Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Mexim DimSum, Kajang's Best?

I am a big fan of dim sum, especially siew mai, ching pai kuat, prawn chee cheong fun, lor mai kai and of course the char siew pau and porridge. These are normally the 'must haves' at a dim sum outing. Some of my favorite dim sum outlets are the famous one at Taman Connaught, next to CIMB and the unforgettable Overseas at Central Market in the good old days.
Closer to home, i.e. Kajang, we don't have much choice for dim sum. We have Restoran Mexim Tim Sum right in the heart of Kajang, facing the main road heading to Semenyih, almost opposite the Kajang Police Station. This is the new premises, about 100m away from the old premises and very close to the famous Malaysia Restaurant Satay.

I am writing this piece just 2 days after having dim sum at Connaught, on a Saturday morning. Yes, it was packed there and to our horror, the siew mai was almost uncooked, service was slow, bordering on bad and in general, it was really disappointing.

So lets give credit where its due. The dim sum at Mexim has been quite consistent and tasty. Even during peak on weekends, they don't crack - an extra team of youngsters are deployed to ensure fast service.  The stewed chicken feet (kai kiok) is one of the better ones I have eaten. The pickled green chillies on top give it an excellent taste when taken together.
Prawns are always fresh and crunchy, be it steamed or fried. One other thing that I just love here is the baked yam with pork filling (woo kok)- this is a must have here. It just tastes right and not too oily - the best I have eaten. The porridge (minced pork and century egg) is A+ too, I have been having porridge here and packing back since they started business many years ago - even my mom loved the porridge and would occasionally ask specifically for it.

Other favorites - siew mai and the pai kuat are well executed and are must haves here. My normal order is 2 plates of siew mai - they've got it just right.

Finally, the Chinese tea served here is pretty good quality too, you can taste the difference and it comes at a right price. This makes the washing down of the dim sum just perfect. In fact, after the bad experience at the famous Connaught dim sum place, my message to Kajang folks is: "Don't bother driving to Connaught, Maxim in Kajang offers you equal if not better dim sum offerings".

I love it, hope you do too. I hope they remain the same for years to come. Keep it up Mexim!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Tic-tic Man (a.k.a. tok-tok man)

From a very tender age (i.e. as far back as I can remember), there used to be this guy on a bicycle with a payong top and a stainless steel container strapped to the back of his bicycle roaming the the streets making that unique tic-tic-tic sound. We've found him all over, in residential areas, the towns, the cities and the countryside - so many people knows this guy just at the mention of the word tic-tic (or tok-tok) man. I just read a blog, that this guy has been spotted as far as Muar. To name some of the places that he has been spotted at: Kajang, Balakong, Peel Road, KL City Centre, Muar, Seremban, Port Dickson, just to name a few. And all these places are apparently covered on his bicycle.

He pedals around peddling his tok-tok candy. My guess is it's a special home made verity. It certainly is unique with sesame seeds on it with a nice unique candy flavour. Its one of a kind. I don't even know of the proper name to call it.

Whats special is, its tasty and as he comes almost everyone just wants to buy some. I remember it used to be 20 sen to 50 sen a packet. Just 2 days ago in Balakong, I paid RM4 for a pack (and it appears smaller now). This pack of candy sent me back about 30 years, with nostalgic memories of this 'uncle' on the bicycle with that tic-tic sound. Besides making that sound (to attract us), the uses this 'chisel' to chisel away at the candy to hand us that packets of sweet goodness we used to crave for as kids. It was nothing like the candy we bought from the shops - it was just different.

I candidly asked him, how old are you uncle, since I have been buying from this you since primary school days. He told me he was now 70+, but I suspect he may be much older. He still cycles around in his trusted bicycle and peddles the unique tic-tic sweet, that sends you back in time.

It was really a trip down memory lane meeting him. Sadly it is perhaps a dying art of homemade candy, brought right to your doorstep. A Malaysian santa claus perhaps /

Friday, 27 August 2010

Restoran Sing Kee,Taman Teknologi, Kajang

There is a joy in finding something lost. There is also another type of joy in finding a good restaurant that you thought had closed down. And a joy it was to find Sing Kee again. This is actually the restaurant that used to operate at a temple along Jalan Sg Lallang in Semenyih quite close to where Restaurant 52 is located. We were frequenting Sing Kee more often that the former and had grown quite fond of some of their signature dishes. However earlier this year, we found that a different operator had taken over the business at the temple location. When gd found out that the old operator had shifted to Taman Teknologi nearer to Kajang, we had to make a visit. Here's what we had:-

Steamed tilapia in light soy sauce with cili padi

This is their signature dish. Very simple – light soy sauce with some cili padi for some heat. Well executed and fresh and tasty fish.
Verdict : Excellent

Pork with yam
Pork and yam or Khow yoke is usually slices of pork and yam. The version here however is more aptly described as a pork sandwich with yam inside. A thick slice of pork sliced in two with a piece of yam inserted. The sauce is thick and tasty. Another winner.
Verdict : Excellent

Four angle bean with sambal belacan
Instead of the usual 4 beans mix (sei dai tin wong) with sambal, we asked for the four angle beans only with sambal. The result I must say was even better than the 4 bean mix. 

Verdict : Excellent

 Brinjal with dried prawn
Another component of the sei dai tin wong that we chose to have separately. Again, no regrets. Nice contrast of crunchy dried prawns against the soft brinjal.
Verdict : Excellent

Now with four dishes getting an "Excellent" rating, this place is becoming a contender for a spot on our Top 10 list. But we still need to explore their menu some more. We saw some other tables with some rather interesting dishes; fish maw soup, steamed plain taufoo and wan yee with ginger. Look out for more reviews in future.

Location : Bandar Teknologi, Jalan Semenyih, Kajang (located in the row of shops behind the Billion Shopping Centre)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Cottage Delight (Bak Kut Teh)

Our trip to Cameron Highlands has been very hit and miss this time. Our favorite restaurant in Tringkap, called Restoran Tringkap (of course) has closed and moved. In their place is a place called Old Frenz which is very popular with the local farmers for economy rice. We decided to give it a try but lets just say that it is not worth writing about here.

Our attempt to try some steamboat at the famous Organic steamboat place (made famous by the Taste with Jason TV show) was thwarted by the fact that they required a minimum of 2 pax and did not have any a-la carte dishes. What can be better than a pot of steamboat (hot pot) ? Well how about a steaming pot of bak kut teh ? It was pouring down and we were looking for a place for Jeremy to have dinner and this was the closest place that was open.

For a place that supposedly specializes in bak kut teh, we found the offering here to be not particularly outstanding. Maybe we prefer the Klang Hokkien version, which tends to be thick and with strong herbal taste. The version here is lighter, but that's not to say that it was not good. The meats had been cooked until tender and the herbal flavours were apparent. Good but not outstanding. RM9.00 per serving.

What was outstanding though was the braised pork trotters (chee keok shin). The pork trotters has been braised in a thick sauce with vinegar, dried chillies and preserved black beans (tau cheong) which was rather unusual. The beans lent an additional flavor dimension and made the gravy really tasty. It was so good that we decided to go back the next day for more of the same. RM9.00 per serving.

Now Cameron Highlands is the source of most of the vegetables we get in our local markets so you would expect the vegetables sold here to be fresh. And our expectations were met when the simple scalded green vegetables with some light soy sauce and fried garlic reached our table in a suitably fresh and crunchy form. Simple and excellent. Servings are from RM6.

The lemon tea and honey lemon tea were thick and nice.

Location : No. 4, Jalan Pasar Bandar Baru, 39100 Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Pahang
Telephone : 012-5166848
Open from 7.00 a.m. until lunch and then reopens for dinner at about 6.00 p.m.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The "1 Malaysia Non-Halal Sandwich"

Inspired by a blog article about a place in Penang that sells 14 inch You Tiao or Yaw Char Kwai, I had to experiment myself. Now the You Tiao is certainly a versatile item. It can be eaten plain, dipped in a kopi-O, dunked in your curry mee or bak kut teh to soak up the gravy or even stuffed with fish paste and fried as a yong tau foo item. I've mopped up balance chicken and fish curry too - excellent.

So why not use it as a sandwich ? And thats exactly what I used for. And the filling ? A few slices of bacon and 2 pork sausages (sliced in half). Fry up the bacon and sausages, slice the You Tiao, put the filling in and serve with chilli sauce, mustard or any preferred sauce. The crunchy texture of the You Tiao and crispy bacon will contrast with the soft sausage filling.

Now this is a recipe that will work with tuna, chicken, turkey of any conventional sandwich filling. Give it a try. It may even take off and give Oliver's and O'Brian's a run for their money.

Note : with regards to the name, I think that as far as food is concerned, there's at least 2 Malaysia - the halal Malaysia and the non-halal Malaysia. But as our PM says, we can all still be 1Malaysia, right ?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Even More Dangerous Creations on a Lazy Satruday Afternoon

This Internet is dangerous, it gives you ideas, provide you blueprints and pushes you to the edge..........OK! I exaggerated.

Looking for a nice cold beer, I came across this recipe to make ginger-beer/gingerale - it was too damn easy to give it a pass, so I went out and got me the necessary ingredients for a lazy Saturday afternoon project. All items was so easily available. Sugar, Lemons, Yeast, Water and some empty plastic bottles. I made about 6.5 liters of 'beer' - 4 x 1.5L bottle and a small one for testing.

What you need:-
3 cups of sugar for roughly 6 liters of 'booze'.
3/4 tea spoon of yeast - don't overdo this, could taste yucky.
3 whole lemons - juice extract and skin scraping
4 1/2 tablespoons of ginger grating. Add more for stronger biting taste.

First off, grate the YOUNG GINGER - fresh from the market type - into fine grating. The recipe suggested that you could just 'put them in', however I modified it with simmering it in hot water for about 1/2 hour together with lemon skin - grated. As you can see, the lemons here are 'naked' - and guess what, it was easier to extract the lemon juice, with the naked skin.

While the 4 1/2 table spoons of grated ginger was being simmered with scrapings from 3 lemons, I prepared the sugar/yeast in the bottles. I mixed 3 cups (roughly measured - to taste) of sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of active yeast and distributed it equally into 4 bottles using a funnel. Just let it sit in the bottles - we'll wash it down and stir it up later.

Once the ginger/lemon skin gratings were boiled, I let it cool off in water while extracting the lemon juice - 3 whole lemons.

Strained the ginger/lemon grating brew, and once cooled down, mixed the lemon juice into it, and stirred it up. This was then equally distributed into the 4 bottles (plus the sample). All the remnants was washed down with cold filtered water and poured into the 4 bottles, topping it up almost to the top.

The bottles were then tightly capped and stored away in a humid place allowing the yeast to start working on the sugar to give my 'beer' some carbonated 'effect'.

How long? This is why I made a sample - my guess, 24 - 48 hours.
For this reason, it is recommended you DO NOT use glass bottles as the carbonation expands the bottles - the bottles get harder when pressed - glass could explode!

I'll try out my sample in 24 hours or so, if its 'hard', then it'll go into the fridge - the lower fridge temperature will stop the yeast from working anymore and my brew is ready for consumption.

This is best served chilled and you can substitute ginger to make your own flavored soda pop! Also, be warned, there is a very small level of 'alcohol' in the brew, my guess below 0.5% - you have been warned.


I'll admit, I waited to test it first before posting and here is the result:-
- the colour was very close to actual ginger beer
- the bottle was filled with pressure, just like a carbonated drink bottle
- there was some sediments at the base, but rolling it around make it look ok
- opening the bottle - yes! there was that usual fizzy thingy as in all carbonated drinks
- first taste - not too bad, you could taste the ginger in it, but I must admit, I did not use that much sugar
- I believe, the lack of sugar ( and type: caster instead of coarse sugar) did affect the taste
- maybe 'kurang manis' was just not right. Next take, with more sugar - as recommended.
- overall, pretty happy with the results. The fizzy-ness was not bad!
- FYI. The best brew, took about 5 days, with 1 day in the refrigerator - served nice and chilled.
- my lemon-flavoured soda pop is being brewed as I write, that will be a different story altogether.
- cheers!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Kajang Satay Shootout!

 kajangfood is going to solve that age-old question

Come 30th August, we shall tell you.
It will be our Merdeka Gift to all Malaysians.
Satay Kajang, true Malaysian food!

You have 15 days to give us your comments
'So speak now, or forever hold your peace'.

Hidden Treasure at Balakong New Village!

First up, we had a special guest with us, Snow White! It is not easy to get Snow White to smile for the camera, however I got this classic that  really fits nicely into this blog!
Snow White

We headed out to Batu 11, Cheras, also known as Balakong - the heartland of fussy folks, located right smack in the middle of the Chinese New Village, next to the make-shift market. Down here, if your food is not good, you don't survive - they chase you away!
No name corner house
 This particular shop was only a Bah Kut Teh shop about 25 years ago, as I remember it. It was located at a corner house under a big tree. It was frequented by old men every morning, sipping their Chinese tea and having their dose of bah kut teh under the tree. Most of them brought their own tea, fresh hot boiling water was always available at every corner - self service. It was about the best, around the Kajang/Semenyih/Cheras area that I can remember and having so many old folks made us believe this place was 'something special'. 

And special it really was, it has survived more then 25 years (that I can remember, perhaps more?) and it got better! Today, they also serve other dishes including the yummy 'pork leg' and 'steamed fish head'. These 2 are simply outstanding!
Pork Leg laced with sinfully good 'fat' that melts in your mouth
They have perfected the pork's leg, the big bone, sliced and braised to perfection - it literally melts in your mouth! This beats the better bah kut teh guys in Klang in terms of taste! Its is a MUST HAVE! If you observe, every table has one of this - its a ritual here.

bah kut teh
We ordered a small bah kut teh to go with it, I won't write home about it - passable. I guess, after eating the ones in Klang, this is just so-so. It's a nice soupy dish to have, if you're there.

Steamed Fish Sifoo
He was just a young helper when I first went there some 25 years ago, as you can see, he has aged and is  now the sifoo behind the steamed fish. They offer various steamed fish, all equally good - our choice was the Teow Chew styled steamed fish head. Fish was fresh, steamed to perfection and had the right texture to put to shame the famous Chan Sow Lin restaurants - and I mean both of them. 
Steamed Fish Head

Yes, this was far better! I am going to use this as the benchmark for all steamed fish heads in future, I kid you not. Just superb! 

Note to self: We have to consider this restaurant in our revised Top 10 list. It certainly has the marks to make it to the list.

What was left of it!
What is the big deal you ask? The picture above says it all - we devoured it! Maybe next time, we have to order 2 fish dishes? I think its a splendid idea here! (mind you, it was value for money too!).
Vegetable, we need the fiber too
And to close it off, we ordered some vegetables, not much choice, but it was done very well - fresh and tasty. Must have gotten it from the market across the road earlier. Proximity to market place do count, I guess.

There was 5 of us plus 2 kids and the bill came up to the 60s which I thought was very reasonable. A note of warning though, expect it to be crowded on weekends, however the crowd moves and you don't have to wait too long. Even with the crowd, it was very enjoyable. Must do!

Location: I'll try to describe what you need to do:-
As you enter Batu 11 from the Cheras Highway, turn right at the traffic lights - into the new village.
Immediatly turn left after the traffic lights, will take you alongside the basketball court.
At the end of the road, T-junction, turn right and you are there, 20 meters away on the right - before the make-shift market place located alongside the road. It is the corner house, with extended roofing and without a name.

If you are coming from Balakong Industrial Area (MINES), head towards Batu 11 town centre - after Jusco, keep left into the town and go on  to the traffic lights in front of RHB Bank, keep left and turn left into the basketball area after the traffic lights.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Restoran Mee Bandung Muar a.k.a. D’Muar (CLOSED)

Unfortunately, they had to move due to the MRT construction work. We're trying to track where they have moved to.

Muar food has spread far and wide, including to Kajang. And not only are the Muar otak-otak and assam fish now famous and available nationwide, the Muar Mee Bandung seems to have gained popularity too, as evidenced by this stall located along Jalan Cheras near Kajang town. 
 The stall has been operating here for at least 10 years, and has been growing in popularity all the while. Not only are they popular for their Muar mee bandung but they have an extensive menu depending on the time of the day which includes:-

Breakfast : Mee rebus, nasi lemak, roti canai and lontong
Lunch : Rice with dishes, ikan bakar, mee bandung (only available lunch time onwards), chicken rice and Western food
Tea time : Cucur udang, kerang rebus, various kuih, mee bandung, rojak sotong etc
Dinner : Rice and dishes, tomyam, sup ekor, mee bandung, Western food etc

The mee rebus is tasty and thick.

The nasi lemak is decent enough but not exceptional. The sambal was on the sweetish side. 

The mee bandung is pretty good – slightly sweet (the good people of Bandung are apparently pretty liberal with sugar, very much like our Kelantanese). For RM4.00 you'll find both beef and chicken slices, prawn and squids and a soft-centre egg in the gravy. Topped with some crispy fried shallots for a nice aromatic finish.

The cucur udang here is very good. It would give Malek Tauhu of Semenyih a run for their money. The cucur are nice and fluffy and the chilli sauce is tangy, sweet and hot. Worth saving any excess in a bottle. RM1.00 will get you 3 pieces.

 The remnants of the ikan bakar after 2.00 p.m.
Ikan bakar – I haven't tried it so far but if you're there during lunch time, you can't help being enticed by the wafting aroma of fish slowly grilling on the griddle on a bed of banana leaves. The banana leaves impart a wonderful aroma to the fish. I must try it some day. 

Location : Stall along Jalan Cheras (opposite the KPJ Kajang Hospital)

Footnote from Jon : I packed some cucur udang back home and tested it using Malek's chili sauce (I'd saved some in a bottle from my last visit). The result - D'Muar wins hands down. But the cucur at Malek's is still better. D'Muar's cucur is smaller and oily - and no sign of the elusive udang too ?

Malek Tauhu / Semenyih Cucur Udang

For us, living in Kajang for many years, Semenyih has been synonymous with Cucur Udang (fried prawn patties) since the time we were in school. Considering that we left school some 25 years ago, that's a pretty long time. And the place that put Semenyih on the food map is an un-named stall located near the Semenyih field (beside the Sekolah Kebangsaan China Semenyih) which is referred to by locals as "Malek Tauhu". We just call it the 'Semenyih cucur udang' place.
This is the famous Semenyih cucur udang stall
Malek retired from the police force many years ago and decided to try his hand at the food business. He got it right with his cucur udang recipe, especially the chili sauce that accompanies this simple treat. They also sell plain fried taufoo pieces, which explains the name, "Malek Tauhu". The cucur udang are tasty, light and fluffy, with sufficient air pockets inside to soak up the sweet and tangy chili sauce. The fresh prawn (with shell) tops the cucur and chives are added to enhance the taste. This contrasts with the plain taufoo which are dense and rather tasteless. Cucumber slices are added to the order which serve to soothe the taste buds of those who can't take the pungency of the chilies.
Freshly fried taufoo & cucur udang waiting to be cut and sold
Of late, Malek's has also become very popular with the locals for it's chicken rice. Come lunchtime, the queue for the chicken rice may be 20 deep. Everyone queues patiently for their pack and the diners are Malay, Chinese and Indian – truly a 1 Malaysia place! Diners who choose to eat-in can just place their orders and they will be served at the table. Be warned however that this roadside stall gets pretty warm, especially in the mid-day sun. So take-away is recommended. Also available are the kerang rebus (boiled cockles) which are served with the same tangy chili sauce. Most tables would have an order of cockles to accompany the chicken rice or cucur and taufoo. We've tried the chicken rice here and whilst it's pretty good, it's not the reason we keep going back here. The star of this stall is the cucur and chilli sauce.

I love the chili sauce so much that I save any balance in a bottle in my fridge ! Give it a try if you're in Semenyih. The stall is now run by Malek's daughter who handles the cutting and sales of the taufoo and cucur udang. The speed that she can cut these is quite amazing - something perfected over many years of practise (and clearing long queues no doubt).

Location : Stall beside the Semenyih field (near SK (C) Semenyih. Open from about 11.00 a.m. until about 4.00 p.m. Very crowded at lunch time.


Sunday, 8 August 2010

Satu Ringgit @ Restoran Lian Heng

Of late I've been scouring my food old guides for any good food places around Kajang (in the unlikely event that that we may be unaware of the same!). One place that was highlighted the Flavours Good Food Guide (May-June 2007) was Restoran Lian Heng, affectionately known to locals as "Satu Ringgit" (one dollar). I haven't learnt the story behind the shops's nick-name but we've actually been frequenting this place for the last 20 years or so. Food is pretty decent and prices are reasonable, which may explain why the place is always crowded.

Here's what we had on a recent visit:-

Assam fish
The tilapia fish was fresh and the assam gravy was slightly sour as it should be. There were sufficient brinjals, lady's fingers, tomatoes and onions to make it a good one-dish meal with rice. Quite reasonable at RM23.
Verdict : Very good

Braised chicken in claypot
The chicken was cooked with spring onions in a thick brown sauce and served with tofu puffs (tau-fu pok). Pretty good but not outstanding. RM14 for this dish.
Verdict : Good

Special taufoo topped with minced meat
Fried pieces of soft smooth taufoo topped with a tasty minced meat sauce. Apparently one of their specialties. Very reasonable at RM7 only.
Verdict : Very good

Sweet Potato shoots with fermented bean curd
A simple vegetable dish, well executed. Another reasonable RM7 dish!
Verdict : Good 

Satu ringgit is close to where our eldest brother lives in Sg Chua and this is one of his favorite places. His favorite dish here is the ginger fish (steamed fish topped with minced ginger sauce), but we find the ginger sauce tends to overpower the flavor of the fish. We prefer the assam style or cheong cheng. Another dish that is popular with regulars here is the belly pork (far lam) stir fried with onions. 

As I mentioned earlier, the food is pretty decent, but not particularly outstanding. That explains why it is not on our Top 10 list. I was rather surprised when it turned up in the Flavours guide previously. If I'm missing some outstanding dish here, please enlighten me. Low prices are a draw but I'll stick with my Top 10.

Location : No 1 Jalan Lee Yen Kee, Taman Lee Yen Kee, Sungai Chua, Kajang

'Longkang' Bah Kut Teh along Jalan Semenyih

The weird name comes from the big drain next to this Bah Kut Teh house (house turned into shop) which has no name. Since there was no name, we commonly referred to it as the longkang-bah-kut-teh.  It is a corner house under a big tree along the Jalan Semenyih road at the traffic light junction into the Bukit Mewah area. You can easily miss it as you drive by if you are not observant enough.

The taste of the bah kut teh here is nowhere near longkang water (which is what some of the other bah kut teh shops in Kajang serve - with the exception of the market-side - Da Chong food court's bah kut teh which commands some respect). The soup has a strong flavour - much like the better ones found in Klang, especially that one opposite Lembaga Tabung Haji building in downtown Klang.

What got my attention was the Quail's egg added in the bah kut teh, very different. Also, the person preparing the bah kut teh, is a lady!, just like the other good one in Klang. You have to taste it to appreciate it - it is hard to describe bah kut teh. I just love it and I put it as the best in Kajang, even on par with Klang. Frankly, I don't have to drive to Klang anymore, to enjoy good bah kut teh! Period!

Footnote from Jon : Whilst the BKT here is pretty good, we try to avoid the place on rainy days when they get more customers looking for a hot bowl of soup. The operators tend to water down (dilute) the soup to create more volume of sales. It's a pity because the quality suffers. Also, they put in the tau-foo pok  into the claypot soup which adds a peculiar alkaline taste. If you must have the tau-foo pok, as for it in a seperate bowl. Side dishes here include braised chicken feet served in the same BKT gravy, chicken cooked in claypot (fa diew kai) and leafy greens which are all done quite well.