Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nasi Kandar, Penang

From The Star today:

Too good to miss

Craving for some really great nasi kandar? Here are some places in Penang you can check out.

NASI Kandar, among others, is a must-have dish when you visit Penang. It is actually rice with several different curries and side dishes poured over it.

Tantalising: The dishes available at Kayu Nasi Kandar.

Many who visit Penang would pack several packets of Nasi Kandar to bring back home to their family.

A long time ago, rice vendors would go around on foot selling Nasi Kandar. They would carry the rice and dishes in food carriers which they’d balance on their shoulders using a long bamboo pole or stick. This is basically how the name Nasi Kandar came about as nasi means rice and kandar means balancing.

The name has stuck on till this day and the dish itself has been commercialised and made popular by the Indian Muslims or “Mamaks”.

Some of the famous Nasi Kandar outlets in Penang are Line Clear, Nasi Kandar Pelita, Kayu Nasi Kandar and Kassim Restaurant.

Nasi Kandar Pelita is the largest Nasi Kandar restaurant chain in Malaysia with 21 outlets located in Malaysia and an overseas restaurant located in Chennai, India. Its headquarters is in Taman Chai leng, Prai.

Popular: Many people also make a beeline for Nasi Kandar Pelita.

Line Clear, on the other hand, is the oldest Nasi Kandar joint, said to have been around for the past 45 years.

Located along a small narrow lane on Penang Road in George Town, the stall attracts customers 24 hours of the day.

The crowd starts coming in at around 10am as it is a tradition among people in Penang and other northern states to have a full rice meal for breakfast. It is also advisable to come in before the lunch crowd as there are limited chairs and tables.

According to locals, the name originated from workers shouting “Line Clear!” to indicate that a bill had been settled and the table cleared.

They hardly ever shout that anymore but a table still gets cleared as soon as a customer leaves the place.

The stall offers a whole range of dishes including curries, honey chicken, fried fish roe and vegetables. Just point to what you want and the workers will pile it onto your choice of briyani or white rice.

They then banjir (flood) your rice with a few types of curries – this is the traditional way to eat Nasi Kandar. If you would rather not have your rice ‘flooded’, let them know.

A satisfying meal of succulent honey chicken, beef rendang and vegetables will tally up a bill of about RM6.

Latest Recipe at the Le Meridien

New in town

Hotel dining in KL heats up with the addition of Latest Recipe at the Le Meridien.

IT’S the time of year to throw plans for a svelte new you out the window. There’s a new dining destination in town – Latest Recipe at the Le Meridien, Kuala Lumpur.

Despite its unimaginative-sounding name, the all-day-dining restaurant serves up inspired Asian and international fare.

Variety is key: Seafood, authentic indian cuisine, tapas, vegetarian and desserts are available at Latest Recipe.

Latest Recipe gives new meaning – and taste – to the term “melting pot.” The establishment is the flagship for a series of similar eateries at Le Meridien hotels across the globe.

The predominantly white interior of the former restaurant One on One, has been given an Eastern makeover, courtesy of Thai-based consultancy firm, Hansell Design.

Now, jade green and vibrant orange flow through the curved space. The Asian theme is taken further with a New Age soundtrack to accompany your meal.

That’s all well and good, but does the food manage to excite? There’s a lot of it, for sure. And if you’re not careful, you might end up quaffing super-size portions.

The restaurant works on a tried-and-tested concept. Chefs are positioned at individual food stations, preparing a remarkable array of familiar offerings, reinterpreted by the hotel’s award-winning executive chef Antoine Rodriguez.

You may begin at the teppanyaki section. Here, sea-fresh scallops, prawns, squid, beef and chicken get the hot plate and melted butter treatment. The key words here are “sizzling” and “yummy”.

Those who enjoy sashimi and sushi, might like the unlimited servings of salmon, mackerel, butterfish, abalone, octopus and other oceanic selections.

Asian vibe: Jade, green and vibrant orange give it a contemporary look and feel.

Watch the friendly chef cook up a storm of stingray, prawn, slapper, lobster, green mussels, bamboo clam and prawns. Special sauces add local flavour (read: spicy) to your flame-cooked meal.

If fresh Chilean oysters, Pacific Prawns, Blue Yabbies and other delights are more your thing, make your way to the “Seafood on Ice” section.

Have an oyster or two or three, and wash them down with a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc. Now, isn’t this the life?

The restaurant is also particularly proud of its signature Hainanese chicken rice prepared steamed, sesame glazed and roasted. And if pastas are more your scene, the six varieties: tortellini, panzerroti, spaghetti, squid ink fettuccine, ravioli, and cappelinni, are bound to crank up the gastric juices.

The roasted marinated ribeye roll, is also bound to tempt meat lovers.

Indian cuisine is well represented here, too. Besides the usual tandoori and roti, there’s also a spice-rack worth of curries that are as authentic as they come.

Take your pick of mutton, squid, fish, chicken, and prawn concoctions, lovingly created by chefs.

Non-meat eaters are not forgotten, either. Check out the large spread of aubergine, potato, bittergourd, cottage cheese and cabbage curries.

At the heart of Latest Recipe is Chef Rodriguez’s signature tapas selection, which changes daily.

Delights such as smoked duck, salmon confit, seared lamb, and tomato terrine are prepared creatively.

Mouth-watering desserts like waffles are available.

The “live” theme is taken further at the dessert sections where the waffle counter creates delicacies that one normally would have for breakfast. But hey, who’s complaining?

A personal favourite would be waffles smeared with peanut butter and chocolate. Decadent? Definitely.

Even more so are the three chocolate fountains proffering endless streams of milk, dark and white chocolate.

The piece de resistance of the dessert section must surely be the ice cream teppanyaki “live” counter.

I initially wondered how that would work. Ice cream, after all, melts when heated, and there’s probably nothing as hot as a tepanyaki stove.

The answer soon became clear. A vast array of candy shop-type condiments such as croquants, gummy candy, cookie crumbs, feullantine, chocolate chips and the like are “cooked” together with the ice cream. Sound like a clever concept? Well, the results were interesting, to say the least.

The more conventional among us will also find the sugar rush-inducing variety of cakes and other confectionery something to look forward to.

Besides the usual buffet spread (dinner: RM78++ for adults and RM48++ for children), a special dessert buffet (RM38++ for both adults and children) is also available daily.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Toast of the town

From The NST

When in Kluang, you don’t have to go all the way to the Railway Station for a taste of its famous kopi, kaya toast and other signature items, writes PEGGY LOH

Laksa noodles, mee rebus and chicken curry
Chocolate brownie topped with ice-cream
Jack serving his regular customers
“DO beh chia mea?” I was puzzled by this question on the little menu. After asking for a translation, I learned that it’s Hokkien dialect for “What would you like to eat?”

My eager but silent reply was “everything”. But I politely settled for a little of everything instead. It’s hard to resist the classic kopi, kaya toast and every other specialty at Kluang Rail Café, a new branch of the famous Kluang’s Railway Station Coffee Shop that has been whipping up the goodies for 68 years!

Just Like The Rail Thing

It’s obvious that “racial segregation” is unheard of here. Coffee shops such as this are still places where friends of every race swap stories or seal business deals over cups of coffee.

Chinese, Malay and Indian youths, office workers and families and even Europeans employed by multinational companies in Kluang and Batu Pahat are frequent patrons who appreciate the café’s ambience and array of food. Some are such regulars that they order without looking at the menu.

Jack Lim, a fourth generation Lim of Kluang’s Railway Station Coffee Shop, has taken over a corner shop in Kluang new town, turning it into the “Toast of the Town”.

Its nostalgic railway theme and décor is keeping in line with the “rail tradition” of the original coffeeshop that operates at the Kluang Railway Station.

There are wooden tables, stools and plank walls with wire-net windows and lots of natural light, but in air-conditioned comfort. Pointing upwards, Jack proudly drew my attention to double railway tracks suspended from the ceiling!

As I lingered over my cup of aromatic Kluang Rail coffee, I watched Jack exchange greetings with familiar customers. Two obviously good friends studying the menu and discussing choices, made a pretty picture of what it meant to be truly Malaysian. Heads close together, the Chinese lady’s curly head nodded in agreement with the Malay lady whose head was covered by a modest pink tudung!

The affable Jack said: “People are just comfortable here, sitting and eating together.” The right mix of trendy ambience, mouthwatering menu and fair prices is clearly bringing people back for more.

What’s Special

From toast and sandwiches to noodles and rice, there are choices of Eastern and Western favourites to suit every taste.

For me, roti khawin (with kahwin spelt the old way) was simply irresistible. Melting butter and kaya oozed out from charcoal-toasted slices of bread and buns, served in white and wholemeal choices. It’s the perfect “marriage” of butter and kaya in a combination that titillates, bite after bite.

Served on greaseproof paper, nasi lemak and mee siam were fond favourites while spicy mee rebus and curry noodles looked equally yummy. I savoured Rail Sandwiches made of mantou (plain pau) filled with sardine, tuna or sambal ikan bilis with crispy cucumber and pungent onion slices.

I was glad I saved some space for a superb sweet ending, a rich blend of creamy coffee with Milo and vanilla flavours in the cool Railway Float and a wedge of Rail Chocolate Brownie topped with vanilla ice-cream.

How To Get There

Kluang Rail Café is located at No. 33, Jalan Manggis and open daily from 7am to 10pm. Closed on Mondays. You can reach Kluang either by rail or by road on the scenic route from Johor Baru or via the North-South Highway and exit at Air Hitam toll to Kluang town.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

1 Stop Cafe, Jalan Ipoh, KL

Modern touches at Hainanese coffee shop

TUCKED away in a cosy corner shop lot on Jalan Balam, just off the busy Jalan Ipoh is 1 Stop Cafe, a modern take on the classic Hainanese coffee shop.

Owner Heng See Soon's grandfather had actually started the business at its current location in 1961.

With 10 years of experience as operations manager for a big Malaysian restaurant chain, Heng decided to take over the family business about three years ago.

Together with three chefs experienced in different gourmet styles, they revamped the look and also the menu of the shop.

Unlike older coffee shops, the interior of 1 Stop Cafe is bright and cheerful yet simple and unpretentious with no fancy decorations or gimmicks, very much like the food they serve.

Sweet snack: The Crepe Couple.

“We were able to come up with a variety of food items because one chef specialises in Chinese dishes, another in Western food and the other in Chinese snacks and desserts,” said the 36-year-old Heng.

He explained that on top of serving regular dishes like noodles and rice, there was a need to have some special dishes that could only be found in 1 Stop Cafe.

“We are continuously experimenting with new recipes to come up with interesting dishes to stay ahead in this competitive market,” he said.

One of their signature dish is the pumpkin pie, a finger food with a delectable steamed pumpkin filling with a crispy outer pumpkin shell coated with bread, painstakingly crafted to resemble the actual pumpkin fruit.

Another must-try is the pumpkin paste, a creation of chef Pang Chee Teck.

“The sweetness of the paste comes naturally from the pumpkins so we don’t even need to add sugar. You can have it on its own or with our homemade tau fu fah (soft beancurd),” said Pang, 39.

Another one of Pang’s innovations that has become a best seller is the Snowman Brownie, a chocolate cheese brownie.

Tempting: The Masala Chicken Nasi Lemak and natural juices.

Another light snack to munch on is the Tortilla: a tortilla skin with a thin layer of omelette on top wrapped around a filling of cheese and chicken ham cooked in char siu sauce (a sauce used to make roasted pork).

The Crepe Couple is an innovative dessert: bananas and grated coconut wrapped in a soft crepe. The alternating green pandan crepes and yellow egg crepes give it a creative touch.

To create the Sandwich Roll, the chefs came up with an interesting twist to the regular sushi roll stuffed with cucumbers, carrots and omelette by replacing rice with bread.

“With bread, this makes a light snack that doesn't fill you up too quickly,” said Heng.

For those who would like to stick to the more common kopitiam food, Heng suggests the Massala Chicken Nasi Lemak and Fried Meehon with glass noodles.

The cafe also has an extensive list of natural juices that was thoroughly researched and tested by Heng and the chefs.

“We go through books that recommend certain juices for certain health benefits and we’ll try it to see if it tastes good as some of the concoctions can taste quite awful,” said Heng with a laugh.

They have about six signature mixes like Summer Holiday (mango and watermelon) and Purple Lady (beetroot, starfruit and apple) that they retain and they change the rest every three to four months, depending on the demand from customers.

Some of the other blends on their menu include Memory Mender that has tomato, cauliflower and orange, Triple C with cabbage, carrot and celery or the Popeye Power that combines apple, spinach, parsley and celery.

Even with a contemporary decor and new fusion dishes to keep things fresh, 1 Stop Cafe has also successfully maintained that time-honoured aura of a Hainanese coffee shop.

“That's why the ‘Stop’ in our name actually stands for ‘same time, old place’,” said Heng, adding that some of his current customers were descendants of customers who frequented the shop during his grandfather’s time.

A team: Heng (left) and Pang standing in front of the café’s juice bar with some of their signature dishes.

There is the unmistakable aroma of hand-roasted coffee served in the familiar cup and saucer with floral design.

The coffee is flavourful and strong, unlike the run of the mill coffee that is commonplace in many restaurants and eateries these days.

Heng explained that they sourc-ed the coffee from the very same supplier that his grandfather had bought from: Hainanese relatives who still roast their own coffee beans.

“Even the craft of making the perfect cup of coffee is a dying trade. Our tea lady has been working here for more than 20 years. Not many youngsters want to learn the art of making coffee. Even I myself did not pick up the skill,” he admitted.

The cafe also provides catering services for small parties and functions.

  • 1 Stop Cafe is open daily from 11am to 11pm. It is at No 2 , Jalan Balam, Batu 3 Jalan Ipoh, 51100 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-40426880.

  • West Lake Garden Chinese Restaurant, Sunway Resort Hotel

    A celebration of food and wine

    WEST Lake Garden Chinese Restaurant at Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa celebrates food, wine and good taste with Flavourlicious, a month-long celebration to coincide with the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) 2007.

    Master Chinese Chef Chan Choo Kean, 40, uses an interesting mix of seafood, meat, vegetables and herbs to create the Liu Xiang Festival Menu I and II, and Jin Yu Festival Menu I and II (paired with wine).

    For starters: Double-Boiled Lamb Consomme with Morel Mushroom and Lamb Rack (left) and Clear Lobster Soup with Lobster Medallion, Crab Claw and White Beancurd.

    His philosophy lies in using the freshest and finest ingredients available, adopting a personal touch for preparations, and considering the overall mood of diners and ambience to create an exquisite dining experience.

    “Based on customers’ recommendations, I’ve picked the best dishes out of those I’ve created over the past few years, improved on the recipes, and created them for the festival,” said Chan, who has been specialising in Chinese cuisine for 21 years.

    The Jin Yu Festival Menu I is a unique melange of Combination of Steamed Squid Ink Dumpling Filled with Boletus Mushroom and Fresh Scallop Emerald Dumpling in Golden Pumpkin Puree for appetiser; Double-Boiled Lamb Consomme with Morel Mushroom and Lamb Rack for starter; a choice of Pan-Seared Beef Tenderloin with Piquant Mongolian Dressing served with Cheese Wrapped Tofu or Shallow-Fried Canadian Cod Swirled with Savoury Cream Sauce and Shanghai Wok-Seared Bun Filled with Shrimp Mousse and Chicken for main course; last but not least is the Chilled Avocado and Aloe Vera Coulis and Custard Filled Filo Dough Dumpling with Ice Cream for dessert.

    Sweet and sour flavour: The Combination of Stir-Fried Lobster Tail with Fresh Milk and Lemon served with Baked Pomfret.

    For the Jin Yu Festival Menu II, diners can indulge in the colourful Trio of Braised Quail Drum Stick with Star Anise served with Fresh Spring Onion Salad, Steamed Dumpling Filled with Gourd Vegetables and Served with Dough Fritters, Red Cherry Tomato Stuffed with Sea Scallop and Choya Umeehu Wine Jelly served with Sesame Sauce for appetiser.

    Warm your tummy with a bowl of Clear Lobster Soup with Lobster Medallion, Crab Claw and White Beancurd, then choose either one of these for your main course: Combination of Stir-Fried Lobster Tail with Fresh Milk and Lemon served with Baked Pomfret, or Wok-Fried Australian Rack of Lamb in Green Chili Sauce, served with Chinese Lettuce.

    End your meal with Deep-Fried Durian Puff with Sour Sop for dessert.

    Wine selections for both Jin Yu Festival Menus are Banfi Le Rime Toscana IGT for the appetisers, Banfi Col di Sasso Toscana IGT to set off with main courses and Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon to complete the dessert pairings.

    The Liu Xiang Festival Menu I and II feature the same dishes as Jin Yu Festival Menu I and II but without the wines.

    Chef Chan: Uses an interesting mix of seafood, meat, vegetables and herbs to create the dishes.

    Chef Chan’s speciality is the Deep-Fried Durian Puff with Sour Sop, which he assured does not have a very strong durian flavour.

    “To make the puff, I blend durian flesh, corn flour and milk to form a paste that’s similar to ice cream, then wrap it with pastry.

    “It’s best to eat the durian puff first, followed by the fresh fruits and soursop, to balance out the taste.”

    Available from now till Nov 30, the Liu Xiang Festival Menu I and Menu II is priced at RM88++ and RM138++ per person respectively, while the Jin Yu Festival Menu I and Menu II is priced at RM138++ and RM188++ per person respectively.

    The Flavourlicious celebrations also include deals on cigars, beverages, group bookings, a la carte menus, cooking classes and complimentary rewards in the Big Spender Programme.

    WEST LAKE GARDEN CHINESE RESTAURANT, Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa, Persiaran Lagoon, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya. (Tel: 03-7492 8000 ext 3181). Business hours: Lunch, Mon-Sat, noon-2.30pm; Sun & public holidays, 10am-2.30pm; dinner, Mon-Sun, 6.30pm-10.30pm.

    The Olive, Genting Hotel

    Fine flavours

    There’s nothing quite like French cuisine; the variation of the food is almost a reflection of the country. One Frenchman explains.


    Lobby Floor, Genting Hotel
    Genting Highlands
    Tel: 6105 9668

    Chef Arnaud Lallement is considered one of the rising stars in the French culinary world. Not only did he assume leadership of L’Assiette Champenoise (a charming turn-of-the-century restaurant in Château de la Muire, just outside Reims) when he was just 24, he also earned the restaurant a Michelin star two years later. It was a personal triumph of sorts for Lallement as the coveted recognition was previously held by his father, Jean-Pierre, for 18 years.

    Chef Arnaud Lallement

    Lallement was intent on following in his beloved papa’s footsteps. After completing his hospitality studies in Strasbourg, he worked under several fine chefs such as Roger Vergé, Michel Guérard and Alain Chapel before he returned to join his father at La’Assiette Champenoise in 1996.

    After launching his cookbook titled ‘Carnet des saveurs en champagne’ (Notebook of Champagne Flavours) in 2003, Lallement was invited by Alain Ducasse to participate in the legendary master chef’s Fou de France project in which talented provincial chefs are invited to showcase their culinary skills in Paris. At 29, Lallement was one of the youngest chefs to be selected.

    Ducasse was not the only one impressed by Lallement. In March 2005, Chef Lallement earned a second Michelin star for L’Assiette Champenoise. So it came as no surprise that under Genting’s Michelin Star Dining series, two champagne powerhouses – G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouët – stepped up to showcase their elegant champagnes with Chef Lallement’s culinary creations.

    At the media luncheon hosted by Pernod-Ricard (M) Sdn Bhd, the self-assured Lallement managed to share some of his food philosophies via a translator.

    Tasty delights: Roasted Brittany Langoustines with Lettuce, Onion and Lemon Nage.

    “I never compromise on the quality of raw ingredients,” he said. “One must know the actual process behind the products – how they are grown etc. Then we need to treat these products with respect. As such, seasoning must be used judiciously to enhance, not mask their natural flavours.”

    Citing master chefs Michael Bras and Alain Ducasse as inspirations, Chef Lallement said that he prefers a minimalist approach to cooking, emphasising one or two ingredients.

    A fine example was his Tomato Water, which tasted like a refreshing gazpacho but looked nothing like it. Presented in a wine glass, the clear yet intensely tomato-flavoured broth was studded with tiny, colourful pearls. They turned out to be gelatinous droplets of liquefied courgette, yellow and green peppers. Complementing this was G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge NV which lent a sparkling freshness to the unusual concoction.

    Something different: French Seabass with Carrot Confit, Vegetables and Star Anise.

    The Roasted Brittany Langoustines with Lettuce, Onion and Lemon Nage was presented in three separate dishes to showcase Chef Lallement’s penchant for this shellfish.

    “In France, – chefs will present various preparations using a main ingredient to entice diners,” he said.

    We knew the langoustines’ freshness was up to mark, courtesy of a fellow writer who told us the fresher they are, the faster her shellfish allergy would be triggered. True enough, she had to forgo the remainder after she sampled it. The rest of us, though, relished the exquisite langoustines – the first was complemented by a light creamy lettuce sauce whilst the second came with sliced radish, finely chopped onion and tartar sauce. The third was accompanied by a lemon nage (a thick, well- seasoned reduction of cream, white wine and lemon juice topped with a sliver of preserved lemon).

    The subsequent French Seabass with Carrot Confit, Vegetables and Star Anise tasted almost humdrum by comparison, had it not been for the balsamic vinegar and star anise reduction dotting the plate. The fish’s delicate sweetness made a nice match with the fresh, slightly herbaceous Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV.

    Lemon Strawberry Tart, Almond Mirabelle.

    Chef Lallement’s creation of Lamb with Minted Green Peas and Coco Milk didn’t go down too well as we found the competing coconut milk and lamb flavours too strong. We then discovered lamb was used as the substitute in place of the chef’s original choice of pigeon due to the latter’s limited supply.

    Lunch rounded off with Declinaison of Lemon Strawberry Tart, Almond Mirabelle and Red Fruits Vacherin. The sweet Lemon Strawberry Tart was a delightful treat after our last course but the overly sour Red Fruits Vacherin (mixed berries topped with a slice of meringue) was a jolt on the palate. The best was the Almond Mirabelle, a dainty tart with an almond crumble base and sweet yellow cherry plums which went like a dream with G.H. Mumm Grand Cru NV.

    As we departed, most of us felt we had only caught brief glimpses of Chef Lallement’s real talents. His best, we believe, is yet to come.

    Genting’s Michelin Star Dining 2007 will conclude with Chef Christian Moine from December 1-7.