Cooking with Chefology x McCormick: Japanese Hamburg

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After the Chefology x McCormick Bloggers Event, we each took home our very own Chefology pan along with a range of McCormick Herbs and Spices for us to have some fun at home. And of course it didn’t take much convincing for me to switch over to the Chefology pan. It’s a 24cm frying pan which is great for small household and it definitely came at the right time as we have recently moved and needed an upgrade of the kitchen.

So the first recipe I’ve rustled up was Japanese Hamburg Steaks with a bit of a twist, utilizing the McCormick products that I’ve got.

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McCormick Black Peppercorn Grinder, Sea Salt Grinder, Grill Mates Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce, Oregano Grinder and Ground Chili.

The Japanese Hamburg, or Hambagu is basically a hamburger patty served without burger buns. There are many variations; the sauce, the toppings and the sides can vary as it’s very much a home-cooked dish. The patties almost always has a mix of pork and beef (for the extra moist factor), and generally the ratio is 3:7. In Japanese supermarkets you can find that particular mixture even, called Aibiki Niku. As for sauce, it can be soy based with some grated daikon (oroshi), teriyaki sauce or a demi-glaze (often served in a restaurant). My version would be a bit of a mixture here. Let’s get to it!

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Japanese Hamburg Steaks (Serves 3)

Patties
200g Minced Beef
100g Minced Pork (I know it’s slightly off the ratio but close enough lah)
1 Small Onion, finely diced
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Egg
1/4 cup Panko
2 tablespoons of McCormick Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
Ground Chili to taste

Toppings and Sauce
1 stalk of Negi (Small Leek), sliced
2 tablespoons of McCormick Vintage Smokehouse BBQ sauce
Grated Daikon Radish

Mix all the ingredients for the patties together and work it together by hand until mixture is gluey and sticky. Divide mixture into 3 and toss each patty between hands to knock the air out and then slowly form into oval shape. Once done, made an indentation in the middle with your fingers (the patty will expand during cooking so the indentation will disappear) and set aside until needed.

Heat up the pan and add a bit of olive oil (don’t need too much for chefology pan… guarantee it won’t stick). Add the patties one by one into the pan and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the surface is nicely browned.

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Then flip over carefully, add a generous splash of water and turn the heat to medium low then cover with lid. Cook like this for 4-5 minutes to ensure the inside is cooked through. Uncover the lid to let the liquid evaporate, then transfer the patties to individual serving plates.

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We are not done yet here of course! Add another splash of water to deglaze the pan (or wine, if you prefer) then add in the sliced leek, and more of those bbq sauce. Simmer til thicken, then pour it out into a small bowl to serve.

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Top the patties with grated daikon and some raw leek, and serve with your favourite side dish. We opted for some braised Red Cabbage this time.

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The BBQ sauce here is quite rich and smoky, which is why I chose to pair it with Negioroshi (Leek and Daikon Radish) to lighten up the dish. This meal is low carb and full of flavours and not to mention very nutritious. Love how the Chefology pan keep my patties nice and juicy!

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A closer look.

So there you have it, a recipe to start off the week! Have an awesome one and I’ll be back with another recipe soon.

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Sanoook @ Sunway Pyramid West Hotel

Caleen Chua is very much a business woman. Ever since she took over the director role of her father’s Chakri group of restaurants she has not stopped refreshing the brand. First, Hwan, a specialised Thai Dessert place; a catering division for Chakri Palace; and now, her very own brain child Sanoook, inspired by her love affair with Thai and Japanese cuisine.

Located at Sunway Pyramid Hotel West, which is the new wing of the Sunway Pyramid consisting few F&B outlets, Sanoook is fairly easy to be spotted. It’s vibrant looking, with plenty of tables and lights for a casual ambiance, featuring an open kitchen so diners also get to see the Chefs in action.

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‘Sanook’ means ‘fun’ in Thai and the extra ‘O’ to represents a circle of friendship. Hence, Sanoook means having fun with friends! Caleen kept her in house Thai Chef and hired a new Japanese chef to bring a creative twist to their dishes. Therefore, most of the dishes here would have elements of both Thai and Japanese cuisine, which can be a refreshing combination when done right.

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We began our dinner with the Soft shell crab sushi (RM34.90), served with Thai Mango Chili Sauce. Soft Shell Crab sushi isn’t that uncommon in this country, but the addition of tangy sweet mango work well for the dish.

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Be spoilt for choice by this 4-season platter RM37.90 (Salmon Cream Croquette, Thai Fish Cake, Crispy Calamari, Crispy Thai Chicken Ball, Vegetarian Spring Roll). I only tried the Chicken Ball because it looked the least deep-fried, and it’s tasty with a nice kick.

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Caleen’s personal favourite is the Pan fried tuna steak with spinach & mixed mushroom served with teriyaki sauce (RM28.90). While the tuna is lovely seared on the outside with perfect pink centre, I felt the dish to be one-dimensional in taste. Perhaps a touch of citrus will lift this.

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Sanoook Salad Japanese Cucumber wrapped with Salmon, Avocado & Baked Apple (RM29.90). Love the pairing of Salmon and cucumber as always and the sesame dressing will never go wrong I guess.

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The Tom Yum Soup with River Prawn (RM23.90) here is served with the soup in Sake bottle. Good amount of succulent prawns and buried underneath, some mushrooms as well. The soup is sufficiently tangy but can be a little spicier (maybe a good idea to tailor the spice level to personal preference?).

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Another sushi arrived on the table and this time it’s Tuna Sushi served with Tom Yum sauce (RM27.90). I think the presence of Tom Yum isn’t strong enough though, maybe they should try flavour the actual sushi too for a more fusion feel.

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This has to be the first time I’ve tried Wonton served in Thai Coconut Soup with Chicken (RM16.90). It’s a basically modern or fusion take on Tom Kha Gai, the luscious wonton skin against the smooth coconut broth is a lovely sensory experience.

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I guess it must be an Asian thing, whenever I see a Rice burger I must try it. We had the chicken burger with teriyaki sauce (RM17.90). The Chicken patty itself is tasty, though I think the rice patty is a little dense, which makes the whole thing very filling. This is definitely not something you can pick up and eat due to the size. The burdock chips (at the back) proved to be widely popular that night. A nice and healthier alternative to usual potato fries. The other sushi burgers include Beef with Thai Chili Sauce, and Salmon with Wasabi Mayo.

And then we had their signature: Skewers. The skewers here are probably more Mediterranean (size wise) than Japanese. There are quite a few varieties here. My favourite would be the Salmon Belly (RM77.90).

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The serving can feed easily 4-6 people depending on what else you order. Love the buttery soft salmon against the slightly crunchy vegetables. The accompanying Lime chili sauce works perfectly too.

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We also tried the chicken skewer with massaman sauce (RM32.90). Chicken here is cooked perfectly and I quite like the massaman sauce, although it’s lighter than the actual Massaman curry.

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For the vege intake we recommend the Vege skewers with Sanoook sauce (RM28.90). Each skewer filled with tomato, broccoli, mushrooms, capsicum, yellow and green zucchini, finished with a creamy spicy sauce. Good way to dress up plain vegetables.

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We also had the Beef skewers, which comes with the same Massaman sauce (RM34.90). Here the beef is slightly dry and tough, I think the chicken is still a safer option, or ask them to undercook the beef a little.

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We also tried a few of their drinks and while the alcoholic beverages aren’t yet available, this Red Ruby drink got the big thumbs up from the both of us.

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If you are a lover of Thai Milk Tea (chayen), this Thai volcano (RM18.90) will send you straight to heaven. It’s aromatic, not overly sweet but super refreshing. Best to share amongst 3-4 people because it’s huge!

Thank you Sanoook for hosting us!

Sanoook
Lot 4, Ground Floor,
Sunway Pyramid West Hotel,
47500 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Opening Hours:
Mon – Wed (10AM – 11PM)
Thu – Sat (10AM – 12am midnight)
Sun (10AM – 11PM)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sanoookmy/

Grilled Eggplant with Ponzu

Bliss, is when you have found a life partner who is just excited as you are to go on food adventures of different kinds. I’m lucky that Kevin and I seem to agree most of the time on our meal choices, and that has brought us some memorable dining experiences, some are hits and some are misses (usually promptly blacklisted by us). Sometimes, a dish left such lasting impression, I felt compelled to replicate at home.

Several months ago, Kevin and I went to 炭家 Sumika, a fairly well-known Yakitori restaurant located at SS15 Subang Jaya. This restaurant has a strong following, and you do have to book ahead to guarantee a seat. There is only one grill and one Yakitori master manning it (though he does have help by his side), expertly turning the skewers around and seasoning everything to perfection.

All the skewers we ordered, be it Chicken, Pork, Beef, or various organs (our favourite) were good. But what really won us over was the Grilled Eggplant. I don’t have a good picture to show you, but let me paint you a picture. A long, sizable Eggplant slowly charred on the grill for that perfect smokiness. The skin is then peeled, revealing its silky flesh, which is then cut into smaller pieces, drizzled with Ponzu Shoyu and then covered with Bonito Flakes. Our mind was blown.

Of course, I don’t have a charcoal grill at home (what an investment that would be), but I do have an Airfryer that does amazing things with Eggplants (I’ve made Baba Ganoush and Tortang Talong that employs the same principle of charring the eggplant), so this dish made into fairly high rotation at home.

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Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine and it’s often combined with Soy sauce. I used a bottled one. You should be able to find it in the Japanese food section of your supermarket. If not, it’s not so difficult to make at home. Here’s a recipe.

This dish really so simple it’s pretty much a non-recipe. With an airfryer, simply set the Eggplant to grill on 180 degrees Celcius for 10 minutes. Once it’s done, carefully peel off the skin (it should come right off), place on a plate and cut into bite size pieces with scissors. Drizzle enough Ponzu sauce and Soy Sauce over, then garnish with Bonito Flakes. Serve when hot.

No airfryer? Fret not, you can still char it over the stove, bake it for another 15 minutes and then proceed with the same steps. Do bear in mind though with the airfryer it won’t have the distinctive charred/smokiness aroma. So if that’s really important to you, then this recipe is not for you (invest in a charcoal grill!).

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Enjoy this with or without rice, along with other dishes (teriyaki chicken is a good one, grilled salmon is fabulous too). If you love eggplant as much as we do, you’ll fall in love with this too.

Coco Ichibanya, 1 Utama

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If you have been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I really love Japanese food. And the beauty of Japanese food is that it is so diverse, I could be craving sashimi one day, and ramen the next. But the ultimate Japanese comfort food for me would have to be Japanese curry (to be specific Katsu Curry Don). This was one of the first dishes I’ve ever ordered in a Japanese restaurant and forgive me if I sound like a broken record: I used to have it on a regular basis during my student days (dude, I’m starting to sound like an Obasan).

Anyway, imagine my excitement when I heard that one of the biggest Japanese Curry House is opening its first branch in Malaysia. That’s right, Coco Ichibanya already has 1,350 restaurants in Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, North America, and Singapore. It’s truly the McDonald’s of Japanese Curry!

I was delighted of course to attend Coco Ichibanya’s launch night at 1 Utama early March along with Malaysia’s Hottest Bloggers. It was a glammed up event with appearance of local celebrities too.

Amber Chia, Gary Yap, Orange, and Julie Woon.
The Gorgeous Debbie Goh.

The tagline of Coco Ichibanya is “The Tastiness You Can Choose”, as customers can customise their meal based on their preferences. You can choose the spiciness of the curry (mild, signature original flavour, and spiciness of level 1 to 5), toppings you like, and even the amount of rice.

There is a selection of over 30 meat and seafood to choose from chicken, beef, pork, prawns, clams and more, and some are paired with toppings such as egg, corn and croquettes. So if you really love Japanese curry, you can technically have all different combinations for a few month consecutively! Not to mention the more fusion dishes such are curry meat sauce atop spaghetti, curry gratin and more. If curry rice isn’t your thing, fear not. There are other non curry based dishes such are creamy pasta, salads, and soups too.

On the launch night, we were treated to some tasting portions of the dishes.

Fried Chicken Curry
Salmon Cream Croquette Curry
Fried Shrimp Curry

Though my favourite of the night would have to be this one:

Lightly-Crisped Chicken Curry

Almost all the proteins were fried in batter, although they weren’t greasy as I would have expected. The lightly-crisped chicken stood out though as it has the best texture and also I could actually taste the chicken (juice and tender as a plus). As for the curry sauce, most of them were served with level one curry which is not spicy at all (at least to me), but I still love similar taste of the curry. There were some level 3 and level 5 curry sauce ‘shots’ going around and well, no prize guessing which one I like! Level 5 packs plenty of heat and I would gladly tackle it any given day, but if I want to take it easy, then I would probably go for level 3 or 4. But what really caught my attention is this:

Pickle heaven!

Usually when I eat Japanese curry, it’s often served with only a few pieces of pickled radish and often they look quite processed. I have to portion it properly with the meat and rice, not a problem here! These are freshly made and unlimited! A match made in heaven with the curry sauce, I can foresee myself coming here whenever I have a craving.

What is the difference between Japanese curry and say, Malaysian curry you may ask? Interestingly enough, Japanese curry is actually more Western influenced, as the technique involves first making a “roux” out of butter and flour, like the French technique of cooking soup (that’s why the gravy is nice and thick). Then, curry spices are added and to infuse some sweetness, vegetables like onions and carrots forms the basic flavour profile and fruits like apples are often included as well.

Here are some of the dishes available at Coco Ichibanya (in the order of my own preference, hah!):

Pork Cutlet Omelette Curry – RM26.00

Is there any question? Omurice plus Katsu Curry wins hands down of course! I mean, just look at this:

Come to mama!

I can just imagine the crunch of the pork cutlet, the silky smooth omelet paired with the curry sauce, comfort food for sure.

Grilled Spinach, Bacon and Corn Curry – RM20.00

I would give this a go because it has Bacon and Spinach. Maybe as an extra topping to my Omu-Katsu-Curry Rice.

Seafood Spaghetti – RM22.00

If for whatever reason you come to a Japanese Curry House and don’t want to have neither curry or rice, this could be your choice (maybe you are not a fan, but your girlfriend is).

There are also a few meat-free options, including a very lovely looking Eggplant curry. For your vegetarian partner or friend.

The CoCo ICHIBANYA branch in 1 Utama seats a maximum of 65 persons in the 128 square meters restaurant which exudes a casual, friendly and unpretentious ambience. Folks in Penang, look out for the second outlet which will be opening in Queensbay Mall soon.

Of course, there are some obligatory group photos:

With Tim, Jia Yeen and Kate
With Jia Yeen, Kate, Sharon and Stephanie. Outfit Proudly Not Sponsored by Zalora.

So, I need a date to Coco Ichibanya soon, who wants to come with me?

Photo credit to Andy Kho (those without watermark are mine).

CoCo ICHIBANYA is located at:
Lot LG 333A, Lower Ground (New Wing),
1 Utama Shopping Centre,
Bandar Utama,
47800 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor.
Telephone: 03-7732-8937

Operating Hours: Daily from 10.00am to 10.00pm

CoCo ICHIBANYA is a restaurant chain owned by Fuji Group, the company of Fuji Japanese Restaurant in Thailand, and for more information, head over to http://www.ichibanya.co.jp/english/index.html

Ippudo Ramen at Pavilion KL (Revisit)

Even though I try to keep my diet as paleo as possible, I simply cannot resist a good bowl of Ramen. So when Ippudo Malaysia extended an invitation for me to dine at their Pavilion outlet, I very happily said yes and proceeded to drag my fellow Ramen lover Casey along. In fact, this wasn’t the first time I dined at Ippudo and you can read about my first experience here. Pavilion is where Ippudo first landed in Malaysia, and since there two more has opened up at Gardens Mall and Bangsar Shopping Centre (slightly different concept with a fancy Japanese bar); needless to say, Malaysians really do embrace this brand.

The previous times I visited the Ippudo, I didn’t get to try any of their ala carte dishes and dived straight to the Ramen as the serving is pretty substantial already on its own, at least for my small-ish stomach anyway. So this time, with a few more people in tow, I finally get to sample some of their other signatures, such as the crispy corn.

Crispy Corn (RM8)

The sweet corn is buttered, lightly battered and deep fried, then topped with seaweed and paprika seasoning. Slightly crispy on the outside with juicy sweet corn kernels. It’s simple but fun to eat.

Buta Karaage (RM15)

Forget about Tori Karaage, let me introduce you to the Buta Karaage. Tender pork loin fried to a crisp, made better by the special spicy mayo. Not to be missed if you love fried food.

Chashu Tsukune Teppan (RM17.9)

But what really impressed me was the Chashu Tsukune Teppan, which consists of a juicy minced pork patty sitting on top of fried noodle bits in hot pan, topped with the ever-so-sexy looking onsen egg and some negi (leek). Well, I know you want it. The YolkPorn I mean. Here.

What a thing of beauty!

Nothing like a good dose of Yolk to brighten up my day. The oozy, silky smooth egg complements the pork patty so well, and I love the subtle flavour of ginger used in the patty. I’d order this again for sure for a repeat of this gastronomic experience.

Ippudo introduces special edition of ramen every 3 months, and from now until end of March, you can find the Kakuni Special (involving super chunky piece of Braised Pork Belly…. Got your attention yet?) and one for the spice lovers: Spicy Black. No prize guessing which one I’ve gone for.

Spicy Black (RM26++)

Featuring Ippudo’s original pork broth, the Spicy Black involves spicy nikumiso (miso meat sauce) specially prepared using black pepper, shansho and other spices. It’s then enhanced by a spicy fragrant oil made with original and spicy koyu.

Oodles of Noodles!

Served with Thin Hakata Style Noodles of your preferred doneness, it’s then topped with Chashu (Pork belly), a combination bitter spicy salad and Pakuchi (Coriander).

Sesame seeds (comes in a special grinder), Pepper, and Shichimi Powder.

There is option for you to add your preferred toppings. Want to add extra aroma, try ground sesame seeds, or pepper and schichimi powder for extra spice if you need. And if you want even heavier taste, you can also add crushed garlic.

Raw, of course.

I opted for Hard noodles and added sesame seeds, along with 2 cloves of garlic (for extra immune boosting).

My Beautiful Mess.

Of course, this Ramen is not for the faint-hearted. One, it’s packed with black pepper (you can see the specks everywhere) and it has a good dose of spicy oil on top. And if you look closer at the broth…

That’s right, extra pork fat!

You can see the white bits, which are diced up pork fat, an essential to a creamy pork bone broth.

So the verdict? I enjoyed the Spicy Black, even though it’s not as spicy as I’d like (usually Spicy oil does nothing for me anyway). It is really warming though due to the black pepper. It has a more Chinese-Malaysian feel to it owing to the coriander and the meat sauce. It’s no wonder this has been proven popular with the Singaporeans and Malaysians. The chashu here is satisfactory with a good lean to fat ratio and just the right bite. And next time I would probably ask for extra hard noodles for that extra chew. Yum.

Akamaru Kakuni (RM31++)

This is the Akamaru Kakuni special. Check out that massive piece of braised pork belly, and the glorious amount of fat! The Akamaru broth is enhanced with special blended miso paste (which is a little bit spicy) and fragrant garlic oil, served with thin noodles, kakuni as mentioned, kikurage (black fungus) and spring onions. The Pork Belly is reported to be super tender yet not cloying. Remember you have until end of this month to give this a try.

By the way, IPPUDO is running a Instagram contest, and RM100 worth of vouchers are up for grabs!
What you need to do:
1) Follow @ippudomalaysia on Instagram
2) Post a pic of your dining experience in IPPUDO
3) Tag #IppudoMalaysia
TWO winners with the best picture will wins RM100 IPPUDO VOUCHER every week. This contest ends on the 31st March so you still have a couple of week to make use of the opportunity.
And if you upload to instagram while dining and show it to the staff, you’ll get a special dessert. Talk about instant gratification.
Daifuku (Mochi Ice Cream)

This is the dessert we got and it’s so adorable. I like how the mochi skin is nicely thin, and this reminded me of University days when I used to buy packs of mochi ice cream during winter (yes I am weird). It’s delightful indeed.

Thank you Ippudo Malaysia for hosting us!

Hakata Ippudo Ramen,
Level 4, Pavilion Shopping Mall, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2110 6233
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/IppudoMalaysia

Mizu Japanese Fine Dining, Bangsar Village

MIZU Japanese Fine Dining has been in operation for over 9 years. That in itself is a pretty good testament to its offerings. Mizu is the brainchild of Mr Simon M. Sangawa, who hails from Japan. With his rich experience in the Food & Beverage industry (over 40 years), he gathered a few local Japanese food lovers to open Mizu, aiming to provide all customers who step into the restaurant with the best service and the highest quality of Japanese food.

Mizu simply means ‘water’ in Japanese. According to Mr Simon, water is often used to describe the food & beverage industry in Japan, as water is always fresh in the beginning which attracts people, but can deteriorate over time, causing them to walk away to find something new; signifying the challenge for continuous self-improvement to keep the customers excited about the restaurant. ​

It is quite easy to find Mizu, located just in front of the escalator after coming up from the supermarket downstairs at Bangsar Village. The entry to Mizu is intriguingly narrow, with a lovely water feature at the front to honour its name. The walkway eventually opens up to a spacious dining room surrounded by an impressive display of wines and sake, sleek furniture and a long sushi/sashimi bar where you can watch the chefs in action.

Mizu has a rather large selection of dishes, with one page dedicated to Chef’s signature dishes. The rest of the dishes are also categorized according to cooking methods for the ease of ordering. Prices are on the higher side, although there is also a separate set lunch menu which offers lunch at more attractive prices.

Japanese Cucumber with Salmon Roe, Cheddar Cheese and Olive Oil
Japanese Cucumber with Salmon Roe, Cheddar Cheese and Olive Oil

While the food at Mizu is mostly authentic, some dishes contain a little fusion twist, such as the Japanese Cucumber with Salmon Roe, Cheddar Cheese and Olive Oil. The cucumbers are delightfully crunchy and refreshing, and briny salmon roe bursting with umami flavour. Perfect starter for a balmy afternoon.

Baked Fresh Oysters with Garlic flavoured Tomato and Cheese
Baked Fresh Oysters with Garlic flavoured Tomato and Cheese

The Baked Fresh Oysters with Garlic flavoured Tomato and Cheese were unapologetically rich with an oriental twist from the spicy tomato sauce, a great match with the creamy oysters. The oysters, which came directly from Japan, were massive and perfectly cooked, providing a great mouth feel.

 “Tenderly” Braised Ox Cheek with Special Blended Sauce
“Tenderly” Braised Ox Cheek with Special Blended Sauce

Chef’s signature dishes include the “Tenderly” Braised Ox Cheek with Special Blended Sauce. Despite the slightly vague dish name, this is one dish you shouldn’t miss at Mizu, it’s a winner. The Ox Cheek is exquisitely tender and the sauce is rich in collagen. The chunks of Daikon Radish absorb all that tasty sauce, the snow peas and star-shaped carrot provided a bit of crunch for textural contrast.

Assorted Sashimi for 2~3pax RM150
Assorted Sashimi for 2~3pax RM150

One important tip for Japanese food lovers, most Japanese restaurants gets their fresh supply of seafood every Tuesdays and Fridays. For the best sashimi experience, make sure you visit on those days. The assorted sashimi for 2-3 comes with Yellow tail, Snapper, Salmon, Tuna and Sweet Shrimps. The portions are generous as the fish are thickly sliced. Bonus point for using freshly grated wasabi for that pungent kick up the nose. Add on a side of Sea Urchin if available. For the uninitiated, the freshest sea urchin should ‘taste like the ocean’, with a slight briny flavour. This is one platter one would remember for days.

Grilled Wagyu Steak
Grilled Wagyu Steak

Die-hard carnivores should give the premium grilled wagyu steak a go. Cooked to your liking, the steak comes with a savoury sweet teriyaki sauce, assorted mushrooms, and best part: plenty of crispy fried garlic. Personally, I feel that Wagyu beef should be cooked to medium for best texture as the fat would have adequate time to melt.

The service here is satisfactory, though requires a little prompting at times. There is a sizable wine list, as one would expect seeing the walls are full of alcoholic beverages on display. This is a restaurant suitable for romantic dates, special occasions (this meal set us back nearly RM600 with wine) and corporate lunches. A wonder little piece of Japan on our doorstep. Recommended.

Mizu Japanese Fine Dining:
Lot F6-First Floor, Bangsar Village, No 1, Jalan Telawi Satu,
Bangsar Baru, 59100,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
T: +603 2283 6988
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 12pm – 10.30pm

This article was published on The Malay Mail’s Weekly Runner on 10th January 2014.

Hong Kong: Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood, Causeway Bay

Nowadays, it’s rare for me to order any fried food, but my ultimate weakness has to be Tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet). It’s something that I used to always order whenever I visit a Japanese restaurant. I even had a regular one in Melbourne for a while, though unfortunately this cafe has since closed down (food was only average but I was less fussy with my food back then as a student). Having said that, I’ve never paid too much attention to the actual quality of the pork used until recently. So when my friend in Hong Kong suggested a really good Tonkatsu restaurant in Causeway Bay, I couldn’t resist the offer.

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood is rather popular in Hong Kong, even endorsed by the local celebrity gastronome Mr Chua Lam (蔡瀾). We avoided the queue as we went there quite early, but there were already quite a number of customers enjoying the deep-fried delights.

Deep fried everything!
Deep fried everything!

Being a first timer, I went for the classic Tonkatsu Set with Premium Pork Loin ($198, approx RM80). Although the set comes with Miso Soup, Rice and Cabbage Salad, it is still pretty expensive. Dining can get a little ridiculous in Hong Kong when it comes to non local food, I noticed.

Ground your own Sesame Seeds
Ground your own Sesame Seeds

First a small grinder was brought to the table with toasted sesame seeds. I was instructed to ground the sesame seeds myself and then add their special Tonkatsu sauce (Japanese Barbeque Sauce) straight into the bowl.

Mmmmm...
Mmmmm…

The aromatic and dark dipping sauce was pretty promising with the right balance of sweet, savoury and tang.

Premium Pork Loin Set
Premium Pork Loin Set

The Tonkatsu arrived and it looked exactly like in the picture: solid golden brown crust, mountain of shredded cabbage, irresistible aroma. I like how the pork was cooked just right with just a touch of pink still in the middle: sign of a juicy, tender piece of meat.

Close up.
Close up.

Oh, be still my beating heart! The Tonkatsu was incredibly crispy, almost a little too crispy as it actually scratched the roof of my mouth. But the meat was incredibly tender with some fatty part which melted in my mouth. What a gastronomic experience. Granted, any crispy fried meat would probably generate positive response from me, but the tasty flesh does make a difference. I guess I will never have cheap Chicken Katsu at Sushi Zanmai again.

Cabbage salad with Chuka Dressing
Cabbage salad

The cabbage is refillable here. Thinly shredded with lovely crunch, these are the perfect fibre component of the meal. There are 2 types of dressing, one a lighter refreshing vinaigrette and the other with stronger sesame taste. I prefer the light one as shown in the picture. I ended up getting one refill only because of the sheer portion of the Tonkatsu. I did struggle to finish my rice even though it was lovely with fluffy and slightly sticky grains. The miso soup was seasoned perfectly with bits of tofu in there.

Generally I found the service standard in Hong Kong pretty good (well, compared to Kuala Lumpur, it’s not hard to surpass). The staff were attentive enough with good command of English. Would I recommend this? Yes, but only if you have the luxury to spend almost RM100 for a simple enough meal. Now that I have adopted the Paleolithic Diet (more on that in the later post), I will have to ban Tonkatsu for a while at least if not forever. So, lucky for me indeed to have this in my memory bank.

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood
Shop 412, Podium 4, World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay.
銅鑼灣告士打道280號世貿中心4樓412號鋪
Monday to Sunday: 12:00-15:00,18:00-22:30

Japan AFF – Toripaitan Ramen (Marutama Ramen Copycat)

Over a year ago, I took up a challenge and made Tonkotsu Ramen at home. Needless to say, I spent hours and hours going in and out of the kitchen as I didn’t have a pressure cooker yet at the time. My Tonkotsu Broth itself took over 8 hours to cook and I imagine my gas bill must have been super high that month. However, I loved the result and have a new found respect for good ramen joints everywhere. Since I’ve acquired a Philips Pressure Cooker from the cooking competition few months ago, I have been waiting to cook ramen again. When I finally recovered from my bronchitis (some residual cough now but not too bad), I thought it was time to try another ramen recipe before the Japan month for Asian Food Fest ends.

I have mentioned a few times here that my favourite ramen in KL is Marutama Ramen (starting to sound like a broken record, I think). Originated from Japan, a bowl of Marutama ramen consists of Toripaitan (Chicken) Broth, super tender Pork Chashu, Seaweed, Spring Onions and their textbook perfect Ajitsuke Tamago (Marinated Soft Boiled Eggs). It’s the ultimate comfort food. Some of you have read this blog long enough to know that I’m a total noodle freak, and if I have craving for a certain place from time to time, you know that it’s definitely something special.

Incidentally, I did have a Marutama craving during the week and instead of spending RM40 in cab fares and another RM25 for a bowl in Fahrenheit 88 mall, I went out to my supermarket to purchase all the ingredients needed for this recipe. Granted, I did have to wait til the next day to finally savour my effort but my my was it worth the wait!

Copycat Marutama Ramen
Copycat Marutama Ramen

Of course, I don’t know the owner well enough to bribe for a recipe (I doubt they would give it out anyway), so I followed Norecipes’ recommedation for a Chicken broth and went from there. Marutama uses Aosa seaweed (riverbed seaweed) which I couldn’t find, so I had to make do with the regular type. Instead of using actual chili, I went for a spicy mayu instead (couldn’t eat too spicy yet, so a little goes a long way). Being Chicken broth, the cooking time is significantly less (5 hours on stove top, 1 and half hour with pressure cooker). The trick is to select chicken parts with plenty of skin to produce a creamy soup. Marutama uses Chicken feet predominantly, while I used mostly Chicken wing tips (Village grocer ran out of Chicken feet that day too)

Now let’s make some ramen!

Chicken (ToriPaitan) Broth (around 6-8 serving) Recipe from norecipes.com
1 pound Chicken bones
1 pound Chicken wing tips
1 small Leek cut into 4 pieces
2 length Ginger sliced into 8 coins
4 large cloves garlic unpeeled
Vegetable oil for frying the aromatics
4 inch piece kombu
10 cups water (or enough to cover the ingredients)

Bring a kettle full of water to a boil. Lay the wing tips and chicken bones in a clean sink, then pour the boiling water over the chicken. Wash the chicken with cold water, scrubbing off any clumps of blood. This step solidifies some of the blood on the chicken so you can wash it off and it doesn’t end up in your soup.

In a small saucepan, add the leeks, ginger and garlic, then cover with vegetable oil. Gently fry over medium low heat until the aromatics are dark brown, but not burnt (about 30-40 minutes).
Add the kombu, wingtips and bones to a pressure cooker (or on the stove top in a pot if using electric pressure cooker) and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring it to a boil uncovered, then skim off the scum that floats to the top. Continue skimming until you don’t see any more scum. Remove the kombu and discard, then add the fried leeks, ginger and garlic. Seal the lid, then cook under high pressure for 1.5 hours.

When the stock is done cooking, let it cool to room temperature. Pour it through a large strainer into a large bowl. Squeeze the solids with your hands to extract as much liquid as possible. You’ll notice that the liquid starts turning a creamy white. This is what gives the soup its body so be sure you get every last drop. You can either stop here and refrigerate the stock or keep going.

If you refrigerated the stock, it should be fairly easy to scrape off the excess fat with a spoon. If not, use a fat skimmer to skim off the extra fat and set the fat aside. In either case, you want to leave a little fat behind. Measure your the soup. You should have about 6 cups, if you have more, you should boil it down to 6 cups, if you have less, add water.

Lovely creamy stock.
Lovely creamy stock.

Chicken Broth Seasoning (serving for 1)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon of Tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
A touch of Spicy Sesame oil (or regular sesame oil)

Add above seasoning to the toripaitan stock, taste to adjust.

Chashu (Adapted from Seriouseats.com)
1 pound slab of Pork Belly
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup sugar
3 whole garlic cloves
1 thumb size ginger, smashed with knife
1 small shallot, cut in half
1 cup water or more

Cut the slab of Pork Belly in half and roll them round, securing with kitchen strings. Heat the rest of the ingredients in a small pot until boiling. Add pork belly. The liquid should almost cover the meat. Cover with lid, but not tight. Cook for 3-4 hours in low heat (slow bubbles), turning the pork occasionally. Test with a fork of skewer for tenderness.

Getting serious here.
Getting serious here.

Once the pork belly is done, let cool and then chill the whole thing in the fridge for few hours. I did mine for 4. Overnight would be best.

Tender tender pork
Tender tender pork

To serve, cut the pork belly into desired thickness and gently heat up in the braising liquid.

Ajitsuke Tamago (recipe from Seriouseats.com)
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Sake
1/4 cup Soy sauce
1/4 cup Mirin
2 tablespoons Sugar
4 eggs (Room temperature)

Combine water, sake, soy, mirin, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a ziplock bag.

Boil enough water to cover all the eggs. Once the water has come to a boil, reduce to heat to a gentle simmer, then lower the eggs gently into the water. Cook for exactly 6 minutes. Drain hot water and drop the eggs into ice water bath for a couple of minutes, then carefully peel eggs under cold running water.

Add all the eggs into the ziplock bag and twist the bag to release the air so the liquid cover the eggs completely. Leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours. In my experience, 48 hours will produce fully marinated eggs (all the way to the yolk). Reheat the egg gently in hot ramen broth.

Leave the bag in a bowl in case of leakage.
Leave the bag in a bowl in case of leakage.

Extra toppings: Roast seaweed sheets, Black fungus, Spring onions.

To assemble, cook the fresh ramen to your desire doneness (al-dente is recommended), pour the broth over the noodles and arrange all the toppings on top.

Heaven in a bowl
Heaven in a bowl

Sometimes giving in to my craving can be quite detrimental because I subsequently had ramen for the next 2 meals and couldn’t fit into the dress I wanted to wear for a wedding. Naughty girl! The broth is absolutely delicious by the way: it tasted of pure chicken essence with the aroma of sesame and smooth mouth feel. It’s rich yet not as cloying as Tonkotsu broth and I could finish the whole bowl in 10 minutes. The seaweed and spring onions added another dimension to the body as well.

Oodle of Noodles
Oodle of Noodles

I was very happy with the fresh ramen noodles I bought too, springy and absolutely slurp-worthy. Yes I slurped them like a true Japanese! The egg here had been marinated for almost 24 hours, you can see that the white has already turned light brown. If you cook it following the timing, you’ll definitely get perfect runny centre. And if you let it go for another 24 hours (not more), you will be very much rewarded:

Super Sexy!
Super Sexy!

The yolk has darkened significantly and the texture changed slightly. It’s aromatic through and through. Such an orgasmic experience.

Mmmm Pork!
Mmmm Pork!

Chashu done this method is extremely flavourful and fork tender (well in my case chopstick tender). This pairs really well just with a simple bowl of rice and some vegetables too. The fat bit literally melts in your mouth. Exquisite.

Whoa! This must be one of my longer posts ever. I suppose that makes up for my one-week absence. Having said that, if you actually read everything til this point, you must be rather bored. Haha! Just kidding, don’t close this page please! 😛

I am submitting this to Asian Food Fest Japan Month, hosted by Alan of Travelling Foodies.

Japan AFF: Okonomiyaki

Some twelve years ago when I first moved to Melbourne, Daimaru was one of the biggest Japanese Chain right in the CBD. To be specific, it used to occupy the majority of Melbourne Central. Why did I bring a shopping centre into this picture? Well, anyone still remembers the Okonomiyaki they used to serve at their food section? That has to be one of my tastiest memories when it comes to Japanese food. You see, growing up in Bintulu, my knowledge of Japanese food was limited to sushi, and expensive seafood. There wasn’t even one Japanese restaurant back home (there are a couple now, I believe), so when my friend brought me to try this Okonomiyaki during my first couple of months of settling in Melbourne, it was a revelation. To be honest I have already forgotten what made their version so good, but I’m sure a few Melbournians are still nodding your heads right now… right? By the way, Daimaru closed down the same year I moved to Melbourne, so I had to resort to other places, but never had one as good as theirs.

Literally, Okonomiyaki means “Grilled what you like”, it’s almost like a Japanese version of Pizza (although the consistency is probably more like pancake), where you can choose a variety of toppings. Cabbage is usually the main ingredient and I have seen Bacon being used in most recipes. Although the ones I used to buy in food courts in Melbourne are largely meat free.

Okonomiyaki, the way I like it.
Okonomiyaki, the way I like it.

Since we kicked off the Asian Food Fest (organised by Wendy again following the very successful Malaysian Food Fest) with Japan, I thought I would share this recipe with you. I have kept it really simple and used special Okonomiyaki flour which you can now buy in most supermarket (so I don’t have to get everything else separately and end up not using them). To me, Okonomiyaki means convenience, so I allow myself to ‘cheat’ a bit here.

Basic Okonomiyaki

50g Okonomiyaki Flour (if not using special flour, use all purpose flour with some dashi powder, bonito flakes, tempura bits)
1/3 cup of Water (or Dashi stock)
1 Egg
Cabbage, around 150g, cut into small strips
3 stalks Spring Onions, finely chopped
3 strips of Bacon
Handful of Bonito Flakes
Okonomi sauce, to taste (easily found at the Jap food section of your supermarket)
Kewpie Mayonnaise, to taste
Optional: Prawns, Chinese Sausages, Benishoga (Pickled Ginger)

Whisk, whisk away!
Whisk, whisk away! You can see this flour has some bits of tempura as well as bonito flakes already.

In a large bowl, whisk together Okonomiyaki Flour and Water until smooth

Add Eggs, Cabbage, Spring Onions and mix, but don’t over mix.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

Heat a bit of oil in the large skillet and add Okonomiyaki mixture.

Here we go!
Here we go!

Using a spatula to flatten and form pancakes until around 1.5cm (3/4″) thick. Add Bacon pieces to cover top of each pancake.

Not perfectly round, nevermind, the sauces will cover it.
Not perfectly round, nevermind, the sauces will cover it.

After about 3 minutes, flip over pancake (bacon side down) and cook for 4 minutes. You might want to flip to do the other side if it’s not fully browned.

Forgot to take a photo before I flip. So here's a second flip. Haha!
Forgot to take a photo before I flip. So here’s a second flip. Haha!

Remove to plate and drizzle with Kewpie mayonnaise, okonomi sauce and sprinkle with more Boniko flakes.

Serve hot!
Serve hot!

It’s not the most elegant dish, but I suppose it’s more of a comfort food. At least for me.

Want some?
Want some?

I love the complexity of the flavours despite using very few ingredients. Fun textural contrast between the pancake, slightly crunchy cabbage and crispy bacon. I did have to split this into 2 portions though (still recovering from my illness so appetite is not quite there yet). I might try a salmon version next time, or mentaiko. Yum.

What is your favourite Okonomiyaki topping? Do you have a favourite Japanese dish?

I am submitting this to Asian Food Fest Japan Month, hosted by Alan of Travelling Foodies.

The Latest Food Craze: Ramen Burger

Unless you have been living under the rock, or don’t use facebook (Who doesn’t? Even Frank got hooked after calling it FaceSuck for how many years…), you must have heard of the latest Food Craze in New York right now: The Ramen Burger. Created by Chef Keizo Shimamoto (who’s a certified ramen addict), the craze kickstarted on the 3rd of August, with hundreds of people standing in line to get a bite at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg on Saturdays.

What’s a Ramen burger, you might ask. If you have tried the Rice Burger made famous by MOS Burger, this is a similar concept by shaping Ramen noodles into “Buns”. The original Brooklyn version has Arugula at the bottom, followed by a fresh USDA Prime ground beef chuck patty, accompanied by a special shoyu sauce (said to have been cooked down for hours), and some chopped spring onions (scallions). And here’s what a Ramen Burger look like:

Mmm.... Sexy!
Mmm…. Sexy!

Well, since New York is a little far away from me, and so far noone in KL is selling it yet (the geeks at myburgerlab have been experimenting so you might want to keep your eyes firmly on their updates), so I have decided to make it in my own kitchen. There are quite a few YouTube videos with clear instructions on shaping the Ramen buns, and my favourite would be the one by Popsugar, followed closely by the Sorted Food. Since this is my first attempt, I wanted to make it as close to the original as possible.

I love that beautiful browned top.
I love that beautiful browned top.

The focus here obviously, is on the Ramen buns. To shape them, you will need to use decent ramen noodles. The best is obviously freshly made Ramen noodles like the ones used by Shimamoto. Failing that, a good ramen brand like Nissin (that’s what I used) would work well. In fact most of the YouTube chef used this brand too. You’ll need something to bind the noodles after they are cooked (to packet’s instructions) and drained. So that’s when the humble egg comes into the picture. Ok, I shall let the pictures do the talking this time.

Forget about mixing it with a fork, do it the Chinese way!
Forget about mixing it with a fork, do it the Chinese way!

Mix it well, mix it good. Add a pinch of salt for good measure, as noone wants bland noodles, right? Then find something that’s the side of your desired ramen buns. My ramekins are small, so I use these small bowls.

Perfecto!
Perfecto!

Line the bowls with Cling wrap and divide the noodles in half. Wrap them up and press them down with something heavy enough to shape the buns. Leave them in the fridge for an hour or two to set.

The noodles are set!
The noodles now set.

Now we are ready to fry the Ramen ‘buns’.

Waiting for the magic to happen....
Waiting for the magic to happen….

Leave them untouched for 2-3 minutes. Then flip!

That looks promising!
That looks promising!

Once they are sufficiently browned on both sides, remove and drain on absorbent paper. I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t want a greasy burger.

Burger Patty time!
Burger Patty time!

For the meat, I’ve used a 110g Beef Patty (minced chuck, 80/20 ratio), added some panko breadcrumbs as binder, seasoned with a touch of soy sauce, 5 spice powder and a dash of sesame oil for that oriental twist. And fry them on both size. The pro tip is to salt the side just before you grill (fry) it, which is what I did. Salt the other side just before you are ready to flip. Tada! Perfectly cooked burger patty!

The sideline.
The sideline.

For the rest of the toppings, I’ve used some fresh Arugula, chopped spring onions and some fried shallots for that extra aromatic kick. I read somewhere that the Shoyu sauce contains shallots so I thought this might help me to complete the picture. And now…. it’s time to build our Ramen Burger.

The exiciting part, or is that when you are actually eating it?
The exciting part, or is that when you are actually eating it?

Start with the bun, add some arugula…. well, that’s obvious, so I’m going to fast forward a bit.

Almost there.
Almost there.

Followed by the Beef Patty, slice of Irish White Cheddar (not in the original burger but I like my burgers with cheese), spring onion, fried shallots, and a squeeze of Okomoni sauce… That’s what you’d use for Okonomiyaki usually, it’s sweet, savoury and a little tangy, a bit like Tonkatsu sauce. Teriyaki sauce should work well too (but you might need to add something acidic to balance it up), and you can add some Kewpie Mayo if you swing that way… Finish with the top bun, and there you have it!

Such a beautiful thing... .I don't even.
Such a beautiful thing….I don’t even.

Would you like to see a cross section? Well I’m sure you do.

Mmmmm..... heavenly!
Mmmmm….. heavenly!

I’m really pleased with my first attempt. I am also pleasantly surprised that the Ramen buns do hold very well together. The layer of arugula stops the burger patty from soaking the bottom buns, but you do need to eat quite fast. FYI, I was actually holding half of this burger bun and walking around the apartment while eating it (to recreate that street side eating, you see) and apart from a couple of poor spring onion, nothing else fell off. What about the flavours, you ask? I love the eggy ramen buns that are slightly crispy on the outside but soft with enough bite. The toppings work fabulously with the beef patty and the buns. I would probably add some hot sauce if I wasn’t trying to stay away from spicy food this week. The only thing though, is that the whole burger is rather big, so just as well I divided it into two. I had the second half as my dinner instead. Still quite delicious and no soggy bottom! Wait, that doesn’t sound very good. Never mind. Just for your viewing pleasure, here’s another one after I’ve taken a couple of bites. Haha.

Bite mark
Not too messy, right?

So, I guess it would be nice to add one fried egg on top of the patty, and you might want to add some bacon. Just like the regular burger, the possibilities are endless. For our vegetarian friends: perhaps a tofu or a quinoa patty? Smashed chickpeas with curry spices would be fantastic too.

So what’s your thought about the Ramen burger and would you try it?