Wednesday, February 25, 2009

BB Ho Steamboat, Bandar Puteri Puchong

Never been a big fan of steamboat, never quite got the point of it! All that steam, in this tropical heat, just so we can wait for our food to cook while the pores on our skin enlarge. But it was a chilly Sunday evening, after a downpour in KL, so I was game for anything, really.

I am ashamed to say that this is my first foray into Puchong, despite knowing that it's quite the destination for some pretty good food. BB Ho Steamboat, once again pulled out from H's hat of unexpected tricks, is located in Bandar Puteri Puchong.

I arrived late, thanks to missing the right turn into Bandar Puteri. The others were tucking in with great relish, around the centrepiece of one bubbling pot filled with enoki mushrooms, pork & fish balls and other goodies. OK, so it didn't really look the insipid vat of MSG-flavoured water that I was expecting. The others could barely tear themselves away from chewing to mumble hello.

The hot mess that is steamboat - food overcooked beyond recognition. If you can swallow it, consider it edible! Here, we have a sampling of (from bottom left clockwise) fish noodle, a corner triangle of tofu, cabbage, fish, strings of yee mee, bean curd sheets, yam, all dunked in very tasty soup. THe presence of MSG, however, cannot be denied.

Prized possessions - two prawns, such a lovely shade of crustacean coral! All mine!

The battle of the ladles!

We amused ourselves by watching egg cook in a ladle.

While it's the jewel in the heart of the princess precinct, BB Ho is not the most ideal place to catch up with friends over all that steamboat din. Within an hour, the steam had died, the last of the droopy yee mee left to float lifelessly in the pot, signalling time for us to take our leave. Not ready to call it a night, we adjourned to nearby Thirty Two bar & restaurant, dark, conversation-friendly and best of all, varied menu of alcoholic beverages!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend transition at Porto Romano, Mont Kiara

Friday evening: In the mood to reward ourselves for having made through the working week and to begin our homage to weekends, but not in the mood to jostle with like-minded folks congregating at shopping malls or dining & entertainment hubs.

Porto Romano in Mont Kiara fitted the bill, a very choice suggestion by H. It stood in stately isolation next to Wendy's in front of Mont Kiara Banyan condominum, a safe distance away from the mob at Hartamas and Solaris. I even found parking right in front of the restaurant!
H was very accommodating to my wine palate for the evening - even though she was primarily a red drinker, we settled for Furia's Sauvignon Blanc (RM99++). Medium-bodied, too, too easy to go down, best of the limited experience I've had with Argentinian wine.

We decided to split entree and mains. Porto Romano's Seafood Soup arrived, gorgeously red and earthy, featuring prawns, squid and clams. Thoroughly delightful and refreshing, it paved the way for the heavier pizza that arrived within seconds of the soup.

Our smoked salmon & egg pizza. It sounded light, looked light but it was anything but light. I was struggling before we were halfway through, and resorted to copious swigs of the lovely wine to bring it down. The raw egg was cracked in the centre of the pie, left to slowly half-cook on the heat of the pizza, already rich with plenty of mozzarella and generous chunks of smoked salmon. It was an interesting, hearty combination, but we could have probably done with two slices less each.

With the food out of the way and the last drop of our bottle drained, we were still not quite ready to make our move into the weekend. So we settled back with another glass each of the house pouring, to seal in further Porto Romano's sumptuos flavours of the Mediterranean and complete our transition from working slaves into weekend wine vessels.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fit noodle & fat relief, Canton-I, Gardens Mid Valley

Mid-working week brings the blues, particularly when dealing with the aftermath of a season of languor. Comfort food, at whatever price, brings relief.

Given the timing, conversation with ex-colleague invariably steers towards the ill-health of the economic environment and lacklustre life prospects in general. Only the camaraderie and comfort food can uplift.

Canton-I's Japanese fatty braised pork with its signature skinny wantan noodles saves the day. Check out that cut of meat, flavour-packed and laced with tender slivers of diet-defying fat and soft bone.

Shanice's soupy craving was answered by noodles in steaming, clear soup, with fat juicy wantans to refuel her tiny frame.

Over-priced drinks - lemony tea concoction dribbled over crushed ice at RM8 and soy bean milk at a little less.

Sure a meal that simple could've cost us less, and we could've done away with the annoying presence of flies that demanded our attention, but for this particular mid-week, Canton-I delivered safely.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Keeping the faith, Little India, Penang

The morning after jubilant Thaipusam took the roads of Penang, it was time for Memo's annual pilgrimage to the temple of Banana Leaf Rice at Sri Ananda Bahwan in Little India.

Nothing much tops the excitement upon having the leaf placed in front of you, a blank canvas of the most organic, aromatic faith.

The best vegetarian meal one could ask for, really.

Fried bitter gourd, a tad too battered for me.

Our misstep of the day. This vegetarian cauliflower dish was rather bland and uninteresting and this humble serving (for 3 pax allegedly) came up to RM10.50.

The original Sri Ananda Bahwan, not at all like the suburban flavours served up at its sister outlet in Tanjung Bungah.

We spied at the corner of nearby King Street a stall serving up some deep fried goodies for the hot, sleepy afternoon ahead.

On the way home, we chanced upon the lovely local sakura tree (botanic nomenclature unidentified), which flowers all but once every 12 months, in full bloom. These sakura trees are rare to come by; we spotted this at Jalan Loh Boon Siew, off Burmah Road (before the turnoff to Chinese Recreation Club).

We round up our afternoon out, sinking our teeth into crunchy, greasy vegetarian samosa, our guts sated and our individual faiths restored.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tasty treats from the greener sides of the fence

There is one thing this time of the year is good for, amidst the insane heat and traffic in hometown Penang, encounters with rellies and the depressing rapid-fire marital status 20-question check-in, compensatory gorging which quickly sinks one into further recession. This is the only time my two beloved sisters, Mag and Memo, return from faraway lands to complete the family entourage, bearing treats and tales, to a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs".
We know Malaysia, our motherland, is magnificent land of options and opportunities. And so much good food! Yet recent events in middle Malaysia once again tests the patience of those left behind in the move out of the country. And once again, all things foreign start to look greener, tastier, sweeter, fairer, better and well, cooler.

First up from Japan is Ran-chi Pakku (or Lunch pack). Never mind them singing toilets and speech-enabled robots, I still rate this as one of the greatest inventions from the land of consumerist cool. And yes, it's merely a sandwich with the humblest of fillings...

...but get THIS! The sides of fluffy white bread are sealed off so each sandwich looks like a pillow, with choice filling (in this case, egg mayo) nestled WITHIN. No leaks, no lost filling, no mess! I call this the pillow sandwich and it's available at all convenience stores on every corner of the streets in Japan, in a wide variety of fillings. And here we continue our struggle to find a decent, sandwich bar with prices that realistically reflect the average Malaysian income levels.

One of the Japanese New Year goodies is mochi (rice cakes) which are pre-packaged in dried slabs. Pop into the toaster oven for about 3 minutes and it puffs up into shapeless cakes, crisp on the outside and gooey awesomeness on the inside.

To be fair, we do have a decent variety of Jap snacks available here. But somehow this hasn't been picked up as export merch, or not as far as I'm aware. This is Mame Mochi (soy bean rice cracker). I like that it's not as salty as most Jap rice cracker variants in the market and those crunchy soy beans elevate this above a boring cracker.
From NZ comes a different breed of treats. Admittedly, there's not much food-wise I miss about NZ but the wine, oh the wine! With the exception of perhaps Cloudy Bay, NZ wines are sorely under-marketed here. So when Memo returns once a year, she lugs a couple of bottles back, gamely risking the scrutiny of Tuan & Puan Imigresen.
Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2008. The palest straw in colour, it somehow offers clarity upon the first sip. Is good. Is very good.

Memo also brought some other lovely gourmet goodies like macadamia oil and dukka but Kato's aioli brings back some memories - specifically of bread and aioli, chips and aioli, potato crisps and aioli, celery sticks and aioli, aioli and aioli...

The tastiest treat to land on our shores ever, baby Ollie who turns one very soon! Too bad we can't eat this one. Yet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cheap and cheerful in Teluk Bahang

Before we surrendered our sluggish constitutions the next few hours to the coastline of Balik Pulau, we stopped to refuel and help my two inebriated buddies sober up from the night before. Nothing like a cheap, substantial Malaysian breakfast to help you through a gruelling hike while emanating stale alcoholic fumes.
Restoran Ibrahim in Teluk Bahang beckons, right before the final stretch of the road to the gateway of our hike.

Plain canai, a sight of comfort, all grease and kuah, limp to the tastebuds though.

Roti planta came with sugar against MS' delicate savoury hangover craving.

I spied purveyors of pork, unabashedly Chinese and muhibbah, in the vicinity of very halal Restoran Ibrahim.

Wantan mee, fat noodles, fat wantans in fatty caramel sauce - why does fat in food make us so happy yet not so when it makes its way to our thighs? Why can't our love for fat be non-discriminatory? Wantans were all pork (yay!), no prawns (boo!) yielding schizophrenic approval.

Same stall also dished up Penang koay teow th'g, clear and quite inspid, a far cry from the chu yuk fun (pork noodles) in KL that I've grown to love.

Nothing outstanding but breakfast choices in this part of the town were scarce, so no complaints or whinges necessary. Tummies full and hangovers subdued, we ambled along seeking our Vitamin D under the sunshiny skies of rural Penang.