! ^_*

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