Tuesday, October 23, 2007

KL food trip

It's been almost a week since I got back from KL, so this post is long overdue. Unfortunately, my KL trip wasn't the food trip I expected (work getting in the way of what I should be doing in KL, hehehe), but it did have its highlights.

1. Otak-otak. I wrote about this in a previous post, and I did get to try it in KL. Rather than baked or grilled, the version I tasted was steamed. It basically tastes like a fish-flavoured tamale with a good hint of chili and curry. It was actually not bad, although I don't see myself craving for it either.

2. Nasi Ayam. Nasi means rice, ayam means chicken, and nasi ayam is a common meal served by street hawkers in KL. An order of nasi ayam costs around RM 5 to RM 6, giving you a generous serving of spicy fried rice and a modest piece of fried chicken breast, sometimes with a soup of garlic and cilantro on the side. One can also order nasi daging (beef or mutton) instead of chicken, or mee ayam (noodles) instead of rice. Basically, street hawkers have a set of staples on one hand (fried rice, fried noodles, noodle soup, fried bread) and viands on the other (chicken, beef, mutton, seafood) and you can order any combination of staple and viand within a reasonably narrow price range.

3. Teh tarik. Basically black tea sweetened with condensed milk (RM 2). Teh means tea and tarik means altitude-- the tarik in teh tarik comes from the process of mixing the tea and condensed milk. Place piping hot black tea and condensed milk in one cup (usually metal) and pour it onto another cup, increasing the distance (or altitude) between the cups as you go proceed. This process cools down the tea and gives it a frothy texture. Now, I'm more of a green tea person, but teh tarik ranks high in my list of black tea favourites, second only to Indian masala chai.

4. Roti bawang. Roti (RM 3) is an Indian bread cooked on a hot griddle instead of baked. It begins as a ball of dough that is stretched many times over, giving the final product a chewy texture-- you'll see the same process in making pizza dough. Unlike pizza dough, roti is much thinner and folded over when cooked, so it is pretty light despite being cooked in oil. Bawang in Bahasa means onion, so I got the onion roti. One can also add an egg or even some meat to the roti. It is served with a thick curry sauce (taken from any meat curry dish they have lying around) on the side.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Manila, T minus 24 hours

I'm going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tomorrow. This is actually my second time in KL and, if the first trip is any indicator, I think this will be a good food trip (hopefully, work won't get too much in the way).

Among the highlights of my previous trip:

1. Hainanese chicken rice in Suria KLCC (below the Petronas Twin Towers). Unlike the dish that goes by the same name in Manila that is basically glorified tinola (not that tinola is bad, but if I wanted tinola I'll order tinola), the chicken here is roasted, not boiled. The chicken is first cooked ala-Peking duck, then chopped and served with rice cooked in chicken broth and some vegetables.

2. Salmon/Beef teppanyaki at Concorde Hotel. Ok, this is not Malaysian, but their teppanyaki sauce is so far my favourite. It's very garlicky that it's almost a cross between teppanyaki and ala probre sauces. Not really traditional Japanese fare, but I like it.

3. Some set meal in Suria KLCC. Ok, I was in Suria a lot-- that's because it's a 10-minute walk from my hotel. But this food court is in the non-touristy part of Suria where the real and cheap Malaysian food is served. For the equivalent of P70, you get three big viands and rice. I got two vegetable dishes-- something like curried taro leaves and curried langka-- and a spicy chicken dish (I like to say rendang but I'm not so sure). Best meal in KL I had, including hotel and resto food. No kidding.

4. Malaysian halo-halo in Suria KLCC and Bukit Bintang. The main difference with our halo-halo is (1) different fruits like durian, lychees, and others I don't recall or recognise, (2) coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, and (3) no beans.

I'll try to pay more attention this time, and take some pics.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

One man's cooking...

... is another man's biological weapon: Burning chilli sparks terror fear (from BBC)

My friend dr.sbdink, who is currently living in Singapore, says that tenants over there are not allowed to cook. I think this is a rational policy, and very vital for a smooth lesee-lessor relationship. Even if Singaporean cuisine has its share of stinky pastes and sauces, they're their stinky pastes and sauces.

Speaking of stinky food, dr.sbdink tells me of this food in Singapore called otak-otak. According to the interweb, the dish is from Indonesia but Malaysia and Singapore have their versions. It's basically fish paste placed in banana leaves and grilled over charcoal or baked in an oven. I found a recipe here. It can be eaten on its own or as a side dish or as a viand with rice. Dr.sbdink has tried it and, well, didn't really like it. I'm going to Kuala Lumpur next week-- hopefully I'll find this dish so I can give my own review.

As for the name, otak-otak perplexes me. I know that otak means brain in Bahasa, so what does otak-otak mean? Well, based on the pics I've seen, the greyish brown fish paste does look a little like brains. It wouldn't surprise me if that's the etymology of the dish's name-- in the Philippines we have even weirder names for food. E.g., kulangot (literally booger), which is a sweet concoction of coconut and sugar placed in small coconut shells-- the shells are the nostrils and, well, you get the picture. And then there's pan de regla (literally menstruation bread), which is bread with red jam and some butter. Go figure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Great Guatemalan Guacamole

This recipe is from my colleague Eliana. She is actually a Colombian living in Australia, but the guacamole recipe is Guatemalan due to the addition of mint.

avocados (2)
lemon or lime juice (1 spoon)
vinegar (1 spoon)
onion (about 2 spoons, finely chopped)
tomatoes (about 2 spoons, finely chopped tomatoes)
coriander (about 1/3 cup)
mint (about 1/3 cup)
salt and pepper
garlic (one clove, if you don't have a date that evening)

Mash the avocados with a fork. Finely chop the onions, tomatoes, chillies and garlic. Chop the coriander and mint. Mix everything and add the lemon juice and vinegar. You may also use a blender or food processor to mince and mix the ingredients, but you'll end up with a very smooth guacamole.

A mixture of chopped coriander, onion, tomatoes, chillies, and garlic with a dressing of lemon and vinegar is called pico de gallo. Guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream are three essential ingredients for authentic tacos. Recipe for chicken and beans to follow.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

UK shops to lose famous soup can

(From BBC)

The Campbell's Condensed Soup tin, made famous by pop artist Andy Warhol, has been canned by new owner Premier Foods. Read more.