At a train station, I couldn’t help but stop and get one of my favourites, a good old fashioned steak and ale – or Steak and Tribute, as the Company calls them. I also wanted to introduce my all-American husband to the flaky delights of these warm savoury pastries. I think he chose a Chicken and Mushroom. I must confess that despite spending many years as a customer, I have yet to pick anything but my beloved steak and ale. I am such a sucker for steak and ale. Typical hypocrite. I usually do make an effort to try new and different things, but I suppose everyone has those things to which they keep going back. The sultry malted tones of the ale just work wonders on the rich meaty bite of the melting steak. All the vegetables are stewed in the velvety juices and have sucked up all the goodness from both of the star players. And the flaky pastry is crisp and golden on the outside but soft and saturated in scrumptious sauce on the inside. It is such a warm and cosy treat that can be so comforting on a tedious journey. I am salivating just remembering its savoury silky scent.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Monday, 12 August 2013
Thursday, 8 August 2013
This was another lunch prepared in the little kitchenette of the London apartment I was residing in with my brother this summer. It was the day the apartment management had promised the plumbers would come, plus we had no plans, so it was another ideal opportunity to put the seemingly newly furbished kitchen to be put to proper use. Mind you there were already clear signs of use, or should I say abuse. In addition to those previously listed, the surface of the cabinets above the stove, toaster and electric kettle had shrunk and warped, despite the fact that they were all shiny white and new looking. Also, the walls were reasonably clean except for the confusing faint mystery splatter that stretched from the floor to the ceiling (yes, actually on the ceiling) in a pattern that gave a layman like me no clue as to the directional forces or point of origin that created it. But regardless, these superficial problems did not stop the pursuit of proper pukka nosh. It doesn't matter if your kitchen is big or small, old or new, equipped with hot water or not, if you put the effort in, you can make a decent meal (insert motivational fist pump).
The plump pink pork loins looked great in the store and were pretty good value to purchase. They were simply pan fried, again, in the world's largest frying pan using the amazing rotate-the-gargantuan-pan-over-the-tiny-hob-in-the-corner-to-try-and-heat-the-whole-surface technique. The meat was seasoned with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and fresh sage leaves. After browning both cut sides and when the steaks were almost done, I made sure to hold them upright with the fat edge in contact with the bottom of pan to ensure it cooked the luscious white stuff all the way through. The apple confit was made by peeling, coring and dicing apples (with a paring knife as there was no peeler. And yes, the potatoes for the mash in the last post were also peeled by paring knife) then heating them in a saucepan with butter, oil, a splash of water, salt and sugar until they were tender and caramelised. The pork and apples were served with a simple side of boiled green beans and baby carrots, the latter of which I did not bother peeling or trimming as they were so dinky I didn't want them to disappear completely. I was never a fan of fruit and meat in my younger years, but I have grown to really appreciate how the contrast in flavours and textures work together and create delicious magic. The savoury bulk of the rich fatty pork was beautifully balanced out by the sweet gentle softness of the apples and all the flamboyant flavours were refreshed by the clean simplicity of the beans and carrots. Happy home-cooked food to warm the heart (because the boiler had yet to be fixed...).
Wednesday, 7 August 2013
My dear sister and her husband welcomed their first baby boy into the family in June so we were all very happy and excited to be able to spend some quality bonding time with the little bundle this summer. I was in the UK for about a month, dividing my time between London and my sister's house. I've always liked visiting the UK because of particular produce items that are rare or ridiculously overpriced in my hometown. As a result, I can be frequently found foraging the refrigerated shelves of food-filled supermarkets, specifically for dairy products and berries. I adore good dairy and the UK has plenty of it. When I was younger I was allergic to cows milk, but as the years progressed I seem to have shed those ailments (that or I'm just ignoring any discomfort, which is much like how I allow my affinity for four-legged friends to overthrow the fact that I am completely allergic to pretty much all of them. Whatever. Puppies and kittens for all!).
Whilst in London, I was residing in a short-stay apartment with my brother. The cost of eating out for every meal in the city will eat through your wallet so we like to cook ourselves whenever the opportunity arises. On this culinary occasion, we had chicken thighs. It's so much more worth it to get those big packs of bone-in chicken thighs than it is to get those individually packaged filleted breasts, and they pack so much more flavour and moisture, I have no idea why people don't use dark meat more. Plus the stores frequently have offers on chicken legs or thighs and I think when we got our packs they were “buy 1 get 1 free”. The thighs were pan-seared with lemon thyme before being finished in the oven with some cherry tomatoes. This was served with a side of mashed potato and drizzled with pan juices. All this was done in a small apartment kitchen with a dodgy oven door suffering from dislocated joints, a dinky fridge in which every shelf was broken and a flat glass stove top with a raised metallic rim which prevented the largest frying pan in the world (the only pan that was in the apartment) from fitting in a sensible spot over a single stove (in order to cook anything you would have to place it in the corner of the pan that was receiving heat or constantly rotate the pan to try and even it all out). But regardless of the issues, the scrumptious lunch was a success. The chicken was very tasty and tender and went great with the sweet juicy sunshine of the warm tomatoes and garlic-spiked spuds. It even temporarily took our minds off the fact that there was no hot water for three days due to a broken boiler (also the world's largest). Temporarily being the operative word. Washing up was not as nice.
Friday, 14 June 2013
On this occasion we wanted to venture into uncharted restaurant territory. After surveying the field, we chose the Grill Kabuki Honten as our target. This is a restaurant that specialises in Japanese style hamburg steaks (salisbury steaks to our American cousins) served on sizzling hot plates. The menu, although quite specialised, is very generous. Every set meal ordered comes with an all-you-can-eat buffet of salad, soup, rice and the surprise item, Japanese curry! Not just the sauce either, it had diced vegetables and a pot of red pickles to bejewel your plate.
The salad includes your basic choices like lettuce, carrot, tomatoes and cabbage, but it also includes edamame! These are green soy beans that are still in their pods. They are often served as a bar snack but are very healthy and delicious. Even though the buffet looks quite small and reserved, the items really could serve as a hefty meal themselves.
My dish of choice was the rib eye steak and hamburg combo set. My brother had the fried chicken and hamburg combo and we also ordered a yakisoba to share (like we needed more food with all-you-can-eat curry rice o_O). Our main objective was to try as much as possible though, not to greedily over-indulge...no, really.
The hamburg blew my mind. It is ridiculously tender and juicy but was still packed full of flavour. Now, some may prefer a solid meat patty charred with grill marks on an outdoor barbeque, but keep in mind, this is a Japanese restaurant, so naturally expect everything in a Nippon-fashion. It was a similar story with the steak. Stupidly tender and stupidly tasty. It was adorned simply with a garlic butter, but that alone was enough.
I didn't even think about reaching for the trio of sauces that came with it, although I later did make a conscious effort to taste each on their own. There was a Thai-style spicy dipping sauce, a Japanese ponzu and then the attention-grabbing fuchsia pickle mayonnaise. That, despite the alarming bubblegum colour (which I assume came from the pickles), was very tasty.
For the hamburg steaks we had radish and ponzu sauce and a demi-glace. I preferred the resonant savoury tones of the demiglace but if you want a lighter alternative, I would recommend the citrus-like tang of the ponzu.
The karaage, or fried chicken, was very tender and juicy and the breading was a softer crumbly texture. It went very well with Japanese mayonnaise. As did the yakisoba, which is packed with slices of pork and shredded cabbage and came crowned with an undulating mass of bonito shavings. It was much more generous than most establishments would be willing to provide, in every aspect too.
Even the prices were extremely reasonable, comparative to local mid-range chains. I think the noodles also came with an entire bottle of Japanese mayonnaise served on the table. And did I mention the complimentary scoop of matcha ice cream? Hell yeah.
Sunday, 19 May 2013
This is a homemade treat that I have yet try anywhere else. The entire dish is made from scratch, including the curry base which is made from a flamboyance of fresh ingredients including large red chilies, shallots and turmeric. There is one magic ingredient which provides that distinctive non-replicable flavour and it is something that has always been shrouded in mystery. I know that my mother procures it from Malaysia and cannot seem to find it anywhere else, and I know that it is a flower. It looks like a banana flower, but it isn't. It’s like an untrimmed bamboo shoot, but not. And my mother always referred to it simply as 'that flower' so I have unfortunately yet to be initiated into the wonders of the Pineapple Curry Club nor made privy to their savoury secrets.
What I can tell you, though, is that this curry is always a delight to eat. It is so wonderfully light and fresh but packs a payload of flavour with a good hot kick to boot. My mum sometimes crafts this with king prawns instead of poultry. Either way, I have no problem polishing off a plate full of the stuff. The sweet and acidic pineapple chunks provide these explosive bursts of juicy sunshine to wash over the gentle heat of the fresh spice base. The turmeric really gives the whole thing a consistent savoury hum to compliment the piquant of the fresh red chilies. Just take care not to spill any as this luscious sauce will stain anything it comes in contact with. A delicious delicacy to be enjoyed on non-plastic dinnerware while dressed in your less-than Sunday best.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Whilst we were in Kuala Lumpur, my Uncle John dropped by with a box of Nonya kuih. These are little chewy snack-like treats that tend to feature glutinous rice, rice flour, coconut and pandan as well as many other local flavourings (most of which I can’t name… ). I had just come downstairs as we had all planned to go to a nice dim sum brunch (that is a whole other story) and was greeted with this adorable rainbow of squidgy goodness.
As a child, I was never fond of your typical kuih. Even now, I tend to be quite picky with anything involving sticky rice. So I opted for one thing I knew I would like and another that piqued my curiosity. The first was kuih ketayap, a green spring roll which consists of a soft and sticky pandan crepe rolled around a toasted sweet coconut filling. The gentle flavour of the skin really helps cut through the sharp sweetness of the smoky brown shreds of coconut flesh.
The second thing I sampled was pulut tekan, the blue glutinous rice square topped with kaya (the brown egg custard jam). That vivid indigo shade comes from the butterfly pea flower, which is a popular flavouring in Southeast Asian cuisine. There is a tea in Thailand that uses these flowers which results in a bright blue or indigo translucent drink; very pretty. But back to the kuih; this little rice square had a rather prominent salty note which worked well against the sweet kaya. You could still see the individual grains of rice on the cake but they were very soft and merged together to form a sticky chewy bite.
Monday, 13 May 2013
Sunday, 12 May 2013
Every time we land in Kuala Lumpur, my family and I tend to beeline towards our favourite food haunts and the one that often ends up first on our list is Uncle Lim’s at Subang Parade. Quick, easy and simple, it never fails to provide that instant fix for local flavours whilst still being light enough to stuff in our faces straight off an airplane.
As mentioned before, I am still suffering from a bout of gastritis. If I had been at full cast-iron stomach power, I would have ordered their Nasi Lemak at the drop of a hat. Nasi lemak is coconut rice that is served with a variety of meats or seafood in curries or chili sauces. But as my tummy was tender, I steered away from the rich rice n spicy sauces and ordered a Roti Bakar, two half-boiled eggs and a soya cincau. Roti bakar, also known as kaya toast, is an egg custard jam and butter or margarine sandwiched between thick-cut slices of toasted bread. I love toast. When done properly, this simple staple can be a magical thing. Crisp and warm, light and fluffy; the roti bakar at Uncle Lim’s always makes me happy. The toast came with the typical breakfast accompaniment of two half-boiled eggs. Just with a sprinkling of pepper and a splash of soy sauce, the runny golden yolks and slippery whites go down a treat.
Then I was stupid; in place of a nasi lemak I decided to try their Kari Mee. The yellow noodles in a curry broth for some illogical reason seemed less offensive to my stomach. Of course I was wrong. The soup definitely had a hot spicy kick but seemed to wane a bit when it came to the rest of the flavour. In all honesty, it felt a bit weak and watery with little strength to stand up to the bold flavour and texture of the yellow noodles lurking beneath the surface. However, the fishballs, fried tofu and crispy wantons that decorated the top were quite tasty and helped to redeem the dish a little. Due to the Scoville rating of the soup, I nibbled on the noodles and half the topping before passing the torch on to my dear father, who inexplicably transforms into a bottomless pit every time we come to Malaysia, Singapore or Hong Kong or anywhere else where he can find food he likes that we can’t get back home.
My drink of choice was not surprisingly a soya cincau (‘chin-chow’). In recent years I have found it difficult to resist such promise of light refreshment with a soft gently milkiness, a delicate yet hearty drink and dessert all rolled in to one. I know it is only slivers of grass jelly in soy milk, but I adore the combination. Bubble tea can go suck an egg. Speaking of sucking eggs, I did take a straw and poked into the yolk of my second egg and proceeded to drink it from the inside out; a novel experience which was quite pleasant until I tapped into a small reservoir of pure soy sauce towards the end of my egg drinking escapade. Should anyone else try this, I recommend stirring your eggs and sauce first and make sure your eggs are soft enough for the size of your straw. Size can matter.
Friday, 10 May 2013
So much time has passed since my last entry and now I found myself lying belly down in bed in our house in Kuala Lumpur nursing a tummy-tormenting bout of gastritis. It all started last year when my bestie and I decided to get married. In January of this year, we registered our marriage in Thailand and began planning for the big receptions in Bangkok and Johor Bahru, my maternal hometown. As part of the preliminary preparations I went to JB to scout some potential places for the festivities. As JB is closer to Singapore than KL, we flew from Bangkok to Singapore and drove over to JB. For the return journey we planned to do the same in reverse but also stop over for a couple days in Singapore. This of course brought the promise of many a tasty delight for my insatiable taste buds. But alas, it was not meant to be. On the last day we were in JB, I awoke to the tumultuous twangs of stabby tummy pains. And so began a short but intense stint of stomach flu. However, I find myself here, a week and a half later, still suffering from the turmoil of a sensitive and bloated belly.
It was during those few days we spent in Bangkok before flying back to Malaysia (this time to KL) that I had the chance to be extra kind to my delicate digestive system which brings us to the star of today: homemade pork rice porridge.
Now this is rice porridge is pretty much your everyday Southeast Asian savoury jentacular grub, but that does not in any way detract from the delectable delight that it can bring, especially on recently bruised bowels. The raw rice is boiled with pork bones and plenty of water until the grains split and begin to dissolve into the brewing liquid. It is seasoned quite modestly with salt, pepper, minced garlic and soy sauce just to highlight the natural savoury sweetness of the stock. It is finished with a smidgen of minced pork and a scattering of sliced spring onions for a little splash of freshness. This should definitely be on the menu of gentle foods for the sick and will provide a welcome hearty meal amongst the deluge of dry toast and clear chicken broth (mind you, I still adore a good crisp slice of toast, sick or not). But even if you are fortunate enough to have a perfectly happy tummy, this makes for a tasty light meal that is extremely easy to prepare.