Archive | February, 2011

Penang’s Best Char Kway Teow?

28 Feb

I know I’ve already blogged about char kway teow, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post about the best char kway teow in Penang, a place already renowned for having the best CKT in Malaysia. We were in Penang for a wedding this past weekend, and I was bemoaning to a fellow guest about how I hadn’t had a chance to eat any Penang specialties on this trip. Being Malaysian, she told me where I could find the best char kway teow on the island — and miracle of miracles, we actually found the stall. And it was open!

The infamous Lorong Selamat CKT stall

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Sambal belacan, or: why I’m glad I have a wet kitchen

24 Feb

I’ve mentioned sambal belacan before, but it really deserves its own post. Sambal belacan is a spicy condiment on every Malaysian table, whether the food served is Chinese-, Indian-, or Malay-Malaysian. It even inspired an ad campaign (NSF racially sensitive W):

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Chilli pan mee

22 Feb

Restoran Super Kitchen's famous chilli pan mee

Last weekend, we decided to check out FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia), a huge park/research area about 30 minutes northwest of our condo. One of the perks of living in this country is that you can drive a few kilometers and find yourself hiking around huge, Jurassic Park-like trees and watching baby monkeys frolicking in the canopy overhead (not to mention crazy mountain bikers trying to negotiate the steep, rocky trails). Of course, our hike was just an excuse to check out the real highlight of the neighborhood: the chilli pan mee at Restoran Super Kitchen.

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Getting Crabby

20 Feb

Last night I finally made it to Fatty Crab, which is probably one of the most famous Malaysian restaurants outside of Malaysia, thanks to this place in New York, which was one of three (Malaysian restaurants) in that city to get a Michelin star. The New York Fatty Crab (NYFC?) is, in fact, named after the original in Petaling Jaya, because the owner spent a year as a chef in Kuala Lumpur and it was his favorite place. It’s also pretty famous within Malaysia; it won the coveted “Best Crabs” Foodsters Award last year, and was voted Best Restaurant (not best crabs, or best seafood, but best restaurant, period) by Time Out KL readers in 2009. (Sadly, Anthony Bourdain had his chili crabs in Singapore.) And it has the ultimate stamps of fame: mat salleh (Caucasians) at the tables (brought by a guide or a Malaysian in the know, presumably, as Petaling Jaya isn’t much of an expat enclave), and a crowd of 20 locals waiting patiently for a table. Since Malaysians don’t go out to eat in groups smaller than ten people, Tom and I were able to sneak onto a table without waiting.

Hopefully those mat salleh weren’t expecting this…

Fatty Crab NYC

Because this is what you get in Malaysia.

The original Fatty Crab, Petaling Jaya

But what about the food? Fatty Crab is one of those restaurants that does one thing, and does it well. Unlike other seafood stalls I’ve been to, the menu was blessedly short: crabs (steamed or chili), prawns, incredibly juicy fried chicken wings, and fried rice. And of course, toast to soak up the chili sauce on that crab. (White toast. With the crusts trimmed.)

The house specialty

The crab itself was, well, crab. I mean, it was quite tasty — I think they use mud crabs, which have a sweeter, firmer meat — but I’ve been in Malaysia long enough to expect nothing but the best in seafood. (It’s going to be a sad day when I go back to Chicago and am reduced to eating frozen snow crab at the Red Lobster.) The real draw, though, is the sweet-and-sour chili sauce. This is where the toast comes in: it’s used to soak up every bit of spicy, tangy gravy. I’ve had chili crabs at a couple of different places, but the sauce is definitely something special. And a bit addictive. (Incidentally, I often joke about chefs using narcotics in their dishes, both on this blog and in conversation, but Tom told me about a Chinese restaurant that was using actual — not metaphorical — opium in the food. Talk about Chinese restaurant syndrome.) Obviously, the recipe is a secret, but it looks like fresh garlic stir-fried with green chili puree and…spices. If I find myself driving out to Petaling Jaya every day for my chili crab fix, I’ll have an idea of the secret ingredient.

Tossing the Yee Sang

17 Feb

Happy Chap Goh Meh! Today is the 15th and final day of Chinese New Year (take that, 12 days of Christmas)…and my last chance to post about yee sang, at least until next year. Yee sang is an old CNY tradition in Malaysia and Singapore, but not in China itself. It’s basically a salad of raw fish (yu sheng in Cantonese, from whence the dish gets its name — it’s a homonym for “increasing abundance”) various finely julienned vegetables, like jicama, radish, pomelo, cucumber, and pickled ginger, with colorful and non-colorful crunchy bits, dressed with oil and plum sauce. Lately, chefs have been trying to top themselves by adding “luxury” ingredients like abalone and sea cucumber, but most hew close to tradition, with salmon being the overwhelming favorite option for the fish.

The yee sang is presented with the components arranged artistically on a platter:

Yee Sang: Before...

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Japanese Kit Kats: Cherry Blossom and “Adult” Flavors

14 Feb

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would do a post on chocolate — specifically, Kit Kats that I picked up in Narita on my way to Hawaii. As has been documented all over the internet, Kit Kats markets a dizzying array of flavors in Japan, including Coca-Cola, shoyu, cheese…and those are just the flavors that a non-Japanese might recognize. (I’m not even sure how to translate kinako, one of the flavors, except as “toasted soybean powder,” which sounds horribly unappetizing. That seems to be a theme with Asian food in general, really, as anyone who’s looked at a direct translation of a Chinese menu knows.)

I decided to get cherry blossom green tea (limited edition for spring), “adult” chocolate, and wasabi.

Food styling courtesy of my mom

The packaging is nice, with the spring-like green-and-pink color scheme. And the Kit Kat itself was a promising shade of green. (Green = tea flavor, of course.) Unfortunately, the first bite disappointed. The package does say that the cherry blossom scent is “subtle,” but I would call it “undetectable” — as is any green tea flavor. Mostly, it just tasted of wafer and white chocolate. And it wasn’t just my dull palate; my mom was equally underwhelmed.

Rated "R" for, um, "restraint"

Next up was the “mature” Kit Kat. No, nothing naughty; rather, the “adult” refers to the fact that they use dark chocolate. Also, the calorie information is printed on the front of the package, which is a very grown-up thing.

Kit Kat, full exposure

I’m a dark chocolate fan, so I thought this was pretty tasty; I’d support marketing these in the US. I think they’d be a success, especially with all the attention dark chocolate is getting for its antioxidant properties. (I’m not going to bother with a link, because you’re probably sick of news stories about how “chocolate is good for you!“.) Nothing particularly ground-breaking.

I’m saving the wasabi Kit Kats for a future post. Maybe when they come out with sushi-flavored Kit Kats? (And no, they haven’t come out with those yet. I checked.)

On the 10th day of CNY, my condo gave to me…

13 Feb

…A dragon dance and a tray of Chinese treats! Who am I kidding, the snacks are just an excuse to upload this video of the acrobatic portion of the dragon dance (it’s a little long, but I couldn’t find a way to edit it):

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