Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bunn Choon now operating in KL Chinatown

With the closure of the Imbi Market, Bunn Choon has shifted to Jalan Balai Polis in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown. Drat! Its best-selling charcoal egg tart was sold out when I was there. Across the road, Four Points by Sheraton is under construction.  When this hotel is completed, this part of Chinatown will see a mini boom in business.


Friday, November 4, 2016

On the trail of banana fritters in Klang Valley

(1) Hokkaido Ramen Sakura, Sunway Putra Mall, Kuala Lumpur 
Banana fritter in a Japanese restaurant? Yes, Hokkaido Ramen Sakura, a noodle restaurant, also serves banana katsu. Though not cheap (RM13.70) compared to roadside stuff, it comes with ice cream, caramel drizzle and a sprinkle of grounded nuts.  The banana is not fantastically crispy but the soft silky texture of the green tea ice cream and the crunchy nuts deliver multi mouth-feels in a haze of pleasant sweetness from the caramel syrup. Rating: 5/5

(2) Imbi Kuih Bakul, Jalan Melati, Kuala Lumpur 
This stall is operated by a husband-and-wife team beside Mei Sin Eating Shop. Though it is more famous for its sticky rice cake (kuih bakul goreng), which is sandwiched between two pieces of taro, it also offers banana fritters, sweet potato, yam and sesame balls. According to the fryer, after the bananas are coated with batter and fried for a while, they are lifted out of the boiling oil, coated a second time and re-fried. The result is super-crispy banana fritters.  Rating: 4/5  

(3) The Pisang Cheese, Jalan SS 5A/9, Petaling Jaya 
The Pisang Cheese is located in the Restoran Jamal Mohamed which is synonymous with a famous halal char kwey teow stall.  A yellow sign announces the different flavours of banana fritters available:  cheese, chocolate-cheese, latte-chocolate, salted caramel, cinnamon sugar and coffee caramel.   They are sold in boxes ranging from RM5 to RM7 each. All the flavours bring the humble banana fritter to a new level of taste. Closed on Monday. Rating: 4/5.

(4) Gerai Makanan Goreng, Jalan 21/11B, Petaling Jaya 
Manned by foreign women, this stall is housed in a small hawker centre in SEA Park. Its huge blue sign announces that banana fritter, curry puff, fried bean curd, fried popiah, cucur udang (prawn fritter) and kuih bakul are sold.  Most of the items cost only RM1 per piece. The use of pisang raja, regarded as the king of bananas, delivers a custard-like flavour when my gnashers sink into the banana fritter.  Rating: 3/5

(5)The Gorpis, Persiaran Mahogani, Petaling Jaya 
This stall is a canopy standing in a small field in Kota Damansara. The flavours available are like a laundry list. Here goes: cheese, cheese-chocolate, cheese-strawberry, cheese-white chocolate, cheese-cinnamon, cheese-blueberry, cheese-butterscotch, cheese-caramel, cheese-green tea and el plato. Prices range from RM8 to RM15 per box, and each box contains 8 pieces. I try a box of el plato, which comprises an assortment of flavours. The contrasting flavours almost make my tongue dance a jitterbug! Rating: 5/5   

(6)Wondermama, Avenue K, Kuala Lumpur 
Having outlets in Klang and Bangsar, Wondermama serves Malaysian fare and a sprinkling of international dishes. My “pisang de goreng” comes with ice cream, caramel sauce and marshmallow bits. Coated with sesame seed, the banana fritter is a meh in terms of crispiness. Luckily, the ice cream, which is of vanilla flavour, and the sweet caramel sauce salvage the situation. However, the mushy texture of the marshmallow doesn’t fit in this ensemble. Rating: 3.5/5

(7)SS2 Goreng Pisang, Sunway Putra Mall, Kuala Lumpur 
This is the branch of the noted truck that is parked daily under a tree in SS2, PJ. Fried white radish, fried yam cake, curry puff, spring roll, tapioca ball, mashed banana ball, banana popcorn and prawn fritter are sold together with a host of beverages.  For those who come in a group, they can go for the family set and combo set. I am impressed by the size of the golden-browned banana fritters, and am satisfied by their texture and taste. Rating: 5/5 

(8)Brickfields Pisang Goreng, Jalan Thambipillay, KL (pixs 3493 & 3494)
This park is parked under a tree outside Restoran One Sentral. Don’t be surprised if the hawker’s assistant greets you with sawadee ka when she’s in a good mood. She’s a Thai and together with her employer, they churn out top-notch fried delights like banana fritter, kuih bakul, sesame ball and curry puff. I try the sesame ball and banana fritter. The gooey moist inside of the banana fritter delights my palate. The sesame ball is filled with red beans. Rating: 3.5/5

(9) Pisang Goreng Alpha Angle, Jalan 3/27A, Kuala Lumpur 
This stall is often referred to as Pisang Goreng Alpha Angle because of its location next to a shopping mall. There’s more to banana fritters here. Keropok lekor that bursts with oceanic freshness, crispy fried bean curd and golden orbs of mashed sweet potato attract a steady stream of customers. Simple tables and chairs under shady trees allow customers to eat the snacks piping hot. I attack a box of chocolate pisang goreng. The sweetness appeals to my primal sugar instinct. Rating: 3/5. 

(10) Pisang Goreng SS15, Jalan SS15/3B, Subang Jaya (pix 2354)
Near opposite a KFC restaurant, this stall is operated by an elderly couple. All the usual fried snacks are sold such as banana fritter, fish fritter, mashed banana ball, sweet potato and more. The items are fresh from the wok bubbling with oil, and the banana fritter is the classic crispy exterior and soft-moist inside. The stall operates from 9 am to 6 pm. Rating: 3/5 


Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Hindu temple in KL with a peacock pen

Want to see peacocks (aka peafowl) in KL without going to the zoo? Go to Nagara Thandayuthapani Temple at Jalan Ipoh (Opposite Madras Hotel) which has a peacock pen.  Eight birds live there. Peacocks with colourful trains (a term for peacock's tail) are males and peahens (female) are less colourful.  Peafowl are native to India and Sri Lanka but they are also found in the Congo Basin and  Indo-China.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Village Restaurant in Rawang specializes in winter melon soup

One day, while passing Rawang, I stopped at Village Restaurant for lunch. Eating here was a surprising pleasant experience.  This compact restaurant is air-conditioned and its speciality is winter melon soup. The soup tastes pretty savoury and exudes depth of flavour.  The roast duck is also comparable to the best in KL.

Gerai MPS
Jalan Rawang


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Little Nyonya Cuisine at Pavilion-KL serves horrible chicken chop

I ate chicken chop at The Little Nyonya Cuisine in Bukit Bintang's Pavilion recently.  The ratio of chicken to batter was 40:60! Top pix shows the dish when it was served. Bottom pix is the amount of remaining batter after the chicken meat had been consumed. That will be my first and last visit there.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Chow Kah meets an old flame at his school’s reunion dinner

A pimply-faced waitress comes to our table and places a platter of fried rice in the centre. “Can I clear?” she asks.

Chow Kah nods. “Yes, please do.” He gestures to me. “Come, Ewe, help yourself. This is the last dish.” He flicks a gaze at Sifu Sabrina (pix above), sitting beside me. “Sifu Sabrina, let me serve you as your host.”

“Thank you.” Flashing a smile warmer than the outside night, Sifu Sabrina pushes her plate forward slightly. “This is not the last dish, there’s dessert coming.”

Chow Kah, Sifu Sabrina and I are in a restaurant housed in a shoplot in Persiaran Mewah in Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras, KL.  The occasion is a school-reunion dinner and Chow Kah invited Sifu Sabrina and I as guests. Sitting across me is Mr Lawrence Quek, Chow Kah’s former class teacher, and a few of his ex-schoolmates.

“How was Chow Kah as a student?” I ask Mr Quek, an obese man in his fifties.

Mr Quek’s jowls wobble as he speaks, “Chow Kah was the class Romeo. He was popular with the girls, but he studied hard.” He picks up a piece of serviette and wipes the corner of his mouth, then pats sweat off his bald pate at the back of his head.

Chow Kah and his ex-schoolmates continue to talk about old times, and Sifu Sabrina and I eat silently. Minutes later, when a waitress arrives to deposit a big bowl of almond jelly on the table, I hear the MC announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Hua Hin High School Harmonica Quartet! They’ll perform the Tennessee Waltz and Let’s Twist Again.”

The dining hall erupts into applause and the melodious strains of four harmonicas float in the air.  A few men and women take to the small dance floor. Everyone at our table turn our heads to look at the harmonica quartet in action.

In the midst of the first song, Chow Kah puts down his chopsticks. “I’m going to the loo.” He pulls the napkin from his lap, rises to his feet and steps to one side. Then he tosses the napkin on his chair and goes away.

When the second song is being played, Chow Kah returns and nudges me with his elbow. “Ewe, I bumped into an old flame outside the toilet. Wow! She’s still as hot as ever! I shot a pix of her just now.” He grabs his glass of beer and tips its contents down his throat. “Want to see her pix? I’ll whatsapp it to you. Her name’s Emily Soo.” He takes out his mobile and fiddles with it. “Done.” He bolts to his feet. “Excuse me, Emily and I agreed to meet in the park across the road.  A romantic stroll under the moonlight! Oh boy!” He hurries away.

“Enjoy yourself.” I nod and smile. “Thanks for the dinner.”

Mr. Lawrence Quek looks away from the stage and notices that Chow Kah’s missing. “Eh? Has Chow Kah left? He didn’t even say goodbye.”

“He met a former female schoolmate. They’re going to the park across the road for a chat.”

“What park? There’s no park around here.” Surprise makes Mr Quek scrunch his brows. “And who’s this female schoolmate?”

“Emily Soo.” I pull out my mobile phone and open the photo file Chow Kah sent me. “That’s her.” I show the screen of my mobile to the people sitting across me.

Mr Quek’s face turns ashen. “Sweet suffering saints! That’s Emily, alright, but she died in a car accident two years ago!”

“Eeeeeeek!” a pixie-faced woman sitting next to Mr Quek gasps in horror. “Now I remember! Emily’s buried in the Kwantung Cemetery across the road!”  Her lips start to quiver.  “S-she’s taking your friend to Hell!”

Sifu Sabrina (pix above) taps my shoulder. “Take my Chung Kwei pendant! You’ve to stop him from following her!” She lifts the pendant from her neck and hands it to me.  “I’m going to give you back-up protection! The prayers I'm going to chant should  weaken the power of the ghost!  So, don't be scared.” She bolts to her feet and rushes to the standing mike. She starts to sing a Buddhist mantra. She takes the mike off its stand, holds it in one hand and moves to the control console. Then she turns the volume of the speakers FULL.  Her melodic voice bounces off the walls of the restaurant:

Namo ratna-trayaya
Namo ariya-valokite-svaraya
Bodhi-sattvaya Maha-sattvaya Maha-karunikaya
Om sarva rabhaye sudhanadasya
Namo skritva imam
arya-valokite-svara ramdhava
Namo narakindi hrih Maha-vadha-sva-me
Sarva-arthato-subham ajeyam
Sarva-sata Namo-vasat Namo-vaka mavitato
Om avaloki-lokate-karate-e-hrih Maha-bodhisattva
Sarva sarva…

I clutch Sabrina’s Chung Kwei pendant (right pix) in one hand and step out of the restaurant. Standing on the road shoulder, I peer across the other side. In the semi-darkness, I can make out a stretch of tall hedge and realize that the cemetery starts just over the hedge.  

“Chow Kah!” I shout above Sabrina's singing of the mantra which is still audible outside. “Chow Kah! Come back!”

A passing car throws beams of lights on the road, and I see Chow Kah walking through a gap in the hedge to head back to the restaurant. As he gets closer to me after having crossed the road, I ask, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” His eyes look dazed.

I look down at his hands. “Jesus Christ!” My jaw slackens and a chill runs down my spine. “Do you know what you’re holding in your hands?”

Chow Kah looks down stupidly at his own hands. “What?  Eeeeeeeeek! Why am I holding a paper brassiere and a paper panty!" He drops both items and we skedaddle back to the restaurant.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Sifu Sabrina gives little-known tips to keep out of trouble during the Chinese Ghost Month

“Any tips for my readers to stay out of trouble during Ghost Month, Sifu Sabrina (pix above)?” I cross my legs and rest my hands on my lap. “Not those taboos which everybody knows like don’t swim, don’t start a new business, don’t hold wedding dinners, don’t hang clothes out to dry at night, postpone medical operations and so forth.” My gaze lingers on her flawless features. “Some of the lesser-known precautions to take.”

Sitting across me, Sifu Sabrina scoots forward in her chair and rests her arms on her desk. “Don’t wear a red dress and high-heeled shoes at the same time, especially at night.” Her gaze melds with mine for a moment. “Because red attracts ghosts and walking with one’s heels not touching the ground is akin to hopping like a zombie.”

“How high is considered high?”

Sifu Sabrina lifts one foot upward (pix above). “See? This is considered high.”

“Er, it’s time you wax your legs.”

She puts her foot down. “Women should not wax their legs during the Ghost Month!”

My eyebrows arch in surprise. “Why?”

She picks up a ball pen. “Women should also not pluck their eyebrows during this month. Hair provides an additional layer of protection against yin energy.” She starts to twirl the ball pen through her fingers.

“I see.”

“Also don’t order any white and black suits from the tailor this month. Like tuxedos, for instance. Black and white are associated with funerals.” She puts the ball pen down.  “Women with bangs should pin it high when they sleep. The aura on a person’s forehead is important in deterring possession by an evil spirit. When a person's luck is bad, every positive element helps.”

Sabrina snaps her fingers. “Now, I remember something else regarding clothes. A biker should avoid jackets or clothes with pictures of skulls and bones. Spirits may mistake him or her  as one of them and take the biker home to Hell!”

“Holy cow! That’s scary!” I release an exhale. "What else?"

“If admission to hospital is unavoidable because of illness, leave the lights in the room on when sleeping. The mortuary of every hospital is filled to the brim with lurking spirits. They're eagar to seek new victims as replacements. For homes, it is also preferable to leave the front porch lights on for this entire month. On your person, carry a Chung Kwei pendant. This deity is the ultimate terminator of evil spirits!" Her lips curve into a beautiful smile. "Eeeeeeeeeek!"  She leaps up from her chair. “Something touched my legs! Might be a ghost!”

I look underneath her desk. “It’s a cute cat!”

Sifu Sabrina looks downward (pix above). “Oh, it’s my Kitty!”