Tag Archives: Food

Ipoh – Food Glorious Food, Fellowship and Fun


A couple of weeks ago, I was absent for a short while as I went along to my church annual family camp. It was a great time of hearing God’s word, fellowship and ‘fai lo’ ship (local slang for sharing meals together). This year our venue was the town of Ipoh.

Ipoh is the capitol of the state of Perak in Malaysia.  At one time, it was one of the richest cities in the region with scores of multimillionaires and resplendent with mansions on large grounds.  It had grown rich on the back of tin mining.  The city then fell into the backwaters when the price of tin fell catastrophically in the 1970’s.

Today, it is seeing a resurgence due to tourism.  It is surrounded by beautiful limestone hills and caves including some interesting temples built into the limestone caves.

However, we were there primarily to receive spiritual food; teaching from God’s word.  We had invited a Singaporean preacher who encouraged us not to be just pew warmers but to be true disciples of Christ, we had to be, well, disciples; following his example and obedient to his teachings and commands.  Specifically, we were challenged to a) have compassion for others and be relevant in our community; b) have a real and living relationship with God through prayer and reading the bible; c) have a vibrant relationship with one another, helping and encouraging one another in our Christian walk and finally d) to obey Christ is actively sharing His Good News to those around us.  We also looked into the book of Nehemiah and how different people (and not necessary the best qualified people) were assigned to rebuild different sections of Jerusalem’s fallen wall.  The important thing was being willing and working as part of a whole effort.

But a very good secondary reason for going to Ipoh is to enjoy the food because Ipoh has its own well know cuisine. Some of it is shown in the photos above. Use your mouse to hover over the photo and you can read the associated caption.

Some of the famous Ipoh cuisine are said to be due to the qualities of the spring water there that is used in the cooking process.  Hence, the Ipoh Hor Fun noodles is extremely soft and silky – unmatched anywhere else in Malaysia.  Similarly, the Beansprouts chicken is great not just because of the way the chicken is cooked but because the special spring water has made the beansprouts particularly plump, crunchy and juicy.  In the same way, the dessert – sweetened soyabean curd is silky smooth.

There are many more Ipoh food highlights including seafood, popiah (a type of soft springroll), beef noodles, Ipoh’s own white coffee, the pomelo fruit…….. the list goes on and on but it serves us all little good to keep talking about it here.  Internet technology hasn’t reach the stage where you can enjoy the food remotely.  You’ll just have to take my word for it ……or go there yourselves.  But be warned, Ipoh is hazardous to weight loss diets.

A Queer Duck


I know I seem to be mixing my metaphorical species but this squirrel is, as the English used to say, a “queer duck“.

Inspired by some of the sharing in the comments from the last post, (thanks everyone for sharing but especially eccentric were the habits of ksbeth and Mago), I decided to share with you one of my greatest eccentricities.

This queer duck of squirrel doesn’t eat anything  that has feathers.  I don’t eat chicken, duck, turkey or the Frankensteinish “Turducken“.

cutting-a-turducken
The creepy and monster-ish Turducken (a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey).

I also don’t eat pigeon, dove, quail, pheasant, etc.  Are you getting the picture?

How long have I had this peculiarity? Since I was about 5 years old.

Why don’t I eat my feathered friends?  Here’s where I have to lie down on the couch and tell you about my early childhood.  Here is  the sad story…………

One day, when I was about 5 years old, I happened upon an old woman who was slaughtering a chicken.  She had just used a knife to cut the chicken’s throat.  Then she squatted down, bent the neck of the chicken backwards and holding it above a bowl, let the blood drained out.  I watched stunned as the blood drain out, dripping and splattering into the bowl.

I asked the old woman why she was collecting the blood.  She turned her wrinkled face towards me and gave a toothless grin (at that age, she sure looked like a wicked witch to me!) and said in a creepy voice, “Why, I’m going to make it into a jelly for you to eat!”

I ran away screaming from the blood eating vampire witch!

After that, I refused to eat anything feathered.  This became a point of contention and contest of will between my mother and me.  As I grew older, she kept trying to get me to eat chicken.

There was a time when she would mince the chicken and mix it with mince pork to make one of my favorite dishes.  I would eat the dish and I could not consciously taste the chicken and yet I would still sense it unconsciously and throw up every time.  She eventually gave up.  The power of the mind truly is surprising.

And so this went on until my twenties when work and studies put me in situations where there was often nothing other than chicken to eat.  With the memory of the blood eating vampire witch beginning to fade, I finally was able to eat some chicken out of sheer necessity.

Since then I have eaten chicken and turkey to be polite on social occasions but still generally avoid them if I have a choice.  My friends now know to have a non-poultry option when they have me over for a meal.

The final twist in this craziness is that all through this time, there was one chicken dish that I have always eaten…….chicken satay.  Somehow, my mind decided that satay is too delicious to be chicken!

Satay is "NOT" chicken.
Satay is “NOT” chicken.

 

I guess if you have gotten to the end of this post, you may have come to the conclusion that LGS is  NUTS.  But I hope we can still be friends and if you do invite me over for dinner, remember, no birds but lots of nuts please.

Penang – Food, Food, Food


Penang is one of the worst places to be on a weight-loss diet.  Temptations of the first degree abound all over the island.  In the last post I called it a foodies paradise but it probably is more accurate to refer to it as a food mecca.  Penang hold this exalted position because a) it is the historical birthplace of many of the delectable mouth-watering dishes – a result of being a crossroads of many Asian cultures; b) it simply has the best version in Malaysia of many other dishes and c) Penangites have a high expectation for food quality which ensures that the food in all the restaurants, coffee shops and street hawker stalls are uniformly good or great.

As soon as I arrived in Penang, I made my way to One Corner Cafe ( a coffee shop with a collection of individual hawker stalls) for breakfast which consisted of a plate of Char Koay Teow, a plate of Lobak, a plate of Mee Rebus and a bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee (known as Prawn Mee elsewhere).

They were all delicious but the Penang Hokkien Mee was particularly well known.  It is a dish of noodles in a rich broth made from pork bones and prawn stock and spiced up with a chilli paste. Yum yum.

Mee Rebus is of Indian origin and is one of my favorites.  It consists of noodles in a thick potato based broth flavoured with spices like cinnamon, cloves, curry powder etc.  It is also garnished with various fried Indian delicacies and a dash of squid sambal.

Penang Hokkien Mee (top) and Mee Rebus (bottom) (Photo by LGS)

Char Koay Teow is synonymous with Penang and there are many famous stalls selling this delicacy with Penangites and foodies all touting for their own favorites.  This dish consists of flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, bloody cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a mix of soy sauce.  The real trick is in the skillful frying in a high heat wok because the high heat actually plasticizes the noodle giving it a softer consistency.

By the end of my short three day visit to Penang, I had 6 servings of this dish; all slightly different and all good.  The picture below is of the stall operated by Madam Soon Suan Choo at Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat.  Madam Soon has been frying this dish for more than 4o years and has build up quite a reputation.  Her plate of Char Koay Teow costs RM9 (USD 2.82) which is almost double the average price in most other places but she is still very popular especially with tourists.

Char Koay Teow needs a really hot wok (Photo by LGS)

Another dish that probably originated in Penang is Assam Laksa.  This is a rice noodle dish in a sour, tamarind/chilli  flavoured, thick fish broth with a mint leaf garnish.  No photo here cause I had gulped it all down before I remembered to take any photos.

And then, there are the desserts and snacks.  Below is one award winning road side hawker stall selling apong which is a kind of thick pancake which is folded in half and is flavoured with coconut, sweetcorn and bananas.  Apong evolved from Appam which is a dish from Tamil Nadu, India.

Another street favorite is Ice Kacang.  This is basically shaved ice flavoured with palm sugar, syrup and coconut milk or condensed milk.  Often included with the shaved ice is sweetcorn, red bean, grass jelly, attap fruit and roasted peanuts.

Apong Dessert Stall (Photo by LGS)

I think I put on at least 2 kg in my short visit.  I now need to work off all that extra baggage before I can go to Penang again.

Of Mice, Pigs and Roaches


Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

Well, my wife and I did something like that a couple of days ago and as with many discoveries, the breakthrough came by accident.

Recently, my brother-in-law bought a kitchen product called an “air fryer”.  The publicity material claims that “air frying” was the same as deep oil frying but without all that unhealthy oil.  Happy with his new toy, he treated us to some french fries, roasted peanuts and crispy bacon that he had prepared using the “air fryer”.

We were quite impressed by how easy it was to use and how crispy the frazzled bacon was.  When we went home, we took out a convection oven that someone gave us as a present many years ago but which we had only used once.  An air fryer is actually an improved version of a convection oven.  Both instruments function by combining high heat and a fan to blast the hot air over the food.  No oil is needed and oil from the food actually drips away to the bottom of the instrument.

We tried to roast peanuts and that went very well.  We were pleased with the results.  Next we tried to cook some bacon.  We loaded in about 300 g of streaky bacon and watched as it cooked.  After cooking for about 20 minutes, the bacon came out scrumptiously crispy and flavorful, while all the bacon fat that came out during the cooking, accumulated at the bottom of the oven.  The bacon was delicious.

When we were cleaning up, I had wanted to throw away the oil from the bacon but my wife wanted to keep the oil.  She said the flavorful bacon drippings would be perfect to cook omelets with the next day.  So I collected all the oil into a shallow bowl and I left it next to the frying pan so that it could be used the next day to cook breakfast.

The next morning, I returned to the kitchen to cook breakfast and what did I find?

There was a large cockroach dead in the bowl of bacon drippings. An expired La cucaracha.  It had obviously been attracted by that bacon smell, found the bowl of bacon dripping and thought that it had died and gone to heaven, stuck its head in to drink, fell into the viscous oil, drowned and went to heaven.

Ladies and gents, it may not be a “better mousetrap” but a bowl of bacon fat could be a better cockroach trap.  Now that I have posted my discovery on the internet, you will find me sitting in my living room waiting for the world to beat a path to my door.  Don’t take too long world.

This experience also helped prove two long held beliefs.

1.  Everyone loves bacon and

2.  ALL THAT BACON FAT IS GOING TO KILL YOU!

P.S. I’ve waited for more than an hour and the world still hasn’t beaten a path to my door.  Now why is that?  Is the internet broken?

Rolled Pig


Vegetarians may want to skip this post.  It is also very, very non-kosher and non-halal.  Dieters should also avoid reading this.  There! That should take care of all disclaimers.

“Babi Guling” literally means “Rolled or turned pig” in Bahasa Indonesia but it actually refers to “suckling pig”, a famous Balinese dish.   The suckling pig is stuffed with herbs and shoots and then roasted on a spit until cooked and with its skin crackly and crispy.  And if you were in Bali, everyone would tell you that one of the best places to try this local delicacy is at a small stall or warung caled “Ibu Oka”.

Ibu Ora's the place to go for the best Babi Guling

Ibu Oka is located in Ubud which is a town in the foothills of central Bali.  Ubud is well known as a centre for culture and the arts.  The local temples are full of artistic carvings and are often the sites for cultural dances and performances.  Beautiful pastoral scenes of green paddy fields surround the town and are often the settings where some of the best restaurants and warungs are found.

The Crowd Gathers Early for Lunch

 

The crowd gathers early for lunch and seating is limited so it would be wise to go early.  There are some tables and seating in the garden area.  Inside, everyone sits on the floor and eats from a low table.

 

You're lucky to get seating on the floor.

Once you have found a seat, then all that you can do is wait for the pig to arrive.  Watching them prepare the pig can be quite entertaining.

 

The Pig is Roasted with Herb Stuffing
Yum Yum Yum

 

With so many hungry customers to serve, the wait at Ibu Oka can be long but if some of your group holds on to the seats, you can wander off to the nearby temple and admire the carvings.

Cultural Distractions Nearby

But the connoisseur generally prefer to wait patiently and try to reach a zen state while waiting to have their  senses blown away by the taste of sweet roasted meat, crackling skin and herbs.

Or You Can Wait and Beg

Scent of a Woman


It is said that certain stimulus to our senses like sight, taste, touch, hearing or smell can trigger us to recall certain memories.   For example, hearing an old familiar tune may bring back memories of hanging round the jukebox with close childhood friends at the neighbourhood soda fountain shop.  My wife has always said that smells remind her of things in her life.

I tend to be more a visual and tactile person and never imagined how a smell may jog a memory. At least until today.  Today, I came home to the smell of my wife cooking a traditional Malaysian Chinese sweet dessert called “Fu-chuk yi mai tong sui”. This dessert is made by boiling pearl barley (yi mai), soya beancurd skin (fu-chuk) and gingko nuts together.  It is sweetened with rock sugar and flavoured by the essence from pandan leaves.

The picture above shows a pandan plant with its fragrant leaves. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the pandan, it is used in Southeast Asian cooking to flavor rice, meats and desserts.  The flavor and fragrance is very similar to that found in fragrant jasmine rice.  Anyway, for the sake of this post, suffice to say that it is a very distinctive and delectable fragrance.

And, for the very first time that I am aware of, I had a most vivid memory flash triggered by a smell; the smell of the pandan leaf.  The smell reminded me of my mother.

My mother used to wear a really strong perfume which many people associate with her but that used to provoke asthma attacks for me.  So my fond memories of my mother is tied to the pandan fragrance cause it brings back childhood memories of being in her kitchen and pestering her while she concocted all kinds of culinary delectables.  She was a great cook.  Later in life, the pandan fragrance was still associated with her as she used the pandan leaf in her home made version of potpourri.

For me, the pandan fragrance truly is sweet.

Which of your five senses triggers powerful memories for you?

 

P.S.  Note to self.  Today was Deacon Day.

Smell the Rat-atouille


My wife and I have a favorite little restaurant which we went to last night for dinner. The name of the restaurant is “Checkers” and it is a real meat eaters paradise.  The owner and chef is a real gourmet and foodie himself.  He creates a wonderful range of delicious and imaginative soups, salads and desserts.  In fact, there is nothing left wanting but meat and especially pork takes centre stage.

The menu includes wonderfully named items like “Pasta from Hell”, Porgy’s Best and LOTR.  Pasta from Hell is of course a very spicy spaghetti dish while Porgy’s best is a mound of some of the best cuts of pork served with salsa salad and mashed potatoes.  LOTR stands for Lord of the Ribs and is in fact a whole rack of smoky barbecued ribs.  Ummm. Delicious.

The restaurant is not very big at all with a capacity for just  about 25 people squeezed into a small space and it was pretty full last night.  We had arrived early and had enjoyed our meal of sorrel soup, papaya salad, pork chop and Porgy’s Best and was feeling quite full and sated.

As the rest of the diners continued with their meal, my wife and I were having a pleasant post dinner conversation.  At one point, I told my wife that I completed  a 13 week course with a local Christian organisation which I had taken.  There was a two part examination at the end of the course.  I was rather pleased that I was the top student with the highest points from the examination.  My wife asked me what were my results and I told her I got 94 and 96 out of 100 respectively.  She congratulated me but then asked who marked the examination.

I told her who marked the exams and as it happens it is someone who is known to both of us.  My wife narrowed her suspicious eyes  and teased that my strong performance in the exam was attributed to my knowing the examiner.  With a laugh she proclaimed loudly, “I smell a rat!”

“What?!?” I said.

“I smell a big rat!” she repeated.

A strange hush fell over the whole restaurant.  The owner-chef rushed to our table and asked anxiously, “You smell a rat? Here in the restaurant?”

I rolled in laughter as my wife tried to mumble and bumble an explanation that she was using that phrase metaphorically.  There was a moment of awkwardness before the owner-chef tried to rescue the moment.  “Actually, it reflects badly on a restaurant if no rat tries to steal its food.”

“How true! Check please.”

Incidentally, there is no ratatouille on the menu.

Keeping Warm on Winter Nights


Life has been rather busy lately.  I have a surprising amount of work to do for a beach bum.  Also I seem to be having writer’s block.  Okay, actually I am just too lazy to post anything original as I have been busy typing papers these last few days.

So, allow me to share with you this video which I unearthed after detailed research as a service to romantics around the world and to increase global understanding of our friends from the land of perpetual ice.

Do You Know Where Your Coffee Has Been?


Do you know where your food comes from? In these times of modern transportation, we can enjoy food that comes from around the world. For example, a visit to your supermarket may avail you of bananas from South America, grapes from Australia, cheese from France, olives from Spain, oranges from South Africa and rice from India.

But let’s put food aside. I want to talk to you about your coffee because, let’s face it, without that cup of java in the morning many of us will not be conscious enough to eat (which is my exciting new theory of how the dinosaurs died out. First the weather grew cold and the dinosaurs gew sleepy but there just was not enough coffee to go around and so they fell asleep and starved to death.)

Do you know where your coffee comes from? If you aren’t sure, go ahead and go to the kitchen and check. I’ll wait.

Dum diddle do diddle dum diddle dee. Yabba dabba doo skiddooo. Ying tong iddle i po.

Oh, are you back? So, was your coffee from Columbia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Philippines or perhaps even good old Malaysia? Suckers! You are settling for second best.

After lengthy investigations and travel around the world sticking his nose where it did not belong, the Lone Grey Squirrel has found the source of the world’s best and costliest coffee. This coffee is so exotic and exclusive that only about 450 kg (1000 pounds) is processed a year and it sells at up to USD 600 per pound.

Where is this coffee from? Well, it comes primarily from Indonesia, Philippines and to some extent from Vietnam. More importantly the beans that make up the coffee is excreted out of the bum of civet cats. I refer to the Kopi Luwak.

Why is this coffee the king of coffees? Well, to start with, the Asian Palm Civet is highly skilled at picking the best and ripest coffee berries which it then ingests. Then something about the enzymes in the gut of the civet cat reacts with the beans of the coffee which effectively reduces the coffee’s bitterness and makes for a smoother coffee. So just to re-cap, the skill-fully picked coffee berries go in one end, the enzymes work on the beans and finally they pop out at the other end. Fortunately, these skilled workers work for next to nothing and have never unionised or else the price of this coffee could be even higher.

The Lone Grey Squirrel is then told that the poop is then collected, the semi-digested beans are taken out, washed and then lightly roasted and wallah …………the world’s costliest coffee. I am told that the human workers who have to collect and wash the poop do demand a higher salary and are unionised.

Weasel Coffeee (Photo by LGS)

Now, I can practically hear some of you protesting that coffee isn’t …… well, isn’t your cup of tea, so to speak. Don’t worry, for the discerning tea drinker, we have found for you, “Monkey picked tea”. In this case, there is no eating of the leaves and passing through the digestive system and any of that nonsense. No, this tea is special cause the monkeys are skilled at picking the youngest and tenderest leaves. Why do they do that? Well, let’s just say that in the middle of the jungle, there just isn’t any toilet paper. What is a civilised monkey supposed to use?
Monkey Tea (Photo by LGS)


Skilled Third World Coffee Picker and Processor

Picture has been licensed under a GFDL

LGS admits to telling the truth here and there and making up everything else. Ooops! Time for my coffee break.

Bizarre Foods


What has been the most bizarre thing that you have ever eaten? I am not terribly adventurous. I do like trying new foods and cooking styles but I do not stray far from common farm animals. I am a bit of a disgrace cause Chinese have a reputation of eating anything with legs except tables and chairs. Heck, Chinese even eat things with no legs whatsoever.

How do we know that Adam and Eve was not Chinese? Cause if they were Chinese, they would have eaten the serpent and not the apple. Haha. A little theologically inaccurate joke.

Asia is famous for its variety of fried insects, monkey brains, dog meat, snake hearts, sharks’ fin, bear’s paws etc. I am sure you know what I mean. If you don’t, then you should watch the TV program “Bizarre Foods” and follow host Andrew Zimmern as he eats the most bizarre, frequently foul and often stomach churning food items from around the world.

As I said, I am quite wimpy about bizarre foods. However, I have eaten raw rat liver (accidentally), fish stomachs with herbs (perut ikan), bison meat and bird’s nest soup (which is actually made from swallow’s saliva), just to name a few. As a Malaysian, I am proud to have eaten the famously odious smelling king of fruits…….the durian, which interestingly is one of the very few foods that Andrew Zimmern will not eat.

Every now and then, some smart ass will come by and leave a comment on this blog about how squirrel is on the menu in some parts of the world. Mark, you know who you are! Sadly though, it is true. In a recent episode, I watched Andrew Zimmern explore the Appalachians, USA, and hungrily consume squirrel brains. Now that, to me, is so bizarre. How can anyone eat something so cute?