Saturday, 6 September 2008

Thai curry @ Aroon Rai, Chiang Mai

On our last day at Chiang Mai, we walked along Tha Phae Gate outside the old city and spied this restaurant along the busy main street . 'Aroon Rai, best curry' in town? Hmm... we'll see about it, not one to believe in self touted praises. The restaurant with its airy open dining space has the atmosphere of a small town Malaysian coffee shop. The place looks clean and inviting, plus we were ravenous so we walked in to sample the fare.

Since this is a curry house, we ordered the curries. Now I love curries, the spicier the better. The Gaeng Kheaw Wan Gai, green chicken curry was quite mild in heat level but fragrant with the spices.

(Gaeng Kheaw Wan Gai)

If the Green Chicken Curry was mild, the pork curry packs quite a wallop. The Khaeng Hang Le , Lanna style pork curry is a Northern speciality. The curry is cooked with lots of garlic, galangal and dried red chillies. Coconut milk is ommitted in this type of curry. I like the curry but was rather disappointed that the pork served was bone in. Hence, there wasn't much meat to it. Aroon Rai also sells prepackaged spices and recipes for DIY Thai curry. It's a shame I didn't think to buy any of it. The red curry paste would have made an excellent wild boar curry.

(Khaeng Hang Le)

The platter of deep fried spicy Thai sausages was sinful but oh.. wonderful. The mince meat in the sauasage are mixed with spices and chillies and some pieces of fat. I could do with a little less fat in the sausages but otherwise, it was good.(Spicy Thai sausages)

To balance out all the spiciness and balance our meal with something non meat, we ordered this Oyster mushroom with tofu sauteed in oyster sauce and sprinkled liberally with spring onions. Those were our justification for greens in our meal :)
(Oyster mushroom with tofu)

The restaurant's specialties also include various kinds of fried insects which we skipped.

Lunch bill came up to 282 Baht for 3 people. A little more expensive then most local joints but we felt it was reasonable. So was their bold statement 'The best curry in town' justified? Oklah. The curries were good. Anyhow, it was the only curries we ate at Chiang Mai.

Aroon Rai, 45 Kotchasarn Rd, Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand. +66 53 27 6947 Opening hours 9am-11pm.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Feast with a view @ Palaad Tawanron, Chiang Mai

The Khao Soy lunch was worked off during the afternoon shopping spree. Soon, it was time for dinner! Ah, another opportunity for a local culinary experience.We headed towards Palaad Tawanron for dinner, a more upmarket establishment located behind the Chiang Mai Zoo. Palaad Tawanron is built on the hillslope with wooden terrace overlooking a reservoir surrounded by lush greenery. The cityscape lines the horizon and when night falls, twinkling city lights can be seen winking beyond the body of water. A roving band of banjo playing musicians completes the atmosphere. An excellent place for a romantic rendezvous. But that was not what we were after.
On to the food! We were armed with a list of ‘must try’ from friends who were here before us. Amongst it is the German Pork Knuckle cooked Tawanron style. So being the ‘kiasu’ Malaysians that we are, we had to have it plus a host of other dishes. Expecting the food portions to be small, we ordered a variety of dishes to feed three of us. Little did we know that the portion served is substantial. By the end of dinner, we were stuffed to the gills and still had loads left over.

The pork knuckle (Kah Moo Twanron) was a huge chunk of fried pork leg served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Tender pieces of meat falls off the bones, I am partial to the charred bits of pork, but at the end there was just too much of it so we were quite ‘jelak’.

(Kah Moo Tawaron, pork knuckle)

But the star of the night in my opinion is the, Tom Yum Goong, Tom Yummy! Fiery and ‘lemak’ enough, it packs a punch. Besides the usual goodies one would find in Tom Yum Goong, this one had ‘kei chi’ or wolf berries stewed in the soup.
(Tom Yum Goong)

The recommended Galum Plee Tawd Naam Pla, cabbage sautéed with fish sauce was totally forgettable and fried rice was bland, its only saving grace was that there was plenty of it. Between the three of us, we only managed to eat a quarter of the serving.

The mixed platter of appetizer arrived just before dessert. I’m not sure if that is the order of food served in Thailand but somehow I think not. The mixed platter was a combination different sausage meats, crispy fried pork skin with some raw vegetables and boiled eggs. The piquant spicy pork sausage was good, the sour fermented pork sausage is an acquired taste, which is polite phrase for ‘I don’t like it’.
(Mixed platter of starters)

It is advisable to make reservations, especially if dining on weekends. If you don’t mind swatting away pesky mosquitoes in the evening, try and secure seating at the balcony to enjoy the view.

Drive along the Suthep Road, at the end turn right then go up the winding road. Follow the signs leading to the zoo or the restaurant itself.

Oh ! and the bill came up to 1230 baht including non alcoholic drinks.

Palaad Tawanron, 100 Huay Kaew Road, Suthep, Chiang Mai, 50200. Tel. 053-216039, 053-216576. Opening hours 11.30am-12am.

Eating Khao Soy @ Lam Duon, Chiang Mai

This is a trip that both of us have been looking forward to. Right after we arrived, we checked into the hotel, dumped our bags and promptly hunted for LUNCH!

About 15 minutes drive from the town centre, on the east bank of the Ping River, we arrived at a nondescript little shop by the roadside. We have it on good authority (recommended by locals) that this place serves the best Khao Soy in town. Khao Soy is a northern Thai street food, popular especially in Chiang Mai.

(Lam Duon Restaurant serving the best Khao Soy in town)
Yellow egg noodles served in a soup that tastes somewhat like curry laksa. The soup base was a pork broth to which curry spices were added, topped with a generous dollop of coconut milk and a liberal sprinkling of crispy fried noodles. C’est délicieux! Be warned, serving portions in Thailand are tiny! But just as well, since the portions were small, we could afford more stomach room to sample other dishes.
(Pork Khao Soy)
While waiting for the Khao Soy to be served, we ordered some grilled pork satay. Now that is something you would not find easily on the streets of Malaysia. Lightly grilled slices of lean pork heavily seasoned with tumeric, served with peanut sauce. A great appetizer to take the edge off gnawing hunger, (it was by then almost 3pm by the time we got down to lunch).
(Pork satay)
After being satiated by the pork satay and Khao Soi, we surveyed the little restaurant for more things to sample. The proprietor proudly showed us the newspaper article featuring Kruai Ping which was grilled banana.
None of us are too fond of mushy bananas, so we ordered only one to share amongst the three of us. The bananas are grilled until the skin splits open and the fruit sugar is slightly caramelized. Not bad, taste like the bananas we chuck into the embers during a BBQ.
(Kruai Ping)
Total bill for lunch was 155 baht for 3 bowls of Khao Soi, 10 sticks of pork satay and one of the Kruai Ping and three bottles of water. That works out to RM5.17 each only.(The open air kitchen where they dish out bowls of delicious Khao Soy)

Apparently this restaurant is somewhat of an institution here in Chiang Mai. This family run restaurant has been around for more then half a century and has served Thai royalty.

Lam Duon Khao Soy, Faharm Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Bak Kut Teh @ Kim Tek Restaurant, Kepong

A bunch of us were setting out for an adrenaline filled day white water rafting at Sungai Itek ( more of it here). We needed a hearty breakfast to fortify ourselves. What could be more invigorating then a hearty bowl of Bak Kut Teh ?

My friend called ahead to make a booking at Kim Tek Restaurant. We were asked to identify our car number during the booking! Wah liao! It was a Saturday morning and the place was super packed with patrons enjoying hot steaming bowls of the meaty broth.

There are different variants of Bak Kut Teh from the dark rich broth of the Hokkien variety to the clear peppery soup of the Teochew style of cooking, the ones you generally get in Singapore. As for moi, give me the dark rich hearty ones anytime.

'Sai Kuat'

Bak Kut Teh served here is of not as dark as the ones you'll find in Klang, I find it lighter in colour and herbal taste. For 6 adults, we ordered 5 servings of mixed meat and offals including the 'sai kuat' (literal translation is small bone, said to be a choice cut). The meat of the 'sai kuat' was stewed to 'fall off the bones' perfection and it was so tender, the texture was akin to chicken!

The extra sides of 'yau char kwai' (chinese crullers) and 'tafu pok' (fried bean curd cubes) are a must with Bak Kut Teh, they are great for soaking up the rich meaty broth. We ordered 'pek ker', some sort of bland wobbly gelatinous pudding with the texture of pork fat. I must admit I'm not a fan.
'Pek Ker'

All of that with a pot of Chinese tea to 'dissolve' the fat and douse the guilt came up to something in the region of RM72. Service will not be the reason you'll come to this place. We asked for small bowls for us to spoon individual bowls of the broth, which was ignored. Want more soup ? You'll feel like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel!

The restaurant is located at Kepong Indah, off the MRR2, not far from FRIM. Be careful to step into the right restaurant, there is another Bak Kut Teh restaurant adjacent to it that is as empty as this is packed with customers.

Kim Tek Restaurant
Jalan 2/1A, Kepong Indah, Kepong, 52100, Tel: 03-6365545

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Healthy pasta? @ Pasta de Gohan, Sunway Pyramid

“Tankuferwaytinherisur pizza !" The pizza was plonked in front of us. Huh??? A and I looked at each other bemused. What was the waitress trying say?

(Prawn and Oyster Pizza - RM20.80)
We were too hungry to figure it out and proceeded to wolf down the Prawn and Oysters Pizza. Served on a circular wooden board, the pizza was cut into four wafer thin slices. The pizza crust was lovely, thin, crispy and flaky. It tasted like savoury biscuits. The pizza was quite delicious but oysters turned out chewy, I think it was overdone. The word dainty best describes the portion of the pizza. A bite and a chew and it's gone! We had 2 slices each of the pizza and it did little to take the edge off our hunger. At RM20.80, we felt it was pricey on account of the tiny portion served. We licked the crumbs off our lips and eagerly waited for the Lobster Carbonara.

‘Thank you for waiting!’ the next waitress chirped as she slid the pièce de résistance on the table. Ooohh…. So that was what the first waitress was trying to say.
(Lobster Carbonara - RM36.80)

Doesn’t the picture set your saliva glands off? Ok.... maybe not.. the picture doesn't do it. But take my word for it, a magnificent half of a lobster sits on top of a pile of pasta well coated with the creamy carbonara sauce. The lobster was baked to perfection with a topping of parmesan. For RM36.80, it ain’t half bad value for money.

I wasn’t quite satisfied with the portions I had for dinner, but resisted the temptation to order another main, so resolutely moved on to share dessert with A.
(Tiramisu Parfait - RM10.80)

After deliberating between the Oreo Banana Parfait and the Tiramisu Parfait, we settled for the Tiramisu Parfait. The parfait was made up of layered soft vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, topped with a delicious block of tiramisu? and fruits. Dig right to the bottom of the glass and you’ll get to the bed of crunchy cornflakes. Nice!

I was initially skeptical about Japanese-Italian fusion style pasta, but I must say, the dishes turned out quite well. With 72 dishes to choose from; one will not run out of choices anytime soon. I can’t speak for the rest of the 70 but I was satisfied with the taste of the 2 ordered. For the prices charged, they could perhaps increase the portion of the meals. A and I are not big eaters to begin with, but Pasta de Gohan’s portion were small even by our standards. They offer 50% off certain dishes before end of June. I guess we will be back again...... sometime before end of June.

By the way, Pasta de Gohan was touted on the menu as healthy pasta. Err... I'm not sure what part of the meal was healthy, perhaps the green tea? -.~

Pasta de Gohan
Lot LG 2.126A,Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall, No 3. Jalan PJS 11/15,Bandar Sunway, 46150, Petaling Jaya. Tel 03-5621 8168 Fax 03-5621 0166
Business hours from 11am to 11pm

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Satisfy crab cravings @ Tak Fok, Desa Aman Puri

I can’t remember the last time I had eaten crabs. Yup, it’s that long ago. So it was with great enthusiasm that I arranged a crab dinner with friends at Tak Fok. If you have an attack of crab cravings, there is no where better than Tak Fok for a wallet friendly crab meal. Seriously, where else can you get crabs at RM18/kg in KL? Let me know if you do.

We arrived a little past 6pm and gosh, the restaurant was already packed downstairs, we headed upstairs, there were a few more empty tables. By 6.30pm, it was all taken up.

A sour puss of a waiter came over to take our orders after much arm waving. We ordered 1 kg each of their 'jiu pai' ( house speciality) Ham Heong (Salted Egg) Crabs Butter Cheese Crabs. 1 kg will get you about 3 small crabs.
(Salted Egg Yolk Crab)

The crabs are fried with a generous coating of salted egg yolk. It's so yummy that I loathed wasting it and proceeded to lick the bits of fried egg yolk off the shell, after digging out the crab meat :)
(Butter Cheese Crabs)

The Butter Cheese gravy is smooth and creamy with slices of button mushrooms and onion rings thrown. The gravy is best mopped up with fried 'man tao' (buns) (Fried Man Taos)

I normally avoid fried man taos as the buns soak up the oil. But the ones at Tak Fok are not too oily, crispy on the outside with soft cottony centre. Delicious! It was a pleasure breaking the man taos and dipping it in the creamy crab sauce.

(Foo Chow Toufu)

Foo Chow Toufu is another of their house speciality. The soft toufu was deep fried then topped with minced meat and garnished with spring onions. Although the picture doesn't depict it, the portion was actually very small.
(Marmite Mantis Prawns )

We also ordered the Marmite 'Lai Liu Har' (Mantis Prawns). I felt that the coating of batter was too thick, I could hardly taste the mantis prawns.

Service was relatively quick. But perhaps that was because we placed our order before the crowd arrived. Subsequent orders of rice took a long time to appear on our table. The crabs were RM18 and RM20 respectively for the Cheese and Salted Egg Yolk. The Marmite Mantis Prawns were RM15 for a small plate. Bill came up to RM107 for the 4 of us. You'll be hard pressed to find another place in KL to beat those prices for crabs. As for the rest of the dishes, prices are comparable with that elsewhere.

When we left the restaurant at 7.30pm, there was a long queue of hungry diners patiently queing up for their turn at devouring the delectable crabs.

Tak Fok Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
Address: 2-2A, Jalan Desa 1/3, Desa Aman Puri, 52100 Kepong. Tel: 603-62723346 Business Hours Lunch: 12.00 p.m. - 3.00 p.m. Dinner: 5.30 p.m. - 10.30 p.m.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Ole Sayang Nyonya Lunch @ Melaka

Drove to Melaka for lunch last Saturday? Yes, glad it was last Saturday before the petrol price hike. It was a promise I made my sister, to take her and her husband to taste the Melaka nyonya food. Good thing I decided it to be last Saturday!

We went to Ole Sayang, in Taman Melaka Raya I believe it is one of the more famous nyonya restaurants, at least among tourists to Melaka. Good thing we reached the restaurant at about 12.45pm. As we stepped in I noticed many tables reserved. The waitresses were all busy and no one bothered to entertain us. We were lucky to get a small table as some guests were leaving.
The food came 15 minutes after we have ordered and we were surprised. Because by this time most of the tables were seated with people. Many we think are tourists from out of town. Next to our table was a Japanese couple, they had food specially ordered by their tour guide!

We ordered 4 dishes.

The Udang Masak Lemak Nenas. This is certainly a good choice. My sister really like it, and she loved the pineapples. The prawns were really fresh. There were some assam gelugor (skins) in the gravy we noticed, hence making the gravy not to "lemak" with tinge of sour taste.

The waitress recommended the Chilly Fish. We were really impressed by the fish. The flesh was really sweet and juicy. Normally fried fish can be really dry. Both my sister and my brother-in-law couldnt figure out what fish it was. Then the waitress told us its "jenak"....I still dont know what fish it is.

"Chicken Rendang" was the special for the day. Nothing unusual about the Chicken Rendang but it was really fragrant as how rendang should be.

Of course the most ordinary was the Sambal Kangkong.

By this time the whole restaurant was fill with people and commotion. Many guests were standing around waiting for a table. As we were about to finish our meal. The waitress come just at the right moment to deliver the cendol that we ordered earlier.

Truely enjoyed the cendol. It comes with red beans! The cendol is springy and not like the soft mushy ones you get in KL and they use real santan! Best part of course is the gula melaka, fragrant and not too sweet.

Everything, from the keropok (side dish), the sambal (RM1.50, yes we have to pay for it but it was nothing to shout about) to the wet tissues only cost us RM88.00 but we thought it was value for money!
Ole Sayang
199 Taman Melaka Raya
75000 Melaka
06 283 1966

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Good food hunting @ My Elephant, Happy Mansion

It’s a Friday night. One by one they arrived, weary from the rigours of the work week. As heavy notebooks and work accoutrements were cast aside in a pile at the end of the table, sighs of relief were almost audible. Having unburdened the week’s worries to a corner, symbolically at least; countenance brightened, cheered, by the prospect of spending the next couple of hours just hanging out with old friends.

Chatters ensued. Seven voices competing for attention… pouring out the latest gossips, work frustrations et. al. Interspersed with “Have you heard from so and so…..?” “You know ah.. that day ah…“ were comments of ..… “How on earth did you find out about this place?" …… "Oh, I remember this place used to be a shop selling 'chap fun' (economy rice)"

Indeed, how on earth did we find out about a restaurant called ‘My Elephant’? This place has earned many accolades amongst the food blogging community. For the longest time A and I wanted to try it but didn’t get round to it. What better time to introduce our Chee Muis (and Di Di) to it then when we celebrate May birthdays?

The restaurant is located at the ground floor of Happy Mansion flats in Section 17. Tucked between the old shop lots is the elegantly renovated ‘My Elephant’ Hmmm… Elegant Elephant! Is that what you call a fashionable pachyderm..? :) Now, that is quite an apt description of the restaurant, simple quiet elegance.

My Elephant serves Thai cuisine. Perennial favourites like Tom Yam, fish cakes, green curry makes its appearance on the menu, but also dishes with interesting names and combinations like snow fish, roast duck curry with seasonal fruit piqued our interest.

For drinks, we had the Pandan cooler, which is pandan flavoured syrup with some seeds which name escapes me but it resembles frog spawns and KraChiap cooler, a refreshing roselle tea.

(Pandan cooler with frog spawns :)

Making an entrance to our table that night was Plah Meuk Chup Peng Tod – tempura squid served with semi sweet thai chilli sauce, Tod Man Piah – deep fried thai fish cakes. The squid was fried in tempura batter and curry leaves fried with gives it a fragrant curry smell.The fish cakes were nice but quite ordinary, can’t go much wrong there. (Tod Man Piah – deep fried Thai fish cakes)

The menu described Yum Hed as a mushroom, mint leaves and purple onion salad. But the salad that arrived had prawns, squids, shredded mango, carrots amongst other stuff, nary a shred of purple onion to be seen. It was only after we polished it off that A remarked, ‘Hey… didn’t we order mushroom and onion salad… that didn’t seem like it, did the kitchen get our order wrong?’ So we called the waiter over and showed him the picture of the dish! Hah! We got evidence! Turns out that WAS the mushroom and onion salad. So what is the difference between that and Yum Mamuang, the mango and assorted seafood salad? Oh well, we enjoyed the dish so we weren’t going to quibble over it.
(Yum Hed - mushroom, mint leaves and purple onion salad) seriously does it look like a mushroom and onion salad?

Brown rice mixed with white was served. It makes a nice change from the white rice. The fluffy rice was an excellent accompaniment to the Choo Chee Goong, a semi dry Thai yellow curry with prawns. The prawns were fried in batter then cooked in the curry sauce. Coconut cream was drizzled over it when served. The sauce was delicious, thick and creamy and we loved it so much that when the waiter wanted to clear the plate when the prawns were all gone, we stopped him. We wanted to mop up the sauce with more rice :) (Choo Chee Goong – semi dry Thai yellow curry with prawns)

The Snow Fish was the restaurant’s best seller and came highly recommended. The sea bass was baked encased in a layer of snowy white coarse salt. Scrap off the salt and skin the fish. You’ll find a treasure of wonderfully moist and succulent flesh underneath infused with the flavours of galangal and lemongrass stuffed into the belly cavity. (Snow Fish – salt baked fish)

The Thai curry is usually the signature dish of a Thai restaurant. We opted for the Gaeng Phed, Thai red curry with chicken. It did not disappoint. Tender chicken cubes and vegetables soaked in the creamy curry. My only grouse was that there was too little vegetables in the curry. (Gaeng Phed – Thai red curry with chicken)

Instead of Tom Yam, we settled for Tom Som. It is a clear galangal, lemongrass and lime soup boiled with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, coriander and slices of starfruit! The clear soup can be deceptive. One sip and you feel the kickback of the fiery bird's eye chillies and eye wincing sourness all the way down your throat. While I can handle the spiciness, I found the soup too sour for my liking. (Tom som – clear galangal lemongrass – lime soup with aromatic Thai herbs)

I liked the assorted vegetables we ordered, didn’t note down the Thai name. It is has snow peas ,capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms and interestingly, lotus roots. (Pan Fried Assorted Vegetables)

The jungle vegetables – Paku leaves was an after thought. We ordered it after we finished the rest of the dishes, much to our regret. The vegetables left a slimy aftertaste in the mouth due to the sap. According to the boss, it is normal of paku leaves, but my friends who eat it often enough to taste the difference beg to differ. That dish was left untouched. (Jungle vegetables – paku leaves fried with dried prawns and belacan)

We were disappointed when informed that the restaurant does not serve any dessert. I thought any Thai restaurant worth its salt will at least have Tub Tim Krob – red ruby water chestnut in coconut milk. Ah well… an excuse to adjourn elsewhere for dessert and conversation.

The entire meal for seven costed RM182.60. The most expensive dish we ordered was the Snow Fish which costs RM36. The rest ranges for RM9-RM15 and only RM2.50 each for the drinks. You won’t break a bank dining at My Elephant.

My Elephant
Address: Block C-G4 Happy Mansion Section 17/1346400 Petaling Jaya
Tel : 012 328 5028 ~ Patrick
Business Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (except Sunday lunch)
Lunch: 12.00 p.m. - 2.30 p.m.Dinner: 6.00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m.