An initiation into nobility

This has got to be the best reunion dinner we have had all these years for Chinese New Year. The restaurant was well-lit and spacious, the food was not only tasty but they were also very fresh — the prawn shells actually stuck to their flesh which meant they were really fresh. From the way the yusheng was topped off with fried enoki mushroom to the sharksfin being presented in fragrant young coconut shells to the skeletal pomfret looking like a piece of art to the glutinous rice and abalone being served in baby pumpkins, each dish tasted as good as they looked. To end the evening, we had a choice of two desserts, mochi and glutinous rice balls and aloe vera with dried longan. It was truly a meal to remember and so very appropriate as a reunion dinner meal for Chinese New Year.

I did a CNY series last year for 15 days of the Chinese New Year, beginning with the Eve. You are welcomed to view the series again. In it, I talked about why certain foods are served during Chinese New Year and what they represent. For convenience, I have linked the series here by day again. I suggest you view them by the day, rather than all at once.

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15.

The food that was served during the reunion dinner was served with a certain purpose in mind — to usher in wealth, family unity, goodwill and success in all our endeavours. So, here’s wishing all my readers, Chinese or otherwise, a Happy (Chinese) New Year to one and all! May you be blessed with wealth, health and may you prosper in every way!

This restaurant was voted the best restaurant in 2013 by Time Out Kuala Lumpur Food Awards. It serves Cantonese food.

NOBLE MANSION,
P1-01, Level 1 Podium, Plaza 33,
No. 1 Jalan Kemajuan, Seksyen 13, 46200 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan.
Tel: 03-7932 3288, 03-7960 8992.

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Seared fresh salmon on the yusheng

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Adding in the sachets of spices.

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The whole dish was topped off with small bits of fried enoki mushroom which was very creative.

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Yusheng, after it had all been tossed and mixed.

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Sharks’ fin soup in a young coconut. The fragrance of the coconut was lovely. Apart from drinking the soup, one could also eat the coconut flesh if one wanted to. A novel way of serving traditional soup.

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Young suckling pig skin minus the meat. We don’t know where the meat went to. Underneath the skin were fresh mushrooms. Without the meat, it meant that we were not quite that full. I wonder what they did to the meat and we didn’t ask either.

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The skeletal pomfret that looked like a piece of art.

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Drunken prawns that were so fresh that the shells stuck to the flesh! On the menu, it read Tiger Prawns. But these prawns did not look like tiger prawns at all.

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Glutinous rice with abalone served in baby pumpkins. Another novel way of serving.

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Mochi and rice balls with sesame seeds.

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Aloe vera with fungus and bits of dried longan

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Anything but beggarly

When Soup Restaurant went up the Chinese restaurant ladder and decided to be a little more upmarket, they also put in a couple of dishes for ‘poor’ diners, hence the beggar meals. This was still in line with why the restaurant started, which was to provide decent meals at reasonable prices, reminiscent of the days of old.

We did not want to eat too much that day and we did not fancy the soup of the day so we decided on two beggar dishes and a tapioca leaves dish. The beggar meals were a good portion and complete in themselves. Each came with rice, meat and vegetables on a hot plate. When we visit next time, we might just order them again.

Soup Restaurant, 90 Hougang Ave 10, #02-21, Hougang Mall S(538766). Tel: 6386 6188.

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Fish Maw soup

Fish maw, also known as swim bladder or air bladder, helps the fish to remain buoyant in water. This bowl of soup was full of meat and maw goodness. It was large enough for two people to share. It was about twice the price of a normal bowl of minced meat, mushroom, seaweed and egg noodles.

Unfortunately, I did not get the name of the stall but will put it down on my next visit. There aren’t many stalls that sell fish maw soup so it shouldn’t be too hard to find if one looks for it.

Serangoon Gardens food centre, 49A, Serangoon Garden Way, S555945.

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Bagus Makan: Fried Hokkien noodles and ampam balik

Malaysian Hokkien fried noodles was something I really wanted to eat and I had the opportunity at Lot 10. The noodles were cooked in black sauce and pork lard, not the most healthy of food but something to die for because of the taste. The dish we had had enough wok hei or fragrance that comes from frying something with enough fiery heat in a wok.

Ampam balik is like a crunchy biscuit with crushed peanuts, sugar and sweet corn. I have not eaten this for years so I was very happy to find it here.

The tea with milk was from a famous stall as well. In fact, every stall in this air-conditioned hawker street was handpicked to be here because they have been in the business through the second and third generation, the taste of their signature dishes were consistently good and they have received highly positive customer reviews. The food here may be a little more pricey than the usual non air-conditioned hawker centres or food court but one gets to try out a lot of delicious food under one roof in clean, air-conditioned comfort. I will definitely come back here again.

Lot 10 Shopping Centre (LG Floor), Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Kuala Lumpur 50250.

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Bagus Makan: Indian Rojak and chendol

Ever since we had Indian rojak and chendol off the back of a truck at Section 17 several years ago, we have been looking for good Indian rojak that was not too far from where we usually stayed while in KL. The truck at Section 17 seemed to have relocated and we did not know where it went to. So when we chanced upon this stall in a coffee shop nearby where we had our noodles, we had to try it!

Malaysian Indian rojak seems to be found mainly in Malaysia so far. I have not really found any in Singapore though several Malaysian restaurants in Australia have emulated this dish rather well. The secret to good Indian rojak lay in the sweet potato and tamarind sauce which gives it an orange colour and the diced coconut fritters. I am not terribly fond of the prawn fritter or the sotong (squid) but the coconut fritter or cake which is slightly crunchy and usually cut up and mixed with the shredded turnip, bean sprouts and hard tofu is a MUST. Without these key ingredients, Indian or Mamak rojak would not be what it is. I am happy to say that this Indian rojak was really good, so good it reminded me of the rojak that was served from the back of the truck at Section 17 before. The best Indian rojaks are probably still sold out of the back of trucks, like they were in the good old days.

Chendol is a drink made and sold mainly by Indians as well. The drink originated from Indonesia. The green ‘worms’ as we would call it, are actually sago and rice flour cooked with pandan leaves, a bit of green colouring, alkaline water and other ingredients into a thick paste which is then forced through a large sieve with holes to form the worms. The syrup is made of gula melaka or palm sugar and these two ingredients along with coconut milk make up chendol. Original chendol does not have red beans. The one we ate at the shop had red beans in it, rendering it nice but no longer authentic in my books. I personally prefer it without red beans but many like the red beans. I may ask them not to put in the red beans next time but instead add in more gula melaka.

On closer scrutiny, this stall seems to be the famous Subang rojak at SS15 which operated, you guessed it, off the back of a truck! The ‘truck’ is now a proper stall called Rojak Subang at Jalan 52/18 New Town, PJ. The stall is in a shop located towards the bookshop and stationery section of the long street.

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Bagus Makan: Prawn noodles, Ipoh hor fun and kaya toast

The food here were found in the same coffee shop as the wantan mee. They were all good.

The prawn noodles had sufficient prawn and pork flavour in the soup. According to folks who eat here often, the cook boils the stock for several hours in order for the taste to get into the soup. The fried onions topped off the soup noodles nicely. For the best combination of noodles, ask for beehoon and egg noodles.

The Ipoh hor fun also did not disappoint. The chicken stock was done just right as well, with the thinner hor fun noodles.

Last but not least was the kaya toast. The white bread toast had a crunch on the outside while soft on the inside. The secret of every kaya toast is really the way the bread is toasted and the kaya. Both were perfect. The bread and kaya had a slightly more important role than the margarine or butter. Of course, with butter, especially salted butter, the saltiness balanced out the sweetness in the kaya. But butter was not always available and it required a fridge in order to keep it from melting. Margarine did not have that problem. The kaya toast here, with margarine, was comparable to the thinner brown kaya toast that is found in Singapore, except that the long white bread toast is more original. That was how it was eaten years ago before the brown bread toast became popular.

The coffee shop is next to UOB bank along Jalan 52/18, PJ State New Town.

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Here comes a Chinese bride!

Chinese-type weddings normally come with an 8-course meal followed by dessert, eaten slowly over a long lunch or dinner. This particular meal was held over lunch, just after the church wedding. It was held at a Chinese restaurant specialising in Cantonese or Sichuan cuisine at Clarke Quay and it was an extremely pleasant lunch, because of the company and the place. The lunch today was Cantonese as the couple is Cantonese.

Chinese wedding dishes are usually laden with meaning to usher in prosperity, goodwill and wealth for the couple. This particular restaurant claims that there is no added MSG in their cooking.
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I loved the mix of western and Chinese tradition here. There were lit candles and rose petals on the floor and at the top of the staircase was a Chinese wedding outfit.
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Flower baskets containing dry ice.

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Coasters that guests could take with them as door gifts.

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This was a nice touch and very Cantonese.

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Oink oink was yummy!

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Scallops and macadamia nuts with vegetables

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I love sharks fin soup. I don’t order it nor do I go looking for it. And I am aware of the unethical means by which shark fins are obtained nowadays. But when I am served a bowl, I enjoy and appreciate it fully.

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Sea cucumber.

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Noodles for longevity

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Ah balling dessert. Glutinuous rice balls with filling on the inside, in a paste. The filling can vary from peanuts to red or green bean paste.

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A copy of the menu.

Peony Jade Restaurant, #02-02, Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road. Tel: 63380305, 63380138.

Drumstick chicken

I am hoping to cook more in 2014. Let’s see how I do.

Steps:
Marinate with crushed garlic, ginger, soya sauce, sugar and rosemary herbs.
Set aside for two hours.
Airfry for 20mins at 160 degrees (remember to turn the pieces over during the 20 minutes) followed by another 10mins at 180 degrees to brown the skin. Pieces also need to be turned over during the last ten minutes.
Serve on lettuce.
This may or may not be served with sauce on the side.

Alternatively, one could bake the chicken in a normal oven and brown it towards the end. The timing varies if baked in an oven, as opposed to using an airfryer.

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Meat rolls

I had a potluck dinner over the holiday season and decided I would try my hand at making airfried pork rolls.

For the meat, I got the shabu shabu pork which was thawed from being frozen. For the sauce I used a combination of soy sauce, sugar, a bit of honey, red wine and crushed mint leaves.

First, cut up the vegetables into long but thin slices. One can use a variety of vegetables like young corn, asparagus, carrots. Enoki mushroom and even sliced red apple. I was just experimenting with a variety of vegetables and the odd fruit so I put in whatever I thought would make a nice combination. In the end, I decided to leave out the apple.

Roll the vegetables in the meat. When there is about an inch left of the meat, dab a bit of egg white onto the meat. This will hold the roll together as it is fried.

I air fried them in an air fryer at 160 degrees Celsius (pre-heated) for 3 minutes. Use a brush to brush the marinade onto the roll before frying. Then I flipped the rolls over, brush them with more marinade and air fried them at 180 degrees for 2 more minutes. For a crispier taste, it can be air fried for slightly longer. As there is a nice layer of fat on the pork already. the roll turns out crispy and moist.

Serve with your favorite sauce or just eat as it is.

These rolls may also be fried in a pan, with or without oil since there already is fat in the pork rolls.

Enjoy!

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A taste of Penang

I didn’t go to Penang and this is not part of the Bagus Makan series though I might actually wander up to Penang one day just for the real thing!

We came here because the queue was the shortest on a Sunday night at the airport. It turned out to be a good decision as the wait was indeed shorter and the food turned out to be pretty good too. This is the halal restaurant in the chain, the non-halal one being Gurney Drive.

One writes down one’s order and pays for the food at the cashier. There is no service charge making it very affordable at an expensive place like the airport.

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There was sufficient prawn flavour in the soup which is important for this to be authentic.

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I am so used to eating rojak in Singapore that I had forgotten what authentic Penang rojak tastes like. The taste in this jolted my memory a little. If I remember correctly, Penang rojak has more fruit in it and is a little more sour. There are also crunchy cracker bits which have been replaced by you tiao in Singapore, and of course, not forgetting the prawn paste which seemed a little stronger. I liked that they did not add too much sugar into it to try and ‘sweeten’ the sourness of the fruit.

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This was just nice – still green, tasty and crunchy from being sufficiently blanched and there was no corn flour added.

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This was a Thai dish. The fried chicken was nicely fried with crunch in it and the fresh mango and raw onions in Thai sauce made this a very appetising dish indeed.

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Chendol in any form has to have enough gula melaka and coconut milk in it and the chendol has to be authentic. This dessert was delightful and the ice was fine enough as well. The dessert was not overly sweet. The soft red bean was an added bonus. Delicious!

On their website, it was stated that they want their customers to ‘bring back a little of “Penang” with them after every dining experience.’ I certainly brought back a bit of Penang with me tonight.

Penang Culture and Gurney Drive is a franchise that has sprang up in several shopping malls in Singapore. The one at the airport won the best outlet award.

Penang Culture, Changi Airport Terminal 2 Departure, Viewing Mall Level 3, #036-087-01, Singapore 819643. Tel: 6546 7793.