Bagus Makan: Hairy fruit!

I couldn’t resist after spotting them overhanging into my mum’s garden. The deep red clusters were irresistible.

“Bertha!” my mum called. “Bring a pole!” Within minutes, the lovely clusters were on the grass. Brushing off the black ants whose nests had been ruined by Bertha, they now made a beeline to escape… up her arms. Being a farmer, she made quick work of plucking the fruit and getting rid of the ants. Within minutes, the rambutans were in a plastic container in the kitchen.

“The ants are coming! Quick! Get down!” Hee shouted to me. I was below her and clambered down. She swung down immediately from branch to branch. The ants were the big, red ones and their bites stung. The black ants didn’t bite and their domain was the chiku tree then. But the red ants made their nests in the rambutan tree.

Safe from their reach under the tree, we tucked into our little harvest. The rambutans were the nicest in the neighbourhood. Everyone knew that the flesh did not cling to the seeds and they were actually slightly crunchy. Each time we harvested, five families benefitted and gladly so.

Thirty plus years on, there are no more fruit trees left. Our rambutan tree gave out its finest and most bountiful harvest the year my eldest brother got married, thirty plus years ago. That year, the rambutans were the sweetest ever. After that, there were no more rambutans or so few that we did not even consider it a yield. It had given its all in the year of the first wedding among us siblings. It felt like the tree was behaving like The Giving Tree. Subsequently, the old tree was chopped down, which I felt was a pity as it had become more than a tree and almost like a playmate through the years of adventures I, and my helper, had clambering up and down that tree, plucking rambutans. I never needed to buy rambutans then and have not bought any since as none ever came close to the taste of the ones we had.

Now, tucking into the fruit that we had helped ourselves to, the flesh too did not cling to the seed and it was also a little crunchy. An offspring of the old tree? Perhaps.

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Bagus Makan: Tim Sum in Melaka

This place, like so many other eating places in Malaysia, is also located in a coffeeshop. We were a large group so we picked a variety of food from the tray. I tried the big pau with the leaking gravy. I’ve not had leaking paus before. It was something different, a little messy, but good. The rest of the food, ranging from har gao, siew mai, pork ribs, porridge and sesame seed balls with lotus paste filling tasted really yummy. There was enough flavour in each little plate. Each little plate was just right without making one overly full as it was not too oily nor too salty and best of all, it didn’t burn a hole in the pocket!

I decided to order coffee just before we were to leave and in order to gulp it down, I asked for some ice. To my surprise, they said that they did not have any as there was no refrigerator in the shop. You can imagine my shock! Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to ask them to pack my coffee so that I could take it away. They served free-flowing tea but no cold drinks! And all the food was freshly handmade daily and nicely covered from preying flies in the kitchen (remember there is no fridge). Amazing! This place served some seriously good tim sum.

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EVERYTHING was nice! We picked what we wanted from the tray.

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No, we didn’t eat them all.

Bagus Makan: Wantan Mee in PJ New Town

How does one do a food review without posting a picture of the food? How about I just describe the noodles and the reader imagines it. So here goes. I do not know if this is the best wantan mee in town but this is one stall that I have patronised for a very long time. My family and I used to eat here on weekends and even when they relocated their stall, we followed them. Fortunately, they did not move too far away from the area. It’s a case of growing up and now growing old eating the noodles here. So yeah, to me, this is the best wantan mee and I compare all the wantan mee that I eat elsewhere to the one here.

Firstly, don’t go during the peak periods like lunch. Go just before or after. They are not so busy and your order will be better prepared and served. If they mix up your orders, give them a break, they have been at it for so many years and they are not young nor did they farm out the cooking to others. As far as I can remember, their noodles have been quite consistent. And yes, we have eaten at their stall for so long that we are on face recognition basis now, and so are many of the locals here.

So, what’s so special about their noodles? Well, firstly, Malaysian wantan mee is black due to the delicious, dark sauce used (unlike Singapore wanton mee which I almost never eat unless they use black sauce) and the wantans are not large but they are tasty. The char siew or barbecued pork is more dark than red and I prefer it dark to red, with a lovely glaze and more lean than fat. It is cooked just right. The use of a bit of lard in their noodles makes it fragrant. If one wanted more noodles, one could order a large. It is one of those meals that I almost always try to have whenever I am there.

Updated 10/1/2014. The stall is now at the coffee shop next to UOB bank along Jalan 52/18, PJ State New Town. The wantan mee stall here is now run by the two sisters (who relocated their stall here recently). I returned here to take some pictures of the noodles as a link to a picture I linked to before got removed.

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Bagus Makan: Beef noodles in Puchong

We had beef soup noodles that had been reviewed in the local newspapers. But that was not why we came. We were staying nearby and this place had been famous for its beef noodles which hails from Kota Baru, Kelantan, before the review. The soup base was herbal which was what made it different. Besides beef balls, there were also bits of cow’s stomach in the dish. I was told that one either liked the soup or hated it. I didn’t mind the herbal soup but what I really liked was the homemade chilli. I know, this review is not about chillies. But eating the beef noodles with the homemade chilli made something good taste better. Never take the humble chilli sauce for granted.

Lim Siong Kee stall is located within Restoran KH20, 67 Jalan Kenari 20, 47100 Puchong.

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Local coffee. I like that they are served in small cups.

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Beef noodles in herbal based soup. It was rich in flavour.

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Sarawak mee kolok. This dish hails from Sarawak and even though the name Sarawak is in it, not every stall that sells this, cooks or serves it in the same way as they do in Sarawak. For a noodle dish, it tasted fine to me. But I cannot vouch for its authenticity as I have not eaten it in Sarawak before.

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The coffee shop is located at a corner with Guinness advertisement on one side of the building.

Bagus makan: Fried noodles in Klang

One of the nicest things to do in Malaysia is to eat. I was here for a couple of days and thought I would feature food that is commonly found in the coffee shops in Malaysia. Most coffee shops are very similar. Some stalls have now been taken over by foreign workers where they used to be cooked by Malaysians before. The foreign cooks sometimes do as good a job as the locals while others wait on tables and clear the dishes. They are from countries like Myanmar. Indonesians used to work here in huge numbers before but they have been replaced by the Burmese who pick up a smattering of English, Malay, Chinese and Chinese dialects. As long as everything is more or less within the menu, the orders will be placed and served. This scenario is played out in tens to hundreds of coffee shops around the country. Remarkable, indeed!

Today we had the kaya bun, char kuay teow and fried beehoon. The fried kuay teow turned out to be a bit gluggy and we were served wrongly. Our order of mixed kuay teow and egg noodles was given to somebody else. But at 3pm in the afternoon, the other shops had already closed and there was a long queue at the fried kuay teow stall so we left it. The fried beehoon was fine, however, as were the kaya buns. I was told that the original old chef had turned the task of cooking over to a foreigner who was not as skilled as he was. This did not put a damper on our appetites, however.

Malaysians love good food and when one is visiting, ‘all there is to do is eat.’ There is certainly no lack of cheap and good food here and if it cannot be found here, it’ll be found elsewhere.

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Kaya bun

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Coffee served with condensed milk. Coffee that is served in coffee shops like these usually consist of coffee beans that have been fried with margarine resulting in fragrant beans before they are crushed into coffee powder and made into drinks.

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Fried beehoon which was nice.

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Char kuay teow that turned out to be too gluggy.

An old staple!

I never imagined I would have a favourite chicken rice stall in Singapore — chicken rice is very common in Singapore — but I think I may have found one at the Kovan hawker centre. Standing in line to order while the stall assistant packed ten packs for the customer before me, I struck up a conversation with a Filipino helper who really liked the food and had a lot of good things to say about the taste. I ordered the smallest available while she ordered the largest as it was that good.

Tucking into the hot fragrant chicken rice was nice on a cold, wet, rainy day. The portion was a little more generous compared to other stalls and the soup was pretty authentic – clear, chicken soup goodness. The stall also had an A rating for hygiene and was well run. It was only when I was going back to take a picture of the stall that I noticed the accolades and reviews on the stall by the different magazines and newspapers. A quick check on two other chicken rice stalls did not show any reviews on theirs. Located towards the back of the hawker centre, this was the best of the lot! I think I’ve found my value-for-money chicken rice stall.

Later, I found out that this is a franchise where the stalls are located mainly in hawker centres.

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For $2.50, the amount of chicken was more than some of the other stalls I have been to and the soup was good too. This chicken rice may be the best around yet.

Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, 209 Hougang Street 21, #01-49 Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre, S530209.

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This stall proudly displays the heads and neck bones of the chicken to show how many chickens they have sold that day.

 

Oh crab!

We wanted to try one of the seafood restaurants at the East Coast Seafood Centre this time. When we reached there, we narrowed down our choices to three restaurants. We could not decide which one to eat at as all of them were fairly crowded. In the end, we decided based on the brand and which one had the most number of customers as well as the largest floor space. The restaurant is also the first restaurant in the group of Jumbo Seafood restaurants.

So far, I have been to three places for my crab adventures. This place is the fourth and by far the best. The staff are clearly very well-trained from handling large volumes of customers, both locals and foreigners, and knew how to handle our queries. Food came very quickly but progressively. While we were eating the first plate of crab, they did not serve the second until we were done with the first, which I thought was quite thoughtful. All the dishes were good. This place has made it to my list of restaurants for eating crab.

The Jumbo group of restaurants is a very successful group of restaurants as they serve good Chinese food and they have managed to maintain the quality of their food. They have their own membership card which on hindsight I should have purchased as I foresee I will be visiting them again soon.

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, Blk 1206 East Coast Parkway, #01-07/08, East Coast Seafood Centre, Singapore 449883. Tel: 6442-3435.

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The crab was really fresh, the gravy was buttery smooth even though it was cooked with salted egg. Small amounts of shallots were added to the gravy and it actually made the taste nicer. Presentation was also good.

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These asparagus were naturally sweet.

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Yang chow fried rice had enough wok hei in it.

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This dish takes the cake! We thought the earlier crab dish was good and we were already quite full from eating the rice and vegetables as well. But when we savoured this dish, we were stunned that it tasted as good as it did. Their choice of black pepper was what made this dish outstanding. It was obviously very good quality black pepper and the way the peppers were cracked and cooked with the crab brought out the sweetness in the crab. And we could taste all this despite being fairly full! A definite must have when I come back here again.

Sichuan goodness

I was in Sichuan recently and had trouble uploading food pics to my blog so I am posting all the food pics at once and have decided to just do one post on the trip. Usually, I would talk about the meals separately. Because we travelled in a large group this time, we were served similar dishes at each meal and because I could not converse in Mandarin, I could not and did not ask too much about the food I was eating, hence some dishes have no descriptions. For our sake, they went easy on the spiciness and eventually they even reduced the amount of food served per dish as we simply could not finish the food. It was quite common to serve between 15 to 18 dishes at each meal.

What I loved about Sichuan food was the variety of vegetables we were served. We were told that many of the vegetables were organically grown. We did not eat a lot of meat dishes compared to the amount of vegetables and soups we were served, which suited us fine. Desserts or what I would consider dessert were served as part of the main meal. As the days progressed, I learnt to successfully remove one of the tongue-numbing spices that was rather common in all the spicy Sichuan food that I tasted. This was important as I wanted to enjoy the food without a numb tongue! You can read more about the spice, which is actually a berry, here.

The weather was turning cold and that made us hungry and I have to say that hot food, including spicy hot food tasted really good in the cold. And because Sichuan is well known for its panda research centre, I thought I would include a couple of pictures that I was able to successfully capture. And no, we did not eat any dogs.

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All the dishes were served together at the same time, usually with hot rice. There were about 15 to 18 dishes per meal.

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Spicy potato and chicken dish

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Stir-fried long beans. I simply loved the variety of vegetables we were given.

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Tomato and scrambled eggs

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A meat dish

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A meat and beancurd dish

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Shredded potato dish

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Another meal. The soup dish is in the middle.

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Shredded beancurd

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A chicken dish

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Spicy potato and meat dish

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French fries and chicken nuggets (not from frozen chicken) were also served as were the tofu dishes. In the background is another vegetable soup dish. We were served about two of three different types of soup per meal.

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This looked more spicy than it actually tasted. Peppers and meat dish.

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Aloe vera in a citrus based syrup

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Lovely bamboo plant arches. This variety of bamboo plants is unique to China and preferred by the pandas.

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Panda Mama and baby

Mum’s Place?

This is a halal Chinese restaurant in the Kembangan area and is very popular with the locals. We decided to go there for zi char, where the food is cooked for you but not at pricey Chinese restaurant prices. We ordered beef with shallots, stir-fried kailan leaves and fish soup with bittergourd. When the dishes arrived, I was stunned by how large the portions were. Three people could have easily eaten the amount we ordered and indeed, we doggy-bagged the remainder to take away.

The food was not too bad. Not exactly Mum’s cooking that I am used to nor even Chinese cooking but close enough considering that it was halal. Where the experience was more authentic was when I got to order hot Chinese tea which came in a pot with little ceramic cups. I have not seen cups with those designs for many years now. So seeing the cups here really did remind me of Mum, cos we have those cups at home. Many coffeeshops that I go to have replaced the cups with glasses. I was also able to top up the tea with hot water when needed, which meant that the pot of tea went a really long way. Hot Chinese tea is a must when eating Chinese food as the hot tea helps to break down the fats in the food, aiding with digestion. It was the way we ate Chinese food growing up. The only problem was the place only had tea and not alternatives like chrysanthemum, which is caffeine-free. This meant we risked being awake all night from drinking the tea.

The place also serves western dishes like steaks which is what it is well-known for.

Mak’s Place, 401 Changi Rd, Singapore 419847. Tel:6844 7656.

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Hot Chinese tea in a pot with little ceramic cups

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Fried beef with ginger and shallots.

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Whenever I order this, I would ask for this to be stir-fried just with garlic, without any corn starch. But this little coffee shop was so advanced that they keyed in their orders via little handheld devices (which were presumably sent wirelessly and directly to the kitchen) and there was no option for what I wanted. Hence, the dish came with corn starch which is usually used to thicken the gravy.

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Fish, bittergourd and vegetable soup

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The deli next door

This place was recommended by a friend who was recommended by her friends. The irony is I have driven past this place numerous times on my way to my favourite porridge place without realising what was in this little cafe. I often see a lot of people at the bakery next door and did not notice this little joint at all.

So today, a friend and I decided to check it out. Located in a HDB area, the cafe is small, the food is economical and complete. The array of food ranges from appetisers, mains, sides to desserts. One orders and pays at the counter. With the costs being kept down, one can get really good food here. It is the kind of place where one leaves after eating; not the kind where you would sit and read for a while. This place turned two this year.

There was one dish which we saw other customers trying and which we wanted to try if we came here again, which we will. It was wok-fried laksa, a fusion dish that looked really good. I’ll post the picture of the dish and a short review the next time I visit.

Next Door Deli, 529 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, #01-2369, Singapore 560529. Tel: 6458 6180.

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Beef steak

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Grilled chicken that was good value. I especially liked the mashed potato as it tasted like it was home made.

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Margarita Chiffon cake which was quite good actually. The margarita syrup was packed separately and one would just pour it over the cake.

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The little cafe after the customers have left. Simple and cosy enough.