Friday, October 30, 2009

Asam Laksa



If you are a Malaysian, you will definitely know what is Asam Laksa. It's a soup based noodle that tastes sourish, spicy and sweet. Asam literally means tamarind in English and Laksa refers to the thick rice noodles. The ingredients consist of laksa noodles, shredded mackeral fish, sliced cucumbers, onions, chillies, pineapples, mint leaves and sweet thick shrimp paste. As you can guess from the ingredients, the dish pretty much include the entire gamut of taste sensations, although it is dominantly spicy and sour. If you like your Laksa to be more zesty you can always squeeze in more lime, which is usually provided (as shown in the picture above, on the spoon).

I am always on the look out for good Asam Laksa and fortunately in Malaysia, there are no short of restaurants or hawker centers that offers a variety of tasty and unique blends, some with slightly different ratios of sourness and spiciness.

These pictures were taken at a Hawker center in Cheras, KL. The stall is operated by a middle-age gentleman and for RM 4.00, the ingredients are pretty generous. I'd say as far as KL goes, this is one of my favourite Asam Laksa stall.

If you like to give it a try, you can find the stall at these coordinates in google maps: 3.082721,101.737056



Fishy goodness.


Pineapples

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bukit Tinggi Trip

Last Friday we took half a day off to visit Bukit Tinggi (literally means Tall Hill in Malay), some sort of highland resort but unlike Genting Highlands or Cameron Highlands, is nowhere as high or as cold.

Years ago, the resort was opened with much fanfare, introducing it's French and Japanese themed tourist spots as the main attractions. So, we thought it's time we pay a visit to check out what the hype is all about.

Although technically located in Pahang, the place is rather near to KL, about 30-40 km from where I live via the MRR2 expressway. However, after going past the unguarded guardhouse, we have to drive for another 20 minutes through a narrow and winding road before reaching the drive-thru ticket booths.



What could have inspired such an explicit warning?

There are four main areas that we wanted to visit: the Colmar Tropicale, Botanical Garden, Japanese Village and a rabbit farm. The RM 10 ticket purchased at the ticket booth includes the entrance for everything except the rabbit farm, which we found out was actually located before the ticket booth.

Colmar Tropicale
The Colmar Tropicale was inspired by the 16th Century Colmar Village in Alsace, France, except it is located in the middle of a tropical forest (hence "tropicale"). There are French themed architectures, carnival stalls and restaurants inside the village and, believe it or not, an arcade center.


The entrance.



French building lookalikes does not a French village make.


Cuckoo Clock Tower.


To mildly put it, it was an underwhelming experience. Giving your restaurants Frenchy names and installing French-like buildings, or even asking your hotel reception staffs to wear French themed uniforms, does not make it a French village. The least you could do is get some people to walk around or man the stalls in French period costumes and maybe, just maybe, speak with an European accent. And where are the mimes?!

Botanical Garden
First of all, we're pretty displeased at the fact that we need to take a 10 minutes hike by foot up a ridiculously steep hill because for some reason, they won't let us drive into the area even though there are perfectly legitimate and empty parking bays up there. The botanical garden is located halfway up the slope, before the Japanese village. It might be associated with the village as there is a Japanese restaurant in the garden.


The entrance.



The botanical garden and it's botanical...things.

At first, the garden looks promising, with a nice pond and a small stream running across the entrance path. Then, as we venture deeper, it begins to appear like a garden in the middle of a jungle, except the plants are labeled with their scientific names. Honestly, we were fully expecting to encounter a wild tiger in there, probably with its scientific name on a tag around its' neck.

Japanese Village
Like it's namesake, a Zen garden-like path leads into the Japanese village features a Japanese tea house and small shack. There are also a small stream and a customary Koi pond. At the entrance was a large signboard outside that awkwardly announces that this is "the world's first Japanese tea house in a tropical forest"!


The tea house



In case you are curious, I think this stream is artificial.

Oddly, we weren't allowed to enter the tea house and they were peddling boxes of green tea satchets which I could've bought from the supermarket for a cheaper price. Other than that, the Japanese Village is by far the best place of the three even though it is relatively the smallest. I would like to say that the Japanese Village alone is worth the ticket price, but the Colmar Tropicale and Botanical Garden left a bad taste in my mouth.

Rabbit farm
The rabbit farm was an afterthought because we only remembered to visit it while on our way back.


Itchy rabbits.


Kung Fu Storks

There were only three other people in the farm, and one of them was a farm keeper. The ticket counter was unoccupied, so we simply waltzed in and nobody seemed to mind. Other than the rabbits, there were also storks, donkeys and deers...you know, like a zoo. It was fortunate we did not pay for the entry, the place was practically deserted and was looked literally like a poorly maintained farm than a tourist attraction.

The Verdict
First of all, we visited the place on a Friday morning, so that might explain the lack of other visitors / tourists. But I can't help but feel that what made Bukit Tinggi famous in the first place is no longer there, as if the place has suffered from a budget slash yet there is a new hotel under construction there. If you're planning a visit, you might have better luck on weekends where there might be a crowd to lift the ghost town vibe, perhaps making it easier to ignore the shortcomings that plagues the resort.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Winter Melon Dessert

Over the weekend, we finally picked the first winter melon from the garden.



We have tried a winter melon dessert in the past and we enjoyed it so much, my youngest sister, who we nicknamed Furball, suggested that she make the dessert again. Of course, we were only too keen to agree.

The preparation of the dessert began by slicing off the top part of the winter melon. The part that was removed was set aside first. The core of the winter melon was then removed together with the seeds.


The core and seeds were removed simply by scooping it out with a spoon.




The ingredients: white rock sugars and dried longans were then placed inside the hollowed core. There are no set rule as to how much you should put in, it is entirely up to your own preference and of course, the size of the winter melon.


The white, translucent bits are the rock sugars.

Next, we filled the core with water and closed it with the top of the melon that was removed earlier. The melon was then wrapped in aluminium foil to prevent water/vapour to come into contact with the winter melon during the double boiling process.


The melon was actually completely wrapped instead of an open top like this.

The melon was then left to cook for about 4 hours.


Fresh from the pot.

Lastly, we scooped out the flesh together with the contents and transferred them to a bowl, ready to be served. Furball said that it is best served cold along with canned longans.



This winter melon dessert is known to help clear the heat and toxins from your body, as well as improve metabolism. But best of all, it tastes heavenly!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

A fist full of hare



There are almost as many pets in my home as there are people. We have four dogs, sometimes six when 4E needs to sit for her friend's two dogs.

About 7 months ago, we added a rabbit to the family. Due to our lack of experience in naming rabbits, he was eventually named...Rabbit.

Rabbit came to us as a one week old baby:


We love to hold him like this in our hands and go all gaga over the him.

When he was about one month old, we discovered that he was shedding fur excessively, especially around the feet where the skin has become crusty and flaky, courtesy of mite infestation. After a couple of agonizing months and three vets later, on top of 4E's unwavering patience and TLC (not to mention hundreds of $$ in vet fees), he was finally cured.


Note the crusty hind feet.

Today, Rabbit has grown up to become a handsome young furball.

He is a pretty moody bunny, and not very fond of wood shavings.

Embarrassingly, we always thought that HE was a SHE until a few weeks ago, when his male parts begin to emerge from his fur.

In the past couple of months, Rabbit has become 4E's favourite furry companion. In fact, my sisters and I have often lamented that Rabbit feeds better than us, which might not be an exaggeration.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mint Condition

While I'm no expert in gardening, I do like to plant something now and then. The picture below are the mints I planted today. Not sure what type of mint, spearmint perhaps?


You're not suppose to take pictures with front on angles like this, so I am told. But anyway....


Another batch my sister planted some time ago.

On another note, the chilies that I am attempting to grow seems to be dying (again). If you have any tips as to how I can salvage them, please let me know!


Weed, formerly known as Chili.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Banana Split

I am bananas about bananas (har har...). But this is rare, even for me...




a banana with a cleavage.

As a Chinese folklore goes: Girls who eat twin bananas may give birth to Siamese twins. I sometimes think that this is all a big conspiracy to let the guys have more of the bananas! Haha...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wonton Noodles

On Sunday morning, I went out for brunch with friends. Not wanting to spend another meal eating fast food, we decided on the next best alternative given the location that we were at (near Cheras Leisure Mall, KL), a Wantan Mee specialty restaurant.



Wonton noodles, also known as wantan mee to locals, is a popular Cantonese noodle dish in Asian countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore. As the name suggests, the dish consists of the noodle and the wontons, which is the name of a kind of Chinese dumpling that contains prawn or meat. The dish is usually garnished with leafy vegetables and char siew (roasted pork).


The bowl of soup on the farside of the noodle plate contain the Wantans. The reddish meat on the top of the noodles are the Char Siew. The beverage on the side is what Malaysians call the "Michael Jackson". Don't ask why.

As far as Wantan Mee goes, the noodles are suitably chewy but a bit too sticky for my liking. The Char Siews are the usual fare, if not slightly overburnt. What makes this serving special are the prawn Wantans, which are larger than the usual ones you'll find elsewhere.

As I have forgotten to shoot a close up of the Wantan, here's a makeshift illustration of it's size:


What a Wantan looks like (from Wikimedia.com).


The size of the Wantan I had.

If you have never tried this dish before because you do not reside in any of the aforementioned countries, I wholeheartedly recommend that you seek out your local Chinatown and see if they have any stalls or restaurants that offers it. If you have and you live in KL, this restaurant offers an adequate tastebud experience, although I'm sure there are better ones in town.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thorny Delight

Some have called it the most offensive thing mother nature has to offer. Some have claimed that the smell can repel an invading army of angry barbarians (if that fails, you can still cause major damage by throwing the shells at them). But there is no denying that it is one of the most popular food in this part of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the "King of Fruits"... the Durian.

If you are not familiar with this controversial produce, the Durian is a popular fruit in the tropical South East Asia. In countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, most locals have gotten used to the peculiar yet endearing odour of this fruit. However, most foreigners seem to find it an acquired taste at best and outright disgusting at worst.

Regardless of how people think of it, the thorny green exterior and the golden mushy meat inside never fails to make me salivate everytime I see / smell it. Since now is the Durian season, I was blessed with the pleasure of enjoying this delightful fruit again.

Here are a couple of pictures to share with you:


The thorny shell makes the Durian notoriously difficult to handle.


Durian..glorious Durian!



Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm meant to be.....

The other day I was taking a peep at Oprah.com as I usually do now and then. At the O Magazine section, I stumbled upon this personality test "Who Am I Meant To Be". Basically, the test claims to help you identify your dominant personality, allowing you to embrace the personality and the associated style to make the most out of your life.

After clicking through 7 or 8 pages of questions, I was given this conclusion:

STRIVING TO BE CREATIVE
You scored: 19
You are an artist: You came out of the womb with a paintbrush in your hand. Or maybe it was a flute or a castanet or a fountain pen to go with your poet's imagination. The point is, you're an original, and you know it. Even if you don't have a singular gift, you're drawn to the arts—anything creative, for that matter—and you have a unique way of looking at the world. Your need for depth and authenticity in relationships can lead to both great joy and profound sorrow, depending on whether others reciprocate. You don't care so much about adapting to group or societal expectations; your independence and sharp intuition propel you on your own path.

What to watch out for: When fear of conformity overrides your creativity, you can assume the role of "outsider" or "orphan" and end up feeling alienated. You may even go so far as refusing to vote or pay taxes. This lone-wolf stance might be a defense against feeling vulnerable. Try to be aware that blaming others for your banishment, or pushing away those who want to get close, only makes things worse. Also, dramatizing your emotions can interfere with your creativity.

Looking ahead: As long as you genuinely express yourself, you feel like the person you were meant to be. How you do it is irrelevant. A chef or architect can be as much of an artist as a painter or sculptor. Many advertising and public relations executives are also highly imaginative. Beyond work, there are opportunities everywhere you look to coax out your inner artist: Design your own jewelry line, create an innovative blog, dream up a comic strip. Relationships are another avenue for self-expression.


The test also assigned scores that represent your inclination to the other 6 "striving styles".

Personally, I think, like most other personality tests, the results are a bit generalized. However, the test seems to mitigate that fact by stating that most people have 2 or more dominant personalities. Hence, if you feel that the other "striving styles" are also applicable to you, it doesn't mean that the test is inaccurate. Brilliant.

If you would like to find out what is your "striving style", point your browser here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Best of 4E

My eldest sister, nicknamed 4E is our home's resident baking pioneer. She bakes every recipe that she can get her hands on; cookies, pies, cakes...etc.

Basically, there are two versions to her food; the healthy ones and the less healthy ones.
The healthy ones use natural and wholesome ingredients, whereas the less healthy versions are...well, less natural and wholesome. Most of the times, of course, the less healthy ones taste better... :P

She is one of those few people in this world who doesn't taste her own products. But I must say, some of the cakes and cookies are exquisitely delicious!

If you have never baked a cake before, let me tell you, there are a lot of work involved. You need to buy the ingredients from the store; weigh them on the scale; incorporate them together which usually will be much easier to do if you have all the high-tech machines; and the worst of all, cleaning and washing all the greasy utensils which sometimes need a few washes to get rid of the oil and butter. Just thinking about it makes me tired.

Here are some pictures of her pastries that I pilfered from her mobile phone:









Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Banana Omelette Anyone?




I was hungry and wanted to make something different to eat, but I have had limited ingredients to choose from, namely, a banana.


Together with the other ingredients that I managed to muster.
Hence, Banana + milk + eggs = Banana Omelette

This was how I incorporate them into a dish:


mix the eggs and milk

Depending on your personal preference, you can choose to put in salt or sugar or both, together with a bit of pepper.

If you are health conscious, you can choose not to put in salt or sugar at this stage. The natural sweetness from the banana will do. If you want it to be sweeter, just put in more bananas.

Whisk the ingredients together, heat up the pan, put a bit of oil and pour in the mixture.


Next, arrange the sliced bananas on top however you like it.

Since I was not bothered to put it into the oven, I just flipped the omelette over.


"the other side"


bon app├ętit!