Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Tai Thong Imperial City (2014 CNY Set Menu) @ Cheras

With the Year of the Wooden Horse fast approaching, it's inevitable that all of us will be feasting on the many set menus specially prepared by the restaurants and hotels alike.
I, and my friends, did the same.  We ushered in the 2014 Chinese New Year (CNY) early (before we return to our hometowns) with a set menu prepared by Tai Thong Imperial City Cheras @ Cheras last Saturday [sorry, forgot to take pic of restaurant, so a pic of their 'ang pow' (red packet) instead].  The 9-course meal is priced at RM488++ (for 6 pax)...but with some minor changes to the menu.
As usual, no CNY menu is complete without the customary tossing of the "yee sang" (raw fish salad).  So, we started off with what was supposed to be Prosperity Salmon & Snow Pear Yee Sang which we changed to the Eight Jewels Fruit Yee Sang and this was how it looked when it arrived at our table...very pretty indeed! 

And this was how it looked on their website....very similar ya...thumbs up!

This was how it looked with the crispy crackers and sauce added.....and it tasted as good as it looked!  We opted for this change since we have eaten the normal type of yee sang (with salmon) many times now and thought this would be a refreshing change....and we were right!  This yee sang dish was a combination of 8 types of fruit of evenly cut strips of pears, green apples, water apples, dragon fruit and jackfruit, mandarin orange wedges, grapes and pomegranate. 

And....the only way to consume this dish is to toss all the ingredients, as high as you can, and make wishes (silent or otherwise) for the year to be filled with happiness, good health and prosperity, of course. 

It had a pretty, fresh and fruity taste.....and the plum sauce accompanying it was not overly sweet (like some traditional yee sang).  The crispy crackers and finely julienned vegetables added the necessary crunch to the dish.  It was immensely refreshing and an excellent start to the meal (and ended up as my favourite dish of the entire menu)!
Next up was the familiar and fulfilling Braised Shark's Fin Soup with "Conpoy" & Crab Meat.  The dish came in a golden brown thick broth although I wished there was more of the rich and umami "conpoy" (dried scallops) taste in it.  I also preferred my shark's fin soup to be more eggy and crabby.....but that's just me!
The first thing that hit us when the Roast Chicken with Prawn Crackers Hong Kong Style made it appearance was the whiff of fragrant aroma the roast chicken emitted.  When it smells good, you know it will taste good.  The chicken skin was roasted to crispy perfection while the meat remained moist and tender.  I suggest you dive in straight away while it's piping hot, otherwise the meat tend to dry out (especially the breast meat).

Another symbolic dish during CNY is a fish dish ("yu") for abundance and so we have the Steamed Patin with "Wan Yee" Fungus & Enoki Mushrooms.  The fish, together with the fungus and mushrooms, was fresh and light and the accompanying special soy sauce was not too salty.  For me, any steamed fish is my kind of dish!
Also another must-have dish, that is always included in a CNY menu, is prawns ("har") because the word sounds like 'laughter' and it symbolises happiness and liveliness and so our next dish was the Pan-seared Tiger Prawns with Fragrant Spice.  The prawns were coated and deep fried and then tossed in some chilli, garlic, spring onions and spice mix.  The spice mix brought a fragrant taste to the firm and slightly sweet texture of the prawns while the prawn heads were crunchy to the bite (and you can eat the whole head like the Chinese do...hehe!)

The ever popular 'good luck' dish is the Braised "Ho See" with "Fatt Choy", Mushrooms, Wheat Gluten & Vegetables which came next.  As with all dishes during the auspicious festival, the ingredients are associated with positive Chinese connotations and this dish was no different.  The braised "ho see" (dried oysters), "fatt choy" (black moss) and mushrooms symbolises good fortune, wealth, longevity and all things good.  The wheat gluten is quite similar in texture to abalone (maybe you can call it "a poor man's abalone" or imitation abalone) and all this is cooked in a golden brown oyster/soy sauce which was ok tasting and not too salty.  With abalone being considered a luxury item and getting more costlier by the year, not many can afford to include abalone in their set menu (unless you are willing to fork out in the region of RM1,000+ for a table of 10).

As always, the meal will end with a rice dish and this time it was the Fried Glutinous Rice with Assorted Waxed Meat.  This was ok as I am not a fan of fried glutinous rice unless it is a glutinous rice dumpling in bamboo leaves ("chung" or "bak chang") or steamed glutinous rice with chicken ("lor mai kai").

Serving something sweet at the end of the meal brings a connotation of a sweet life in the new year.  And so, our sweet ending was supposed to be Chilled Honey Dew Lemon with Sago Pearls and Steamed "Nian Gao" with Shredded Coconut & Lotus Paste Pancake but we rounded up our meal with the delicate dessert of Rainbow Tong Yuen instead because it looked so pretty.  These coloured glutinous rice flour balls were infused with different flavours like red bean, lotus paste, pumpkin paste, sweet potato, custard, yam and corn in a sweet ginger soup (though some flavours were more distinct than others).

The "tong yuen" balls, a welcome departure from the normal desserts we get, were a bit small and 'uneven' (see pic above) and surely did not look like the ones I saw in their website...thumbs down and, hence, the term 'looks can be deceiving' rings true!! 

This was how it was supposed to look!  You judge for yourself....see the difference in their promotional pic (which I captured from their website)!

Taste wise, it was alright though some flavours were more distinct than others and some you can't quite make out (perhaps if it was a wee bit bigger, the flavour would come through more readily).

My Personal Opinion

Overall, the set menu was decent enough and, at just slightly under RM100 per pax, it's probably one of the most affordable CNY sets around.

What I liked:  Definitely the 8 Jewels Fruit Yee Sang, it was so light and refreshing.  It's a dish that you can eat over and over again without feeling "full"...and I did eat quite a lot!

What I disliked:  Nothing bad comes to all the dishes were on par in terms of taste, portion and value.

With this post, I wish all readers of my blog a Healthy & Prosperous Chinese New Year!
Eat Healthily, Cook Sparingly, Spend Wisely & Live Happily!!!

Tai Thong Imperial City
Ground Floor Cheras Plaza
Jalan Manis 1 Taman Segar
56100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9132 0118

Friday, 24 January 2014

Don't Get Cheated This CNY


Soon, Chinese New Year 2014 (Year of the Horse) will be upon us.  As with any Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations, one "must-have" food, which is synonymous with CNY (and known by different names), is "Long Yoke/Bak Kwa/Yoke Korn".
"Long Yoke" (Dried Meat) is a popular festive snack and gift (when visiting family and friends) during CNY.  These barbequed thin pieces of meat are simply to 'die' for.  They resemble pork jerky and is slightly sweet and salty in taste. 

Most people have their own favourite brand of "long yoke" which they deem to be absolutely the best tasting one and, for me and my family, it is none other than "Oloiya" by Kiew Brothers (who have been around since the 1970s).  Who doesn't recognise the famous "Boxing Chicken" logo, right?

With many people now being more conscious about eating healthy, "long yoke" has probably become a 'once-in-a-year' indulgence on their 'To Eat List' for CNY and I am one of them....not so much because of the 'health' issue but more because of the 'price' issue.  They have become increasingly expensive over the years and this year the price is RM41 for 500g!

Which brings me to my story.....

Every year I would buy this "long yoke" from a stall set up in my housing area as going to their HQ in Petaling Street, during CNY, is just not possible (because of the traffic and the problem of finding parking space). 

.....and every year I would get cheated (and this year was no different)!!!

Why?....because when you buy, say 500g, they will always short change you about 50-70g.  How do I know?  Because there was one year when I bought many packets (as gifts to family/relatives) that I decided to weigh them when I got home and was shocked to realise that the weight was under.  Furious, I took it back to the stall and demanded that they give me the right amount.  That first time, I made such a ruckus until some of their customers started staring at me probably thinking who this crazy woman is!  Without even questioning me, the stall owner would quickly give me one packet extra (because, if you do the math, for about every 7-10 packets they short change an unknowing customer, they save one packet).

And every year since then, I would always weigh my "long yoke" when I got home....and every year I have to bring it back to the stall to complain.  And every year, without fail, they would replace my packet with the right weight because, deep down, they knew that they have short changed their customer.  You must be wondering why on earth would I keep going back to this stall to buy (eventhough the stall owners may be different every year, I'm not sure).  Reason is because I just don't want to go all the way to Petaling Street for the sheer inconvenience of it all!

However, I believe (and I hope) this does not happen at their Oloiya outlets but only to such unscrupulous "middlemen" who "subcontracts" from Oloiya and open 'temporary' stalls during the CNY festive season.  Since they now have an outlet in Pavilion, maybe I should give this outlet a try next year as.....enough is enough...I've had it with them (the stall, I mean, not Oloiya "long yoke"...still loyal....still can't resist)!

But they have pissed me off one time too many, maybe I should just write in to Kiew Brothers about these unscrupulous "subcontractors" that they are dealing with.

Just the other day, I was having a chat with some neighbours and I brought up this story...and lo and behold, she too bought many 1kg packets of "lap mei" (waxed meat) as gifts and it was 200g short (each packet) it, that's a lot!

My advice to you all is to weigh whatever you buy because these unscrupulous traders are out to cheat us!  Money is not the issue here (because 50-70g would maybe get you 2-3 pcs more which is quite insignificant) but the principle of being 'taken for a ride' gullible do they think we are!  I am sharing this story in the hope that you are aware that such things happen.

So....beware.....and don't get cheated unknowingly (you could have been for many years without realising)!!!

But, in the meantime, enjoy your delicious "long yoke" this festive season....whichever brand you fancy!

(Unscrupulous) "Long Yoke" Stall
In front of Restoran New 2020/
2L Tyre & Auto Services Centre
Pandan Indah

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Kim Lian Kee (Fried Hokkien Mee) @ Viva Home

Just about everyone knows this place, famous for their Fried Hokkien Mee, which have stood the test of time (since the 1920s), and until today still uses charcoal to fire up their noodles.
So, when I feel like having Fried Hokkien Mee, in a clean, comfortable air-conditioned environment, I would go to Kim Lian Kee (KLK) @ Viva Home to have my fix.

Although they have 'upscaled' their premises, they have retained their old, rustic charm of marbled tables and chairs and porcelain chopstick holders....nice!

We start with notably their most revered Fried Hokkien Mee @ RM9.50 (serving for one), of course.  A really good Hokkien Mee, to me, have to have 2 things right---the thick black sauce and the crispy "chee yau char" (fried pork lard bits)!  The true Hokkien Mee, of course, is just the thick yellow noodles itself, but I like mine done with meehoon/mee (to offset too much "kansui" taste).  [#Note: "Kansui" is essentially a type of alkaline solution that gives the noodles a yellowish hue with a firm, slippery texture.]
At KLK, the Hokkien Mee is fried with a good black sauce, with just the right amount of moistness and "wok hei" (breath of the wok).  The veggies remained crunchy and the bits of "chee yau char" just elevated the whole dish.  [#Note: When the "chee yau char" is fresh, it's really good but, at times, it wasn't and you can taste the 'already past shelf life' in the lard bits.]  And when it is served on a banana leaf, it just heightens the aroma --- anything served on banana leaves, we, Malaysians, just go 'gaga' over it Nasi Lemak, Banana Leaf Rice, Mamak Mee Goreng (Fried Mee), Ikan/Sotong Panggang (Grilled Fish/Squid) etc.!
Although I have heard that their "Lor Mee" (which is the same thick yellow noodles cooked in an egg and starch broth) is good, I did not try it as I am not a fan of thick yellow noodles to start with (even my Hokkien Mee has to have meehoon in it).

Apart from their signature dish of Fried Hokkien Mee, they also serve a range of other noodles.  One of them was the Fried Mee Sua @ RM9.50 but, unfortunately, it didn't taste as good as it looked.  The mee sua is fried till it's rather crunchy (which is kinda odd to eat noodles this way) and the ratio of veggies to mee sua was way too much.

Another is the Claypot "Loh Shee Fun" @ RM10.90.  This is "loh shee fun" (a kind of Chinese noodle also known as 'rat noodle') cooked in a thick black sauce, with bits of "chee yau char", and served with a raw egg on top.  When you mix the raw egg into the noodles, it makes the noodles smoother although I did find the noodles a bit soft for my liking.

The Fried Rice with Shredded Pork @ RM9.50 was a bit different from the norm as you don't normally find rice fried with shredded pork as it is usually fried with either "char siew" (BBQ pork) or "lap cheong" (Chinese sausage).  It had a subtle flavour, one that kids will enjoy, I reckon.
Other than fried noodles, KLK also has other dishes (akin to small bites) on their menu.  We tried a few of them though none of them really stood out.  They are edible if you want something else, with your meal, other than noodles, but the "wantan" and dumpling skin is a bit thick though.

Deep Fried Crispy "Wantan" @ RM5.50 (for 8 pcs)
Deep Fried Salad "Tofu" (Soft Beancurd) with Mayo Dip @ RM5.50 (for 8 pcs)
Deep Fried Crispy Dumpling @ RM8.50 (for 4 pcs)
My Personal Opinion
Without a doubt, there's only one thing you should order at this place....and it's the Fried Hokkien Mee as the other noodle dishes fell short of expectations.
Price wise, I think it's reasonable (since it's air-conditioned) as those you get from coffee shops nowadays cost something like RM6 - 7 already.
Likes:  The Fried Hokkien a clean, comfortable environment.  Although not exceptional, but still worthy nonetheless.
Dislikes:  When the "chee yau char" is past "expiry date"!

Kim Lian Kee Restaurant
Lot 11-1 1st Floor Viva Home
No 85 Jalan Loke Yew
55200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2032 4984

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) @ Pandan Indah

'Yakiniku' is a Japanese term for 'grilled meat' and when I feel like having some pretty cheap and affordable grilled meat, over a charcoal flame, I would head to Restoran Yakiniku @ Pandan Indah.
This place, predominantly, serves grilled meat although they also serve ramen, sushi, set meals and a lot of a la carte dishes as well.  However, if you choose to order grilled meat (as they are well known for), you'll get to grill your meats in a rather old-school way because you'll literally get an old-fashioned stove, filled with hot charcoals, with a wire mesh on top.
I don't know what it is but everyone seems to enjoy grilling their own food and I do that too (just for the fun of it, I guess), all the time, when I dine here until recently.  I finally took up their offer of grilling the food for us instead and what a good decision that was...the food tasted so much better (probably because they are more experienced at grilling it evenly).  [#Tip: Get them to grill the food for you!]
Here's a look at the grilled stuff we ordered.
First up, the Grilled Pork Bacon @ RM6.90 a plate (and one plate is definitely not enough) is a 'must-order' here as it is the best tasting dish.  It's the combination of fat and meat that imparts the smoky, charred taste that is so pleasing.
Next, we have the Grilled Chicken Fillet @ RM6.90.  This is good but not as good as the pork bacon.
The Grilled Squid @ RM6.90 is another dish we like to order here.  They definitely know how to grill this just right because, when I did it myself, it was not as tender or charred.  Squeeze some lime over it and eat it straight away!
The Grilled "Tofu Pok" (deep fried bean curd puff) @ RM2.90 is really cheap and good (the pic above is 2 portions).
As usual, you should always order a veggie with your meal and we ordered a plate of "yau mak" (Chinese lettuce) @ RM6.90 with oyster sauce and fried shallots.
You eat all their grilled stuff with their special dipping sauce (though I don't know what goes into their sauce) as they all have their own recipes.  But it's usually made from Japanese soy sauce mixed with a combo of either sake, mirin, dashi, sugar, garlic, sesame, lime juice or vinegar, etc.  [#Note: The sauce may be a bit salty for some.]
If you don't fancy grilled meat, you can opt for their value-for-money set meals.
This is the Salmon Wazen Set @ RM24.90.  It comes with grilled salmon in black pepper sauce, tempura ebi (prawn), some tempura veggies with rice, miso soup, pickles and mango pudding for dessert.  The grilled salmon in black pepper sauce with caramelised onions and carrot was so-so but the tempura was not crispy enough.
The Bacon Wazen Set @ RM14.90 fared better.  It comes with charcoal grilled pork bacon marinated in their specialty Yakiniku sauce, Agedashi tofu, rice, miso soup, pickles and mango pudding.  The bacon was grilled to perfection and I especially liked the Agedashi tofu, which had a find crisp texture on the outside and super soft on the inside, in a light dashi broth.
Another favourite of our family is the Unagi Don @ RM23.90.  "Unagi" is the Japanese word for freshwater eel and it is quite an expensive delicacy.  It is usually grilled with some kind of sweetish sauce which makes the eel slightly crisp on the outside but tender and succulent on the inside.  And if you love unagi, you'll love it on anything....on rice,....on sushi,......or simply just on its own...and you can eat lots of it if not for the price!
I also ordered the Lime & Sour Plum @ RM4.50 to add a tangy end to my meal.
My Personal Opinion
If you want good quality and equally tasty grilled meat, at affordable prices, you should give this place a try.
But remember to ask them to do the grilling for you because it tastes so much better when they do it.  Plus, you can also eat in comfort without having to watch over your food so that they don't good is that!
Likes:  The grilled pork bacon, squid and 'tofu pok' and the agedashi tofu too.....and the affordable prices, of course.
Dislikes:  The smell of "yakiniku" on you when you leave the place (because of the many diners who choose to grill the meat themselves) but you can't really blame them as it is a 'yakiniku' place after all!

Update:  02.05.2014 (They will be relocating to 76G Jalan Pandan Indah 4/6B, Pandan Indah, wef 14/06/2014, and renamed Tokyo Yakiniku)
Yakiniku Restaurant
No 20-G Jalan Pandan Indah 4/8
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4295 4833

Friday, 17 January 2014

Uncle Meng (Char Siew) @ Taman Shamelin

If you love "char siew" (barbequed pork), you'll love this place to bits---Restoran Uncle Meng @ Taman ShamelinI had eaten at this place many times now, just that I was not aware that I had eaten this same char siew more than 10 years before.

Back then, a colleague of mine brought me to this place and I would still remember vividly the mouth-watering taste of the char siew.  Only thing was, after I ate there, I couldn't remember the name of the place or where it was.  It was not until I did some research recently and came across a photo of the place in a food blogger's website that I instantly recognised as the place I had my char siew before.  It was known as Meng Kee then and it was located in Tengkat Tong Shin (now relocated to Jalan Alor).  I also realised that Meng Kee and Uncle Meng are related (they are brothers and a third brother has another shop in Shah Alam).  I am glad that I have been reunited with my favourite char siew stall.....(sing along) reunited and it feels so good!

To cut my 'long lost friend reunion' story short, let's get to the char siew.

This is a single serving of Char Siew Rice which costs RM5.50 and their chilli dip (garlicky and full of zesty lime flavour) is one of my favourites todate.

If you want more char siew (and you certainly would), ask for a plate of Char Siew for 2 persons @ RM18.00 (inclusive of 2 rice).  The char siew here is charred and caramelised, with a slightly sweet taste (may be a bit too sweet for some), if you ask for "pun fei sau' (half fat, half lean) which is the best way to eat char siew.  The perfect fat-to-lean ratio makes it tender with a 'melt-in-your-mouth' sensation and it's easy to see why it's on the top of my list for char siew (until I sample better ones).

They, of course, have the other usual meats of chicken and "siew yoke" (roast pork) but these are just secondary to the main draw which is the char siew.  [#Tip: The char siew makes its appearance only after 11am and sometimes it's gone by 1pm.]

Although the char siew rice is what everyone is after when they come here, there is another 'hidden gem' in this coffee shop....and it is the stall selling western food.

This is the Fried Spaghetti with Luncheon Meat @ RM6 (without egg).  The cooked spaghetti is dry-fried with some seasoning (that looks like chicken powder) and tossed with some dried herbs (parsley).  It is then topped with a sauce of your choice (tomato, mushroom or black pepper) and the mushroom sauce is the winner here!  But the best thing on the plate, surprisingly, is not the spaghetti but the luncheon are we to know that a simple piece of canned luncheon meat can taste so good!

Here's a closer look at the luncheon meat!  They deep fry it briefly to achieve a slightly crisp, fragrant exterior.  When you bite into the luncheon meat, it is slightly crispy, slightly salty, very aromatic and fragrant, unlike the 'cheapskate' and not-so-good tasting ones that you find at many "chap farn" (mixed rice) stalls.

The Fried Spaghetti with Luncheon Meat & Egg @ RM7, in black pepper sauce, is hot and peppery, everything a black pepper sauce should be, though I prefer the mushroom sauce.

You can also order a Western Breakfast with toast, egg, ham, burger meat and sausage @ RM5.80...and, if you can't resist (like me), you can add on 2 pcs of luncheon meat @ RM1.50 extra.  [#Note: When I say 2 pcs, it's actually 2 "1/4" pcs, meaning RM0.75 for a 1/4 pc...pretty pricey but you won't mind because it is so good and, if not for the price, I will add more....more!]  Incidentally, the piece of burger meat is not bad either.

The wantan mee with "wat kai" (smooth white chicken) @ RM5.50 is quite ok too.  If you like the thinner version of wantan mee, you can get them here because they are thinner than the normal ones you get at other wantan mee stalls.  However, because they are thinner, overcooking it is very easy.

When they cook it just right (though they tend to overcook it at times), it is quite good when eaten with the "wat kai", which is smooth and tasty, but their "wan tan" is far from good though.  After all, their char siew, siew yoke and chicken comes from the same Uncle Meng's stall (so you are assured of the standard already).

My Personal Opinion

This is a good "makan" place for breakfast and lunch for the working crowd in Taman Shamelin.  The food is good (especially the 3 mentioned above) and the price is reasonable.  There are also many other stalls in this coffee shop selling mixed rice, fried rice, fried kuey teow, curry laksa, pan mee, etc. if you want more variety (some are ok).

The 'must-order' here is, of course, the excellent 'char siew' and the Fried Spaghetti with Luncheon Meat (which the kids will adore as well).

What I liked:  Excellent 'char siew' and good luncheon meat!

What I disliked:  Finding a table (and parking) may be difficult during their peak hours of breakfast and lunch.

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

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Nasi Lemak Stall @ Taman Maju Jaya

One of my favourite "Nasi Lemak" (fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk) stalls is the one in front of HTN Car Service Centre in Taman Maju Jaya, just a stone's throw away from Pandan Indah.

This Malay kakak has been plying her trade at this spot for more than 20 years and has managed to put her children to university...gutsy lady indeed!
The Nasi Lemak Stall @ Taman Maju Jaya is one of the few stalls I have come across where their customers would diligently queue up, in an orderly fashion, to buy their nasi lemak....which is great (first come, first served).  So, if you do come here, don't crowd around the stall but take your place in the line and await your turn.
Their best seller is their "sotong sambal" (chilli squid).  Their sotong is cooked till very tender....just the way I like it!'s only 9am but their sotong is already scrapping the bottom of their "periuk" (pot) already!
The nice thing about this nasi lemak is their 3 types of sambal, one the fiery red sambal, the other, a yellowish type, and if you ask for sotong, you get the 3rd kind which is the sambal from the sotong.  Mix all 3 of that into the nice, fluffy, well separated grains of rice and you will have a spoonful of yumminess in your mouth....but don't worry, it's not very spicy!
The other thing I love about this nasi lemak, apart from their 3 types of sambal, is their fried ikan bilis.  These were slightly salty, crispy and fragrant, unlike the hard ones (some super hard) that you get from most nasi lemak stalls.
This is the Nasi Lemak Sotong @ RM3.20 awaiting to be "bungkus" (packed)....can't wait!
Here's how the mouth-watering nasi lemak looks like before I devoured it and it's all gone in a jiffy!!
And, if you want more (and you definitely will), you can add on more rice for an extra RM0.50....yay, more....more nasi lemak!!!  The mix of the 3 types of sambal brings an explosion (of the good kind) of flavours in your mouth and you find yourself returning to this nasi lemak stall time and time again as you will be hungry for more!
My Personal Opinion
A simple, no-fuss, uber delicious nasi lemak.....a very affordable breakfast indeed!
Nasi Lemak Stall
(in front of HTN Car Service Centre)
Jalan Bunga Melati
Taman Maju Jaya, Cheras
56100 Kuala Lumpur
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