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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ming Palace (2017 CNY Set Menu) @ Corus Hotel

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!  Back from your hometowns yet?  Have you been indulging in glorious food? Of course you have.  As with every year during the festivities, all the hotels and restaurants would usually have their set menus ready for lunch and dinner well before Chinese New Year (CNY) comes round, some even as early as a month before.

And Ming Palace @ Corus Hotel was no different.  We'd usually have our family CNY gathering after we return from Ipoh but this year my sister-in-law arranged the dinner for the weekend prior to our "balik kampung".

We opted for the Prosperity & Success Menu @ RM1,188 nett but made two changes to the menu to accommodate our preferences.  I do not know how it impacted the final price (due to the changes we made) since it was a treat from my sister-in-law's family (I'm sure the restaurant staff will be more than happy to advise you accordingly if you wish to make changes).

As usual, no CNY menu is complete without its iconic CNY dish together with the customary tossing of "yee sang" to shouts of good luck, prosperity and health for the coming year.  This set menu comes with the Prosperous Salmon Yee Sang with Pine Seeds as its first dish which we was changed to a fruits yee sang from their a la carte menu.  I first tasted an all fruits yee sang (8 types) in Tai Thong and it became an instant favourite of mine.

The Fruits Yee Sang arrived looking very pretty and colourful with julienned fruits of green apples, water apples, fuji apple, dragon fruit and snow pear along with finely cut vegetables (of carrot and jicama), various types of pickled vegetables, dried persimmon, jellyfish, dried prawns and crushed peanuts....that's heck of a lot of ingredients (I'm sure I missed out some)! ;)

Though we were having fruits yee sang, we were also 'greedy' and wanted the salmon, so we added that on. The fruits yee sang, with salmon and not forgetting the crispy crackers (of course), is now prepped and ready for tossing in a 'ritual' we call "loh hei"! ^.^

It's customary to toss all the ingredients, as high as you can, whilst making wishes (silent or otherwise...but usually loud) for a better year ahead :)

The accompanying sauce wasn't overly sweet (we poured in half only initially) even though we poured the rest of it in.  I liked that everything was fresh and fruity in taste with both crunch and sweetness provided by every element in the dish.  It was a promising start to the meal as it stimulates your taste buds and whets your appetite for the dishes to follow.

The second dish on the menu was the Double-Boiled Chicken Soup with 'Ming Mok Yee' & Sea Cucumber which we replaced with Braised Seafood Chowder with Three Treasures from their Good Fortune Set Menu.  I'm not sure what the three treasures were exactly but the flavour-packed soup (which arrived in individually apportioned bowls) was filled with treasures of dried scallops, sea cucumber ("hoi sum"), crab meat and mushrooms that was warm and comforting.

The third dish to arrive (in honour of the Year of the Rooster!) was the Deep-Fried Boneless Chicken with Mango Thai Sauce which came blanketed in lots of shredded mango, onion and chillies plus crushed nuts in a delectable sauce with sweet, sour and slightly spicy nuances.  Even though the tender and moist chicken pieces were doused in sauce, I especially appreciated that the chicken skin was rendered to crispy perfection and remained so as we finished every last piece...one of my favourites of the night! ^.^

Next to follow has always been a favourite of mine in any set menu...steamed fish (arguable the best way to eat fish)! ;)  This was the Steamed Silver Pomfret with Supreme Soya Sauce served whole with the head and tail intact to symbolise a good beginning and end to the year.

I'm always in awe at how skillful the servers are at apportioning the fish and re-assembling them back to their original shape.  The fish was fresh and thick, and one of the meatier silver pomfrets I've had the pleasure of eating.  The sauce was a great accompaniment for the fish, not too oily with just the right balance of saltiness from the quality soya sauce.

To signify a year full of merriment and laughter, there has to be a "har" dish.  So, the fifth dish was the Fried Tiger Prawns in Hot Garlic Sauce that's reminiscent of the taste of sweet and sour crabs.  You can taste the garlic in the sauce and each prawn is lusciously coated in the sauce.  Some white rice or a "mantou" (Chinese steamed bun or even a fried one) right about now would be great to mop up the excess sauce...hehe! ;D

The sixth dish featured the must-have symbolic dish of Braised Broccoli with Pacific Clams, Black Mushrooms, Dried Oyster & Fatt Choy.  No CNY menu is complete without some of these auspicious ingredients like "fatt choy" (black moss) and "ho see" (dried oyster) in the mix.  The superior stock in the sauce is what makes or breaks the dish as the ingredients depend on the complexity of the sauce to give the dish flavour and this one was nicely executed.

Usually, a rice or noodle dish wraps up the savoury part of the feast and this menu rounded off with Fried Rice with Waxed Duck & Liver Sausage in Lotus Leaves.  This was my least favourite dish as the rice grains were too soft for my liking and the duck liver didn't quite give the dish the robust flavour it needed from say "lap cheong" (Chinese dried sausage made from pork) like a true "lap mei fan" (Chinese waxed meat rice) should be since the restaurant is pork-free.  But, by then, it probably wouldn't really matter as you'd be rather full at that point.  But if you were, you'll be missing out on something great...*wink wink*

Finally, the meal came to an end with sweet offerings of Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Longan and Duet Sweet Dainties of Fried Ninko & Rabbit Bun.  The ninko is wrapped around yam paste and dipped in a light batter before being fried to crispy perfection.  I suppose rooster-shaped buns will be more difficult to make, so cute rabbit-shaped buns will have to do (hehe!) with a filling of lotus paste that was delicate and not too sweet.

The Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Longan (which was aptly apportioned for us) was a refreshing treat to bring the meal to a close.  The hint of lemongrass-infused soft jelly, together with the crunchy longan in a concoction of immensely citrusy lemon juice, had a wonderful balance of sour and sweet which reduced your feelings of fullness somewhat.

If I could only have one thing from this menu, my choice (hands down) would be the Fried Ninko.  It brings back fond memories of when I had it two years ago...and it's still as good!  The soft texture of the yam, encasing the perfect ratio of not-too-sweet ninko to yam, coupled with the fluffy and frizzy batter, fried at the perfect temperature to yield absolute crispiness, makes this the best fried ninko I've had.  I liked that it's elongated in shape for ease of eating making it a perfect two-bite.  I just can't get enough of it! ^_*

The set menu comes with a complimentary bottle of red wine or a glass of chilled orange juice each.

I was also appreciative that a set of fork and knife was provided (not many do) to help with say peeling of the prawns, deboning chicken (if needed) or just to cut up the food to more manageable bite-sized pieces for easy (and mess-free) eating.

My Personal Opinion

With many CNY set menus costing in the region of RM200 (and more) per person this year, I think this is probably one of the better valued sets for a hotel-based restaurant...and you're assured of impeccable service and dining ambience.  There are two other set menu options, the Good Fortune Menu @ RM1,388 nett and the Prosperous Gold & Jade Menu @ RM1,888 nett (and these set menus are available until the 15th day of New Year or 11 February 2017), so there is still time for you to partake in these feasts.

The two best dishes of the night for me were the fried chicken with that zesty sauce and the trio of desserts. If ninko and yam is your thing, make this your CNY stop this year...and make sure you try their wonderfully executed fried ninko.....so good you'll thinking when you'll be able to have it again! ^o^

Ming Palace
Corus Hotel (1st Floor)
Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2161 8888

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Favourite 'Sweet Eats' of 2016

After my favourite 'nice eats' and 'cheap eats' of 2016, it was pretty easy to come up with my list of favourite 'sweet eats' of 2016 as I didn't get to try all that many last year (since my friends and I met up less last year).  

I'd usually take a bite (or a spoonful) only.....or two maybe...ok, three tops, when I'm out with my 'gang'. That way, my friends can help eat the rest of the dessert since I don't really have that much of a sweet tooth (neither do my family) + I also try not to indulge in too much sugary stuff.

Foo Foo Fine Desserts @ TTDI


They have some creative, frilly and so foofoo desserts, with unconventional ice cream flavours (like Apple Galette with Kaffir Lime Ice Cream or Strawberry Tart with Balsamic Vinegar Ice Cream though my favourite was the Mango Lychee Ice Cream Slice with Fruit Salsa) that are bound to raise your taste buds (maybe some eyebrows even).  Definitely a fine find of a dessert place (+ you'll never get bored with frequent new offerings on the menu to reel you in!) ^_~



It's a stop for drinkers and coffee enthusiasists with cocktails and coffee...or alcoholic coffee for those in-between.  Give their unique waffles, both alcoholic (Sangria Berry Mess) and non-alcoholic (Som Tam) versions, a try.

Tim Ho Wan @ Mid Valley


The best thing on the menu is this Steamed Egg Cake as theirs is one of the most airy, lightest and fluffiest one I've ever come across.

Crosserie Artisan Bakery @ Plaza Damansara


Want some fine French pastries and European-styled breads made with top quality ingredients?  Then this is the place for you.  A 'must try' is their Tart Au Citron with an intense and immensely tangy lemon curd or the absolutely stunning Opera Cake for a little piece of heaven!  Don't leave without a few of their super flaky and crisp Croissants (made with a 16-layer French butter dough)...truly one of the best I've eaten! ^o^

Zest Pattiserie @ Connaught Avenue, Cheras


There was this dainty cake named Earl that had a soft, delicate texture with a hint of chocolate and a smooth mango custard.  It was a pretty little thing...and pretty in taste too! ;)

Botanica + Co @ Bangsar South


The relaxing atmosphere amidst lush greenery while sipping a good coffee, mocktail or cocktail makes you want to stay for hours.  So, why not have a devilishly lush dessert while you're at it with the likes of a crisp and light Churros Donut Stack or a zesty and refreshing Yuzu Pudding (with vanilla ice cream), maybe even a tangy Mango Meringue Pie.

Chateraise Pattiserie @ Suria KLCC


You won't go wrong with anything that has Hokkaido fresh cream in them like their light and airy Legendary Fresh Cream Cake or Strawberry Cube Cake.  Not forgetting the ultra fluffy and best dorayaki I've had, the Azuki Bean & Cream Pancake....simply divine! ^.^

Madam Kwan's @ Suria KLCC


Finally, a simple, old-school dessert that's been a favourite of many generations...Sago Gula Melaka....with cooked-just-right sago pearls, good quality gula melaka and incredibly thick and fragrant coconut milk.....the best!

Well, that's my short and sweet list.....and with that I bid all my readers a Healthy, Wealthy and Successful Year of the Rooster 2017!

*time for another short break*

And for those of you who are leaving town on your "balik kampung" journey.....

Keep Calm.  Be Safe.  Drive Smart.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Jung Won Korean BBQ @ G Village, Desa Pandan

This place conjures up memories of a good Korean barbecue from our past experiences at their first restaurant located in Ampang Hilir (which we have frequented more than once).  Read my earlier review here.

So, when Jung Won Korean BBQ @ G Village, Desa Pandan opened in late December 2016, we were excited that there will be another branch even closer to home.  We wasted no time and were there within its first week of operation.

From what we saw initially, it's commendable that they tried to replicate the feel of their other restaurant in Ampang Hilir by having a mini version of the watermill and pond on site.  Similar to the other place as well, they have 3 types of seating here...alfresco dining with tables and chairs or on-the-floor seating (with table top grilling) or air-conditioned dining (but with no table top grilling allowed).

We settled for alfresco seating just because seeing (and smelling) your food grilled on the table top is all part and parcel of what a BBQ dining experience should be about, right?  I soon realised it was a mistake and I'll tell you why.

1) From the get go, the proportion of the height of the tables to chairs was not ideal as the table height was too high making your dining not that comfortable.

2) The table was too small (in my opinion) to accommodate the table top BBQ pit.  It lied just a chopstick's length from the edge of the table...and we're talking Korean chopsticks which are much shorter (probably about 8 inches).  This meant we could a) feel the heat of the hot coals at our feet, b) the table felt incredibly cramped that we had to move the banchan (Korean side dishes) around each time a plate of food is brought and c) get ready to be splattered (when the grilling is on-going) because of the proximity of the grill from the table's edge.

3)  The exhaust system they use is a retractable exhaust that looked like a small cylindrical hose (that's not entirely made of metal but had parts that looked like aluminium foil).  And because of that + the fact that we were seated at the alfresco section, the fans were turned on and the exhaust hose tend to swing around slightly.  With the exhaust hovering just inches above the pit, it was a hindrance to eating especially when I wanted to reach for the plates of food or banchan across the table from me.

Though I'd usually leave the unpleasant stuff towards the end of my post, I felt it deserved to be mentioned in the beginning as the poor 'infrastructure' compromised substantially on our dining comfort by not getting us off to a very good start.

Ok, putting that aside, let's see how the food fared.  After making our orders, the sauces and condiments arrived with 8 types of banchan.

Hot coals ready for grilling :)

3 strips of pork belly right onto the grill with half an onion :)

We went with the Roast Pork Belly (Sam Gyub Sal 180g) @ RM32 remembering that we enjoyed it thoroughly the last time we had it at their Ampang outlet.

The grilling was done by a female server and this one was executed well....very fragrant and caramelised with a crisp texture on the outside! ^o^

The plated pork belly dish....notice something missing? O_o  Oh yeah, she "pandai-pandai (cleverly) discarded the lovely charred onion when she changed the grilling plate! >_<

Lettuce wrap for the pork belly

We also ordered the Kimchi Pancake (Kimchi Jeon) @ RM32, a Korean-style pancake made with chopped kimchi.

Love the dipping sauce but I think I prefer the seafood and spring onion pancake (Hae-Mul Pa Jeon) just a wee bit more.

For our second grilled item, we ordered the Roast Cuttlefish @ RM40 but the server later told us that the squid wasn't fresh and they would rather not sell it.  On the one hand, I was glad they told us about the freshness but, on the other hand, it doesn't reflect very well on them and raised a question mark as to the freshness of their produce.  In the end, I replaced it with the Marinated Roast Salmon (Yeon-eo Gu-e) @ RM40 which I also had before.

But what happened next shocked me to my core (ok, maybe not so dramatic-lah)!  Out came a piece of salmon which landed on the grill.  Nothing untoward about that, right?  Wrong!!  Coz the piece of salmon was freakin' frozen!!! >:(  I'm sorry I couldn't show you the frozen salmon (that couldn't lie flat on the grill as it had a part which bent upwards!).  I was in such a shocked state that I didn't take a photo immediately.  It may not look like that now (from the pic above) coz it has been on the grill for some time.

When I questioned the server on why it's frozen and if they always cook it from that state...he replied, "Yes, yes, it's like that."  I kept telling him that it's not possible to grill something well from a frozen state but he just pretended he didn't hear me and continued with the grilling.  Suffice to say, it took longer than expected to cook the salmon and it became overly charred because of it.  Seeing that I was obviously not happy, he said he will replace the salmon if I'm not happy with it after tasting.  I couldn't take a pic of the blackened salmon as he was standing over me waiting to see if I'd approve.  Even before I took a bite, I've already decided (in my mind) that I definitely wanted it changed.  I thought, since we're now an hour into dinner service, perhaps the kitchen is now more prepared and there would be some salmon pieces already defrosted (even if I'm still not happy that the salmon is frozen and not fresh or chilled).

Out came another piece of salmon...wait for it....yes, it was another frozen piece!!!  I knew then it would be pointless to argue further and just accepted our fate.  He was smarter this time and turned down the heat or something so that it'll cook slower without charring the salmon too much.

Though the plated salmon was better this time, it wasn't as delicate and juicy as the one I remembered from Ampang.  This one was hot on the outside but lukewarm on the inside (at least this time the onion made it on the plate!).  But then the experience was already marred by my initial displeasure of being served a piece of frozen salmon.  During this whole debacle, the scene aroused stares from people at the next table wondering what the heck was happening! @_@

Sensing my annoyance perhaps, one of the servers enquired if we eat beef as they wanted to give us a complimentary soup.  I asked for just one serving since I'm the only one who enjoys drinking soup anyway.  It was nice.

They also brought us a complimentary dessert, Korean sweet rice balls (which the other tables also received)...trying to 'sweeten' me up perhaps....nope, it's not going to work.  More so when the rice balls were hard and cold (like they've just been taken out of the refrigerator...again!).  Plus, I also have no idea why they served us this dessert in the middle of our meal.  To give it time to defrost? >:O

For my drink, I instinctively went for the Korean Ice Barley @ RM7 as I remembered being offered something like this at the end of our meal in their Ampang outlet and liking it very much.

Incidentally, we were also served a complimentary cold barley (that looked so stingy when the glass came only half-full) which I didn't mind one bit (the foc barley drink I mean, not that it was half-full) as I enjoyed the refreshing barley-with-a-hint-of-ginger immensely.

Also complimentary were these mini Mandarin oranges (as opposed to watermelon slices we got last time) to end our meal.

My Personal Opinion

Gosh, I still can't believe they actually served me frozen salmon.  I paid RM40 for this piece of salmon...I expect better....I demand better! >:(  Even if they had overstocked or couldn't manage to sell off their salmon, they could have at least gotten their mise en place ready by defrosting the salmon before service (not that I approve of it).

There didn't seem to be a manager in charge of the place when we were there.  I don't see how one can open a new restaurant and hope to succeed by leaving it in the hands of foreign workers to manage without anyone senior overseeing the place.

For those wanting to try this place still, I think it'd be best to stick to the meats like pork belly (that we had) or beef (that the next table had which at least didn't look frozen) or chicken.  Maybe meats fly off their shelves faster, so you can be guaranteed of its freshness.  If you want seafood, I suggest you ask them if they're frozen (or fresh) first before ordering!!  To say your squid is not fresh enough to be served (only one week into opening) doesn't bode well for a BBQ place that thrives on freshness of produce.  It only goes to tell me that your food is either not selling well (and you froze the leftovers) or you have a serious problem with your supply chain.  Also, I'd recommend that you sit inside (where it's air-conditioned) so that you don't have to deal with the discomfort of table top grilling + it's probably better that you don't see your food being cooked (that way you won't even know it's frozen in the first place) >.<

On hindsight, I guess we should have waited longer to allow them to get over the initial opening hiccups (I would have forgiven the poor and untrained service) but when it's the freshness of the produce that's in question, it has far more dire implications.  For me, I don't think I'll be back.....certainly not to this branch! :P

Jung Won Korean BBQ Restaurant
Lot G-09 G-Floor G-Village
No 35 Jalan 1/76 Desa Pandan
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9202 6631

Friday, 20 January 2017

#ewew cooks (Daphne Brogdon Inspired) Best Cauliflower Dish

Feelings of guilt for over-indulging during the Christmas festivities have seen me eating a lot of salads lately.

Usually it'd be from a packet of triple-washed salad leaves with an additional pack of rocket leaves (which is good enough for 4 servings).  Sometimes a protein of shredded omelette or lean chicken fillet is added and tossed with either Kewpie's Roasted Sesame or Thousand Island dressing.  

But I grew tired of eating it for two consecutive weeks....and that's when I remembered this recipe from one of the latest cooking shows I'm following...Daphne Dishes!  She's a blogger, married to an award winning chef, mom to two adorable kids (and one cute dog)...and she's even done stand-up comedy.  That's why I love her show so much coz she's really funny.  Plus her dishes are easy to follow (at least some of them from what I've seen) which revolve around family-friendly meals (that she cooks with her two kids in mind).

This Daphne inspired Best Cauliflower Ever is my first attempt to try out one of her dishes....and to great success I might add.  I have to say I was simply blown away by how such a simple dish can taste so good! ^.^

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower (about 600g)
1 medium red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp silken tofu
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
Some red pepper flakes
Salt & black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut up the cauliflower into smaller florets.  Wash and make sure you drain really well as we want the cauliflower to char (not steam) when we saute them later on.  Deseed and quarter the red pepper.  Chop up 2 cloves of garlic.

Method:

Throw the cauliflower florets into a non-stick pan with some olive oil to saute until it's well browned and tender.  Season with a good pinch of salt and some freshly cracked black pepper.  This will take about 20 minutes.  Start with medium heat to get a good char on your cauliflower, then lower the heat to allow it to slowly soften.

You can (of course) put a lid on it to help it soften quicker but I wouldn't recommend it as your cauliflower will steam.  The slow sauteing method gives it the nice grilled flavour, so you need to be patient with this.  Do a taste test to ensure that you've got the cauliflower softened to a level you like and the seasoning is right.

At this point (with some sauteed garlic), the cauliflower is certainly good enough for eating.  I've eaten it this way many times as I find it a whole lot nicer because of the grilled flavour it imparts (rather than blanching the cauliflower in hot water and then stir-frying it with garlic).  Some might even want to blitz it up to make cauliflower rice.

But Daphne took it to another whole new level by making a sauce and so I followed suit.  I lined the quartered red pepper on a sheet pan and roasted it at 220°C for 20 minutes until charred (you can also roast the pepper under an open flame if you're using a gas stove).

Remove from the oven and roughly chop them up.  Some of you might want to remove the charred skin but I like the little bit of burnt flavour it imparts, so I'd leave it on.  As you can see, I didn't quite get the amount of charring I desired...and that's because I was trying to be a smart alec and thought that I could increase the temperature and cook it for a shorter period of time.  I got better charring when I made roasted peppers previously by using 200°C for 30 minutes (so, in future, I'm gonna stick to that temperature+timing and add a drizzle of olive oil to get it going).

Drizzle more olive oil onto a non-stick pan and saute the cut up roasted peppers with the chopped garlic briefly.  This is just to allow the raw garlic to warm up a bit in the olive oil.

Pour the contents into a mini blender and blitz.  When it's blended, it turned into this creamy sauce and the colour was very vibrant (only marred in the photo due to the lighting).

At this point, to make the sauce even creamier, Daphne added something unconventional...silken tofu (2 tbsp of it or about a third of a 300g pack)...and it's genius!  Blitz again.

Pour the sauce over the now softened cauliflower.

Give it a good stir and add in 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp of sesame seeds and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for some heat.  If you don't have breadcrumbs and sesame seeds at your disposal, you can omit them. These two ingredients just give the dish a little bit more texture.

Give it another quick stir to ensure everything's well mixed together.

And my Daphne Brogdon inspired Best Cauliflower Dish Ever is ready =)

The dish starts with this soft but still slightly crunchy texture of the cauliflower followed by the nice roasted flavour of the pepper-made sauce.  Then you get this little bit of crunch from the sesame seeds and ends with a little kick of the red pepper flakes.

When I took the first bite, the dish tasted so creamy and decadent that you'd think it had some calorie-laden cream involved...but there was obviously none.

Not only did the silken tofu add creaminess to the dish, it's also a very healthy option to use instead of cream. It's perfect for those who seek a low-carb or gluten-free meal.

And then Daphne asks, "Is it the best cauliflower dish you've ever had?  I might be bias but I think so."  And I couldn't agree with her more.  It was certainly the best tasting cauliflower dish I've ever made (with her recipe).....and eaten! ^o^

I guess I'm never going back to my boring blanched, steamed or stir-fried cauliflower ever again.  I implore you to give this a go (if you love cauliflower)....and I can assure you that you won't regret doing so...plus the recipe is actually pretty simple to nail.

With this dish being such a success, it looks like I'll be trying more of her recipes in future! ^_*

Serves 4 (as a side dish) or 1 (as a "carb less" meal...which I couldn't finish in one sitting)

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