Once I wrote about our kopi (local for coffee) culture in Travel Malaysia Guide, talking about the evolution of the way we enjoy our coffee in generations from your old local kopitiams to the giant coffee franchises to our very own upper class kopitiam chains.
Ah indeed we have came a long way as coffee drinkers.
Either it is due to my taste bud being accustomed to our local coffee, or it is just me, I find that Malaysian coffee is one of the best, probably only topped by Hong Kong which is very similar to what we have, in terms of Asian coffee. But don’t let me tell you about it, you should go and try it out yourself and then let me know! For locals alike, do you think you know our Malaysian coffee well?
If you want to try and enjoy some of our local coffee or if you’re local to rediscover your love for local coffee, here are some good to know lingo for ordering the local Malaysian kopi to your liking:
Kopi O – black coffee
Kopi – coffee with condensed milk
Kopi C – coffee with evaporated milk
From here you can customize your coffee to your liking with:
For cold iced coffee, you add Peng at the end
For extra thick coffee you add Gao at the end
For less sugar (less sweet) you add Cheah (for north) and Xiu Dai (for south) at the end.
For without sugar, you add Kosong at the end, but bear in mind it only works for Kopi O or Kopi C, as condensed milk comes with sugar by default thus cannot be made without, that’s local tip for you so that you won’t be getting a stare back as response.
So for example if you want a cup of black coffee extra thick with less sugar you will say “Kopi O Gao Cheah”. Phew, how’s that for a highly customized coffee!
Where to find good local Malaysian coffee
You may find local kopi in the many Chinese eateries or hawker stalls restaurant, but not in proper dining or upscale Chinese restaurants, which actually serves Chinese tea instead. You may also succumb and try our mid-range kopitiam chains which you mostly would not miss if you hang around malls or popular districts.
If you know any good places in Malaysia for a good cup of coffee do let us know!
As I have written here, durian, the king of fruits, the nasal wars and the thorny looking thing that I had the love and hate affair of. It is indeed a fruit to be reckon with. Not only does it look suspiciously odd on the outside, with a thick husk of thorns all over, it looks even weirder on the inside, a sort of gooey yellowish pulp that reeks of a certain kind of smell many gave various ugly terms to. There are also indeed many people who would curse various ugly terms when they first had their piece, though there are some who would fall in love instantly, rare for such an ugly thing to love but not impossible, but something you can surely learn to love and get attach to for sure.
What is it exactly?
It’s a fruit. Yes it is. It is just another fruit where we would eat the flesh surrounding the seeds. The outer layer, its husk ranges from green to brown with thorns to keep preys away but so it seems it never did for the humans, even despite trying to hide themselves in a really pungent smell. The edible flesh would normally range from pale yellow to almost orange color, with a thick gooey sort of texture. Although the looks of it already might deter some away from it, but nothing beats the smell itself to make on discern a durian from even a kilometer away.
Try it anyway
Yes regardless the smell, the look and the feel of it, be a sport and try it anyway. You will be amaze by how someone looking and smelling so odd can taste so uniquely delicious. The tastes depend on the type of durian that one consumes, but normally it ranges from sweet to bitter with a slight tone of alcoholic characteristics. Personally I am those who goes for the bitter alcoholic ones, but the rest of sweet and mix are just as good themselves. Try it and then let me know what you think. Be forewarn though that you might get hook like me, and went into a frenzy of durian feasting, and then much later on, you would suddenly have a hankering for it.
Durian in SS2 Petaling Jaya
Just last weekend, all of sudden I have a craving for durian, it just feels like its been a long time since I truly indulge in some and moreover the durian season is about starting now, where you can see various lorries and stall selling the king of fruits in almost every street corners beckoning to you. So I managed to gathered a bunch of friends who is crazy enough to agree with me to eat durian for dinner. We brave the crowd to the famous corner in SS2 PJ, where there are rows and rows of stalls selling various types of durians. Here people normally come for the buffet style eating of eat-all-you-can for RM10 or RM25 (for the deluxe). As for me I would rather choose the durian I want specifically, buy it and have it open there for slow indulgence. Being late, we only manage to have a few but it at least satiate my cravings for the time being. Though I must say the prices at SS2 are a bit steep, what not with it trying to charge the city dwellers, normally you would get it cheaper at villages or at least outskirts of town. In a pinch you may go there else try to hunt for better bargains and even fresher durians out there.
Traditional Ways to Enjoy Durian
Most enthusiasts or purists would say that the best durian are those that has just fallen from the tree. When I was young, I had the luxury of eating freshly fallen durian from my Nanny’s husband’s estate. He would come back with a few and the whole family will go into some sort of an esctatic celebration. Everyone will huddle together at the floor, already lined with newspaper and now laid across with durians half opened, and then dig into each for the pulps. Yes these are ceremoniously eaten with your hands, digging into its soft flesh while slowly licking them off the seeds and your fingers of course. Another way that many people like to do, is to stand by the lorries selling those durians, having the proprietor open it for them to taste one after another while standing right beside the road with cars whizzing by just inches away.
Seeing how people go crazy over durian especially during the seasons, the way they crave for it, and then hunt for it, buy in bulk, the eat together like a little ceremony or eat it under any condition, makes this truly a showcase of what Malaysians can be. Therefore not only durian is the king of fruits, I dare say it is the fruit of Malaysia too.
Durian, just mentioning this word makes me tremble inside with excitement. The kind of excitement that I feel I need to share with the world might not yet be understood by all. You see, durian is a kind of fruit that either one loves deeply or loathe completely, that is also if one have first got the chance (or rather many chances) to put one’s feelings to the test. Head over here to Travel Guide Malaysia (which I write for a weekly column on Malaysian food) to further read on what durian is all about in Malaysia, and how my relationship with it has developed over my life.
I have been deprived of this said King of Fruits since last year as I did not had the chance to hunt down for my favourite kind and indulge in them mindlessly. This year I was pretty lucky (ah this tham jiak is gettingluckier it seems), as a good friend of mine, LH invited me to gorge on unlimited fresh, and by fresh I meant served directly from an ideal farm where the soil on the hill is fertile and the temperature is just right with enough rainfall, and also a huge variety, and by variety I meant many types of species including D24, D10, Golden Swallow and many more, at none other than Signature Kitchen’s very own Durian Fest! This is their 4th year in organizing such a fest, as it had been extremely well sought after, and why not if it is for durian? This fest is to bring Signature Kitchen’s clienteles, their friends and families together to of course enjoy durian feasting but at same time able to visit the kitchen showroom, which I took the pleasure of too. There I find myself poking around and imagining the kitchen that I would eventually have.
Pictures above courtesy of Signature Kitchen
Upon reaching there with Y, some of our friends are already there enjoying themselves, so I quickly sat down and attack! Then LH went and get even more for us to continue feasting, did I mention that this is like a durian buffet heaven? It is! Besides consuming copious amount of this evil fruit, I ate also copious amounts of the cooling rambutan to balance out the heat from the durian. How thoughtful of the organizers to let us indulge with less guilt. After that, I am still hankering for more soft, goeey and bitter kind of durian that is my all time favourite, so I head on to the booth, where all the butchering of various durians are carried out, choose my tried and tested D24 (which recently I had the chance to try out with J’s family at the famous SS2 durian area, but mind you we did not go for the buffet but selectively chose this species to indulge in with due pleasure at home), took some pictures for this tham jiak blog, much to the amusement of the amiable durian ‘slayers’, and then head back with the prize possession to my fellow friends. I found that only one of them who shares my love for bitter-alcoholic-fudge-like durian, while Y and L prefer the sweeter kind. Ah, all with their own due of love for durian, I am one happy to devour more of these for myself.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself very much in this durian buffet, thanks again LH, and I am looking forward to Signature Kitchen’s 5th installment of this yearly indulgence. Burp! Excuse me! Now this tham jiak is satiated for the time being for this year’s durian season, and will once again hunt for a fix of this strangely addictive fruit next one, hopefully feasting again in this durian fest.
Pusiva had tag me on this Meme called ‘10 things I missed about mum’s cooking’. Yes, many people do have fond memories of their mother’s cooking. Everybody has their favourite dish, only achievable by their mum. As for me, yes I do remember vaguely of few times that my mother cooked for us, but if you ask me to name my childhood memories of missed home cooked food, I would have to talk about my Ah Ma’s (grandmother) cooking. She used to cook everyday when I was young, and I have many memories of her simple yet delicious cooking. As she is less fanciful, she usually cook most of the same simple Chinese home cook food, which we simply adore and would not trade it even for the best Chinese cuisines out there.
I remember days when I was in the morning school (we in Malaysia had two sessions of school in a day, depending on which year you are in), I would rush back in the afternoon waiting to see what is on the table. Then there are years when I was in the afternoon school, where I usually had to go to school earlier than lunch, thus I had to endure the time when I come back for dinner to eat the leftovers, usually listening to my sister (who always happens to be of the opposite school time) bragging about the finished favourite dish.
When I was near my teens, my Ah Ma’s children all chided her from cooking, as they want her to enjoy her life and relax. Thus begin the years that I had to cater for food (really bad food memories, but which should be the beginning of my interest in own cooking) and only occasional treats from my Ah Ma’s cooking. From then, we missed her cooking so much, once a while we would beg her to satisfy some of our cravings. As for now, let me list down the top 10 food (pictures here are my cooking for illustration only) that I missed dearly, though there are many more, I have to say my favourites are:
Chow Fan (Fried Rice)
Ah Ma’s chow fan is the best. Ok, this may seem like a cliché but it is true, for me at least. She can do the meanest ‘white’ chow fan, with no dark soy sauce, big succulent prawns (her secret) and sometimes chopped long beans, chicken or pork and that’s about it. Real simple but good eats definitely. I had yet to achieve her white chow fan level, usually succumbing to the dark ones as it is easier to flavour them. My Ah Ma’s chow fan is good to eat just on its own (though my sister and cousin like to eat with lots of tomato sauce) and I can never ever get enough of it. Sigh, I miss it so much. Before this, long time ago, she used to add in frozen mixed vegetables (green peas, cubed carrots and corns), which I would pick out one by one when I eat it. Frozen stuffs are just not good, the peas are too tough, the carrots are tasteless and the corns just don’t belong there). Then one day she knew about it and fried a separate chow fan for me without those, and oh boy, was I touched. She loves me, doesn’t she? Then finally she evolved to leave it out completely, which become to now her ultimate chow fan!
Chow Mang Kuang (Stir-fried yam bean) My Ah Ma chow (stir-fry) the meanest mang kuang. The mang kuang will be sliced uniformly with mandolin then stack up neatly to slice into sticks. Her secret is that all the mang kuang is of about the same length and thickness so that it will cook together thoroughly. The same thing goes with the carrots, though she would put less of it. The carrots lend to more complex texture, colour and taste of course. Superb! She chow it with some minced pork, small prawns and lots of garlics! Yummy!
ABC tong (ABC soup)
Of course I love ALL of my Ah Ma’s cheng tong (clear soup). As a Cantonese, she boils soup frequently. Her usual soups are lou wong kwa (old cucumber), lotus roots with peanuts and yok choy kai (herbal chicken). All these soups deserve an individual post themselves, but oh well, when I cook it next time, I’ll talk about it. But if I had to choose between the soups, I would have the ABC soup. Why? Well, my Ah Ma just do this one best, her secret is the crushed peppercorns that she added in with the carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, big onions and of course pork ribs. She just know how much to add of each ingredient bringing in the right blend of the perfect soup. It serves well for cold and rainy days and also for the sick. But to me, it serves best whichever day or weather or condition.
Zhao Har (Prawn fritters) Ah Ma had somehow perfected the method of zhao har (fry prawns). She uses the right mixes of flour, with enough seasoning (pepper and I forgot what else) and then the right amount of water and eggs to dilute it to the right consistency. She told me the process once long time ago but I forgot (shame on me)! Anyway, she would then dip the huge prawns into the mixes, holding by the tail, and submerged it into the hot oil. She said no overcrowding, the oil must be hot, and to lower the prawns slowly to avoid the dough spreading (and of course oil splattering). Thinking bout it makes my mouth water. Soon there would be big prawn fritters, with the crust all puff up leaving the prawns inside soft and succulent. When you bite into it, it tastes like heaven!
Fan Shu Chu Yok (Dark sauce Potato and pork)
This one is my personal favourite. Whenever my Ah Ma cooks this, half of it is usually finished by me alone. It was never enough for me. Even after I finished my rice, I would sit there and keep poking at more potato and more pork and devour it. I had to pull myself away from the table, telling myself to leave some for others. Ha-ha. Yes, it is that good. I craved for it a lot when I first came down to study. Ah Ma’s secrets are, first the potatoes must be sliced thinly and uniformly (her personal skills), then it is shallow fried in batches to perfection, crispy on the outside but still soft and crumbly inside. Then she would sliced the pork (she uses the loins) thinly and then marinate it first with soy sauce, dark soy sauce and sugar. Then she would stir fry it with the potatoes. Now though I had learn to make it, I can never achieve the same results (maybe I was too lazy to slice all the potatoes uniformly and fry it batch by batch diligently) and usually now, I would use the shorter way, just parboiling the potatoes and then chop it up and make my own fan shu chu yok. I kid myself it is healthier, thus less tasty than Ah Ma’s.
Hong Tao Sui (Red Bean Soup)
Why would I miss my Ah Ma’s hong tao sui? Well hers is usually different from the outside (not to say better, but different), as she would not boil all the beans to mush, usually leaving them with enough crunch and resulting in a clearer soup. Then she would add in dried mandarin oranges skins (her secret, she always have one doesn’t she) which would lend a citrusy taste to the else usual hong tao sui. Every time after Chinese New Year, I would see her diligently put the orange skins out to sun for few days in a row (yes she makes her own dried mandarin orange skins), usually keeping an eye for the rain (which is superbly frequent and unpredictable in Malaysia weather, worst yet, Taiping, which is well known for the name raintown). Then when the time is right (which means the skins are ready for use) and her mood is right, she would make us her ‘different’ hong tao sui.
Chow Pao Choy (Stir-fried cabbage)
This is one of the simplest dish that Ah Ma can make it so good that it tops any other complicated dish out there. This one might not have a secret. Ah Ma just chow (stir-fry) the sliced cabbages with lots of garlics. Maybe she can chow to the right softness yet still with crunch and enough taste but not too overpowering. I do not know why, but when she cooks this, I can’t stop eating it. Somehow, the outside ones does not taste as good, and I absolutely do not like those chow with har mai (dried prawns), which I felt it takes away the simple goodness of the dish.
Baked beans with cubed potato, cubed onions and minced pork This one must be my Ah Ma’s creation. She came up with it one day and we all got hooked onto it, thus it became a household favourite. She would cube the potatoes and onions into tiny 1cm cubes, all of the same size (again, I do not know where she gets her skills and patients to do this). Then she would stir fry the pork with garlic then add in the cubes and in the end, pour in baked beans (from the can, yes semi-can food but I swear it is superb). It results in a dish only found in my Ah Ma’s house, which is absolutely delish!
Fu Kua Tan (Bittergourd Eggs)
Ah Ma cooks her fu kua tan, by first soak the bittergourd in water, then squeeze out water and then repeat process with new water for a few times to remove bitterness. After bout 3 times, she would then slice it thinly (and I mean really thin) and of about the same size (need I say more?). Then she would fry it briefly, and then add in beaten eggs to hold all of it together. The result is a really thin fu kua tan that are soft and eggy plus bitter and crunchy at the same time. This dish actually came later in my Ah Ma’s culinary years. Someone introduced it to her and from then on she made it all the time. At first, as a kid, I absolutely hate it. I do not like the bitter taste of the gourd. I would usually pick out the eggs from the side and middle or wherever and leave out the gourds. Though the eggs are already ‘stained’ with some bitterness, I still eat it anyway. Then, soon I got lazier and sometimes some gourd sneaked into my picked eggs, I still eat it anyway. Then soon, by some evolution theory, I got addicted to it and start eating it the way it is, with lots of bittergourds held together by the eggs. This is how I learnt to eat my bittergourds, which now I absolutely love, no matter how it is cooked.
My Ah Ma cooks lovely honey chicken in her huge orange non-stick pot-pan. With this she would cook the chicken parts into perfection, after marinating it with dark soy sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and so forth, and then add in the honey by taste. It would result in a honey chicken that is not too sweet, with distinct honey taste and enough soy sauce salty. I hope I’m making sense here. Besides, the chicken would be soft and juicy while soaking in a thick deglazed honey soy sauce.
So there goes my favourite list of my Ah Ma’s cooking. As for me, where have I been lately and why have I not been charging my culinary skills in my kitchen as I had promised? Well this is because I had just shifted! Oh yes, I’m in my new house now, and of course new kitchen! I am so excited to show you all but right now it is just all boxes lying around. The plus point of this kitchen is the extra extension at the back of the house which can be made into my wet kitchen! My dream came true. Besides that, I went around my neighbourhood and found that there is a whole day market nearby that caters to every need of a home cook enthusiast, that’s me! With that I have no more excuses for not cooking more often! Stay tune then for more of my culinary adventures.