Friday, 28 September 2018

Sg Besi Wan Tan Mee @ Sungai Besi

I finally decided to seek out this famous wantan mee stall after coming across an article written by The Star (more than a year ago!)...well, better late than never.  It was the article's (as well as some other blogs) positive reviews that tempted me to come and try.

I'm talking about the Sg Besi Wan Tan Mee @ Sungai Besi.  We reached there slightly after 6.30 pm (the time I thought they'd be opened based on the info provided by the newspaper article) but noticed some tables had already finished the meal (it seems they now operate from 6 pm).

From the name of their stall, it's obvious that wantan mee is their speciality.  As our total bill came to RM38.70, I do not know the individual prices for some of the dishes we ate.  All the noodle dishes can be ordered in portion sizes of small, medium or large.  We ordered a plate of char siew/siew yoke wantan mee to start (just char siew wantan mee alone is RM6.80 while roast pork wantan mee is RM7.50 for small).

The char siew we got was very meaty and lean, similar to most standard wantan mee stalls in a typical coffee shop environment (maybe I was supposed to make a request for pun fei sau or a half-lean-half-fat ratio as the photos I saw online looked far better).

The siew yoke turned out to be a disappointment...the meat wasn't very tender and the crackling wasn't very crispy either.  The siew yoke came with such glowing reviews that I actually wanted to order a plate of it on its own initially (luckily I didn't) when I read that the siew yoke was served piping hot as the owner would roast them in-house in small batches to ensure freshness (maybe that was how it was done a year ago but the one I tasted was neither hot nor juicy).

I went for the char siew/chicken feet wantan mee (the price for just chicken feet wantan mee is RM7.50) but no prices stated on the menu for combos.  My plate also had lean char siew slices.  But I shall refrain from passing judgement until I've had the chance to taste their pun fei sau char siew.

As for the texture of the wantan mee, it's somewhere between soft with a good bite and not overly springy. The sauce wasn't oily but the flavour of it wouldn't land a spot in my list of favourite wantan mee to eat though.

The chicken feet also comes highly recommended as the owner deep-fries them herself instead of buying ready-made ones from the market.  I actually prefer chicken feet that are just braised, not fried and then braised.  I did appreciate the freshness and soft texture of the chicken feet but felt it could be braised longer.  I like my chicken feet so well braised until the skin is literally falling apart (like the ones from Char Siew Yoong)...perhaps not so pretty to look at but pretty darn good to eat! :P

Both our plates of wantan mee were served without any wantans which was kinda strange.  I would have thought that, by default, wantans would be included (it's called wantan mee for a reason!) and need not be requested.  Maybe, it was because we had asked for an extra topping in each plate that they decided not to give us any wantans. >_<  Or maybe we were supposed to tell them we wanted wantans (the wantans cost RM0.50 for one in the menu).

We went with a side order of fried dumpling @ RM1.20 a piece.  The dumplings didn't felt like they were fried to order as they didn't arrive piping hot or super crispy.  They were probably fried ahead of time and so lost a bit of that crispiness around the filling.

The fried dumplings were accompanied by a immensely refreshing chilli dip that had the perfect balance of spicy and sour notes.  They nailed this chilli dip and I'd even say it's better than what many roasted meat stalls provide.  The pickled green chillies I didn't care for as they were too thickly sliced and had not been pickled long enough.  It's a rare commodity to find a cooked ma lai chan lat chiew (sambal belacan) on the table that allowed customers to help themselves to however much they want.  Stalls usually wouldn't be that generous as the plentiful dried prawns (which are expensive) made this a very fragrant belacan.  The soup base was alright but not good enough for me to consider ordering the soup version of wantan mee.

The distinction between this wantan mee stall and other wantan mee stalls is that they offer a few types of toppings not usually found in other wantan mee stalls.  The toppings include chee kiok chou (black vinegar pork trotters), Hakka char yoke (braised pork belly with wood ear fungus) and sang chee yoke kar li (wild boar curry).

Since we didn't order a separate plate of roasted meat (siew yoke specifically), we were able to order a plate of wild boar curry @ RM10 (small, RM15 for big) to share instead.

This was a very good plate of absolutely tender wild boar meat, a little oily but good (forgivable even, after all a curry needs its oil).  The curry had the right amount of spiciness with a hint of sweetness and creaminess from the coconut milk. ^o^

I ordered the kat chai suen mui or limau assam boi (lime & sour plum juice) @ RM4 but the drink tasted (and looked) more like sar lay suen mui or kedondong juice (umbra juice) which I loved even more.  This refreshing drink was thickly-flavoured with a real sourish kick...very appetite-inducing indeed! ^.^

My Personal Opinion

Although my wantan mee experience didn't turn out to be all that positive, it was still decent by many standards.  Personally, it was just alright for me but not deserving enough to be on my list of favourite wantan mee to eat.  When all is said and done, the wild boar curry single-handedly turn the tide on the satisfaction level of this meal.

That in itself is enough to make me their tasty umami dried shrimp sambal and fresh chilli dip would help its cause too.  Seeing how successful their wild boar curry was, I'm eager to try their chicken curry and curry mee to see if they're just as good.  I'm eager to see how their curry laksa fares against my benchmark.

I can understand their popularity given their niche market as a late night supper joint.  Where else can one find wantan mee opened till the wee hours of the morning (like 3am).  This is a wantan mee shop that doesn't just focus on roasted meats but whose speciality lies in the various toppings you can have with your wantan mee.

Sg Besi Wan Tan Mee
302 & 304 Jalan Sungai Besi
57100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9222 8177

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Alanna's Kitchen @ Pandan Indah

I've passed by this cafe so many times when I'm out for food not knowing what kind of food they serve.  The fact that my view was obstructed as I couldn't really see through the glass door didn't help its cause.

One day, I finally made the move to step inside Alanna's Kitchen @ Pandan Indah and was greeted with a small cosy, air-conditioned cafe (not something I was expecting from the looks outside).  That was about 4 months ago when in actual fact the cafe has been around for 3 years already.

The owner of the cafe is a very friendly Chinese lady with Muslim workers serving halal food.  She told me her speciality is Arabic food to which I replied I don't think I'd like Arabic food.  She said that's what most of her customers said but end up liking it in the end.  It's probably not truly authentic Arabic food but one that has been tweaked to appeal to local tastebuds.  Western food, Asian delights and some all-day noodles/rice dishes, snacks and desserts (cakes & waffles) round up their menu.

The first time I came here was in the morning.  Although their breakfast menu is very limited, I was shocked when I saw the prices on their menu.  Shocked in a good way, that is....their breakfast is not only priced at RM5.50 - RM6.50 but it comes with a free drink as well! O_o  Talk about cheap...a bowl of noodles and drink at a coffee shop would easily cost more than RM8.

Breakfast Set A @ RM5.50 has a soft bun that's always well toasted and generously buttered.  I was surprised by the mashed potatoes with brown sauce (which I enjoyed) as it wasn't something I expected to see in this breakfast dish.

Chicken Toast & Egg Sandwich @ RM6.50 may be a simple egg and ham sandwich but look at just how generous the thick omelette filling is.

I have these simple breakfasts (especially these first two) quite regularly because of the ridiculously low prices.

All Day Breakfast @ RM9.90 with processed sausages, ham and nuggets is bound to please a typical young child.

Although the taste of these western breakfast options ain't all that good as they come with commercially-produced ingredients, I have no complaints whatsoever because of the price.  Where can you get to enjoy a breakfast at that price with a complimentary drink as well...and get to eat it in a comfortable air-conditioned environment? ^_~

If western breakfasts aren't your style, there's the Nasi Lemak Breakfast @ RM6.50 with a surprisingly decent sambal.  It comes with a fragrant piece of fried chicken wing.

Having been impressed by the value of their breakfasts, we decided to check them out for dinner too, usually on weekdays when I don't cook.

From their western menu, I usually order the Grilled Chicken Chop with Black Pepper Sauce @ RM11.90 served with store-bought frozen fries and some chopped vegetables (of carrot, cucumber and tomatoes).

Sometimes I'll have the Grilled Chicken Chop with Mushroom Sauce @ RM11.90.  The mushroom sauce actually taste like the brown sauce (in the mashed potatoes) with the exception of some chopped canned button mushrooms.

Then there's the Fried Chicken Chop with Brown Sauce @ RM14.90.  Of the three, the grilled chicken with black pepper sauce is your best bet here.

I have to say the grilled chicken chops aren't a very big portion (but that's forgivable seeing that it's only RM11.90), so we would pair it sometimes with a Homemade Mushroom Soup @ RM7.90 if we're extra hungry. Unfortunately, the only 'homemade part' were the extra canned button mushrooms they sliced and added to what tasted exactly like store-bought canned (Campbell) soup.  But, if you're too lazy to even open a can, having someone heat it up for you isn't such a bad idea after all! ;P

From the Asian Delights section, I tried the Grilled Sambal Fish (Seabass) + Rice @ RM13.90.  Based on the description, I thought I was getting a sambal marinated grilled fish but the fish came wrapped in foil instead.

The fish was cooked with ladies fingers and onions in a very spicy sauce.  Just eating the fish meat without taking the sauce was already too spicy for me (but the spiciness did its job of camouflaging the slightly fishy taste).  Not something I'd order again.  There's a cheaper option with kembong for RM11.90.

The Seafood Tom Yam + Meehoon @ RM17.90 is one of the more expensive items on the menu.  The seafood were two fresh prawns and some la-la only (I was hoping for some squid) besides the canned button mushrooms.  The taste of the tom yam was quite one-dimensional and it was more spicy than sour.

The Dry Noodle with Wanton @ RM7.90 was basically instant noodles tossed in sauce served with (five!) fried wantons and a fried egg.  It's nothing special really but the sambal that accompanied the noodles was quite nice.  You can opt for the same noodles with sausage and ham for RM7.50.

Some of the other simple rice dishes include the Fried Chicken Wing Rice @ RM8.90 which gives you the same fried chicken (from the nasi lemak) + egg and veggies.  I did enjoy their fragrantly fried but slightly dry chicken wings.

Then there's the Crispy Chicken Rice @ RM8.90 with crispy chicken (doused in brown sauce which I think is the same one as the mashed potatoes) + egg + veggies.

The Spicy Curry Chicken Rice @ RM9.90 with chicken and potatoes was very similar to the taste of an Indian curry, heavy on curry powder and spices.  It was also true to its name....too spicy for me.

The Nasi Lemak Special @ RM8.90 features a chicken thigh instead of wing (that comes with the cheaper breakfast version) and it's available all day long.  When it comes to cheap food, presentation isn't their strong suit...but what's with the wedge of tomato?  Must have run out of cucumbers for the day.

Since Alanna's speciality is Arabic food, we decided to give it a go just to see if we like it starting with the Arabic BBQ Chicken + Rice @ RM14.50 accompanied by long grain rice spiced with cloves, cardamom and black peppercorns (that almost mimics nasi biryani), vegetables and fries.  The chicken breast was well marinated with lots of spices though on the dry side but still edible.

The Arabic Chicken Mandy + Rice @ RM13.50 featured oven-baked chicken served with a fresh chilli dip that was very spicy.  The chicken felt like it was parboiled first before being baked, so the meat was overly soft with only a slight crisp on the chicken skin.

Actually, the most commonly used spices in Arabic food like cloves, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, paprika and black pepper are also common to Indian food, so we found the flavours rather familiar and acceptable.  The Shish Tawook Grilled Chicken + Rice @ RM13.90 were large nuggets of grilled boneless chicken with lesser spices than the Arabic BBQ chicken.

Alanna's Special Grilled Chicken + Rice @ RM15.90 was a chicken thigh (don't ask me why the thigh is odd-shaped like that!) grilled over an open flame served with the same yogurt dip (I think, which I didn't taste) as the two previous dishes.

In general, the chicken used in Alanna's Kitchen is smaller than our usual farm chickens.  Could they be what we call Malay chicken (ma lai kai)?  The smallish size reminded me of Nando's chicken! >.<

Most of the dishes come with a complimentary soup which I disliked as it had a very strong hint of a particular spice.  I tried to guess which spice (I'm thinking either cardamom or clove) and then one day, I found a cardamom pod in the soup, so there.

You also get a complimentary drink of your choice (my default is always coffee or jasmine tea but you can also have teh, isotonic drink, ice lemon tea or carbonated drinks) with any meal ordered....and that's the reason why the meals here end up being so affordable as you don't need to pay for a separate drink.

My Personal Opinion

Although the simple food isn't something you'll need to make a special trip here for, it does offer those living in this neighbourhood an option to eat out on the cheap when we choose not to cook.

Some of her menu items may not be worth exploring altogether but there are some that are adequately edible like her grilled chicken chops, Arabic food, nasi lemak and her absolutely value-for-money breakfast sets.  Do note that in my most recent visit just two days ago, I saw a newly printed menu and when that happens, it usually means either new menu items and/or increase in prices.  So, some prices have seen an increase of between 40 cents - RM1 but even so, prices still remain truly affordable here.

The friendly nature of the lady boss and the demeanour in which she interacts with her customers clearly shows that she knows many of them as her regulars.  Again, for the low prices charged (where else can you get a meal + drink for around RM10 and then get to enjoy that in an air-conditioned environment), I don't think there's cause for complaint! ^.^

Alanna's Kitchen
8 Jalan Pandan Indah 1/23D
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9201 7134

Monday, 24 September 2018

#ewew cooks Stir-Fried Celery Two Ways

Growing up, there were certain vegetables I wouldn't be caught dead whatever form.  Among them were bitter gourd, celery, leeks and tong ho (garland chrysanthemum).  They were all stinky vegetables to me...and, in this illustrious group, some may even add gao choy (Chinese chives), yin sai (Chinese coriander), chung (spring or green onions) and daun sup (coriander leaves, parsley leaves, celery leaves or Chinese celery...I've no idea which is the right translation in English as it's called by many names!).

I still wouldn't be caught dead eating tong ho today coz it's still stinky, no matter what.  I've loved gao choy, yin sai and chung from the beginning but still haven't come round to liking daun sup but can tolerate it now. In later years, I've grown to like bitter gourd and celery.  It's interesting how our tastebuds change as we age.  I'm sure none of these vegetables will make it to any children's (even some adults) to-eat list.  It's already difficult to get children to eat their greens, let alone these strongly flavoured ones (or smelly would be a better term).

And that's what I'm sharing with you today, one of my hated vegetables growing Stir-Fried Celery Two Ways...and you only need just three ingredients for these two stir-fries.

Of course, I also like (and use) them in tomato-based vegetable soups, meat stews, cottage pie filling and sauces for pasta.

In my first of two ways, you could call this the Chinese-style of stir-frying celery.  And with any Chinese style of cooking, you have to cut the celery in a Chinese way as well...haha! ;)  And that way would be to cut it on a diagonal.  Cutting it at an angle like this is synonymous with the Chinese way of cutting many vegetables.

For this recipe, I used 4 ribs of celery, 1 large clove of minced garlic and a small handful of dried cuttlefish shreds.  Chinese stir fry is like speed's over in a jiffy! :P  So, it's best you have everything ready at arm's length.  So, I put corn oil, salt (just a pinch), garlic and cuttlefish into a cold pan.  That way, as soon as the pan heats up, I don't have to frantically throw in my ingredients quickly.

Stir fry the ingredients and once they start to brown, add in the celery.

The stir fry should only take a minute or so (there's no hard and fast rule).  It depends on how you like the texture of the celery.  If you like it crunchier, cook it for a lesser time.

If you like it softer, cook it longer.  The best thing is that you can taste test one to see if it has reached the desired texture you want and adjust your cooking time from there.

When you're absolutely happy with the texture, dish it up and serve.  And that's my Stir-Fried Celery One Way.  I like it best with the celery having a bit of a nice crunch.

The slightly crisp dried cuttlefish shreds give the dish its aromatic fragrance and saltiness. ^.^

The saltiness of the cuttlefish makes this simple stir-fry a great dish to go with plain rice.  Stir-fry celery is seen on menus of Chinese restaurants all the time in a vegetable dish together with other stuff like prawns, carrots, lotus root, mushrooms, wood ear fungus and cashew nuts.

The second method leans more towards a western-style, I'd say.  So, in line with a western style cook, I cut 6 ribs of celery into approximately 3-inch match sticks.

Just like before, I added 3 cloves of minced garlic and 1 tsp of chilli flakes into a cold pan with some olive oil and salt.  That's when I realised that the chilli flakes would burn before the garlic could brown.  Luckily, they were in a separate pile, so removing them was easy.  I had to put in a fresh tsp of chilli flakes.  So, you might want to take note that the chilli flakes should be added in later.  I'm a noob cook, I make boo-boos just like any cook but cooking is all about going through such experiences...practice makes perfect!

Once the garlic starts to brown, add in the chilli flakes to saute for a few seconds before adding the celery.

As this is a western take on stir-fry celery, it should be cooked only briefly to retain its crunchy texture.  Again, it only takes a minute or so for the celery to be cooked.

And that's my Stir-Fried Celery Another Way.  It can be served as a side dish to your main...but pair it with a main with bolder flavours (like spice marinated chicken).  It probably won't do as well with something as delicate tasting as baked fish.

If you can take the heat, you can also treat this as a cooked salad and eat it as it is (like I do). ^o^

This may look like a very simple stir-fry but the chopped garlic (lots of it, please) and chilli flakes (adjust spiciness level to your liking) give it that 'oomph' factor.

Add this two super easy recipes into your stir-fry vegetables list.....but only if you truly love I do now after all these years! ^_~

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