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Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Bubur Bali and Salak Tropical Fruit

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 28, 2013 at 16:52

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Bali was truly a land of abundance.

The warm climate and its fertile land made agricultural products bountiful.

Our driver told us that the staples were coconuts — fruits were yielded from the trees all-year round, plus the whole tree was usable down to the leaves and trunk for furnitures and fabric.

Many food crops were harvested on the island: peppers, beans, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, ginger, mandarin oranges, passion fruit, mangosteens and coffees to name a few.

Most notably was rice cultivation.

There were rice fields every where: short grain, long grain, black rice, and the list goes on.

Large amount of the rice grown in Bali was exported to the rest of Indonesia.

With the ample supply, all the food we had tasted fresh and delicious.

Aside from the Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng that were wildly available in Bali, I also fell in love with Bubur.

It was basically flavored congee, or rice porridge.

I was used to Chinese congee which was generally plain with meats, seafood or vegetables cooked in it.

The 2 versions of Balinese bubur that I had encountered were very different.

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This first version basically had porridge at the bottom, sprinkled with curry powder, then covered with cooked napa cabbages and fried peanuts.

It was very delicious, spicy and the texture combination was exciting!

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The second bubur was a curry congee with hard-boiled egg; and it came with sides of spicy soy sauce, pickled vegetables and chicken meat.

Since I was a kid, I was not a fan of home-made congee because they were bland to me.

Perhaps now I can jazz up my congee with curry at home!

At a market, we saw these new fruit I had never seen before — the brown fruit by the dragon fruit and mangoes.

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The skin looked tough, similar to avocado skin, except smoother but had reptile skin-like pattern.

The fruit stand lady cracked open one for me to try, and it was very interesting.

When she cracked it, it showed that the skin was actually very thin; once it was cracked, the skin was easily peeled-off, almost like grape skin.

A nice light yellow color flesh revealed itself.

It was a non-juicy fruit, and very fibrous — imagine pineapple but without juice.

There was about 4 segments of flesh, and each had its own pit.

The fruit had what I called the “very ripe fruit flavor” that one could experience from very ripe banana, pineapple or even durian.

It had an inherent pleasant light sweetness to it.

After chatting with our driver, he said that the fruit was called “salak” – snake-skin fruit!

It was most definitely unique!

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Interesting Eating Experience in Indonesian Forest

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 20, 2013 at 12:33

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We had a delicious and interesting eating experience during the very last night of our stay at West Bali National Park.

We had specially ordered Nasi Kampung Pejarakan, roughly translated into “feast for the village of Pejarakan”.

When we ordered the dinner, the hotel offered the dinner at the gazebo, so I thought, “sure, we would give that a try”.

Turned out it was outdoor dining, romantically lit with candle lights.

The gazebo was perched just above water at the beach.

Throughout the dinner, we could hear water crashing, birds chirping, crickets singing.

The forest was very much alive in the dark and it was just amazing.

The other interesting “eating experience” was DH being the feast for the village of mosquitoes.

He had  decided that he was going to risk it and did not put on bug repellent; we elected to bring the bug repellent with us.

Within 5 minutes we sat down, he got bit; and he quickly put on bug repellent.

Little did we know that by the time we had light to see his arm, he had at least 10 bites if not more on just 1 forearm!

About the actual food (the pictures’ color were not the greatest due to the romantic candle lights).

Nasi Kampung Pejarakan turned out to be a multi course dinner.

First, we were being served with extremely delicious fried peanuts with peppers and soy sauce.

They were spicy, sweet and salty at the same time; and they complimented my red wine really well.

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Then, we had a seafood soup.

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Very hot from lots of ginger, scented with fried shallots; the soup had generous chunks of fish, squid and shrimp.

Next, was the full platter.

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The rice in the middle was shaped with a banana leaf cone, and was cooked with coconut milk and corn.

Starting at 3 o’clock were crispy rice crackers.

At 2 o’clock, there was gado-gado, the classic Indonesian cooked vegetable salad with peanut sauce; except this was the first time I had gado-gado with kangkung (hollow center vegetables).

At 11 o’clock was a deliciously stewed and tender beef.

Seemed to me that the beef was stewed with soy sauce, and perhaps with some cinnamon and cloves; and it did not have any heat at all.

The sticks were the sate lilit, with the little round banana leaf cups containing sambal.

Lastly was the fish paste that was cooked with tomato pieces and grilled in banana leaf boats (6 o’clock in the picture).

We were really full from all the food, and found out delightfully that we were having dessert as well.

Yet another classic — fried banana, pisang goreng!

Drizzled with palm sugar and accompanied by the super gingery and spicy tea, it was a wonderful way to end the dinner!

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Another experience — throughout the dinner, we were looking around and admiring our environment.

We noted that at the nook at the very tip of the gazebo, there was a little white mouse.

For the bulk of the dinner, he/she/it was out of our sight — we just knew he/she/it was there.

I had to say it was a first time ever eating with the presence of a mouse.

At first, I was a little uneasy.

However, at no time I felt my food was threaten (not that the mouse had tried to have a bite, nor that I was concern with my food from a sanitary point of view).

Then, I realized, it was all part of nature; the gazebo was probably his home, and we were the visitors.

Thank you, mouse, for having us.

 

 

Mee Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Soto Ayam and Balinese BBQ Platter

In Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 18, 2013 at 12:02

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Continued our days with big breakfasts of Mee Goreng, that was fantastically cooked with shredded egg omelette on top.

The noodle was cooked to perfection – just right chewiness and softness, and great flavoring to this quintessential Indonesian dish, of course, crispy and delicious Krupuk Udang, shrimp crackers as well.

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DH got the Nasi Goreng, which was just as wonderful — fluffy light fried rice that was not greasy.

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For dinner, we got this Balinese BBQ platter, and it was quite a treat!

Aside from the usual chicken, pork and beef sate, there were sate Lilit.

Sate Lilit was a traditional Balinese seafood sate.

In our case, it was made with mahi-mahi.

The unique part was that instead of using the usual bamboo skewer, a lemongrass stick was used, and the fish paste was adhere onto the lemongrass stick for grilling.

The resulting tender soft fish was pleasantly scented with lemongrass.

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The platter also came with Ayam Betutu, a chicken dish wrapped in banana leaf with lots of hot pepper and spice paste; and Urutan Celeng, a grilled pork sausage.

The chicken was well-flavored but was a little dry; however, the pork sausage was excellent with all the spices and aromatics that were used in it.

The staple of Nasi Goreng and Krupuk Udang were delicious accompaniment with the barbeque meats.

We got the company of sambal sauce, peanut sauce for the sate, spicy soy sauce, sambal colo-colo, and another sambal that I was unfortunately unfamiliar with.

We also got a soup, Soto Ayam, that was particularly enjoyable; it was a meal on its own.

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Soto Ayam was a chicken soup with lots of clear mungbean noodle, tomatoes, bean sprouts, cabbage, with lots of spices, such as ginger, garlic, lemongrass and fried shallots.

It was simply delightful!

Eating Out in Bali, Indonesia: Nasi Kuning, Bergedel, Desserts

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 15, 2013 at 11:23

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First time ever in Indonesia and we stayed in Bali.

I really enjoyed our stay there even though we were being more tourists without locals (as in friends) guiding us.

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Food suffered a little unfortunately (the towns were not too easy to get around since there was no public transportation, and DH was still on crutches), but there were still plenty of highlights.

The best was starting our days with ginormous breakfast!

The very first day, I had bergedel with urab as the appetizer (yes, appetizer for breakfast!)

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Bergedel was the round white patty in the middle layer in the picture — a potato and fish patty with soft, pleasant savory flavor hinted with onion and spices

Urab was a traditional Balinese cooked vegetable mix usually composed of bean sprouts, green beans and grated coconut and other spices, which was absolutely delicious and at the bottom of the bergedel on the plate.

I was thoroughly impressed with the freshness of the ingredients, and the spices were used in such a balance way that they worked well with each other.

My main course for breakfast was Nasi Kuning.

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What wonderful memory it brought back!

Nasi Kuning was a rice dish with egg, roasted coconut, teri kacang (an anchovy and peanuts mixed and fried together) and shredded chicken.

The unique part was the rice itself — sometimes called yellow rice, was made with turmeric, coconut and ginger or other spices.

My family used to frequent an Indonesia restaurant in Hong Kong when I was growing up, and we only went there on Sundays — when they served yellow rice in a large wooden bucket!

It was one of my grandfather’s favorite dish.

This Nasi Kuning was delicious; the egg was lightly fried with a crisp skin, the rice was sweet, coconuty and gingery; added on top was lots of texture from the shredded coconut, anchovies, peanuts and chicken.

I could have this for breakfast every day!

We got to try some sweets as well in the afternoon.

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A less traditional apple pancake (the green one made with pandan leaf), and very traditional coconut cakes (with layered chocolate flavors, the brown one in the middle) and black rice pudding in a banana leaf cup.

The spring roll was lumpia.

My favorite was the coconut cake (kue lapis tepung beras)– I called them coconut cake because the most prominent flavor was coconut; however, it was made with rice flour or sago flour.

Ours had chocolate addition in the brown layer, so it had lovely chocolate flavor in it as well as coconut.

The texture was just excellent,  chewy and soft at the same time.

The black rice pudding was really cooked black rice with coconut milk.

I always like black rice, its stickier and chewier texture in many ways were more fun to eat then the regular brown and white rice.

It was said that black rice also had higher nutritional value.

We also had these amazingly spicy ginger lemongrass tea that tasted so good!

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It was strong and definitely packed a punch and I loved them.

I want to make that at home!

Everything was really great and fresh; even we were not hunting for food, they were great and delicious!

Eating Out in Singapore: Kaya, Laksa, Chili Crab

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 13, 2013 at 11:30

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Our eating tour started in the morning (thanks YB and KW!) at this coffee shop/cafe – Chin Mee Chin in the Katong neighborhood in Singapore.

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I love the old style ambience and the coffees and teas were superb.

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We also had the quintessential soft-boil egg, and kaya on buns.

The kaya was a jam like spread and it was made with coconut and egg.

The custardy coconut flavor was lovely and the texture was very creamy.

Some versions of kaya was green with the addition of pandan leaf.

The egg tart also looked really good and decided to try one as well.

It was very different from the ones popular in Hong Kong as the center custard was stiffer, but it tasted equally as good.

After some strong coffee and tea, we went to have Laksa.

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That was the best Laksa I had ever had!

The coconut curry broth was very creamy and tasted like the sea with shrimp paste.

The broth was not smooth, and had coagulated protein in it, probably from the shrimps, shrimp paste and cockles.

My friend ordered the Laksa with cockles and it was such as treat.

The cockles were really fresh and with its blood color, it stood out in the noodle and added a nice texture to the Laksa.

Back to the soup, it had such amazing flavors and so complex with all the spices and herbs, it was literally flavors burst in the mouth!

The noodle was great — it was rice noodle, and what we called “lai fun” in Hong Kong; wider and thicker than the vermicelli, cylindrical and snappier.

Then, we had Chili crab at Long Beach Seafood Restaurant.

The restaurant had been a popular destination for seafood in Singapore for 66 years, and was credited as the creator of chili crabs.

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Boy, was it fantastic!

The crabs were amazingly fresh, meaty and sweet on its own right.

The chili crab sauce was just mouth-watering.

My friends ordered it with fried buns to dip the sauce; I could probably eat the sauce alone with all the fried buns and rice.

We also got a black pepper crab and it was extremely spicy (the black plate at the back of the picture).

We also ordered steamed shrimps and clams.

The shrimps were extremely sweet.

It truly said to how great and delicious a dish can be when the ingredients were fresh — so much joy from a simple dish.

The spicy soy sauce accompanying the shrimps were great company to enhance the sweetness of the shrimps.

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The clams were tasty and the clams were cooked just right with a perfect sauce.

Every meal I had in Singapore was superb and I knew I had barely begin to scratch the surface with the very short time we had there.

I shall return to Singapore for more good food!!!

Buk Kut Teh VS. (Pork Bone Soup)

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 11, 2013 at 15:37

Doof Out

We got a chance to try and compare the Buk Kut Teh from Malaysia and Singapore.

I had Buk Kut Teh when I was growing up but not often.

I only remembered it being tasty.

“Buk Kut Teh”‘s pronunciation is Hokkien dialect, which literally means “meat bone tea”.

The soup is popular in Malaysia and Singapore are and it was of Chinese origin.

The 2 countries neighboring each other serve up vastly different Buk Kut Teh and it was a fantastic experience to have both!

Let’s start with the Singapore one.

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We went to Ng Ah Sio, one of the famous spots in Singapore.

The beginning of the store dated back to 1950s.

The soup was extremely peppery, garlicky and delicious.

The pork bones were cooked for a long time and they were very tender and the soup was rich.

Aside from the pork bones, there really was nothing else that I could see.

It was likely that the herbs and spices were in the kitchen’s main pot.

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For the Malaysian one, we went to Crystal’s Restoran.

This Buk Kut Teh was completely different.

The flavor was overwhelmingly Chinese herbs in the soup with the pork bones.

The soup was very complex — perhaps a little clove, cinnamon and probably lots of other ingredients that I simply could not tell.

The place had open area for preparing Buk Kut Teh.

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Both the Singapore and Malaysia eateries served different food.

In Singapore, we had stewed tofu, both the firmer kind and the fried tofu puffs.

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We did not eat too much there because by the time we got to Ng Ah Sio, it was already our third stop for food in less than 4 hours!

We got a side vegetable with garlic which was superb.

Aside from Buk Kut Teh, I believe food would be very good there as well.

As for Malaysia, we ordered Assam Pedas and pig intestine.

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The fish was very fresh and soft; the tangy and spicy Assam sauce was a great compliment to the steamed fish.

I am not a big fan of pig intestine, but this soup was fantastic.

It was completely full of white pepper and ginger flavors, which removed all the “piggy-ness” from the intestine and made the soup amazing good.

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Both Buk Kut Teh were ordered with a side of fried dough.

The best part in both stores was that soup was unlimited!!!!!

Since I really only enjoy drinking the soup and could care less about the actual pork bones and meat, I was in heaven!

The waiter/waitress would keep coming with a teapot/bowl full of soup to refill.

My friend told me that we were paying for the meat; but I was definitely going against the ancient Chinese teaching of “eat the expensive stuff” in this case!

Singapore Food Court

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 9, 2013 at 14:03

Doof Out

We stopped by Singapore twice in our trip, to and from Malaysia.

The taxi boarder crossing experience was very interesting.

There were MANY cars and motorcycles crossing the border and yet the lines moved really fast; it felt like an efficient chaos!

We were however, stuck in traffic, and took us about 1.5 hour which without traffic would have been 45 mins.

After we checked into the hotel the first time, we were looking for food again.

Since DH was on crutches due to leg injury, we did not go very far.

I ventured out to the infamous food court in the Mall.

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We got this fantastically grilled chicken wings from the food court.

They were crispy and delicious!

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We shared this Teow Chau pork noodle soup with pork balls, sliced pork and pork liver.

The broth was super delicious, creamy and rich.

The spicy soy sauce on the side for dipping the meat was fantastic!

The next visit to the food court was when we returned from Malaysia.

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We got the really tasty dragon fruit and mango drinks (red cups), lightly and naturally sweetened with a mild mango flavor — super refreshing.

The round white cakes on the right were tu tu cakes.

Apparently, it was a traditional snack made with rice flour of Fujian origin according to the sign at the stall.

I got the plain and ones that had red bean filling.

They were also available with coconut, chocolate and peanuts fillings.

The cakes were soft and actually very filling — mild sweetness from the rice flour, it was simple, healthy and tasty.

The best part was watching the lady made the cakes — she first scooped rice flour (and filling) into a flat flower shape mold, then invert the molds into a steamer.

We waited for several minutes, then she took out the mold, placed a piece of leaf at the bottom of the cake, and placed the cakes in the box.

I was mesmerized with the process and had completely forgot about taking video.

I did find another blog talking about tutu cakes, and the author had pictures on the equipment and process.

In the paper bags were fried doughs — one butterfly fried dough and one 3-layer fried dough.

The butterfly fried dough was similar to the sweet “au lei so” in Hong Kong.

The 3 kinds of rice cake fried dough was interesting.

It was made with a layer of rice, a layer of sweet potatoes and a green layer.

They were sweet and crispy.

My favorite was the radish cake.

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I never had radish cake prepared this way.

The steamed radish cake were cut into sticks; then mixed with beaten eggs and fried on a pan.

Resulting product was more like an omelette and it was really tasty.

Lastly, shrimp noodle.

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The noodle was cooked just right and the shrimps were fresh accompanied by fishballs and sambal.

The shrimp broth was strong, shrimpy and superb!

Traditional Malay Breakfast and Indian dinner

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 7, 2013 at 16:25

Doof Out

We had a traditional Malay breakfast at this corner store with lots of food and drinks!

The best part about visiting friends was that everything was taken care of for us.

We sat down and food were ordered; we just ate!

Hence, I was not sure whether the place was self-serve,

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or that we ordered (there was also a counter behind the self-serve area with food)

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We started off with Teh Tarik, sweet, milky and yum!!!!

Most everywhere in Malaysia and Singapore were also serving lots of Milo — this malty chocolate drink that I grew up with and became the love of DH.

My favorite of all the breakfast food was Lontong — a curry soup with egg, roasted coconut and rice patties with a side of sambal.

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The rice patties were wrapped and cooked in banana leaf; then cut open and placed with the rest of the ingredients in Lontong.

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We also had roti canai — delicious, fluffy and buttery, made fresh on a side stand in the store.

Both the curry sauce and hot sauce was spicy and absolutely delicious.

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Then, we had Kacang pool.

Apparently, this was s dish adapted from the Egyptian ful (cooked fava bean dish).

Kacang pool had curry sauce, and with an egg added on top.

It was eaten with this thick piece of buttered toast as well.

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Super delicious!

For dinner, we had Indian food.

I was impressed with the tandoori platter.

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Aside from chicken, it contained fish, squid and lamb.

The innocent looking green pieces of chicken were by far the hottest!

All the meats were tender and flavored well with the tandoori spices.

We also had 2 different fish curries.

The curries tasted and looked different from the ones in North America even though the names of the dish was the same (fish tikka masala was one of them).

They seemed to be different as well from the curries in India, at least from what I could recall from our India trip long time ago.

Then, again, my memory might not have served me well.

It was also not hard to believe that the curries here were adapted for North Americans and the ones there were adapted for Malays.

Nonetheless, they were very spicy and delicious.

They had a special lassi, which was mango lassi topped with dragon fruit puree.

We had 2 of those to cool our palates!

Amazing Malaysian Dinner

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 4, 2013 at 16:21

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This place in Johor Bahru was fascinating.

It was an outdoor food court with stores on the outskirt of the plaza, and under the moonlight seating to the inside of the courtyard.

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My friend said that the shops in this food court area were owned by Chinese, hence pork were served and Chinese influenced Malay dishes were abundant.

We had a FEAST!

We got a lime juice with salty sour plum and DH got sugar cane juice.

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DH’s sugar cane juice was delicious — light clean flavor and mildly sweet.

My lime juice drink was tart and the saltiness of the salty sour plum came through baldly.

I had to admit that it took some getting used to drinking something icy cold and salty.

For appetizer, we had pork sate, which were tender and delicious.

The satay came with yummy and chunky peanut sauce, and also rice which was wrapped and grilled in sugar cane leaves.

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We also had grilled chicken wings from a stall that only did grilled chicken wings.

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The wings were crisp, dry and had light soy sauce flavor.

We had a nicely fried Char Kway Teow, a stir-fry wide rice noodle with shrimp, bean sprouts and soy sauce.

Next came the oyster omelette which was a Hokkien tradition.

The oysters were fresh and the omelette was fantastically cooked without filler (lots of times, potato starch were added to bind and act as a filler agent).

It was most excellent with the accompanying sweet sour chili sauce.

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The most unusual plate that night was sting ray, ikan pari.

I never had sting ray before.  The meat was very tender and sweet, and the bones were very very soft.

The dish was also very spicy.

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We had kangkung belacan which was so mouth-watering and yet very spicy.

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Last, we had rojak.  The Rojak was completely different from the kind I had experienced prior to this trip.

This Rojak had a dark color and was made with shrimp paste, contrary to the ones I had was with a light-colored tamarind, peanut sauce.

My friend guessed that I had Indian Rojak and not Malaysian Rojak.

The ingredients were very different as well.

The Malaysian Rojak we had had the surprising ingredient of fruit!

Some mango pieces, some “Lian Wu” or waxed apples; along with expected vegetable candidates such as cucumber and jicama, eggs and fried tofu.

The topping was pieces of dried squid from the dried squid roll.

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The Indian rojak I had prior had similar ingredients but without fruit.

I was really stuffed at the end of the meal!  All that food for 4 adults and a child!

Now, if we just have that kind of food court here in the Seattle area……

 

A Food Day in Melaka, Malaysia

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on December 1, 2013 at 06:52

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We went from Johor Bahru for a day trip to Melaka.

It was a town laced with tremendous history and its historical center had recently received recognition by UNESCO.

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Many people came through its port and settled dating back to 1400s with Chinese, 1500s with Portuguese and eventually 1800s under British rule.

The descendents of the early Chinese settlers and Malay in this area were called the Peranakan, and their background were also expressed in their food.

Lunch was at Nancy’s Kitchen in Melaka.

We got popiah as appetizers.

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Popiah was a Hokkien traditional food involving a thin flour crepe with protein and vegetables (ingredients varied dependent from family to family).

A variation that I had never was this fried version in Melaka.

The cooked soft popiah stuffing was placed inside inverted hat shape crisp cups.

The contrast of texture was most excellent.

The most unusual of all, the chicken curry with black nuts.

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My local friend said only people in Melaka cooked with the black nut which had a very hard exterior shell.

The nut meat was pasty, and a little mealy — as one would expect from nut meat.

Its flavor was similar to Chinese black bean sauce.

We had a stir-fry of shrimp and a bean they called the “stinky beans”.

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It got its name because the beans gave similar effects to human as asparagus did.

We had several desserts to finish off the meal: onde-onde and kuih talam.

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Loved the chewy texture of the kuih talam with the fantastic coconut creamy flavor and light flavor of the pandang leaves (green layer).

The onde-onde was a surprise as I did not expect to bite into the little ball of chewy dessert with palm sugar syrup bursting out from the chewy dough.

The shredded coconut added another layer of texture which made this little dessert an incredible experience.

Afternoon tea was at this big place at the outskirt of town;  coconut shake was their specialty.

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The drink was absolutely delicious and refreshing.

I believed the drink was made with blended young coconuts’ juice and its meat, perhaps with a dash of milk or cream.

I gulped down 2 big cups in a roll!

The place had self-served snacks to go with the coconut drinks.

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These snacks included fried fish cake, curry puffs (with potatoes or sardines) and otak.

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Dinner was at the Portuguese settlement by the sea.

It was where the Portuguese had settled; and the descendants of the Portuguese and local Malay who were practising Catholics in this predominantly Muslim country lived.

We had excellent seafood — fresh and exceptionally sweet grilled crabs, garlic steamed scallops and black pepper grilled eggplants.

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We bought drinks from Joe’s Only One Mango Juice.

It was different and tasty as unripe green mango were used for this beverage.

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The mango flesh was blended with ice and a salty sour plum was added for extra twist of flavor in each cup.

The drink was very refreshing — sweet with light tart and saltiness accompanying the distinctive green mango flavor, it paired with the seafood really well.

Many notable foods at this remarkable place, another future visit is required!