Friday, 28 June 2019

Keng Nam Hai (Black Man Nasi Lemak) @ Kepong

In my previous visits to Keng Nam Hai @ Kepong, I discovered a fantastic curry mee (by accident) and a really good rice wine la-la noodles (based on online reviews).  The roasted meat stall (especially the siew yuk) is more than decent too...and these are what we'd usually have when we're here.

But each time I'm here, I've also noticed a steady queue at the Black Man Nasi Lemak stall at the front of the coffee shop.  I can certainly relate to why the stall is called Black Man Nasi Lemak as one can clearly see the resemblance between the stall owner and the caricature in the stall's sign complete with bandana, glasses and beard (when he's not clean shaven) + his darker-than-usual skin tone (for a Chinese).  I actually mistook him for a foreigner until I heard him speaking Chinese.

There were the default condiments of ikan bilis & kacang, shredded carrot & cucumber and half a hard-boiled egg for each plate of nasi lemak.  As for the kar liew (aka additional dishes), I could see (from left to right on the upper shelf) options for luncheon meat, fried egg, sihum (cockle/kerang) sambal, choy poh sambal and (what looked like some kind of) dried spicy pork....and pork chop (on the lower shelf).

I told myself that I must try the nasi lemak on my next visit.  So, I did.  I ordered the Nasi Lemak with chicken rendang, choy poh sambal & curried potatoes.  I don't know how much my plate of nasi lemak cost (probably RM10) as the total came to RM19 including my husband's plate of nasi lemak with pork chop.

The chicken rendang (I asked for thigh) was absolutely tender and delicious.  It can give the Malay version of chicken rendang a good run for its money.  In fact, it was even better than some Malay versions I've eaten. The curried potatoes were equally outstanding with a softness that's almost like a mash consistency.

I can understand why there's a big pot of the curried potatoes (cooked with fragrant curry leaves) as it's a well sought-after accompaniment for the nasi lemak.

The curry encasing the potatoes is also rendang-like (maybe it's from the rendang chicken itself).

If you like rendang-style chicken and potatoes, you won't want to miss these two. ^.^

I pointed to some kind of dried sambal and asked the 'Black Man' what it is and was told that it's choy poh sambal.  Hmmm, I don't think I've had choy poh sambal before.  Choy poh (preserved radish) is something you'd find stir-fried with carrot cake or as a topping for woon chai koh (steamed rice flour cake).  This choy poh concoction was probably fried with some blended chilli paste, dried prawns and onions.  It was really, really tasty...salty but tasty (so you'll need more rice for this). ^_*

For a Chinese-version sambal, I think this one was more than worthy...a lot closer to the benchmark Malay-style sambal and way better than most of the Chinese-made sambal I've eaten.  The rice is decently fragrant too.

My Personal Opinion

If you're looking for a good Chinese nasi lemak with pork on the menu, a sambal and rendang that can give the Malay ones a run for their money....this is a worthy contender, for sure.  It was certainly a lot better than many of the Chinese-made nasi lemak I've tried so far.

I was already thinking what I'd want to try next...the kerang sambal...with those thick cut pieces of luncheon meat (they look like they're of a good quality).

The chicken rendang and choy poh sambal are clear standouts! ;)  So far, I'm not one bit disappointed with the four stalls I've tried here...I'm absolutely thrilled about the rice wine la-la meehoon and the accidental find of a terrific curry laksa. ^o^

Update: I went back for the Black Man Nasi Lemak some two weeks ago and found another nasi lemak stall occupying its place! T_T  I decided to go ahead and post this anyway since the blog post was already near completion in my draft folder.  I've had a reader tell me previously when a shop I patronised relocated, so (who knows), perhaps another reader might tell me where he has moved to. ^_~  I don't think he has called it quits since his nasi lemak is so good (always with a perpetual queue).  Well, in case you bump into him elsewhere, you'll know that this is something worth trying.

Restoran Keng Nam Hai
Pusat Niaga Metro Prima
No 1-G Jalan Prima 1
52100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 017-947 1988

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

#ewew cooks Claypot Chicken Rice (Minus the Claypot)

I've always enjoyed eating Claypot Chicken Rice (my husband loves it) though I've also been weary of rumours (unfounded or not) that eating directly from a claypot cooked over charcoal flame or a gas burner isn't all that good for us.

But, alas, if there's a bigger turn off for me (when it comes to claypot chicken rice) is the smell of the claypot infusing into the rice that I get from some stalls (have you experienced that before or is my sense of smell and taste just too sensitive?).  It could either be due to the fact that the claypots aren't replaced promptly enough or not thoroughly cleaned to have that lingering smell.  Some of claypots have been so overused to the point that the hawkers use wires to bind over the cracks just to extend their usable life.  Mind you, I have eliminated claypot chicken rice stalls based on this reason alone...haha! :D

So, if I want to eat a healthier version, I guess I'll have to make it myself.  It seems simple enough since just three ingredients (besides rice) are needed.  Of course I knew I had to give up that crusty rice (at the bottom of the claypot) as you just can't achieve that with a rice cooker.  So, here's my home version of Claypot Chicken Rice (minus the claypot)...and minus the crusty bottom! ;)

You start by marinating about 450g of chicken pieces (I used choi yin kai or village chicken, skin removed) with thick dark soy (1 tsp), sweet soy (1 tsp), light soy (2 tbsp) and a dash of sesame oil.  If the marinade looks too dark, don't worry, it won't be later coz you'll be mixing that in with quite a lot of rice.  I normally marinate the chicken in the morning (and leave it in the fridge) if I intend to cook it for lunch.

For my home cooked version, I like to add a few slices of ginger and long stems of spring onions (which you can fish out later) for a bit more aromatics.  Sometimes I'd even add fried garlic or shallots if I have them.

Wash and cook 1 1/2 cups of rice and put it into the rice cooker to cook with just a tad less water than usual (as they'll be some liquid from the chicken and marinade).  I put in the marinated chicken pieces once I see the water almost fully absorbed by the rice grains.  If you missed that 'window of opportunity' and the rice has finished cooking, you can still put in the chicken at that point, not a problem.

Give it a really good stir to make sure your rice is well incorporated with the dark sauce from the chicken. This is also the window where you can tweak with a bit more thick dark soy if you find the rice needs a darker colour (mine needed another 1/2 tsp).   If the rice has finished cooking, press the cooker on again for a second time to ensure the chicken cooks properly (as we wouldn't want under-cooked chicken now, would we?).  

The key to a good claypot chicken rice is to complement the flavours with a piece of good quality salted fish (like mui heong) that's fragrant besides being just salty.  Most of the salted fish used by claypot chicken rice stalls are usually of a low quality and doesn't have that requisite fragrance.  I'm not sure how good a quality this piece of salted fish was but it cost me RM8 for this slice (and I used half of it though it could certainly do with the entire piece).

If you're using a fairly thick piece of salted fish (like the one here), put in on a sauce plate and add it to the rice cooker to steam when the chicken goes in as it'll need time to fully cook.  But if you're using just small bits of salted fish (like the miserable bits the stalls give), then you can put it in at the last minute (as they cook in no time).

When the chicken pieces are almost done (that's when the rice cooker finishes cooking for the second time which is about 10 minutes later in the case of my rice cooker), add (generous) slices of lap cheong (from 1 1/2 strips of Chinese dried sausage) and press the rice cooker on again (for the third time).  This is the other key to a good claypot chicken rice...lap cheong.  There was a time when I tapau-ed this but, to my horror when I opened it at home, I got someone's else order instead without lap cheong and it just wasn't the same.  I know of some people who dislike Chinese waxed sausages but I feel it's really needed to bring out that bit of fragrance and oil to the claypot chicken rice.  I suppose you could add some other waxed meat or liver sausages if you really wanted to.

Once the rice cooker finishes cooking for the third time, remove the spring onion stalks (and ginger slices if you can find them) as well as the salted fish.  Give it a final taste test and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Add more light soy if you find the rice not salty enough (it probably could do with another tablespoon, perhaps even two, but I refrained as I try to eat less salty food at home when I can).  Plus you also have to take into account the mashed salted fish that will be going into the rice later.

Finally, sprinkle in the chopped spring onions at the very last minute, finish with a dash of Chinese rice wine (optional but that's what I saw some hawkers did), give it a good stir and you're ready to serve.

Here's my home-cooked version of Claypot Chicken Rice (minus the claypot)...and minus the offensive claypot smell (that only I can detect?)....haha! ^_^

The best thing about a home-cooked version is that it's definitely no where near as oily as the ones we order outside.  That could be due to the less fatty nature of choy yin kai and because I removed the skin or perhaps the hawkers added oil in the marination of the chicken.

My bone of contention with ordered claypot chicken rice from hawkers has always been that it doesn't contain enough lap cheong to give the rice the fragrance it needs.  It's so coz good quality Chinese waxed sausages are expensive...and that's why they allow you to add more at a price (and my spouse will always want more).

Then the other thing my spouse would complain of not having enough is salted fish (sometimes you can't even see it if they've already been mixed in together with the rice).  That's why he'll always request to add extras and then not even getting good quality ones.  You can choose to serve your salted fish whole (in a piece that you can see!) or smashed and mixed into the rice.

Great eaten with some sliced red chillies or fiery cili api....or, better still, like how I would eat it at claypot chicken rice stalls, with a plate of oyster sauce sang choy (lettuce) and a bowl of double-boiled soup :)

If you can freeze rice, you can certainly freeze claypot chicken rice!  So, if there are extra servings or leftovers, freeze them to be eaten on another day.  When scooping up the leftovers, I found a bit of crusty rice at the bottom...yes, that can happen if you're not using a non-stick but a stainless steel inner pot (like mine).

In the end, I won't claim that this home-cooked claypot chicken rice is as good as the ones I eat at claypot chicken rice specialists but a version that you can easily make at home as it's one of those fast to cook, good to eat, one pot wonders! ^.^  And if you're not a fussy pot about the overall flavour, you can certainly take it literally and make it a one pot wonder by chucking everything in at one go into your rice cooker.

Good for 3 - 4 servings (as a one-dish meal)

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Lok Zok Liu @ Pandan Indah

I stumbled upon this new restaurant in my neighbourhood (a week after its opening), Restoran Lok Zok Liu @ Pandan Indah when I noticed the many flower bouquet arrangements on the road.

I decided to visit as their display of roasted meat was plentiful which convinced me that if they're confident of selling that much of meat, they must be good.

The name of the shop is rather cute....'lok zok liu'...but since I don't read Chinese, I don't know what the characters mean in Chinese.  My first instinct was that the owner's surname must be Lok...haha!  I did ask one of them but I was hopelessly lost in translation...I only managed to understand the word 'lok' which he said comes from the word 'fai lok' which means happy.  But if I were to do my own translation of the sound of the words directly from Cantonese, 'lok zok (or zuk) liu' means 'put in plenty of ingredients'.  Well, I certainly like the sound of that! ^_~

On my first visit, I tried the White Curry Noodles (Drumstick) @ RM10 (with poached chicken drumstick, RM9.30 for other chicken parts) coz I just happened to see a bowl of it being dished out when I passed by their prep/cooking station at the entrance of the shop...and I know a good one when I see one! :P  It's listed in the menu as white curry noodles (but I'm not sure why they call it that) as it looks like a typical KL curry laksa to me, not to be confused with Penang white curry mee.  It came with chopped poached chicken, two pieces each of fu chuk (beancurd sheets) and tofu (beancurd) puffs and taugeh (beansprouts).

I was told by the server that they use la mian (pulled noodles) for their curry laksa (there's no option for other types of noodle like mee or meehoon here) but I was afraid that the texture of the la mian would be too soft to be eaten in a curry, so I opted for wantan mee instead as my choice of noodle.

And, as I suspected, the curry that looked absolutely fantastic (at their kitchen counter) did not disappoint one bit.  It had the savouriness and thickness I wanted with a good dose of santan flavour and just the right amount of chilli oil in the mix.

I can't gush enough at just how amazing the curry is and I'm absolutely ecstatic that I now have an excellent one in my neighbourhood.  Though it didn't quite overtake my favourite no. 1 curry laksa, it certainly did give them a good run for their money.

Let me show you again just how good the curry broth is.....before I drank (almost) every last drop of it up...wahahahaha!  You can see just how thick the broth is by the way the remnants clung onto the side of the bowl.

On another visit, I kept thinking what it'll taste like if I opted for la mian which the server highly recommended.  So, I went for it and asked for the White Curry Noodles @ RM9.30 to be served with char siew instead.  There are people who don't like poached chicken (and I can't fathom why, my spouse included), so you can substitute with the meat of your choice (but poached chicken is still the best IMHO).  This round, there were pieces of rehydrated pig skin too besides beancurd sheets and puffs.

And the server was right, it was good with la mian (something different from the usual meehoon + mee) and the noodles were cooked just right and it doesn't go soft even when it's soaking in the broth.  In fact, the wantan noodles I picked for my curry earlier turned out even softer.

The broth is pleasantly savoury (with a tinge of sweetness)'s robustly's sufficiently's suitably's just everything you can ask for in a great curry.  And the fragrant sambal and squeeze of kalamansi lime gave it even more zing.  Now, if there were some bloody cockles, it could have been perfect! ;P

If that's not a beautiful thing.....I don't know what is!  #SoGood  Sorry that I went on and on about the curry laksa but, as you can see, I'm thrilled to bits that I don't need to travel far anymore for an outstanding bowl of curry now. ^o^

As with any roasted meat shops, they're bound to offer wantan mee as well.  I went with the Char Siew Wantan Noodles @ RM7.30 to start.  The char siew was definitely praiseworthy with a good ratio of lean-to-fat, tender meat and just the right amount of smoky, not-too-sweet caramelisation.  The sauce was more than decent too.

It comes with only two wantans (not the usual three) but rest assured that these are bigger-sized wantans than the norm.  The minced pork filling of the wantans was tasty and juicy, pretty good wantans in a broth that's very umami flavoured...a stock that's too good to be true, if you ask me. *wink wink*

Their Char Siew & Siu Yuk Wantan Mee comes in at RM8.50 (you can choose from a selection of any two meats which include char siew, siu yuk, roast chicken or siew cheong (roast sausage) with an additional RM1 if you opt for roast duck as one of the two meats selected.  However, I don't think the siu yuk was nearly as successful (there are lots better siu yuk in my neighbourhood than this).

Condiments of fresh chilli dip and pickled green chillies to complement both rice and noodle dishes were competent too.  The fresh chilli dip had that appetising, zesty tang of lime (or kalamansi) juice but wished it had a thicker consistency.

Besides having two thumbs up for char siew and curry noodles (in their menu indicating what they're good at), the thumbs up also applied to their mushroom chicken feet noodles and roast duck.

So, I gave their Roast Duck Rice @ RM8.50 (RM11.50 for drumstick) a try (I asked for duck breast).  Even though you see a poster on the wall of hot oil being used to bath the roasted duck, don't be thinking that you'd be getting crispy skin coz there'd be none.  Hmm, presentation could be better too (seems like their duck chopping skill is rather haphazard).

The meat was tender (and tasty) enough but the sauce that was poured over the duck was very herbal in nature (not a taste I particularly fancy).  I'm not very familiar with Chinese herbs (since I don't enjoy them, so I don't take the trouble to familiarise myself with them) but if I had to guess, it's probably dong guai (Chinese angelica root)! >.<

Served with white rice, I had to douse the duck slices with lots of the fresh chilli dip to mask the strong taste of the Chinese herb (a bit too pungent for me but fragrant to others).  So, this would only appeal to those who like the herbal version of roast duck (and I'm not one of them).  In the end, it's not a duck rice I'd have again as I certainly prefer the other one near me in BBQ Kong Meng (with crispy skin some more!).

On yet another trip, I tried a mix of two meat combination, Siu Yuk & Roasted Chicken @ RM8 (a two-meat combo is listed as RM8.50 in the menu, not sure if it's because they gave me breast meat or because I complained about the rice...hehe!).  This time, at least, I was happier with the (shorter) cut of siu yuk I got which looked way better than the one I had with wantan noodles.  The siu yuk skin was suitably crispy but the meat isn't quite as tender compared to others I've had before.

I should have requested for my default (preferred) cut of chicken as I ended up with all breast meat...and yikes, some pieces of the breast meat still had bones (I think their fowl handling and chopping skill needs refinement).  The chicken was ordinary tasting.  I don't understand why some roasted meat shops like to dump chicken breast on people who did not request for that cut (I've encountered this in other shops as well).  The right rationale would be to give a combination of meat cuts instead of trying to get rid of all their chicken breast (as quickly as possible on one person just because we forgot to specify the cut we wanted)! >_<

I liked that the rice had a really good dose of chicken flavour in it but it was a shame that it happened to be cooked way too soft on this occasion.  I also found some mysterious green stuff within the rice (not something I've seen with other chicken rice) which I think were green onions (it was difficult to see as they were in a very softened, almost disintegrating state).  Hmmm, is this another secret ingredient (for making chicken rice) besides ginger? ;)

The thick and frothy White Coffee @ RM3.20 was very commendable too, certainly among the better ones, and my default order here every time.  I don't know when I'll get round to trying the other coffee variations.

My Personal Opinion

*Stop Press* I can't believe my luck...there's such a good curry laksa at my doorstep!!!  I'm not fully convinced of their roasted meats (other than char siew) but it'll certainly be a place I'd return frequently for curry noodles (first and foremost) and char siew wantan mee (second in line).  That said, the rest of the roasted meat is still decent by many's standards (but the char siew is still your best bet though)! ^.^

Though prices may be just a smidge higher than some of the other roasted meat stalls, do note that the portions here are pretty generous.  I can't even finish the rice at times.

It was truly unexpected that the supporting cast of curry noodles turned out to be even better than its main cast of roasted meats (oh well, it happens sometimes...even in Hollywood!).

It may not take the crown for the best roasted meats shop in my neighbourhood.....but it certainly can be crowned the best curry laksa (even if it doesn't come with cockles)!! ^o^

Restoran Lok Zok Liu
No 29 Jalan Pandan Indah 1/22
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9202 9333

Monday, 17 June 2019

Food Prep & Freezing

I recently realised that food prep and freezing has many advantages.  It's a safe way of preserving food for consumption later and it saves you a lot of cooking time too.  And I learned that from phonghong bakes & cooks.

When life gets hectic and you're hard pressed for time to get a home-cooked meal on the table, it's wonderful to be able to reach out into the freezer and instantly reheat (steam, microwave or bake) something in a jiffy that you can eat in a matter of minutes.  Most  food can be reheated by steaming directly from their frozen state while some can be defrosted and reheated in the microwave oven.  But baked or grilled food is best thawed and reheated in the toaster oven (or oven).

If you intend to embark on this food prep and freezing thingy, you have to (first of all) invest in freezer-friendly storage containers.  Well, I don't mind at all since I love to collect (more like hoard) containers of any kind.

You can always buy a few first and then, over time, gradually add on to your collection.  I did that and I think I have a pretty sizeable collection for now...for my needs..though not quite nearly as many as phonghong has (hehe!)...but then she preps for two, I usually prep for one! ;)

Now that I have a good stock of containers, I better put these containers to good use and do some food prep and freezing with them.  But, of course, not everything taste great frozen and then defrosted, some will obviously be better than others.  Over time, by trial and error, I was able to pick out the ones which fared better frozen and eliminate those that weren't as successful.

#1 - Meat (Chicken)

One of the most ideal meat to cook and freeze is chicken.  The meat holds up immensely well frozen and doesn't lose its flavour or texture when defrosted and reheated.  I usually braise it with ginger, mushrooms or potatoes.

#1.1 - Braised Chicken with Ginger

#1.2 - Braised Chicken with Mushrooms

#1.3 - Oyster Sauce Chicken with Potatoes
The only thing you have to remember when dealing with potatoes is to undercook them as they become even softer when reheated from a frozen state.

#2 - Meat (Pork)

The other meat that's great for freezing is pork...especially if it's minced where it'll taste good even if they're not eaten in a super tender state.

#2.1 - Sweet & Sour Pork Meatballs

(for recipe, click here)

#2.2 - Luncheon Meat with Potato, Egg & Green Beans

(for recipe, click here)

#3 - Meat (Beef)

I won't choose dishes like stir-fry beef (or pork) for freezing coz this is best eaten when the meat is tender to the bite.  Those that require the meat to be minced or in sauces are more suitable for freezing.

#3.1 - Minced Beef Bolognese

Tomato-based pasta sauces (with either minced pork, beef or chicken) are really good for freezing.  All that's needed is to boil up some pasta and you can have spaghetti bolognese, pronto (for recipe, click here).

#4 - Vegetables

I initially thought that vegetables wouldn't be ideal as I felt they won't stand up to freezing and reheating.  How wrong I was.  I was most impressed at how well some of them took to freezing.

#4.1 Stir-Fry Green Beans with Minced Pork

(for recipe, click here)

#4.2 - Potatoes with Mushrooms, Beancurd Puffs & Onions

#4.3 - Fried Turnip with Shredded Carrot & Dried Cuttlefish

This dish is extremely ideal for food prep as their flavours get even better after being kept (for recipe, click here).

#4.4  Sauteed Eggplant with Minced Pork

#4.5 - Wong Nga Pak (Chinese Cabbage) Stir-Fry

The key thing to remember is to choose vegetables that taste good when eaten in a soft state (like the selections above) and not vegetables that need to be eaten with a crunch.

#4.6 - Stir-Fry Yin Choy with Garlic

I actually thought green leafy vegetables weren't a suitable candidate for freezing until I tried it once with yin choy.  We know that green vegetables tend to turn yellow if covered right after cooking while they're still hot.  So, make sure they're cooled before covering and storing in the freezer.

I was amazed at the results of my experimentation with yin choy.  The first photo (on the left) showed the vegetables in their frozen state.  The upper right hand photo was after thawing...still green.  The lower right hand photo was after reheating...and amazingly it still retains its vibrant green colour!  The conclusion is...if you can do it with yin choy, you can pretty much do it with any green leafy vegetable but choose only those which taste good eaten soft.

#4.7 - Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower & Capsicum

Any vegetables (or potatoes) that are roasted or baked is totally perfect for freezing as well.  Great as a salad on its own or as a side vegetable with a protein (for recipe, click here).

#4.8 - Roasted Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes

Any kind of potatoes is welcomed as a side dish (for recipe, click here).

#4.9 - Cottage Pie

I reheat baked and grilled food by thawing them first before reheating them in my toaster oven (for recipe, click here).

#5 - Egg

#5.1 - Fried Omelette with Minced Pork & Scallions

Eggs (especially omelettes) keep very well frozen.  You can make your omelette with any filling you like.  Simply defrost and stick it into the toaster oven to reheat.

#6 - Soups

Soups are good for freezing too, after all, we make broth and freeze them all the time for use in our cooking.  If I had to freeze clear soups (especially when there are leftovers), I'd choose those vegetables which can withstand freezing and become softer like radish, salted vegetable or lotus root.

#6.1 - Vegetables & Tomato Soup

And I love to store frozen soups in my freezer as they come in real handy when I want something warm on a cold, rainy evening (for recipe, click here).

#7 - Rice

I keep leftover plain rice in the freezer, so, in the same context, any kind of cooked rice is also desirable for freezing.

#7.1 - Fried Rice

#7.2 - Claypot Chicken Rice

Whether self-cooked or otherwise...hehe!

So, thanks to phonghongbakes & cooks for inspiring me to do food prep and freezing, I now do this quite frequently.  Though what you can have may be somewhat limited (as not all food is tasty when thawed and reheated), there are still some good choices available if you make your selections wisely.  For even more ideas on food prep, you can refer to her blog posts here, here, here, herehere and here.

I think meat dishes work best when prepped for freezing.  I wouldn't recommend seafood for freezing though I've not attempted it myself.  You can try but I prefer to eat fish, prawns and squid when they're freshly cooked.

The next time you cook, you might want to make extra for freezing.  It's great to be able to rummage through your freezer and have something that you can reheat at a moment's notice.  I find it really convenient on days when I'm too lazy to cook or don't wish to go out and eat.  There's nothing better than having dinner on speed-dial, don't you think? ^_~

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