Monday, September 27, 2010

The Wings Beneath My Wind

The latest wind from Japan brought not only dear Ollie to the shores of northern Malaysia, but also some very tasty chicken wings, a.k.a. Tebasaki deep fried chicken wings, specialty of Nagoya.

We're no fans of frozen, pre-cooked food but hang on, no one does frozen food like the Japs.

Our little family reunion, starring Ollie and his happy dance gets a boost from frozen wings that Mag had thoughtfully carted back in her luggage. Off into a boiling vat of oil they go!

The already-seasoned juicy wings get Mama Chow's loving treatment with the soy, sake, sugar and mirin mix that comes in the package.

There is nothing quite like chomping these juicy babies down while playing hide-and-seek with Ollie and wondering if being childless is what life's programme is about.

Pick some up at the frozen food section of your local supermarket the next time you're in Japan!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Great Deal (of Spice), Anna Thai Kitchen, Pulau Tikus

Apart from the ability to speak rapid-fire Hokkien and guerilla traffic dexterity, anyone Penang-born worthy of this unique birthmark must also possess the aptitude to sniff out a good deal in any condition.

A pretty good deal is what's been driving throngs of hungry, carb-starved locals to Anna Thai Kitchen in Pulau Tikus. We arrived slightly before noon and the place was packed to the brim, with a steady queue forming. I learned of this place first from CK Lam and I'd been counting down the days until my visit back to Penang to give it a go.

Anna Thai offers a decent selection of ready-cooked economy rice-style Thai dishes, as well as some staples ala carte. All very affordable, almost kopitiam prices! Warning: we found the spice factor in the dishes here tongue-numbing. Definitely not for chilli wimps!

I dove straight for the Thai Pork Leg Stew Rice (Khao Kha Moo) on the ala carte menu and it arrived a true picture of grace. The chilli sauce missing from the picture was startlingly, deliciously fiery. Much closer to the real thing sampled on the side streets of Bangkok than this inferior version on the other side of the island.

Dad and Mag both sampled the Chicken Rice (Khao Man Kai) with great enjoyment. The intrepid gourmand Ollie couldn't keep his chubby hands away and proclaimed it "Oishiiiii!!"

The Kerabu Rice was a deceptively delightful and kaleidoscopic mix of texture and taste. Shortly after the first swallow, the finely chopped bird's eye chilli and ground chilli powder sneak up on you with alarming speed. Make sure you have a tall icy glass or four handy!

The dishes from the fast disappearing trays outside, while unassuming, would appease even the stickiest tastebuds. The Thai Red Chicken Curry with Bamboo (Kaeng Phet) was creamy and robust, driving us mad for even more rice.

More spice in the Curry Chicken. We were sweating buckets at this point.

The Otak-Otak, a touch more moist than I like but flavour-wise, full marks.

The requisite plate of greens (featuring yet more chillies) rounded off a meal VERY heavy on the girth and our gastrointestinal system but VERY light on the pocket.

A Penang deal-maker? You bet you bottom ringgit it is!

Anna Thai Kitchen
26, Jalan Moulmein
Pulau Tikus
10350 Penang

Friday, September 10, 2010

In Rage (and Sage) We Trust

While I subscribe to the universal tenet that anger and aggression yields only more anger and aggression, I don't support that Anger in itself is necessarily an unconditionally negative force.

Being repeatedly incensed by the same triggers has proven to be the catalyst to change the situation, or in disagreeable circumstances beyond my control, how I manage my reaction towards them. More often than not, humour helps. Company in cynicism helps. Company with humour works the best.

Simply put, there are worse things than being subjected to the abject diatribes of this group of people. I resign and rejoice in the mere fact that the things to bask in content far outweigh the things that inspire rage.

Like this chilled jelly-like Konbu Bavarois with scallops and caviar, one clandestine Friday (working) afternoon at the graduate school of set lunches, Sage. Pure poetry. Be still, my quivering heart on fire.

The company is stellar, as always, and breathing without convulsing in rage becomes a gentle rhythm. Even the fiery red of the sumptuous tagliolini with grilled river prawns soft-pedals the famished, frenzied hour.

I engineered lunch here in order to not miss this, the Pâté en Croûte, read and ravaged first at Paranoid Android's visual arrest of a blog. When it became apparent that this particular week was going to end on yet another sour, sordid note, I had to introduce an extraordinary neutraliser.

Thin crust enveloping minced duck meat, which in turn, sprang a cut of duck foie in its midst. Food has been a lot of things to me, but it has not often confounded or provoked a reaction rich enough to counter fury. But this, this was a work of staggering beauty, reminder of a thousand things to be thankful for. Foie. The word itself takes the edge off.

We ended with a touch of sweet and a dash of the cure-all elixir, melon with honeydew sorbet, floating on white wine jelly. I walked out of lunch, considerably lighter from having offloaded all that wrath, yet heavier in thought and gratitude.

Evidently, there is great, calming wisdom to be found in food. And in the beautiful group of people with whom I had the pleasure of dining. Or maybe it's just Sage.

Bookmark the weekly set lunch (at RM100 nett each) menu here.

Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar
Level 6, The Gardens Residences
Mid Valley City
Lingkaran Syed Putra
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603 2268 1328