Thursday, 28 February 2019

Home-Cooked this Chinese New Year

Since we couldn't balik kampong this year (because my mother-in-law was rendered immobile), it meant that there would be less (probably none) of eating at restaurants and more of (probably only) eating at home this year compared to any other year.

So, home-cooked this year it is then.  Here are just some of the dishes I cooked (and ate) this Chinese New Year (at home)...most of which I've made before and that's because CNY is not the time to dabble in dishes you're cooking for the first time.  Best to stick to what you know and what you've cooked before to avoid any untoward kitchen disasters! ;P  It also include some dishes that were outsourced.

#1 - Yee Sang

As usual, no CNY is complete without the customary tossing of yee (fish) sang (raw) for fortune and growth in the year ahead.

This year's yee sang (contributed by my sister-in-law) was a fruit yee sang with no raw fish to cater to my mother-in-law's restricted diet.

A little presentation by my sisters-in-law before tossing...nice? ^_~  Actually, there were more than six of us but we could only fit 6 pairs of chopsticks in the presentation...haha! :D

And as with any yee sang, the tossing ritual is a must.

The well-tossed yee sang ready to be devoured. ^.^

#2 - Poon Choi

My sister-in-law also contributed (as in bought) this poon choi (from Dragon-i) for one of our CNY dinners. Poon choi is one of the most well-received, not to mention convenient, dish in any potluck gathering for its variety in one pot.  This 18-ingredient poon choi consisted of sea prawns, roast chicken, pork balls, pork skin, sea cucumber, fish maw, mushrooms, abalone, dried scallops, dried oysters, pork trotters, fried beancurd, golden money bags, black moss, yam, white radish, Chinese cabbage and broccoli.

#3 - Fried Wantan

Spring rolls (and Chinese dumplings) are eaten for wishes of wealth and prosperity.  Well, my fried wantans look like spring rolls too, don't you think?  I've made these fried wantans (a signature dish of mine) before for a few CNYs in Ipoh.  I've not made these for the last couple of years as the preparation of the filling is time consuming as it needs quite a bit of slicing and chopping.  But the result of biting into a crispy, freshly fried wantan is worth every bit of work and it's always a well-received dish at any festive dinner table.

I made these fried wantans again on another day for our own consumption....and made extras for my neighbours too.

#4 - Honey Roasted Chicken Wings & Paprika Roasted Potatoes

Chicken is another dish you'll find on the reunion dining table though it's usually steamed whole.  But I don't do whole chickens as I have no such skills in chopping the chicken.  So, I resort to chicken pieces and I've made countless roast chicken recipes before, be it chicken wings or thigh, and roast potatoes too with different seasonings.  Though predominantly more suited for a western festive meal, it can work for a Chinese meal too depending on the seasoning you choose.  It's good to consider cooking something in the oven as that will free up the stove for other dishes that need to be cooked.

Both the roast potatoes (and chicken wings) were made with less charring in mind since my extended family members get freaked out with overly darkened bits.

#5 - Steamed Chinese Silver Pomfret?...erm, not quite

Yu or fish is a must for CNY as it symbolises surplus wealth.  And, of course, steaming it whole is the usual way to go.  When I was at the wet market staring at a pretty huge tau tai cheong (Chinese silver pomfret), my regular fish hawker offered to sell it to me cheap cheap, she said (well, her cheap cheap meant it was still over RM100 and I dared not ask her how much exactly).  She said pomfret is very expensive this year (and by that she meant Chinese silver or white/silver pomfret, not black pomfret, of course).  So, no, it didn't make it to the reunion table this year...just far too costly.

#6 - Prawns in Dark Soy

Of course, you need to include a dish that makes you go hee hee har har for more happiness in the new year. This year, the (fairly) large prawns I got cost about RM3 for one.  With prawns this size and the price, I allocated only one per person.  This prawns in dark soy dish is pretty straight-forward to make (I've cooked it for the Ipoh dinner table before) and it's one of my sister-in-law's favourite way of having prawns (mine too).

  #6 -  Braised Mushrooms with Abalone

Another auspicious dish is braised mushrooms with abalone for longevity and good fortune.  The easiest is to use canned abalone (they aren't cheap either at more than RM100 a can).  I added some canned button mushrooms as well.  My sister-in-law made her version of braised mushrooms with fish maw too.

I cooked this again on another day to use up the other can of abalone that my sister-in-law gave me and passed some to my neighbours too.

#7 - Stir-Fry Vegetables

My sister-in-law cooked some vegetables of baby green beans....

.....and bok choy.  Another sister-in-law also contributed Stir-Fried Lettuce and Luncheon Meat Omelette.

#8 - Bacon & Lap Cheong Fried Rice

I made two types of fried rice, one was the bacon fried rice and the other, lap cheong fried rice (shown above) just because I ran out of bacon.  These were just some of my contributions (some of which I cooked again for our own family dinners)...and if you're wondering why all the food are photographed in take-away containers, that's because they had to be transported to where my mother-in-law was recuperating due to her immobility.

Having potluck and eating at home have its perks in that you can mingle and linger to chit chat but, at the same time, it's also tiring to cook.  So much so that when my friends suggested another potluck get-together, I had to graciously decline as I reckon I've done quite enough of cooking for the few days. :P

Monday, 25 February 2019

Uncle Meng (Ipoh Sar Hor Fun) @ Taman Shamelin Perkasa

Uncle Meng @ Taman Shamelin Perkasa is super popular for their well caramelised, perfectly charred, melt-in-the-mouth char siew with a wonderful fat-to-lean ratio and it's one of our favourite places to have char siew rice.

The place is also a usual haunt for us for breakfast.  I usually have the Western breakfast with add-on luncheon meat when I'm here but since the Ipoh Sar Hor Fun stall came, I always have that now.

I've blogged about this excellent Ipoh sar hor fun before (some 2 years ago) but decided to dedicate another blogpost to it just because I've forgotten I've already blogged about it and had already prepared the photos and wrote the post before realising this Ipoh sar hor hun is so, so good.  And oh, I do have an update (from that 2016 post) that will blow your mind! :O

This is Ipoh Sar Hor Fun with Shredded Chicken & Shrimp Wantan @ RM9.  You get two pieces of shrimp wantan only with a few prawns and some shredded chicken.

Sometimes I would have the Ipoh Sar Hor Fun with Chicken Thigh @ RM7.50 which would have a few prawns in them too besides some fragrant gao choy (Chinese chives) and crunchy beansprouts.

If you prefer the drumstick portion, the price is the same as well (ordered this accidentally once).  The default noodles is kuey teow, of course, as you can't have it with any other type of noodles.  And what can I say about the kuey teow except that it's slippery smooth, thin and translucent which is the hallmark of a good Ipoh sar hor fun.  It slips down my throat effortlessly.  It's just different from the normal kuey teow we know.

The poached chicken is irreproachably smooth and tender...and the skin is not too fatty.  An excellent poached chicken indeed.

As for the broth, you can taste a bit of the prawn in the stock.  It's nicely subtle with a just the right hint of sweetness.  Overall, there seems to be an improvement in the soup base (from before) but I wouldn't mind a bit more of that lovely fragrant prawn/chilli oil though.

I don't usually finish the soup whenever I'm having soup noodles but this one I'll gladly make an exception. Look at my almost empty bowl! O_o

An order for the noodles with a specific chicken part (drumstick, thigh or wings) doesn't come with any shrimp wantans, so you'll need to add on wantans if you want them.  And here's the update....wait for it...each additional shrimp wantan now cost RM1.50 (this was in 2018...I've not had it in 2019 yet).  It was 80 cents in 2016! :O

Ya, I know, I know...each shrimp wantan is filled with a whole prawn...a super fresh one and of a very decent size too.  But RM1.50...double the price? >.<  That goes to show how prices of seafood (particularly fish and prawns (and probably other seafood as well) have skyrocketed these past two years (a medium-sized white pomfret I recently bought from the wet market cost me RM24)! T_T  The price of the noodles (with chicken) on the other hand has seen an increase of 50 cents only which is reasonable and not as scary.

The wantan skin is also very thin and smooth and, if you're not careful, will glide down your throat effortlessly as it did once when I slurped on the spoon with the wantan sitting in it.  Shucks, I didn't even get to bite and savour the taste of the shrimp slowly before it slipped down my throat. :P

If you love a good prawn wantan, you can add on how many your heart desires...or as many as your wallet can cope...kekeke! :D  So, you do the math how much this bowl will cost in total with additional 5 wantans (psst...just shredded chicken is RM6)! O_o

My Personal Opinion

This was a gem of a find!  It's a total surprise to bump into such an awesome Ipoh sar hor fun stall in a coffee shop that doesn't even specialise in Ipoh sar hor fun.

The flavour of the soup could still be better but everything from the tender, smooth poached chicken to the fresh, firm shrimp wantans to the slippery, translucent kuey teow were on point. ^.^  It tasted a lot better than many Ipoh sar hor fun stalls I tried...heck, it's even better than some Ipoh sar hor fun specialists.

If you love a good bowl of Ipoh sar hor fun, you have to give this one a try.  But let me forewarn you that the stall is notorious for closing whenever they want (there was one time when they even closed for more than a month!).  As you can see from the photos above, I've had it many, many, many times...and will continue to do so. ^o^

P/S: They were closed for CNY and were still closed when I last visited and more alarmingly was that the price list (that used to be stuck at their stall) had been taken, I'm bracing myself for the possibility of another round of price increase! O_o

Restoran Uncle Meng
Corner of Lorong 6A/91
Jalan 6/91
Taman Shamelin Perkasa
56100 Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Maven Coffee Store @ Taman Shamelin Perkasa

After loving the coffees on my previous visits, besides the interior and the feeling of comfort, warmth and relaxation, it was only a matter of time before I returned to Maven Coffee Store @ Taman Shamelin Perkasa for more coffees, what else.

I wanted to bring my nephew here and my sister-in-law decided to tag along too on this visit.  I just love the smell of coffee in the air as soon as I walk in.  Oops, Chinese New Year has come and gone...and my blogpost still shows a Christmas tree! >.<  That goes to show how far back my posts are now that I blog only once or twice a week...hehehe! ;D

Oh, there's a new menu....ok-lah not new as in new items but new as in a newly printed menu with a background design that looks a lot nicer than the previous one. :P

Since it was close to lunch time, we tried a couple of their pastas, starting with the Salted Egg Pasta @ RM22 with a choice of linguine or spaghetti.  When it arrived, I was surprised to see it only had a salted egg sauce over it and nothing else.  When I wanted to order it the last time, I was told it came with beef bacon but looks like they've decided to change it.

It did have a good dose of salted egg flavour but I felt it needed something else on the plate.  I think the crisp beef bacon bits would have added a nice textural contrast to the creamy pasta.  It can be a bit cloying eaten in substantial amounts because of the rich sauce, so this is a dish best shared.

The other pasta dish we ordered was the Meatballs Beef Bolognese Pasta @ RM18 served with 3 large meatballs in a typical bolognese sauce.  The pre-prepared components, the meatballs may be a little dry but the bolognese sauce was pretty decent.

You can't have too high an expectation here knowing that there isn't a proper kitchen but yet they're still able to assemble a hot dish to an acceptable taste level is commendable indeed.

My sister-in-law had the same Tuna Egg Mayo Sandwich @ RM12 that I had on an earlier visit.  When it's something as simple as this, the use of fresh ingredients are very important from the crunchy, well toasted sourdough bread to the fresh, crisp lettuce leaves which I appreciated (heck, I've even been served wilted lettuce by some cafes that supposedly serve good food)! >.<  When food is that simple, you need to make sure the freshest ingredients are used.

The Pumpkin Soup @ RM13 with a drizzle of cream had the right consistency of not-too-thick and not-too-thin that I liked.  I want it to still have the texture of a soup and not a stew.  I don't fancy overly thick soups unless it's a mushroom soup, that I don't mind! ;)

I was told (by the server) that the Iced Latte and Iced Cappuccino @ RM12 here has no difference, so you can just order it as an Iced White since it's basically the same thing.

My Personal Opinion

The fact that they can boil, toast, reheat and assemble food to an acceptable taste level without a proper kitchen in itself is already praiseworthy.  So, I think it wouldn't be fair to compare the food here with what we can get at a cafe with a full functioning kitchen.  That's why it's quite obvious in their name, they call themselves a coffee store...and not a cafe.

The place is primarily a coffee place...and the food an afterthought.  I think it's just there to complement the coffee drinkers in case they happen to be hungry and in need of some light meals.

I do see myself returning on a regular basis since it's the place nearest to me with good coffees, especially when I yearn for a simple breakfast of sandwich and coffee! ^o^

Maven Coffee Store
Lot 30 Shamelin Star Residences
Lorong 6D/91
Taman Shamelin Perkasa
56000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-657 5760

Friday, 15 February 2019

Just One Food - Chinese New Year Snacks

This year was one of the 'very few' times we stayed put in KL for Chinese New Year (CNY).  We couldn't balik kampong to Ipoh as my mother-in-law was recuperating in KL after her recent hospitalisation.

I don't usually buy snacks if we go back to Ipoh as we won't be around to eat them but since we'll be at home this year, I should get myself some to keep me busy, right? ^_~  And I didn't want the usual snacks, I wanted the slightly more unique snacks that I've not bought before.

I bought this snack of Salted Egg Yolk Crisps @ RM30 a can from Y E Traditional Dumplings.  It's quite it better be worth it, I thought! :P  As soon as I opened the can, I got a whiff of the salted egg and fragrant curry leaves smell...which is a good sign, of course.

Putting one in my mouth, I could certainly taste the salted egg.

Even better with the fragrant, crispy curry leaves in a bite.

Because this wasn't a salted egg potato chip but a flour-based crispy thing, I thought it could do with a bit more saltiness as the crisp, though superbly crispy, was on the bland side.

Let me see how I can describe the taste.  The crisp tasted much like a tortilla chip...which is usually bland and needs something to turn it into a tasty nacho! :P  Overall, still a good snack...just not as good as say salted egg potato chips! ;)

I used to buy this Kuih Kapit (Love Letters) with Chicken Floss at a stopover in Bidor (enroute to Ipoh) but since we didn't balik kampong this year, I jumped at the chance to buy something similar when I spotted this, also at Y E Traditional Dumplings (@ RM26 a can).

It's basically kuih kapit but with a filling of chicken floss.

Compared to the one I bought from Pun Chun, this kuih kapit is a lot more expensive but also a lot thinner in texture.

This has to be one of the lightest and crispiest kuih kapit I've ever eaten.  Lovely snack!  I preferred this to the salted egg crisps.

Visually, it's also a lot cuter the way it's folded.  Unlike the traditional fan-like shape, this one looked like a mini purse! ^_*

I bought these Seaweed Crackers @ RM9 (for 300g) from a shop that sells old-school biscuits by the weight. They surprisingly turned out better than I expected (based on the price).

My spouse liked this the most.  Who knew that the cheapest snack turned out to be everyone's favourite.

I've not had Oloiya Bak Kwa (my preferred brand for bak kwa) since 2014...and that's because I grew tired of being cheated by the stall that sells this dried meat in Pandan Indah (they always shortchange me on the weight).  This year the stall is nowhere to be seen.  I actually wrote a post about the rip-off and was totally surprised when I received an email apology from Oloiya themselves. Who knew the post would reach them after all these years...that's the power of blogging, I guess!

So, this year I decided to buy direct from their Pavilion branch since I'm going to be in KL to eat them...haha! ;D  This year the price (for pork dried meat) was RM65.40 (for 600g or 1 kati) compared to just under RM50 in 2014! O_o  I got myself only 300g (which yielded 8 pcs) because I can only afford to buy 300g of portion control....and yeah, the price is a deterrent too! >_<

And then my eye caught hold of the chilli pork dried meat which I've not tried before.  Portion shown here is also 300g (RM66.60 for 600g).  Visually, it looked more stunning than the original ones.  Taste wise, you can definitely feel the heat of the chillies (but it's tolerable) and the dried meat seemed a bit more caramelised which I liked.  If you like it spicy, this one's for you.

I received this Crispy Fish Crackers from a sister-in-law of mine.  They were nice and crispy, tasted somewhat like satay fish but better and not as fishy.  I only managed a few pieces before my spouse whacked up the whole lot.

As usual, my most favourite snack is to get myself a packet of uncooked Prawn Crackers @ RM29 a pkt and fry them myself as they're always well received.

One packet is able to yield quite a lot, about 3 big, 2 medium & 4  small cans (enough for some to be given away).  My hairdresser's son liked it so much, she asked me where I bought them.  These self-fried crackers are better tasting than any pre-bought ones I've ever eaten.

Pineapple Tarts is a favourite snack of my spouse.  I received one box from my sister-in-law and one from my neighbour.  The ones made by my neighbour tasted better with a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth pastry while the pineapple jam was slightly tart.  I had one piece each only.

And that sums up some of the snacks I indulged in this CNY...not a lot...but just enough to satiate my itchy mouth while trying to maintain some form of control (my husband is the 'real snacker' in the family actually). So, what snacks did you go overboard with indulge in this CNY?

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