Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mom's Resident Kitties

Look who greeted me at the back door of hubby's mom's house! "Meow! I am hungry! Feed me!" That's the mother cat in front, talking to me, while her 2 kids stare warily from behind.

The 2 kids' dad resembles my cat Mankie. We call the dad Prankie. He's a big tuxedo cat who's rather aloof and camera-shy. The 2 kids are timid little babies, but the one on the left (Pram Pram) often bullies the smaller one on the right (Prandit). They and their mom keep hubby's mom busy everytime she goes to the backyard.

Mom's Cooking

After our visit to Lemon Tree Restaurant, hubby's mom made her first attempt at cooking crabs.
Live crabs in the kitchen sink. Kinda pitied them....poor little fellas all unaware that they were about to become lunch! Mom bought these female roe-crabs from the market at RM20.00/kg. According to her, the male meat crabs cost only half that price (i.e., RM10.00/kg). So cheap!

Mom did the crabs in salted-egg style, with birds' eye chilies and curry leaves. Excellent stuff, I think I must have eaten the bulk of it.....very slowly. Nobody else seemed to have the patience to sit at the table for hours, happily sucking on spindly legs and claws.

She also steamed a garoupa fish. The pork stock powder we bought from Bangkok (can't find it in Malaysia) really adds a kick to the gravy.

I've tried cooking this deceptively simple dish of soya sauce-sesame oil pork (chien bak) many times, and have never gotten it to taste like how hubby's mom cooks it. Wonder what's her secret?

Steamed eggs with minced meat at the bottom.

Yummm, kerabu salad!

Char Siew Pau @ Pasar Siang Malam, Taiping

Hubby insisted that I blogged about this pau which he says is the best char siew pau in the world and can only be found in Taiping.
He buys a bunch everytime we are in town. At RM0.80 each, they are a steal.
Hubby likes the pau because the they are generous with the meat; a mixture of lean and fatty flesh. Also the pau's dough is not too thick.

Pasar Siang Malam is located on Jalan Kota, next to the KFC outlet in Taiping town. This Pasar is also where old timers in Taiping gather daily to bet on when the rain will fall. As its name suggests, it's open 24 hours. The pau is usually available in the evenings.

Hubby says the char siew pau deserves a 4.5-bam rating!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Modern Beauty Salon @ Mid Valley Mall - Avoid at all costs!

OK so this post veers off from the food theme somewhat, but I really need to write this to warn all ladies out there to never ever patronise Modern Beauty Salon. The location and setup of the place is nice and convenient, but the substandard, unprofessional service here really leaves a lot to be desired.
Coming from a Corporate background which emphasises trust, personal responsibility and dedication to meeting clients' needs, Modern Beauty's lackadaisical, "tidak apa" attitude towards fulfilling customer expectations and ensuring client satisfaction was a whole new ball game to me. I could not fathom why a people- and service-oriented business would treat their clients so shoddily, virtually guaranteeing for a fact that their clients WILL leave and they WILL gain a bad reputation in the market. It's almost as if they were either blissfully ignorant of their shortcomings, or just don't give a damn how they fare in the customer satisfaction stakes.
DISSATISFACTION #1: Confirming a facial/spa appointment
I paid for a package consisting of 15 facials and 2 spas. Booking an appointment with them, each and every time, has been like pulling teeth. I like to plan ahead, block my calendar and book facials every month to be repeated at the same time in subsequent months (OK so this again is a quirk I inherited from work), and the staff at Modern Beauty flat out told me that they were not able to help me plan ahead. A simple, fundamental thing such as booking an appointment becomes a chore and a nightmare. Apparently, their system only allows them to book client appointments for a couple of weeks ahead (less than a month), and nothing more. Long term bookings are not possible.
I've experienced cases whereby I've placed bookings more than 2 weeks ahead, and having had the receptionist take down my booking, was all satisfied that it was all settled and done. Little did I know at first, the lack of professionalism and customer-UNfriendly process that they follow here, meant that they would refuse to confirm that the date and time that I have booked is definitely mine no matter how EARLY I booked it. I've had instances where they've called me up a day before my facial apointment to tell me that there was no vacancy left and that I would have to rebook another day in the (distant) future. Hello? I just wasted 2 whole weeks anticipating my facial for which I have paid in full, and they chose to arbitrarily cancel it at the last minute with some pathetic, flimsy excuse that the entire day's schedule had been filled up. The fact that I booked 2 weeks ago and THEY NEVER SAID IT WAS FULL THEN somehow never registered in their insipid brains!! And so I wasted 2 weeks just to have them confirm that my appointment wasn't even taken seriously to begin with! You will never have complete control and assurance over your own schedule because they refuse to confirm your appointment until a few days before said appointment.
Just last weekend, I was booked for a spa and upon arriving all bright and early, ready for my spa session, I was made to wait 15 minutes, then told that the spa room was occupied by somebody else and that I would have to do it another time. I tried to reschedule it to coincide with my next facial appointment and was given a brusque brush off by the receptionist who told me she would get someone to book it for me (why couldn't SHE attend to it personally, there and then?)....nobody did. I had to call back and rebook. And, by the way, a spa here merely consists of a 15-minute soak in a jet bath and nothing more. No flower bath, no massage, no bath salts or bath foam even. It's sheer ripoff.
DISSATISFACTION #3: Pushy sales tactics
Don't you just hate it when you are attempting to have a relaxing, calming facial session and your beautician is relentlessly pressuring you to buy extra masks and treatments ("Your basic facial will not solve your problems, you need to add this and that") to add on to your already fully-paid-for facial, despite your firm "No". The first 10 facials I went to, I had to bear this nuisance, this irritating assault on my senses, feeling decidedly uncomfortable having to keep rejecting their unwelcomed overtures. After about 10 sessions or so, they wisened up to the futility of their pushy sales technique versus my (by now) notorious obstinacy. They have since ceased trying their sales pitch on me and usually leave me in peace now. In fact, they barely even greet me when I show up at their doorsteps for my appointment these days.
In general, the staff here are not fluent in English and for clients with a Chinese-language impediment like yours truly, it is indeed a challenge to communicate with them to sufficiently explain my exasperation with their lack of professionalism. In general, staff here are not too friendly to a client once she has signed up on their package, paid up, and hence becomes "downgraded" to the status of a regular "non-paying" client. A client ends up feeling unvalued and put through a guilt trip and subtle hostility for refusing to spend anything more than what she has already paid up-front. I would NOT recommend this beauty salon to anyone, and would strongly discourage anyone from even considering a trial facial at this place. I can barely wait for my package to finish up, I am SO DONE with this subpar hack of a beauty salon.
Modern Beauty Salon is to be avoid at all costs!

Restoran Makanan Laut Lemon Tree, Matang, Taiping, Perak

This restaurant is located in Matang, which is after Simpang, on the way to Kuala Sepetang. Kinda hard to find if you are unfamiliar with the terrain, but with hubby's mom there to guide us, we eventually found it tucked away in a kampung-ish area.

Ok here's the signboard at the shop.

This place serves simple homecooked meals, reminiscent of a mom and pops operation. We had the fresh and delightfully crispy fried belanak fish.

With a serving of kailan.

Mantis prawns done in kungpao style. Crunchy goodness!

This was my favourite dish of course, female crabs with tons of roe, done in salted-egg style. Smashed up salted egg yolks mixed with crab roe.....pure sinful-cholesterol heaven! I have never eaten female crabs with roe before, (male) meat crab is so much more commonly sold in KL. The females crabs that we had were alot smaller in size, but the delicious roe more than made up for it.

A closeup of the redish-orange crab roe. Superb!

There were 4 of us dining, and the bill came up to an unbelievable RM38.70. Can you imagine that, with crabs and all? I am SO coming back here!

Restoran Makanan Laut Lemon Tree
14B, China Lane,
34750 Matang,
Taiping, Perak.
Mobile: 016-5963598, 016-5991883, 019-5082793

4-bams for the delicious crabs and astonishing value for money.

Al Fresco Hawker Area @ Lengkok Burma, Penang

Dad described this Lengkok Burma hawker area as "eating under the coconut tree". Intrigued, we had to go check it out.

It was indeed, al fresco dining, hawker style. Protected by big shady trees as well as a mini coconut grove, we soon got down to business.

From this elderly couple, we ordered char koey teow.

Hubby said it was the most complete char koey teow (RM3.00) we have had in Penang so far, in terms of ingredients. I would have preferred it to be more salty and "wok hei", but overall, it was pretty good, replete with all the stuff you would expect in a balanced char koey teow...chives, bean sprouts, cockles, large prawns, lots of eggs.

I had to have the Penang chee cheong fun, of course (RM1.60 small, RM2.40 large). Could have used more sauce! I love the "smelly" shrimp paste sauce.

3-bams for the morning al fresco dining in cool surroundings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dim Sum @ Corner Club Restaurant, Gurney Drive, Penang

Located next to Evergreen Laurel Hotel on Gurney Drive, it's hard to miss Corner Club, a bungalow with a large parking space in front. Since we were doing the whole food-trip repertoire, we took dad along to this restaurant for breakfast.
The prices for the dim sum dishes at Corner Club varies from RM2.20, RM2.50, RM3.00, RM3.50, RM4.50, RM5.50 to RM6.00. Pretty affordable for an air-conditioned "yum cha" restaurant, methinks.

Dad's favourite pau is the nam yee pau, with a fat slab of pork belly inside. So we ordered a basket of it. Having tasted it, dad maintained that Balik Pulau still has the best nam yee pau on the island.

Lor mai kai, they were generous with the meat and Chinese sausage.

This was one of my favourites. Deep fried large, springy prawns wrapped in crispy beancurd skin. Superb!
Fired radish cake with lots of eggs and pickled vegetables. Good!

Yam basket prawn salad. Dad and hubby feasted on this, since I fancy neither yam nor mayonnaise.
Hubby had the Hong Kong chee cheong fun with big prawns wrapped within, topped with a dollop of dried shrimp sambal and deep fried shallots.
Steamed pork ribs, very tasty and not overcooked.

Har kow (prawns dumplings), very good, this. The skin did not fall apart upon contact and the prawns were yummy.
Prawn siew mai, excellent! As you can see, I have a prawn fetish.
The total bill for the 3 of us came up to RM43.05.....very reasonable for good quality dim sum at a comfortable venue, cheaper than what this would have cost in KL.

Corner Club Restaurant
55, Gurney Drive,
10250 Penang.
Tel: 04-2282888
Fax: 04-2275764
Mobile: 016-4400868 (Alan Chew, Captain), 016-4066627 (Alice Tan, Captain)

A high 3-bam!

Siang Seng Seafood, Pemandangan Indah Jalan Tun Sardon, Penang

Dad, hubby and I were on a round island-cum-food adventure! Since hubby had never been to the other side of Penang, Dad took us round Penang island. On the hilly road somewhere between Balik Pulau and Relau, we stumbled upon this brand new gem of a restaurant when we stopped to get a bird's-eye view of the scenic Balik Pulau coastline at sunset.
It was opening day (this was on 4th April 2009) for this restaurant perched upon the apex of a hill, what serendipity! Done in traditional "kampung" hut style with dry coconut foliage draping the roof, the restaurant had a certain rustic charm to it.

That's the signboard.

Alot of fresh fish on display.

Live crabs and mantis prawns scuttling about in the tanks.

What a view it had.....the sun setting over the sea at Balik Pulau.

We ordered dry curry prawns (RM20.00) which were really fresh, juicy and had a lovely curry flavour that permeated the springy flesh.

Another house specialty was the braised spare ribs in lotus leaves (RM18.00). The portion was huge, and both dad and hubby were really digging into this dish, which was rich with chestnuts, mushrooms, carrots, and of course meaty pork ribs.

Seafood tofu (RM8.00) with crabmeat was excellent too; eggy, smooth and loaded with bits of crab meat, my ultimate favourite bounty from the sea.

We also had a big pot of watercress soup teeming with pork ribs (RM6.00), shown here is my tiny portion of it, dished out onto a smaller bowl.

Sweet, spicy and luscious bamboo clams in bean sauce at RM10.00, what a steal! They were super fresh, still alive in fact, just minutes before.

Food served here was hearty in portion, great tasting and value for money to boot. Total cost was RM65.00 for the 3 of us, and we had a feast! We'll definitely return for the good food and fabulous view the next time we are in Penang.

Siang Seng Seafood
Lot 0417 Mk5 Pondok Upeh, (somewhere along the hilly road between Balik Pulau and Relau)
Pemandangan Indah Jalan Tun Sardon,
Mobile: 012-5646858

This delightful discovery definitely merits a 4-bam rating!

Curry Mee @ Chew City Cafe, Hillside, Tanjung Bungah, Penang

This is dad's favourite haunt for authentic Penang curry mee.

Hubby had to give it a try it since dad highly recommended it.

This tasted rather unlike the curry mee sold in KL. This had a lighter consistency, with a minty taste, and was very aromatic. It also had prawns, cockles and congealed pork blood in it. The cost? RM3.00 small, RM3.50 large. No wonder dad was such a fan!
Chew City Cafe (near the Esso petrol station)
Jalan Sungai Kelian, Hillside,
Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eating at home

Planning the dinner menu on an amost daily basis is challenging. As a norm, I prefer simple recipes that don't result in a dish that takes ages to materialise. Of course, every once in a while, I do get a bit more adventurous and try new stuff that may be slightly more labour-intensive.
Anyway, this is what our typical dinner spread would look like.
I made soya drink from scratch lately and decided to turn the soya bean grindings into mock meat for loh bak. It worked out pretty alright, abit mushy inside, but otherwise the taste was there. The chicken stock powder really helped!
This was loh bak made from a mixture of real minced meat and water chestnuts, as taught by hubby's mom.

My first attempt at ma pou tofu with loads of Szechuan peppercorn and minced meat. I think I should have used a softer type of tofu, but taste-wise, this was pretty close to the ma pou tofu that I've eaten in restaurants.

Plain fried tofu, eaten with lotsa HP sauce is how I like it.

Lotus root and groundnut soup which hubby loves.

Mango salad which hubby stayed away from because it was too vinegarish.

The usual greens.

Szechuan stir fried french beans with minced meat. Yummy!

Kangkung belacan, we are really learning to be good at this dish!

Assam pedas fish curry. Reminiscent of assam laksa because I used alot of daun kesum.

Curry chicken and eggs.
Mom bought us this new convection oven last Christmas and we have been putting it to good use, especially for broiling chicken. It's excellent; the fats drip off, the chicken is all crispy on the outside, while remaining all tender and juicy inside.

Broiled chicken leg on a bed of salad.

Ok this chicken may look good, but it was really our first bbq disaster. We smoked the chicken leg for a couple of hours in the bbq pit and it ended up tasting like charcoal. I mean, literally, I felt like I was breathing fire when I had my first bite. It had a very tart, acrid aftertaste. We tossed it. No more smoking food for us.

My latest experiment was potato and meat patties, marinated with all the Indian spices. Tasted almost like vadai.
Stir fried ginger and spring onions with pork slices. Hearthy and traditional.

Pork chops in sweet and sour sauce, our attempt at pai kwat wong, which turned out really well, actually.

We sometimes have one-dish meals too.....vegetable noodle soup with pork chop and fried egg.