Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cravings in Malaysia

I was speaking with a friend the other day and the topic of blogging came up. ‘Wasn’t your last post the one where you said you would start blogging again? And wasn’t that one like.. ages ago?’ I know, I know! I’m guilty! It’s easy to think that something you don’t like would be difficult to do, but it’s surprisingly difficult to get myself to the computer to type... although admittedly, when I’m here, it’s even harder to make me stop.

I have lots to say about graduation and all its associated feelings (happiness, confusion, uncertainty, etc.) but inevitably, when I returned here, my life instantly began revolving around food once again. Before I was due to come home, I was so eager about all the food I was going to have in Malaysia that I almost completely forgot about shedding the weight I put on over the exam period. Of course, it hasn’t helped that I’ve been closely following Bangsar Babe’s food adventures. But rather than deprive myself of all my favourite things, Boyfriend suggested I come up with a list of 5 things that I really wanted to have and pace those out.

With the entire packing period being too hectic, I wasn’t able to eventually come up with a list, which eventuated into glorious meals with my friends and family. From delicious banana leaf rice with my mom, oooey gooey matcha lava cake with my friends, yummy durian, to amazing chicken rending from my very own kitchen, I’ve really been able to indulge, hehe. 



Now that I’ve settled down a fair bit in the past week though, I’m finally sitting down to put this list together. And in no particular order, with images sourced online, I’ve narrowed down these cravings to:

1. Mee Mamak (+ ayam)



I haven’t found the one true place that does it to my heart’s content, but mee mamak is my ultimate favourite order at a mamak shop. Not even maggi goreng can top this for me. For the uninitiated, mee mamak is pretty much fried noodles with egg, tofu, a hint of vegetables, and a huge burst of flavour. I always add some chicken to it which takes the entire dish to another level.

2. Nasi kunyit + curry chicken




I’ve had cravings for this for ages. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve adored nasi kunyit. It is chewy and sticky, and when warm, it just goes down so incredibly well with a side of curry chicken. For my non-Malay speaking friends, kunyit is turmeric, which is what gives it its distinctive yellow colour – so none of that artificial stuff! I didn’t know how good it could be for you (read more about its benefits here!), and in this day and age where so many food articles seem to indicate foods being harmful and cancer causing, it’s great to justify my indulgence with good news.

3. Claypot lou shi fan














Man, a good bowl of this and I’m satisfied for ages! Silky noodles and runny egg are the absolute perfect combination. It’s not exactly a new thought, considering carbonara runs on the same principle. But throw in some minced meat, chopped mushrooms, lots of soy sauce and you get this glorious steaming bowl of deliciousness. If you think it’s good, wait till you get to the bottom charred bits.

4.  Face 2 Face Dry Curry Chicken Pan Mee



I have been having a particular craving for this dish. The curry here is thick and spicy, going well with the springy noodles. When topped with a huge tablespoon of chilli, this dish gets me sweating and gasping for water, but I can’t stop till I reach the end. I don’t think anyone else I know has the same affinity for this, but I put it down to them not having tried it the way I have. If you’re ever in Malaysia, look for Face 2 Face (it’s a chain restaurant) and if you can handle the heat, please give it a try! 

--

I don’t actually have a 5th dish although I thought about it for ages! So I’m leaving my 5th as the abundance of iced Milo I’m bound to drink back here. Although we can always make our own from sachets, it isn’t quite the same as having a cool glass in front of you, sweet from a more condensed milk than I’d ever put on my own, and served in that iconic mug that will always remind me of my childhood.

Cheers to being back!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Afternoon Tea in Harrods


Right now, I have no clue if I'm jetlagged or just plain tired. Or if in fact, whether there's even a difference between the two. All I know is that my eyelids feel heavy at 7pm, my brain is awake at 4am although my body's begging for sleep, and at 11am, I'm groaning as I force myself awake. Bright-eyed and chirpy in the mornings, I am not.

But as a woman on a mission - that mission being show my mom around London - I've been determined not to allow the days to pass by idly in bed and we force ourselves out of the house and into the outdoors for the beautiful summer days that have been so kindly presented to us. 


Today was one such day, which began with my favourite duck confit sandwich at Brunswick Square Gardens, which you must must try! Head over on a Saturday, fork over the £6, pile on the plum sauce and savour every happy bite. I've had it more times than I can remember and every single time I've gone, I've murmured Ahhs and Mhmmms in between bites of delightfully crispy duck confit and warm bread. 

But as much as I love the sandwich, the star of today's post is the afternoon tea at The Tea Room in Harrods. After some strolling along King's Cross to make room for more food after the sandwich and some paella we got at the market, we boarded the tube and set off to Knightsbridge for a lovely afternoon spent indulging, both in the food and in people watching. 

If there's one place to people watch, The Tea Room is most certainly one. With a huge window facing the inside of the department store, you could argue it was specifically designed to allow half your face to remain hidden behind a floral cup of aromatic tea with your eyes peeking over to watch all sorts of people walk by. Many have designer bags on one arm, shopping bags in another, and almost all are dressed incredibly well. 

It was 2pm and we queued for about 10 minutes before being seated, and for £32, ordered The Wedgwood which came with a pot of tea, two scones, one of their sweet treats, and some finger sandwiches.





The first time I had scones there when Boyfriend took me for Valentine's Day, I was blown away by how buttery and melt-in-the-mouth they were. Combined with their clotted cream and Raspberry jam, it was like a very sweet happy party in my mouth. This time, their scones didn't come out as warm and was more dry than the previous time, but after lathering on their delicious cream and wonderful jam, I still finished every crumb and my mom had no complaints. 

I really enjoyed the sandwiches too which comes in three flavours - egg, smoked salmon, and beef. I especially liked the one with beef which was very tender and flavourful. Was there caramelised onions in there too? I'm not sure, but whatever it was, it was fantastic and the clear winner of the three. Although the rest were nice, I feel like I could have them anywhere else, yknow. Not with the beef. No, this one tasted special. 



We had a choice of a dessert from their display and oh boy, was that a hard decision or what! With a weakness for chocolate, I almost went for their chocolate bar, but was strongly recommended to try their Strawberry Pistachio Fraisier and I was so glad I did! 





This was absolutely delicious! Not only were there huge fresh strawberries on the outside, the cake was light and fluffy - almost like mousse but less creamy - and right in the centre, there is a molten wonder of pistachio goodness. My mom and I took a bite, and our eyes widened because it was just so good. Apparently it's a big bestseller of theirs and I can see why. 


Although not the best value for money afternoon tea set out there, I say it's worth the money for the chance to have that 'English experience' of having tea in Harrods, sitting in the company of those with vastly different lifestyles and for a moment, sharing in it too.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Review: L'Autre Pied

When people speak of dining in England, 'English food' is often dismissed. And let's face it, black pudding and fish & chips don't quite do the country justice for its culinary greats. Rather than come to England searching for English food, you're better off accepting that the best places to eat would involve cuisines from around the world. And that's how you really eat here. 

Although eating out in London can be expensive, eating well is not much more so (relatively, at least). A meal at a Chinatown eatery, including drinks and dessert would set you back about £20, whilst a multi-course fine dining meal could be had for about £30.

My visit to Michelin-starred L'Autre Pied was one such meal, where Boyfriend and I indulged in a seven-course tasting menu for £30+. We made a booking for dinner via the Fever app, but if you're interested, there's the identical offer available on Groupon here: Seven-Course Tasting Menu For One, Two or Four from £31 at Michelin-Starred L'Autre Pied (Up to 52% Off)

Upon arrival, we were greeted and escorted to our table, then were promptly served yummy bread to go with some fantastic butter. The restaurant wasn't very large, was quiet and dimly lit, and simply decorated. 

We were first presented with the Celeriac, Lemon, and Wild Rice, which was a great start to our meal. Best part was the crispy wild rice on top! 


This was followed by Salad of Hierloom Carrots, Radicchio, Creme Fraiche, Black Quinoa. Perfectly cooked carrots, but otherwise unremarkable.


We then moved onto our mains! We started with Cod, Charred Leek, Mussels, Lemon, Rye. Now, I'm a huge fan of fish, and the cod here was perfectly flaky and fresh! Unfortunately, one of the mussels I bit into tasted fishy and just plain funky, which was a huge disappointment. Boyfriend's dish came out fine though so I think it was an anomaly.

When I told the waiter about it, the chef offered his apologies and was nice enough to offer a replacement. But as it was such a small aspect of the dish, it wasn't necessary. But hey, it's good to know that they were willing to offer it, even for someone who's visiting the restaurant on a Groupon.



The next dish was Roast Pork Tenderloin, Peppered Swede, Baby Turnips, Apple and Mustard Leaf. Although I didn't and still don't know what swede is, I do know that I enjoyed the entire dish. But then again, you can't ever go wrong with pork and apple - a classic combination that always tastes good. 

I don't know about you, but for me in particular, I'm always really wary when cooking and really struggle to perfectly find the right balance between undercooking and overcooking, often preferring the latter because it's more likely not to poison my nearest and dearest. So, whenever I get the chance to have some perfectly cooked pink pork, I embrace it with open arms! 


On the menu offered on Groupon, the pork is to be followed by cheese. But as we hadn't yet found the ability to appreciate cheese with a meal, we instead asked for a replacement dish, which they very kindly obliged us with. To my absolute delight, what that meant was that we got three desserts instead! 

This was a creamy custard topped with sorbet and a fruit cube. I don't know what this was in particular, but ice cream is always a good idea.


The favourite aspect of my meal however was this dessert. I was always going to like anything chocolatey, but when topped with crispy crumbly chocolatey goodness, this became something I loved.


Our meal concluded with a Rhubarb Cheesecake with Mandarin Sorbet. I think it takes a particular palate to like rhubarb, and unfortunately, I'm not that person. But, it was pink and pretty, and the cheesecake beneath the rhubarb layer did not disappoint. 


If you're looking to have dinner somewhere fancy on a budget, L'Autre Pied might be the place for you. I'll have to admit that the food didn't strike me as particularly French, nor particularly memorable but every dish was a visual delight, and it was a wonderful experience sitting across my love and being able to enjoy such a vast variety of good food. 

And so what if the food we ate wasn't English? That evening, we walked around the city, taking in the sights and sounds of a bustling London - and that for me, is the English dining experience. 



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Some ol' Baltimore charm!

Hello from the other side... across the pond to be exact! 

Since the last time we spoke (because we're friends, you and me), I've been pretty much living my teenager-on-a-school-holiday life, going to sleep at late hours because I'm up at night watching Korean dramas (I've started watching Monster), only to wake late in the a.m. to read some much missed fiction (specifically Inferno by Dan Brown), the difference being: a) I am no longer a teenager and b) I'm doing all of this in good ol' Maryland, USA. 

After spending a solid 3 days without leaving the house, my mom and I finally decided to explore the city via free Uber rides - (Promo code: 'ubertiffanyk' if you're a first time user for free credit) and headed to Inner Harbour, where most tourists flock for some of that Baltimore charm! 










We were meant to take a nice slow walk along the water and check out the malls along the way. But me being me aka completely hopeless with directions, led my mom away from the shopping area, towards the fishing boats, all the way to the backyard of some very fancy and most certainly private Ritz Carlton residences, only to realise that despite my frequent glances at Google Maps, I was heading in the exact opposite direction. 

Have you ever confused the 'you' dot on the map with the destination dot? Yeah, well that was me. Ha.

Thanks to the scenic view and pleasant breeze, the 23 minute walk back in the other direction felt more like a helpful addition to the goal of 10,000 steps we're meant to take daily than a dreadful trek beneath the scorching sun. And well, it definitely didn't hurt that we had adorable ducklings bobbing on the water alongside us! 


I've been here for about two weeks now and the more time I've spent in this city, the more I've come to realise how deserving it is of its moniker - Charm City. And what better way to charm than with blue skies and blue waters? 

Despite the presence of a water taxi, this charm isn't anywhere close to the Venetian sort, or even any other European city, with their cobbled streets and proud history. Although Baltimore showcases its history with its Star Spangled Banner flying high and naval vessels populating the waters, it isn't their history that grabs you. It's how everything comes together that does. Standing at Inner Harbour, ships on my right, restaurants and huge malls on my left, with laughing, jostling people all around, I wanted to look at everything, but at the same time, wasn't particularly interested in anything. 

Maybe it's because it was so easy to get a feel of the place, that I didn't find the need to search for it in its history or in its shops. Baltimore just feels like an easy place to be in, a medium-sized city with just the right amount of hustle and bustle. 


I happily touristed it out, taking pictures with every stationary object till the sun got the better of me. I ended up wrapping myself in a scarf lest the dreaded 'construction labourer tan' ends up featuring in all of my graduation photos.



And with America being glorious, great America, land of the free the do-whatever-you-want, not a single soul looked at me funny and I went on with my day dressed exactly like that, topping it off by finally having a taste of some Cheesecake Factory goodness.














Mmmmmmm. That's some great cookie dough right there! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lexington Market

I'm kicking off my return to blogging by sharing about Lexington Market, one of Baltimore's most famous spots, and officially the location of the best meal I've had in the States thus far! A quick Google search and you'd soon figure out that if there's one thing Baltimore's famous for, its their crabs, and boy oh boy, did it not disappoint. 
I'm no stranger to markets thanks to the great food I've had in London, but Lexington gave an entirely different feel. For lack of a better word, the neighbourhood itself was rather ghetto and from the moment you step in, the entire place is seeping with its culture. There were musicians playing in the centre of the market, and the people around were dancing without abandon. People were getting down reaaaal low, swaying their hips and closing their eyes, moving their bodies to the beat. It felt surreal, like I was in a television show where everyone knew the right moves to a song. 

As we were walking along the stalls, I had people asking: 'You doin' alright, guuurl?' But of course, familiarity was abound as well. When there are markets, there are Asians, and for every three stalls we walked by, at least one would be manned by an Asian person, selling fried rice and chow mien. We weren't there for the Chinese food though and headed straight for Faidley Seafood, for a taste of that world famous, award winning crab cake! 




I have to tell you, these things don't come cheap! We ordered a jumbo lump cake (about the size of a tennis ball) each which came at $14 per piece, but they were definitely worth the steep price! We also got a 'Cream of Crab' to share at a more affordable $6.


Both the crab cake and the soup were delicious. Each bite of crab cake was an explosion of flavour, complete with a very satisfying amount of crab meat. The batter on the outside was slightly crispy, housing the buttery crab flesh within that was so well seasoned the flavours linger long after you've swallowed. My sister and I ate unhurriedly to savour each bite, and the accompanying free salad helped prevent the meal from getting too moreish. 

The soup was delectable, creamy and flavourful, with once again, a generous portion of crab. They provided some crackers to go with the food, but I couldn't help but wish for a buttery crusty roll to go with it instead. The portion was generous as well! I'm convinced I will be haunted (or blessed, idk) with dreams of crab cakes and crab soup for days to come. 

The shop is run by Nancy Faidley, the same lady who has been running it for years, and of which hundreds of reviews have been written about. She apparently shows up at work every single day, and when I was there, we saw her keeping a sharp eye on the guests and staff, ensuring that everyone is well served. As the tables there are standing only, she noticed a young boy struggling to reach the high tables and called over a member of staff to bring him a little stool to reach. Now that's dedication right there! 

Whilst at Lexington, we couldn't bear to miss out on their famous fresh oysters as well, ordering a helping of oysters (they come in threes!) for $6.50. Little did we know how enormous they'd be! 



For comparison's sake, here's an iPhone 6s for scale.


Not only were they huge, they were delicious!! I only started getting hooked on oysters when I was in Howth, a Dublin Coastal Village where I got to try amazingly fresh oysters. The ones here were just as fresh, but so much bigger. Topped with some horseradish, a squeeze of lemon, and a dribble of Tabasco sauce, they were the perfect way to end our meal.

We worked off the meal by walking around the market, which wouldn't take more than 30 minutes, ogling the gigantic smoked turkey wings, abundance of fried chicken stalls, and steering clear from the bakeries which were selling cakes that looked over weeks old. 


The rest of Lexington was just like any other farmer's market, and we happily strolled through it, grabbing sweet potatoes, grapes, and some Black Angus beef on our way out.


I've been cooking loads since being here so may next blog about how we're planning to cook the 3lbs worth of beef! BUT, bearing in mind that I'm also 11lbs heavier than I was in March, the food posts should start slowing down. :P