Thursday, November 26, 2009

Personality Test at Kar Heong, Subang

Partaking in a simple meal can make radical changes to perception, offering invaluable insights to a new character beyond the possibilities of Myers-Briggs.

He ordered Siu Yoke (Roast Pork). And ate every last sliver of porcine fat on the plate. with relish. Yes this could be LOVE.

He asked for the hor fun with prawn wantan to be replaced with blah yellow noodles. But horfun rules in this joint! What would compel a person to go with insipid yellow noodles over the silky smooth hor fun? I raised a mental eyebrow but refrained from being too judgemental. This is as much a personality outing for me as it is for him.

I stuck to hor fun and I was smugly pleased. Rice noodles coated with lardy love, chives and spring onion. He remained unimpressed. Hmmm...Stubborn, much? Score to Kar Heong, none to him.

The dumplings spoke to me in volumes. I needed a slam dunk and this was it! Check out the size of the prawns involved.

And when it comes down to it, aren't the concealed fillings all that matter?

A meal at Kar Heong isn't going to deliver all the answers about a person but it does bring you one slice of fatty siu yoke closer to the truth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pork and Beer Health Boost at Nonbei, Hartamas

I had been plagued with a series of physicial ailments and dining out seemed like a distant concept. So when it came to catching up with Fat Tulip one night, I was happy to just jump in his car and go with whatever came up.

We arrived at Nonbei in Desa Sri Hartamas with little expectations, other than some mid-week recuperation in familar company. Like Asahi, poured into Sapporo glasses. This must surely be blasphemy in certain quarters but we didn't complain.

The staff were very helpful in offering recommendations from the izakaya-like menu but we insisted on groping along. But we did succumb to the suggestion of the Buta shabu salad (Boiled pork slices with salad) to our favour. It arrived a hearty serving of greens and slices of marginally fatty pork, in wafu dressing. I was happy enough with this. We had also ordered the potato salad but it was so unremarkable and forgotten before the first beer was downed.

Then came the question about pork - there was the deep fried black pork, the braised pork and the grilled pork and each one of those spoke to us in volumes. Alas, there were only two of us, both highly prone to widening girths. We settled for Buta Miso Tsuke Yaki (Grilled pork with miso), which proved to be a sound choice. Very tender slices of fatty pork, thoroughly seeped in marinade and grilled slowly over a slow fire, sweet to the bite and absolutely lovely with beer.

He insisted on Salmon kawa (Salmon skin crispy crackers) only to be disappointed that they arrived not much more than flavoured rice crackers.

The twinskewers of Asupara Bacon (Bacon-rolled asparagus) and Enoki Bacon (Bacon-rolled enoki mushrooms) were fatty, juicy, tons of fun!

We sat and watched the very accommodating waitresses tend to a healthy traffic of middle-aged male Japanese patrons and wondered if we had somehow stumbled unwittingly into KL's version of a kyabakura. Eventually, as the evening wore on, we decided we were severely misplaced and paid the RM163 for the two of us, which covered the meal and a couple of rounds of beers.

Nonbei is celebrating its anniversary this Wednesday, 25th November 2009 by offering a RM110++ deal for all-you-can-eat (drinks up till 10PM). For reservations, call Fiona at 03-6201 6771.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Keep it Simple Stupid, Hai Onn Reminds

Hai Onn made it to the top of my to-eat list during my last Penang trip, after repeated reminders from the island quarters of its nostalgic charm, the way real old Penang used to be before it too became all about colossal malls and grotesque "beautification" projects.

We had been warned that service here was notoriously slow, on account of the kitchen & floor team of largely octogenarians, whose pace of life remained staunchly pre-war.

We arrived just a little after noon, hoping to beat the lunch crowd and hopefully keep the waiting time to under an hour. While we waited for the white-haired auntie to shuffle slowly to the back of the kitchen to shout out our orders, the resident Lor Bak stall, already fired up, kept the anxiety & hunger pangs away. The fried tofu cubes were remarkably silky and palatable. A very well-prepared plate of goodies.

To evade Mom's questions about my current love life at the table, I went around checking out the vintage nooks and crannies around the shop. Fittings like these historical electric switches practically commanded a kind of reverential salute.

After about 30 minutes, the Roti Babi arrived. Hai Onn's version was the real deal, packed full of the turnip-carrot-shrooms-and-pork filling heavily accented by five spice. None of the halal sort that you would find at Senior Citizens' or Chinese Recreation Club, the other two places in Penang that immediately came to mind.

Shortly after, the Chicken Chop arrived, the crunchy egg batter languishing in simmering gravy. The sight of this excited me to no end, but to be perfectly honest, the taste hardly justified the wait or the anticipation. This was rather colourless as a dish, the gravy plain starchy and paltry.

Same deal with the Pork Chop which featured tough, overcooked, underseasoned pork tenderloin and same monotonous gravy. We discussed our disappointment later and figured that the simple taste of yesteryears probably got hopelessly lost on our spoilt and over-fostered tastebuds, much like the haphazard development blueprints for the island. Either that or the octogenarians are losing it!

The Hokkien Char looked handsome, but again tasted as dull as hospital food. Struggled to finish this and eventually gave up.

The Sambal Kangkung was the only dish that arrived with too much flavouring. In fact, it was wayyyy too spicy and salty that it ended up a nice pairing to the weak noodles.

Despite being a generally mediocre meal, I was glad to have paid a visit. I hope it sticks around for generations to come, if only to remind Penang what potential it once had, as the rest of the island sinks into utter disrepair playing catch-up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Return of the Bride, Vishal's Brickfields

Vishal in Brickfields had been unknown to foolishly ignorant me until one recent sunny Sunday morning, on the occasion of the return of our lovely (and soon to be blushing bride) Li Ann, back from her working holiday stint in the UK, tightly escorted by strapping groom-to-be Benji.

Li Ann and the disgustingly fit Benji, fresh from walking the Terry Fox run, jumped into my car and provided directions down the narrow streets to Jalan Scott, where Vishal's occupied the unassuming lot opposite the temple.

The immediate word that came to mind when we entered was "mess hall", in its most charming interpretation. Most of the dining seats in the house were lined up on one side of the long tables to minimise traffic obstruction. Not the best for a five-way conversation so we were lucky to secure one of the few regular 4-seater tables.

As soon as the rice and vegetables were heaped onto our individual leaves, I knew this was no regular BLR joint, what with the gorgeous shades of greens and reds. Like Christmas almost! Li Ann explained that Benji favoured Vishal's for its heady curries. I watched transfixed as the staff splashed fish curry & dhal on mine, all the while muttering "banjir, banjir."

Benji knew his curries all right. The curries here were not as viscous as Kavitha's but it was certainly no less commanding. We were stunned into silence for a few minutes while we paid respect to the blazing spread in front of us before we resumed firing questions about her Continental adventures.

The Poppadum and stuffed chillies took some time to arrive. I am a staunch devotee of the freeform style poppadum rather over the square cracker variety but it's a trivial flaw so will let it pass. Still crazy crunchy even when mixed in with all that soggy rice.

Riz also got the curious-looking minced sharkmeat & egg dish, nicely flavoured with spices and curry leaves. I had long-standing misgivings about sharkmeat but this was a nice, albeit dry repeal.

We finished with Rassam, sour and substantial, not the watered down variety to which I had been wrongfully inducted. I shall forever repent for pooh-poohing this digestive after BLR, for this prevented me from a melancholic, would've-been highly regrettable nap that same afternoon.

Welcome Back Li Ann, and may this be the start of another wonderful adventure right here at home!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Tasty Hall of Shame in Penang!

Just a quick one to showcase my personal Hall of Shame over the weekend in my lovely hometown Penang - after copious amount of alcohol with some lovely folks, we proceeded to do what inebriated souls do best apart from drunk-dialling/texting/tweeting and emotional outbursts... eating!!

We headed to Green House ("Cheh Chu"), perennial favourite supper stop along Burmah Road. I don't recall having been back here since C&C Music Factory was the biggest act on the charts ("Everybodddy Dance Now!")! Mei Shean, having just consumed pasta at watering hole earlier, ordered an extra-lite serving of beancurd, shrooms and pork balls from Beng Kee Bak Kut Teh. She struggled, understandably, and my barmy appetite, released inevitably by Penang, dove in to lend a helping hand.

My Hokkien Mee from the stately stall parked on the shopfront arrived with my slurred orders to add fishballs (fishballs?? I don't even LIKE fishballs) and pork ribs! Fiery, porky and powerful! I was wide awake once this bowl went down, fish balls and every last drop of the lovely broth.

Got my second wind for the night so after bidding my earlier companions goodbye, I raced over to Chulia Street to meet Jenny and Mel having a chinwag at Banana, one of the numerous backpacker joints over some beer. I didn't want to drink anymore and in my intoxicated wide-eyed restlessness, immediately eyeballed the Ramly burger stall parked outside. Rallied the other two to join me in approaching the rather stoic-looking guy working the grill and although rather full at this point, I ordered the Double Chicken Burger with Egg. This was a glorious mess, overflowing with mayo and ketchup but regret set in only after I finished every last crumb.

I paid for this binge dearly, kept up by indigestion all night! Reminder of why I had forsaken the post-drinking munchies for so long... they're deadly!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Steamy Comfort & More from Pho Hoa, Tropicana City Mall

One particular Saturday, I had wanted to push myself a little beyond my usual repertoire of hungover hibernation so I lined up appointments back to back, only to find myself constantly out of breath and running late from one place to another. I arrived late at Pho Hoa, second stop of the evening, for a review, courtesy of invitation from Sidney from Big Boys Oven.

I had actually been to the Pho Hoa outlet at the Curve about a year ago and walked out sorely disappointed by the meal then. Everything I had expected from a Vietnamnese bowl of noodles - the steamy, fragrant broth, interspersed with the delicate assortment of fresh herbs, bestowing the comfort of old, seasoned kitchens - did not materialise. In fact, the meal consisted of two dreary bowls of limp rice noodles swimming in LUKEWARM flavourless broth. Needless to say, when the invitation came to visit its new outlet at Tropicana City Mall, I was curious to see if this was going to be a repeat of that insipid experience.

We were served a selection of their three appetizers (sold separately) consisting of deep fried Vietnamnese spring roll, lemongrass chicken and fish cake. Even though the spring roll appeared the most pedestrian, I found the flavours interesting because it wasn't your standard radish filling. Found out later from the manager Dennis that the filling was a mix of minced chicken, yam and carrots. I tasted anise too, along with a host of other spices.

The standard Vietnamnese rice spring rolls, served with a sauce that was heavy on the fish sauce. This was alright but I've had better.

I requested for the Pho Ga or Chicken noodle soup, since I didn't do beef. With my last Pho Hoa experience clearly in mind, I really appreciated that this time, the rice noodles were cooked just right, still offering plenty of bite and spring. This was served with a hot chilli sauce which I learned was to be dumped into the bowl from the start, together with the raw bean sprouts and basil.

Next came individual bowls of Bun Ga Nuong, grilled chicken served with plenty of fresh vegetables, crushed peanuts and vermicelli, with a light fish sauce-based dipping sauce. I would have liked to enjoy more of this but by this time, had consumed almost three quarters of the full bowl of chicken pho that I had to leave this unfinished.

The beverages:
Vietnamnese Coffee, served in the single-cup filter. Some of the others at the table enjoyed this enough for seconds.

When asked for recommendation to quench this out-of-this-world thirst I had acquired from earlier studio session, Pho Hoa's staff pointed to the Salty Plum Soda. It worked!

Some went for Blended Avocado Juice. I can't be sure what the blend was but it sure looked a shade too yellow to be pure avocado.

Apart from the generous portions which were more than enough to keep me going for the next couple of appointments until the wee hours, I was also pleased to find that the earlier experience at the Curve's outlet was not entirely representative of Pho Hoa's potential. Also discovered a couple of other hits on its menu, beyond just noodle soup.

Pho Hoa's outlet at Tropicana City Mall is located on the first floor, on the Borders' end of the mall.

Thank you to Dennis and team for hosting and to Sidney once again for the invite!