Spaghetti and Zoodles with Cauliflower Pesto, Bacon and Shrimps

One click to check my blogging history and I realised that I have not posted a recipe for *gasp* 6 months! That’s too damn long for one who claims to post ‘a lot’ of recipes on her blog. For this, I do apologise for those who have been waiting for me to post something (I’m talking about you Michelle, and few others who have specifically asked for THIS recipe). First, maybe an overdue update on my personal life.

I went through quite a significant life change over the past few months. A new relationship, new living arrangement (I’m now a PJ girl), new job (started a teaching job at an International College), new routines (no longer the night owl, though still a party girl during weekends). Needless to say, it took a few months for me to readjust and now that the dust has settled and I’m comfortable around the new kitchen, I can get back to recipe blogging again.

Of all the recent dishes I’ve cooked and posted on social media, this dish seemed to be the most popular so I thought I’d end this drought with this recipe: Spaghetti and Zoodles with Cauilflower Pesto, Bacon and Shrimps.

2 major things about this recipe: 1. It’s low carb. 2. It’s dairy free. And let me just tell you that it’s absolutely delicious. Zoodles are noodles made with zucchini by the way. If you have the magical gadget that is called the Paderno Vegetable Spiral Cutter (in short Spiralizer) you’ll be able to turn any hard vegetable into noodles = instant low carb meal (unless you use potato, of course)! If you don’t have the spiraliser, you can use a julienne peeler too. As for the sauce, I’ve used cauliflower to emulate the creamy texture because I didn’t use cheese in the pesto, keeping this recipe ‘almost paleo’. The reason I’ve added actual spaghetti is that Kevin still likes his carbs and I’m not going to deny him of his pleasure. If you want it to be completely guilt free, omit pasta altogether.

This is a great way to up your daily vegetables intake and chances are, you won’t even realise there is cauliflower in the mix. The zoodles do have a slightly different texture to pasta and that does take a bit to get used to, but nevertheless this dish will give you satisfaction as do any other pasta dish. This dish is also super quick to put together, making it a perfect weeknight dinner, while also suitable to impress your dinner guests. So let’s get cooking!

Spaghetti and Zoodles with Cauliflower Pesto, Bacon and Shrimps

Ingredients:
(serves 3 persons, or 2 with super hearty appetite)
2 medium zucchini, spiralised into zoodles
100g Spaghetti
12-15 Shrimps, peeled and deveined
4-5 strips of Streaky bacon, cut into lardons.

Cauliflower Pesto
Quarter of a head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 supermarket packet of fresh basil (1 big handful)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Walnuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions in salted water until al dente. Add the cauliflower florets in the last 5 minutes and drain out separately.

To make the cauliflower pesto, add a whole bunch of basil into the food processor, along with 2-3 cloves of garlic, a generous pour of Extra virgin olive oil, walnuts (or pine nuts if you want to stay more original), salt and pepper, followed by the drained cauliflower. Process until almost smooth, scraping down the sides a few times. Adjust the liquid level by adding some pasta water if you wish, taste for seasoning.

Heat oil in pan and add bacon. Cook until starting to brown, then add thyme and zucchini and stir for 3-4 minutes. Push everything aside and add prawns to stir fry for 2-3 minutes until just cooked. Turn the heat to lowest, add drained pasta and Cauliflower pesto and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with or without chili flakes. Refresh even more with a squeeze of lemon juice if you like.

If you like pesto and pasta, you’ll definitely love the lighter take of this dish. It’s as herbaceous as it can get, and the cauliflower lends an extra creaminess without actually adding any dairy products. This is going on high rotation in my household, and in fact, I have 2 zucchinis waiting in the kitchen for me as we speak! Enjoy cooking!

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Sang Nyuk Noodle 東風生肉麵, SS15

Sang Nyuk Mee, or 生肉面 in Chinese), is an iconic food of Sabah. In literal translation, Sang Nyuk means Raw Pork. Now before you get squeamish, it actually refers to the tender, fresh, smooth meat slices served in soup. Essentially pork noodles but totally Sabah style. Originated from Tawau in 1970s, it’s now popular enough you can find it everywhere in Sabah. And if that’s not enough, we can even find it in Klang Valley now too, to cater the Sabahans who miss hometown food, and folks like us who basically love a good bowl of pork noodles.

If you are near Subang, and feel like having something different (or familiar, depends where you are from), there’s Sang Nyuk Noodle 東風生肉麵 . It’s a stone throw away from the famous local Pork Noodles without the one hour wait, by the way. Operated by a husband/wife team (Wife is from Kota Kinabalu), you see hungry patrons happily slurping the noodles, along with many Sabahan dishes they serve on a daily basis.

Now the main attraction itself: you can have Sang Nyuk Noodles in 2 styles, either in soup or dry (kon lou). Generally people would opt for the dry style, where the noodles are tossed in dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and pork oil, and served with the tasty pork broth filled with meat slices, meatballs and offals. And the best part? The crispy pork lard floating in the soup. And at 東風 (East Wind in case you are wondering) you can even order extra pork lard for RM0.50. Music to my ears. GIVE ME THE FAT! Let’s take a moment to admire the gloriousness of this dish.

Dry Sang Nyuk Noodles (RM7.90) , RM1.50 extra for Fried Egg

I ordered the handmade noodles and added fried egg on top. The noodles are tasty with the distinct aroma of pork lard. Adding the fried egg really enhance the experience too, nothing better than strands of noodles coated with egg yolk I must say.

YolkPorn!

There are a few other choices of noodles, and Kevin always asked for the Dong Guang Mee Hoon which are thicker than usual rice vermicelli, and is usually the default choice for Sang Nyuk Noodles. Both have different textures; I liked the chewiness of the handmade noodles, but also enjoy the smooth mee hoon. One thing of note is that they brought in their soy sauce, oyster sauce and chili sauce from Sabah, to ensure authenticity. The chili sauce here is made with vinegar for that sour edge, and has a nice good kick.

The broth is boiled with pork bones, which means you see that signature milkiness in the soup, with natural sweetness of pork. I was impressed with how tender the meat was, and I was told the meat is marinated overnight with their own blend of ingredients as well as meat tenderiser. As I’m a lover of offals, the liver and intestines ticked the right boxes for me, although as a Sarawakian, I do prefer the liver to be slightly undercooked, maybe I could try asking that next time.

We tried a few other dishes as well, including these Tendon Meatball Soup (RM5.90)

Love the bouncy texture of the meatballs, and note somemore pork lard floating in the soup. Yum!

Jiang Bao Meatball soup

Jiang bao refers to the fillings which spills out as you bite into the meatballs. I love the surprise centre and would definitely order this again.

Oh and I have to show you the plate of extra Pork Lard.

You. Come to mama!

Another of their signature would be the Mushroom Chicken Feet. I think I’m quite partial to eating weird things, the good thing about being a Chinese is that we’ve been trained to eat these stuff growing up. Heh.

The Chicken feet has been cooked in Chinese Yellow Wine and various Herbs, so it has a very strong herbal taste (the most prominent aroma being the dong guai). The chicken feet was not deep fried before braising (which is also how my family does it, and we have a pretty kick ass chicken feet dish if I may say so myself), which gives it a super soft texture, while the meat falls off the bone easily. My kind of dish!

We’ve already been to this place 3 times and I’m pretty sure we’ll be returning again soon! Having said that, if you have other suggestions for Sabahan food around Klang Valley feel free to throw it our way.

Sang Nyuk Noodle
53 Jalan SS15/4e,
Subang Jaya
03-5612 2868

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

Creamy Beetroot Pasta with Bacon

It’s already 11 days into 2015 and I have yet to post up anything remotely reflective, nor have I done my New Year’s resolutions (I actually don’t remember doing it last year either). But here is my first post of the year, and if this is anything to go by; my first New Year’s Resolution would be to share more recipes on this blog.

I have finally acquired a Paderno World Cuisine Spiral Vegetable Cutter. Many of you have asked where and here is the link. I believe this is the best way to purchase if you live in Malaysia. But of course, have a look through eBay and you might be able to find it too. Here’s what it looks like:

Image from Amazon.

For the uninitiated, this is basically a very fancy vegetable slicer than cut vegetables into spirals, so it turns things like zucchini, carrot, potato etc into long noodle like strands. You then can use them anyway you like, and I love to substitute noodles and pastas with these vegetables. For example, this gorgeous looking plate of Pasta made with Beetroot:

Creamy Beet Pasta.

I love using the Spiral Cutter because it’s fun and somewhat therapeutic to watch the transformation (I know I am weird). Potato noodles are the most fun because it’s the most versatile, zucchini noodles are rather delicious in stir fry, but Beetroot noodles are simply beautiful no matter what you do with it.

This dish is super simple and it’s a relatively guilt free version of Carbonara. And since Beetroot is already full of vitamins and antioxidants, there is no need for extra vegetables (of course, don’t let me stop you). Best still, it cooks faster than actual Pasta so you have a delicious meal in about 15 minutes or less.

Creamy Beetroot Pasta with Bacon
1 Medium Beetroot, spiralised
6 Strips of Streaky Bacon cut into lardons
3 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
Handful of thyme leaves
70ml Heavy Cream
Handful of cheese of your choice, I used cream cheese for that extra luscious texture for the sauce.
Squeeze of lemon
Chili (optional)

Heat oil in pan and add bacon. Cook until starting to brown, then add garlic, thyme and beetroot and stir for 3-4 minutes. If you prefer beetroot to be softer feel free to go for extra 2-3 minutes.

Add cream and cream cheese, stir until combined, and then squeeze over lemon juice before serving. I like to add some chili too because I can’t live without spicy food!

Yeah… that’s it!! Anyone can cook this, as long as you have a spiral cutter. By the way, there are other types of spiral cutters, but a lot of them are limited to only long cylindrical shaped (wanted to use another word but stopped myself in time) vegetables and won’t be able to spiralise potatoes and beetroot, for example. So if you want to get serious in the Spiralising businness Paderno is the way to go.

Yum!

Back to New Year’s Resolutions: I don’t have anything specific but I am just going to continue working hard for my dreams and continue to bring quality content on this blog for you. The past couple of weeks have been really stressful and I nearly had a nervous breakdown, so I hope the next few weeks I can readjust my mindset and focus on what really matters. 2014 had been productive, fruitful and certainly very, very interesting. Looking forward to a great year ahead!

By the way, check out the Real Pasta version here too.

Tiffin by Chef Korn, Midvalley Megamall

Tiffin by Chef Korn is another newbie in town at Midvalley Megamall. If you think Chef Korn sounds familiar to you, that’s because he’s behind the well-known Thai restaurant Erawan. This new outlet is more casual in setting, featuring Chef Korn’s village-style cooking, dishes he grew up loving and eating.

The location is a little tricky, but here’s a tip. Locate Daiso at Third Floor, then take the stairs (inside Daiso) up, walk outside and turn right and you’ll see the restaurant. The decor is kept simple, with tiffin carriers placed all over, clearly referring to the name of the restaurant.

Before we talk about the food, let me recommend a couple of tasty drinks they have to offer:

Passion Tea and Tom Yam “Mojito”

The Passion tea is made with real whole passionfruit, peach tea and mint leaves. It’s on the sweeter side, and feels very “girly”. An absolute thirst quencher. While the Tom Yam Mojito is much bolder and punchier, with ingredients you can find in a Tom Yam soup: Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Chili (!), Galangal and Soda. If I’m not worried about the caloric count, I’d happily gulp down glasses of this.

The menu here is huge so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Pork lovers should take note because more than 50% of dishes here contains pork (which I will go back and try next time). We let Chef Korn cooked us whatever he liked when we visited, and here are all the starters.

Hugging Prawn (RM23.80)

The prawns are wrapped with wantan skin and deep fried, then served with 3 different sauces (my favourite is of course sweet chili).

Fire balls (RM19.80)

Do not miss out on these Fire balls, made with minced pork, ground roasted rice, dried chili. spring onion, coriander and shallot. Break the ball apart and enjoy with crunchy raw vegetables (to balance out the salt and spice), but be careful as it’s fiery!

Salted Wings (RM15.80)

The Salted Wings are surprisingly crispy despite the lack of dredging, a testament to Chef’s skills.

Tiffin’s Pop Corn (RM15.80)

While the “Pop corns” are actually mini corn tempura, with bits of sweet corn mingling with fluffy batter fried to a crisp.

Boxing Chicken (RM15.80)

The boxing chicken is a little bit on the saltier side though. Good to pair with beer, I suppose.

Yam and Tapioca Balls – 6 pieces (RM9.80)

We also got to try the Yam and Tapioca Balls, which is actually a dessert dish. I love the fluffy texture of the yam, it’s only minimally sweet, which is a bonus.

Next, an interesting display came to our table.

“Discover Thailand Flavours” with Dips and Condiments

Depending on availability, the condiments may differ day to day. We had Fried fish, perfectly hard-boiled duck eggs, fried chicken skin, fried eggplant and various blanched vegetables (this is always available).

This set represents a taste journey from North to North Eastern, Central and Southern Thailand.

I shall start with my favourite dip of the 4:

Nam-Prick-Ong – Minced pork and tomatoes dip (RM20.80)

Everyone is fighting for this one, it goes especially well with fried chicken skin, and the hard-boiled duck egg.

Nam-Prick-Noom – grilled green chili dip (RM20.80)

This is slightly smoky, slightly sweet and slightly spicy, goes well with everything. I wouldn’t mind more of it now.

North-Eastern: Pon-Plaa-too – grilled fish and fermented fish dip (RM20.80)

Roasted Kembong fish with fermented anchovies, roasted chili, garlic, shallots and lime juice, it’s as tasty as it sounds.

Central: Nam-Prick-Phaow – Roasted Chili Paste Dip (RM20.80)

This one is the most robust in flavour and a little bit goes a long way.

Chef Korn was very keen for us to try the noodles dishes so he brought out not 1, not 2, but 4 types of noodles! It was not an easy task going through all of them. The first one is not on the regular menu (but if the customers like it enough, it might just become permanent), and it’s a dish sure to please Malaysian palate.

Northern Thai style chicken curry noodle” (Monthly Special)

Pairing Chicken Curry with noodles is not uncommon. But here he also added raw shallots, spring onions, fresh lime juice, and most importantly homemade preserved vegetables. The broth itself is bordering cloying rich but with the addition of the toppings, there is a lovely balance of sweetness from coconut milk, tang from the preserved veges, and aromatic spices. I heard this is only available on Tuesdays for now.

Beef Ball Noodles (RM28.80)

I have heard about the Beef Ball Noodles long before I visited this restaurant (long is operative, as this place is only about 2 months old), and was looking forward to tasting it. It’s so exciting to eat the generous serving of meat (Australian shin meat and beef slices) and beef balls. The dark brown broth has a great depth of flavour and I couldn’t resist a second serving. To be honest though, I probably can’t finish the whole bowl by myself, it’s huge!

Shall we share?
Test tubes of fish sauce, chili flakes, vinegar and sugar.

At Tiffin’s, you are encouraged to play with your food. The test tubes are provided with the noodles dishes so you can adjust the taste to your liking. Though I would say there is no need to add anything except a healthy dash of chili!

Pink Ocean Noodles (RM28.80)

What a pretty name for a dish! The pink hue of the soup comes from a “foo yee” sauce, and this bowl is full of fresh seafood, perfect for those who pretty oceany flavours.

Tiffin’s Style Suki-Yaki (RM 28.80)

Suki-Yaki means stew or hot pot in Japanese, but here at Tiffin it comes in a form of glass noodles served with seafood, pork and vegetables. I was very full at that point so didn’t try this, but my fellow dining partners were singing praises.

Candied Bananas with Light Coconut Milk (RM 9.80)

I wanted to wave my white flags but Chef Korn insisted we try the Candied Banana. Here the bananas are candied, so they are super sweet, but served in unsweetend coconut milk flavoured simply with salt, which balances the sweetness. I certainly wouldn’t mind having it again (as a fan of bananas it gets 2 thumbs up from me).

I will definitely pay another visit (or more) to sample more of their ala carte dishes (think Green Pork Curry, Stewed Pork Knuckle, Village Pork, Crispy Belly Pork….. I want them all). Thank you Chef Korn for the great hospitality!

Tiffin’s by Chef Korn
#T068/69, 3rd Floor, Mezzanine (North Court),
Mid Valley Megamall.
Tel: 03-2201 7368

Top Hat Restaurant, Jalan Stonor

Top Hat Restaurant has been named one of the Malaysia’s Best Restaurants multiple times by Malaysian Tatler and it’s not difficult to see why. Set in a beautiful colonial bungalow at the crossroad of Jalan Kia Peng and Jalan Stonor, it’s prime location attracts loyal local fans as well as tourists and local embassy staff.

Top Hat’s interior is a unique blend of East and West with local art pieces on the walls, luxurious curtain drapes, various antiques, vintage furniture with warm earth tones of brown, yellow and red. During the day, the dining room is bathed in natural light from the side windows and exudes a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a cosy place to dine, almost like you are at a Nyonya’s humble home. There are also several themed private rooms, complete with a large garden with plenty of greenery and Koi pond. It’s no wonder Top Hat frequently hosts corporate functions as well as weddings.

The kitchen is run by 3 Chefs: Head Chef Richard Moreira who draws on his Eurasian heritage to create both Western and Malaysian cuisines; Sous Chef Yen Soon who loves to using Chinese ingredients in his Western cuisine; And Pastry Chef Ineh Bibi who’s responsible for the desserts. As expected, the menu here features both Western and Asian dishes, with the latter focused more on Malaysia’s unique Nyonya cuisine. The dishes rotate every three months, although the signature dishes never come off the menu. Prices here are reasonable as the portions are above average. There is also an extensive wine list of Old and New World wines, and if you need any assistance, they are more than happy to do the wine pairing.

The restaurant’s namesake, also known locally as “Pai Tee”, is a popular Nyonya dish (RM12 for 6). A savoury mix of shredded Chinese turnip and Carrots set in pastry shells, paired with a homemade sweet and sour sauce; here they are larger than normal, but no less elegant. It’s a delightful starter with the thin and crispy shells and crunchy vegetables.

Top Hats

Top Hat prides itself by making everything from scratch using the freshest ingredients. The Chicken Satay is served with a thick peanut sauce (RM20 for 6), each skewer packed with juicy lean meat with a good bite.

Chicken Satay

If you are curious about their Western dishes, the Chicken and Mushroom Pie (RM35) is a must order. The puff pastry is perfectly airy and crispy and the creamy savoury filling will have you reaching for more. Its richness is offset by the sweet and tangy salad with mango.

Chicken and Mushroom Pie

The Chef’s Signature Oxtail Stew (RM48) is braised for more than 4 hours, which explains the wonderfully textured meat with rich, dark gravy with great depth of flavour. The vegetables are grilled to bring out their sweetness before adding to the stew, and there’s a hint of tang from the tomatoes. Best to enjoy with toasted garlic bread to mop up every last bit of the sauce.

Chef’s Signature Oxtail Stew

Some diners visit Top Hat exclusively for their Nyonya laksa (RM25), and it’s probably the best in town. This is the owner’s family recipe, with the broth made fresh every single day. The Nyonya Laksa here features a creamy coconut broth, yellow noodles (or rice vermicelli), prawns, chicken and bean sprouts. It has a unique aroma from torch ginger bud, lemongrass and shrimp paste; the addition of lime and sambal as extra kick complete the addictive and decadent treat. The portion is quite intimidating for one with a small appetite, so be prepared to share.

Nyonya Laksa

Desserts here are split into local delights and Western classics. The Signature Tiramisu Cake is served with fresh strawberry sauce, a rather unique combination but strangely works, thanks to the nut crumble on top. It has a hint of coffee and a rich mascarpone layer, definitely not a dessert for the faint-hearted or weak-kneed.

Signature Tiramisu Cake

Another must try is the Peach and Banana Crumble served with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s as comforting as it gets.

Peach and Banana Crumble

There’s no doubt that Top Hat serves unpretentious fare, much like a home-cooked meal with a touch of elegance. It’s well worth a visit if you want to try something very different from the usual KL restaurant visit, there’s something very magical and romantic about this place and the attentive staff just give it that little extra special something.

Top Hat Restaurant
No.3, Jalan Stonor, 50450, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 0321418611/21441863
Website: www.top-hat-restaurants.com
Opens daily from 12-noon-12am (last call 10:45pm)

This writeup was published on The Malay Mail on 14th March 2014.

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.

Nook’s MIGF 2013 Menu

Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) is back with an interesting theme “Cool Chefs – Cooking with attitude”. Having missed out on the Taste MIGF due to work commitment, naturally I was excited to receive an invitation to try the MIGF menu at Nook, joining the festival for the very first time. This menu is extra special to me because Chef Steven Seow, though not actually from Sarawak, has taken the effort to feature the treasures from Sabah and Sarawak. You’ll see when we talk about the dishes.

It wasn’t our first time dining at Nook as I have tried out the buffet spead as well as ala carte dishes numerous times when I was performing at W XYZ bar back in June. I also went for an invited review earlier in the year when it was still brand new. I know that they have taken a special interest in improving their dishes because each time I visited, the dishes just kept getting better. FYI, 2 out of 4 dishes on this MIGF menu I have already tried as ala carte, albeit a little less luxurious. I shall stop rambling and let’s get started on the food. Starter first.

Smoked Scallop Umai Sushi, Duck Confit with Pomegranate and Yoghurt Sphere
Smoked Scallop Umai Sushi, Duck Confit with Pomegranate and Yoghurt Sphere

Ooh! Here’s a little bit of molecular gastronomy to please my inner food geek. I loved the presentation and this looks like a well-thought-out dish with different components.

Let's admire the plating one more time.
Let’s admire the plating one more time.

The glass contained the smoke (for the wow factor, I guess), I was told it was lemongrass flavour but it dissipated too fast for me to catch a whiff. The scallop umai is basically a Sarawakian citrus cured seafood, very much like ceviche but with local flavours.

Comes with a pipet filled soy sauce, fun!
Comes with a pipet filled soy sauce, fun!

I enjoyed the sweet, sour, savoury, herbaceous combination of the Scallop umai sushi. Moving on to the duck confit with a tiny piece of skin, well that was seasoned perfectly with good umami flavour and you can give me more of that crispy skin. Yum! I tried that with the sweet fruity coulis, pomegranate seeds and raisin separately and all worked very well together. You simply can’t do wrong with sweet and savoury pairings in my book. Oh and the Yoghurt sphere actually popped in my mouth. How cool! What a great introduction to the night. This course is paired with Villa Maria Chardonnay, NZ. Lovely crisp and easy to drink.

Leffe Blonde
Leffe Blonde

Interesting, Chef Steven Seow has chosen to pair the next course with a beer, and I can understand why.

Sarawak Laksa with Organic Soba Noodle, Lobster & Abalone
Sarawak Laksa with Organic Soba Noodle, Lobster & Abalone

I like to refer this to Sarawak Laksa on steroids. Haha. You see, the robust flavour of prawn and chicken stock in the broth with all that laksa spices would be too strong for a white wine, but pairing it with a red will totally overwhelmed the delicate lobster and abalone. So it totally makes sense. Compared to our first visit, this Laksa has totally exceeded my expectation. The broth is perfect (perhaps a little spicier than usual) with the right ratio of coconut milk: spices. Paired with grilled lobster that was juicy and sweet, it was rather divine. I am not normally a fan of abalone, but here the abalone was cooked with some butter and herbs, giving it a lighter flavour than usual, so this fussy eater approves.

Closer look
Closer look

While the usage of soba will probably induce a pang of panic for the purists, I don’t think it’s a huge problem because I love soba noodles anyway. Chicken was poached just right and I like how delicate the omelette strips were.

The next course is the heaviest of all and it features Sabah style cooking.

Wagyu Beef Rendang, Farm Vegetables Achar Jelatah , Tumeric Coconut Rice
Wagyu Beef Rendang, Farm Vegetables Achar Jelatah , Turmeric Coconut Rice

Some might think using Wagyu beef in rendang is simply sacrilegious. But since Wagyu beef cheeks are used commonly in braised dishes (especially by the French), why not give it a local twist? Here the beef was incredibly tender and the rendang flavours worked pretty well with this cut, although slightly on the rich side for me, probably because of the lighter dishes beforehand. The achar jelatah is Sabahan and it was just sour enough to help balance the dish.

Closer look with Kelly Chin's pretty dress in the background.
Closer look with Kelly Chin’s pretty dress in the background.

Do not underestimate the portion of this: the rice was compacted hence we were mostly fooled. I am a small eater so I could only manage half of the Turmeric Coconut Rice (Sabahan) before waving my white flag. It was suitably aromatic and not overly rich though. I would have happily gobbled the whole thing up if this was the only course (which I had done previously, yum). This course is paired with Madfish, Shiraz, Australia.

Time for dessert and this was super fun!

Eight Treasures Ais Kacang
Eight Treasures Ais Kacang

Call me nerdy but any food item presented in lab or medical appliances gets me pretty excited. Before getting the injection on, let’s see what we have here in the bowl: jackfruit, sweet potato, sago, cendol, black jelly, blackberries, strawberries and blue berries and of course a scoop of ice cream as cherry on the cake. As for the syringes: they are filled with colorful syrup including yellow – orange + lemongrass, red – rose + strawberry, green – pandan + apple, brown – salted palm sugar, white – cornflakes creamer.

Woohoo!
Woohoo!

In order to not confuse our taste buds, it is recommended we try individual syringe first to see what we liked best. My favourite is the salted palm sugar, followed very closely by the orange/lemongrass concoction. I thought the corn flakes flavoured milk was pretty interesting too.

Would you like me to administer your injection?
Would you like me to administer your injection?

There are 2 options for this MIGF menu: The light menu priced at RM160+ per person which comes without the Sarawak Laksa from set listed above. The Go Strong menu (full menu)  is priced at RM180+ per person (RM280+ with wine and beer pairing). This set menu is available through lunch and dinner and in both September and October.

Nook @ Aloft KL Sentral,
No 5 Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603 2723 1154
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AloftKualaLumpurSentral

Sarawak Special: Tomato Kueh Tiaw

Happy Malaysia Day! I hope September has been treating you well so far. I’m definitely having a lot of fun! To the point I haven’t even had the chance to do any exciting dishes. So those of you who have come to this blog from “The Star” article, I’m going to do this space justice by posting an unique recipe today from Sarawak.

I have long felt that Malaysia day is more relevant to us because the Independence day (31st Aug) really only applies to the Peninsula Malaysia. 16th Sept marked the day Sarawak and Sabah joined the country, so today I shall introduce to you a very special dish that I loved (and still do) growing up: Tomato Kueh Tiaw, a dish most Sarawakians (and Kuching people especially) enjoy on a regular basis. It’s good that a lot of the West Malaysians are starting to get to know Sarawak cuisine, as back in the days if you mention Tomato Kueh Tiaw the hawker would probably give you a plate of Kueh Tiaw and a Tomato. Now, we can enjoy a good plate of this at 7th Mile Kitchen, Taman Bahagia, and few more others (feel free to recommend more places, by the way)

Tomato Kueh Tiaw looks a lot like Watan hor (Hor Fun with Eggy gravy), except the gravy is of red-orange hue from well…. tomato! A good gravy should have a nice balance of tangyness and sweetness, and  thick enough to coat the noodles. You can either order this with crispy noodles, or like how I prefer it, with fried kueh tiaw. Both are good in their own ways. Here’s a picture of what I cooked:

Tomato Kueh Tiaw
Tomato Kueh Tiaw

The toppings varies from stall to stall but the basic would be some seafood (Prawns and squid usually, sometimes fish cake), vegetables (Choy Sum and sometimes Carrot too), and meat (Pork or Chicken). Having said that though, you probably won’t get prawns as big as these ones. Ahh…… that’s the beauty of home-cooking!

The process is rather simple, and I have referred to the recipe by Kimba’s Kitchen and adapted to my own taste.

Mise en place, missing some cornstarch and chicken stock.
Mise en place, but missing some cornstarch and chicken stock.

Ingredients: (Serves 1)
One portion of Fresh kueh tiaw (in some supermarket, you get to choose the variety for either soup or frying… go for the latter of course)
1 tablespoon Sweet soy sauce)
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Half Chicken Breast, sliced
4 Prawns (of any variety, I used large tiger prawns), de-shelled and de-veined.
Handful of Choy Sum, cleaned and snap in halves (sounds violent huh?)
1 pinch of Chicken Stock Cube (I use only ones without MSG) mixed with 1/2 cup of water
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with few tablespoons of water (might need more to adjust the consistency)
1 1/2 tablespoon Tomato sauce to taste (I usually just eyeball it, Heinz Ketchup is pretty rich in taste, so if you are using other brand you might need more)
1 teaspoon Tomato Puree
1 teaspoon Oyster sauce (mine’s vegetarian because I have a vegetarian at home)
White pepper to taste
Extra water as required

Loosen the Kueh Tiaw and fry them in high heat with a little oil, adding Sweet Soy Sauce as you go until evenly coated. Don’t overcook as they will become sticky and clumpy.

Smelling pretty good at this point, and it's just noodles!
Smelling pretty good at this point, and it’s just noodles!

Using the same pan, add a little more oil and saute garlic with chicken, follow by prawns. When the prawns and chicken are seared on both sides, pour in the chicken stock, followed by tomato sauce and puree, and oyster sauce. Bring sauce to boil and add Choy sum. Thicken with cornstarch and simmer for another minute or two until everything is cooked.

Bubbling away and loving the colours!
Bubbling away and loving the colours!

Once you are happy with the sauce (might need to adjust with more water), turn off heat and pour the sauce over the Kueh Tiaw. Finish with some white pepper (and chili if you wish) and serve immediately.

Mmmm..... Perfection on a plate.
Mmmm….. Perfection on a plate.

It’s amazing how such simple dish can be so delicious. Savoury sweet soft noodles, piping hot sauce to bring that piquancy, with plenty of juicy prawns, tender chicken (secret is not to overcook chicken breast, always), crunchy vegetables. That made me a very happy girl! In fact I think I might cook another plate later.

Oh... will you look at that?!
Oh… will you look at that?!

So have you ever tried Tomato Kueh Tiaw before? What do you think of the taste?

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?