“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” – Brillat-Savarin

Friday, 19 September 2014

Roti kahwin, Nonya kueh and Musang King durian @ Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

A few months ago, we spent a few days in Kota Kinabalu on the eastern part of Malaysia, together with my younger sister and her husband. We rented a nice apartment in Alam Damai, and had a pretty laidback schedule as we had an infant in our travelling party. On our first day in KK, we explored the nearby Damai area for food and then took a taxi into the main part of town to check out the various specialty markets at the Filipino Market (aka Handicraft Market).

Fook Yuen shopfront:

After our second breakfast in Damai Plaza, we walked the short distance over to Kedai Kopi Fook Yuen (translates to "Fook Yuen Coffee Shop") for some roti kahwin ("marriage bread"), as we had been told by some KK residents that Fook Yuen makes the best roti kahwin in town. So just what is roti kahwin? Two slices of bread sandwiching the combination of butter and kaya (a delicious coconut spread that I grew up eating). Basically kaya toast with butter. Honestly, I think roti kahwin is lost on me. For one, I don't like butter, and much prefer eating kaya by itself on bread. Secondly, unlike most Asians, I love crusty breads (think European-style breads), and Fook Yuen's bread was pillowy soft. I do like the kaya made in-house, and I bought one small bottle to enjoy back in Hong Kong. Service at Fook Yuen is a bit spotty at best. The staff at the counter seem to speak and understand English, yet on both occasions that I visited, my order got jumbled up. Fook Yuen also sells hot and cold drinks, a range of cakes and breads, and warm pre-prepared food from the bain marie near the front of the shop. It's open from 6:30am to 2am, so I can see why Fook Yuen is a popular choice with the locals. If I had to choose, I would say I prefer the kaya toast in Singapore (because we could order soft-boiled eggs with them!)

Two untoasted roti kahwin and one toasted. I actually requested one to be made with toasted wholemeal bread, and one white to be toasted, but received all three white bread and only one toasted:

A pandan kueh (cake) from Fook Yuen, which appeared to be made from glutinous rice flour:

Kedai Kopi Fook Yuen
Block A, Damai Plaza Phase 4
Jalan Damai, Luyang
88300 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia
Tel. +60 88 232 794

Opposite Fook Yuen was a shop with tables set up filled with a variety of Nonya kueh. My sister and I were drawn there like bees to honey, and we bought a few kuehs to try later. They were all good, and I wished we went back again for more!

Tables filled with kueh goodies:

Pretty colours:

A fried pandan kueh I'd never before encountered. It was a little greasy, and not to my taste:

This kueh was like Kueh Talam, except it was green and yellow, not the usual green and white. Perhaps the yellow was from yellow split peas? Whatever it was, delicious!

Kueh Talam, upside down. Actually, I'm not sure if this is Kueh Salat (aka Kueh Seri Muka) or Kueh Talam, and it was too long ago for me to remember if the white part was glutinous rice or just a coconut pudding that took on the crumpled pattern of the plastic it was in. Also delicious:

Pandan kueh - second one of this type encountered on this trip to KK. I don't think I've seen it before. I guess it's like an unbaked kueh bakar pandan. Another delicious one:

We took the short taxi ride into town, to check out Pasar Kraftangan (Handicraft Market), or better known as the Filipino Market (so-named because many of the stalls are run by Filipino immigrants). There are other specialised markets along the same street, one part being the Pasar Besar Kota Kinabalu (Central Market), and there are also hawker stalls at the Pasar Malam (night market) and Pasar Ikan Masin (salted fish market).

The hawkers were just beginning to set up their stalls when we arrived. By nightfall, the place would be heaving with buyers and vendors alike:

Inside the Handicraft Market, literally stuffed full of merchandise and souvenirs. Rows and rows of jewellery, scarves and various knick-knacks. It was pretty impossible to navigate with a baby stroller, and I got a little claustrophobic after a while:

We indulged in some expensive Musang King Durian (I think it was RM50 for this amount). It was good, but the one we bought from a street vendor in Penang (that converted hubby) was still so much better:

We also drank some delicious young coconut water. This one was called pandan coconut, which was more expensive than the normal coconut, but half the size. I asked the vendor why it was more expensive, and he said it was sweeter:

So we got the normal coconut water for research purposes. Sure enough, the pandan coconut was sweeter!

This was a productive foodie day in KK. We then headed back to our rental apartment, and enjoyed more food from the Damai Plaza for dinner.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Desserts galore @ various places in Hong Kong

This is a dessert-centric post, of the sweets we ate on revisits to some of our favourite restaurants in Hong Kong.

French Toast with sliced banana, mixed berries, maple syrup and whipped cream, at Oolaa Petite. My friend Steph ordered this from the breakfast menu for dessert after her meal, and it was a bigger serving than expected. It was delicious, and I was happy to help her out!

Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream from Inaniwa Udon. Lovely matcha ice cream and adzuki beans wrapped within a sticky mochi skin:

Love in Belgium (classic chocolate ice cream, Belgian Chocolate ice cream and warm chocolate puffy cake) at Haagen-Dazs (phone camera):

An okay version of affogato, also at Haagen-Dazs (also phone camera):

Green Tea Tiramisu at IHEI Japanese. Heavy on matcha powder and lots of custard, and we quite liked it:

Mango Tofu Cake, also at IHEI. It was interesting, with each layer having pudding-like texture. It wasn't overly sweet nor rich, so it didn't sit heavy on the stomach after a carb-rich lunch of sushi and rice:

Berliner has become our favourite German restaurant in HK (though to be honest, we haven't tried any other!). Good sausages and pork knuckles, and their desserts are yummy!

On a visit last December, we tried the Pan-fried Vanilla Pancakes with ice cream and dark cherries (nuts and raisins are usually sprinkled on, but we requested them to be served separately as our son has nut allergies). Good, but very filling (especially after a hefty meal of sausages and pork knuckle):

The following two photos were taken on hubby's phone camera (significantly better quality than the photos taken with my phone!)

Two Sundays ago, it was Father's Day in Australia (which we celebrate in this household), and hubby liked my suggestion of German sausages for lunch. He decided to indulge in Berliner's Dessert Platter, featuring Berliner's Black Forest Cheesecake, Vanilla Pancakes and Apple Strudel. What he didn't expect was for all three to be full-serving sizes - good for sharing between four or five adults, not two!

The only dessert we hadn't yet tried was the Black Forest Cheesecake. Little sponge cake rolls with cream cheese filling and coated with chocolate flakes, served along with cubes of cherry jelly and a pot of vanilla ice cream with strawberries and blueberries. This was the nut-free version, and I don't know if the usual version is any different:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Misokatsu Yabaton [Centrair], Nagoya (Japan)

This is the last post on our trip to Japan almost half a year ago! It is taking me so long to work through my backlog of photos, but I'm getting there! On this particular trip, we went to Nagoya for a few days, then to Kyoto for a couple of days before returning to the Centrair Airport in Nagoya for our return flight back to Hong Kong. We hadn't managed to eat all of Nagoya's specialty foods that was on our list before heading to Kyoto, so we wanted our final meal (at the airport) to be something that was on our foodie list. We found Misokatsu Yabaton which made hubby pretty happy as he loves tonkatsu. Using miso as a condiment for tonkatsu is not the usual combination in Japan, but it works! Service at the airport branch was polite and courteous, and staff spoke English, making it easy for foreigners to order. Mostly deep-fried breaded items were on the menu, but thankfully for me, there were a couple of salad options too. The boys totally relished this mostly deep-fried meal (which they never get at home as deep-frying is too messy and not healthy!).

Teppan Tonkatsu (deep-fried pork loin cutlet with cabbage on hot-plate), recommended to hubby by our waiter. Yes, he enjoyed it:

Two types of miso sauce condiments to go with the tonkatsu:

A serve of Ebi Furai (fried prawn) and Hire Tonkatsu (fillet) combo plate, for the boy who loves fried prawns. The pork fillet was supposedly the healthier option than the other pork cut from the loin, though deep-frying it probably closes any nutritional gap between the two cuts:

My friend ordered the Kushi Katsu (skewered deep-fried pork) set that came with miso soup, rice and pickles:

Yabaton Salad, with shredded meat that was perhaps too tasty to be healthful:

Hubby still wanted more deep-fried food after his teppan tonkatsu, and ordered Kani Korokke (crab croquette):

It was actually pretty good! We liked seeing actual crab flesh in the croquette (usually it is more processed and integrated into the croquette mix):

If deep-fried pork is what you fancy while in Nagoya, the misokatsu at Yabaton is a pretty good choice!

Misokatsu Yabaton [Centrair Airport]
4th Floor, Sky Town
Chubu Centrair International Airport
1-1 Centrair
Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture
Japan 479-0881
Tel. +81 569 84 8810

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Degustation Menu @ Amber Restaurant, Hong Kong

Hubby and I have reached the 10th year anniversary of our wedding date. It didn't seem that long ago, yet at the same time it feels like a lifetime ago. We have gone through so much together in the past decade - both the euphoric highs and the lowest depths - that we felt the need to splurge a little in celebration for getting this far. (We actually wanted to take a special trip to celebrate our 10 years, but hubby couldn't take the time off work this summer.) Amber is a highly acclaimed restaurant that has won many awards since its opening five years ago. I was recently reminded that we still hadn't tried this restaurant, and our anniversary seemed like the perfect occasion to make reservations.

Gorgeous interior design with the distinctive chandelier of more than 4000 bronze rods suspended from the ceiling. Simple elegance:

From the moment I booked a table-for-two (using the convenient form on Amber's website) until we left the restaurant, service was courteous and impeccable, attentive but unobtrusive. Although this was a top-class fine-dining establishment, we felt quite comfortable and at ease during our meal - perhaps due to the warm ambience, the amicable staff, or the comfortable chairs. At lunch time, we could choose from four menus: lunch set, à la carte, degustation and platinum. To be honest, I was too busy admiring the unique chandelier above to pay much attention to all the different menus available. The degustation menu is for the whole table, so when hubby said he was interested in it, I didn't even bother looking at the other menus. When I expressed my concern that the 8-course meal would be too much for me, our lovely hostess said that she could remove the cheese course and the chocolate dessert from my set (I'm guessing that this happens quite frequently with the ladies and smaller eaters who have to go with the degustation menu because their dining companions want it). Every course was beautifully presented and had amazing flavours and textures. The menu changes every three months to reflect what is available seasonally, which gives us reason to visit again!

My choice from the bread basket - wholegrain bun and crispy sourdough (my favourite):

Hubby's bread were the mini-baguette and olive bread (his favourite):

We were presented with no less than four amuse-bouche to whet our appetite, which was a lovely surprise as I'd only expected one!

First amuse-bouche was a tiny pita stuffed with sweet red pepper and zucchini (I like how the topping indicates what is inside):

Amuse-bouche #2 was a tiny piece of juicy herring with beetroot and sour cream on a dainty rice cracker:

When our waiter presented the third amuse-bouche, I exclaimed "Lollipops!" to which our waiter replied in his lovely Swiss accent: "Correct - foie gras lollipops!" This is one of Amber's signature dishes - foie gras lollipops with raspberry jelly, beetroot and gingerbread:

The final amuse-bouche, Iberian ham croquette - perfect crust, creamy insides:

Course #1 - Aji horse mackerel served raw over koshihikari rice & sake lees emulsion, pickled cucumber, turnip & wild fennel. This tasted very Japanese - the use of aji, soy-sauce based glaze, tsukemono; even the dainty presentation looked Japanese. The flavour of the sake lees was prominent enough to complement but not overwhelm:

Course #2 was my favourite - Hokkaido sea urchin in a lobster jell-O with cauliflower, caviar, crispy seaweed waffles. The uni was very good, sweet and mild with no fishy taste - I don't think I've tasted uni this fresh since moving out of Japan four years ago. I also loved the presentation in an uni shell, and the mother-of-pearl spoon (we admired the spoon for quite a while wondering how it was made):

Course #3 - ‘Pineapple’ tomato with fresh almonds, niçoise olive & summer truffle salad, clear gazpacho, stragiatella di buffalo & bellota air baguette. This vegetarian dish was a bit of a surprise, as what looked like a pineapple was actually tomato. Beautiful colours, fresh flavours, and the air baguette was novel:

Course #4 - Australian abalone with black pepper & vinegar seasoned tomato compote, and braised then crisped oxtail & its jus:

The abalone was tender and nice enough (I find it hard to appreciate abalone), but I thought the oxtail was delightful! I remarked to hubby that the tomato compote was reminiscent of a meatless bolognese sauce. Abalone is probably the only seafood that I think needs a strongly flavoured sauce as it is quite bland on its own:

Hubby's Course #5 - Omi wagyu beef strip loin; char-grilled, onion, malt & malt vinegar purée, and brown ale braised short ribs with crispy cereals & celtus. I'm not much of a red meat eater, but even I can appreciate the juicy, smooth and tender wagyu:

My fifth course was Lozère elovel lamb rack & saddle roasted then rubbed with gremolata, organic lemon yoghurt, Medjool dates, violette mustard. Such lovely flavours, and seemed like a more refined option than the beef. I particularly enjoyed the little dollops of puréed Medjool dates:

The lamb course was accompanied by a little bowl of crispy lamb raviolis with the braised neck & aubergine caviar:

We were done with the main part of the meal, and the cheese cart filled with French unpasteurized cheeses (matured by Bernard Antony) was wheeled to our table for hubby's Course #6. Hubby and I immediately recognised the mimolette that we first encountered on our 6th anniversary:

The Swiss waiter cum cheese sommelier explaining the different types of cheese. The little boy in the next table was enthralled by the cheese cart and cheese sommelier with his Swiss accent. Overwhelmed with the variety available, hubby requested for a selection of cheese to be chosen for him:

Selection of cheese ranged from the mild and sweet to the strong and funky (we were spared from the Roquefort). The mimolette (dark orange at 8 o'clock on the cheese board) remained our favourite:

First dessert course was pineapple poached with aloe vera, banana, micro sorrel, olive oil snow & caviar, and a sorbet of mango & passionfruit. The pineapple was incredibly sweet and juicy. A nice and light dessert that doesn't sit heavy on the palate or stomach:

Hubby's second dessert was Dulcey chocolate spheres coated in Manjari 64% chocolate with salted & caramelized macadamia nuts, and cocoa sorbet. What a rich dessert this was! The cocoa sorbet was surprisingly light and not too sweet:

The Dulcey chocolate was blond! My first time trying a blond chocolate, and I like it better than the overly sweet white chocolate. Nothing beats dark chocolate though, and the dark chocolate coating completed this dessert:

Indulging in a cappuccino after the meal (my infant daughter has me abstaining from coffee):

Three tiers of delicious petit fours, complete with an anniversary greeting! Juicy jelly jubes, intensely flavoured macarons and crispy biscuits and tarts:

What an amazing meal that was! Everything was perfect, and anything that was not was very quickly rectified (one dish was quickly whisked away as soon as it was uncovered when our hostess noticed some garnishing was missing). I highly recommend Amber Restaurant for any special occasions!

Amber Restaurant
7th Floor, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
The Landmark
15 Queen's Road Central
Central, Hong Kong
Tel. +852 2132 0066