Thursday, 24 October 2013

Tai Lei Loi Kei – Very nearly as good as the real thing

17-1-G, Jalan PJU 5/10, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, 47810, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

The famous pork chop buns from Macau has finally hit Malaysia. And they’re doing it in a big way with 10 branches all over Klang Valley as of the date of this post.

The door handles make it absolutely plain that this would be a bad place for Kermit to bring his date.

The pork chop buns at the main shop in Macau have been hailed as the work of genius by world-renowned pork lover (and my personal hero) Anthony Bourdain. So for those of us who don’t have any immediate plans to visit Macau, I suppose it is important to answer the question: how do the ones at their Malaysian outpost stack up?

As the header says, it’s not exactly the same, but pretty darn close.

The bun’s plain looks are very deceptive. It’s as if a master assassin disguised himself as a scrawny number-cruncher.

The pork chop itself is amazing. The meat was extremely tender and juicy, with the nice springy texture I love. I tasted some garlic, maybe a little five-spice… and I don’t know what else. Whatever it was, the thing tasted awesome – there was absolutely no need to add anything else to it. If there is any difference between this and the Macau version, it certainly didn’t register on my tastebuds.

The bun, though nice and crusty, was a little chewier than the one in Macau. Maybe it dried out a little because we took a while to take pictures. On a later visit, I tried the pork chop in their polo bun, which was softer and sweeter.

The pork chop with a different co-star: dry noodles.

The noodles were decent, but a little softer than I had hoped. I was kinda expecting the same al dente texture I had loved so much in the noodles I enjoyed in Hong Kong and Macau. Also, I think they’ll taste even better drenched in the curry from their curry fish balls (which I have also tried on a later visit). I wonder if they’ll ever introduce that combo?

I’m not big on casinos or monuments. So when I go to Macau – when I go to anywhere, for that matter – it’s always for the food. There are plenty of great things to eat at Macau, but I’m glad that now, least one of those things is within much easier reach.

The colours of the facade reminded me of the garishness of Macau's iconic Grand Lisboa Casino.

Snack-sized review
Famous pork chop buns from Macau has arrived in Malaysia. The quality of the food is not exactly the same as the one in Macau, but is very close. And has the added advantage of being cheaper by the value of a return flight ticket.

Price: Just slightly more than that of a McDonald’s Value Meal. A set meal of pork chop bun with drink is RM13.90. No tax or service charge yet. Yes, you do get less food volume for the price, but that is more than made up for by food quality.
Hours: 10 to 10

Friday, 11 October 2013

Leong Kee – Rockin’ it old-school… like a boss

Stall on the sidewalk outside 76, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, 50000, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We normally don’t like going to KL if we can help it, because we hate traffic jams and overpriced parking. But there was an anti-Lynas petition thing going on at Dataran Merdeka and we decided to brave the super-congested streets of KL to go contribute our signatures.

They committed to stay there until they get a million signatures. I hope they've hit their target by now.

Having signed the thing, and since we are seldom in KL, we went looking for dinner around the vicinity. What followed can be summed up as two unfulfilled dreams and one incredibly lucky find.

Unfulfilled Dream 1
I am ashamed to say that, though I’ve lived in Klang Valley for more than 10 years, I have yet to eat at Coliseum. Now, the same friends who were appalled at this also told me that the food was only mediocre. So my reason for wanting to eat there was not really for the food; it was just so I could finally say I did. Hopefully before the geriatric wait staff… err… retire.

Anyway, that was our original dinner destination. Then on the way there, we passed by Soong Kee Beef Noodles and I casually pointed out to Lady Fartsalot that the pork porridge there was pretty good. She immediately jumped and said THAT was the porridge she had wanted to try a few years ago but never had the chance to up till now!!! She MUST try it!!!

But I wanted Coliseum! I tried to talk her out of it. I had waited more years for Coliseum. This was supposed to be MY night to finally have the thing I’ve always wanted to try, dammit!

There are men, far better men than I am, who are able to win these sorts of arguments against their significant others. As for me, well, it looked like Coliseum will have to wait another few months or years.

Unfulfilled Dream 2
So we parked and paid an exorbitant fee. Then walked back to Soong Kee for the porridge.

As we walked up, however, we saw that the stall owner had just about finished packing up. He was sold out for the day.

Great. Expensive parking paid and no porridge to show for it. I was just about to suggest Coliseum again when Lady Fartsalot spotted something a short walk away from Soong Kee.

The Lucky Find
It was a stall. On a sidewalk. It looked like it came from one of those old-timey Chinese shows, and for a minute I wondered if we were looking at a film shoot.

... for a movie about a time when the gangsters were seriously stylish and the guns came with fabulous red tassels.

But there were no cameras around and I figured this was a real food stall.

We walked closer and saw that it was nothing more than a rough table with a simple wooden frame attached, to which has been affixed a few fluorescent light bulbs. The sign was all in Chinese characters but luckily I could recognise most of them. Pig parts soup and chicken rice – the menu was as spartan as the stall.

But, unfortunately for the ladies, the owners' physiques are nowhere near anything resembling a Spartan's.

That doesn’t seem to be a problem for the stall’s customers. There was quite a lot of them, eating at the rickety tables on the sidewalk, or sitting in their big cars stopped next to the stall as they waited for their takeaway orders to be ready.

The stall's 'kitchen extension' was inside the back of this beat-up van.

There were people from all walks of life there… from kids who looked college-aged to an older gentleman with the waistband of his pants pulled up almost to his armpits.

Under the harsh glare of the white lights, a the middle-aged owner was working at a brisk pace, chopping pig parts and chicken, ladling soup into bowls as he sent out a non-stop stream of food from his tiny stall.

This stall looked legit.

We obviously had to try the food, and boy were we happy with what we tasted.

It's usually really hard to be unhappy with any food that contains this much pork.

The mixed pork soup had very generous amounts of meat and organs. The meat was amazing, incredibly tender with a slight springiness to it. I don’t really eat internal organs, but I have it on the highest authority (Lady Fartsalot is a pig parts fanatic) that they are very good as well. The soup had a pretty unique taste: a fairly strong porky flavour with a slight sourness from pickled vegetables. However, she did complain that it wasn't as peppery as she would have liked.

I can't imagine anyone describing this as anything other than 'perfectly cooked'.

The poached chicken was equally great. The stall owner called it ‘smooth chicken’ and he wasn’t exaggerating. The meat was tender and silky, cooked just right and extremely juicy. The flavour was subtle, reminding me of Cantonese cooking, and went well with the white rice. 

Smoother than a black con artist and playa who can sing like Marvin Gaye and play the sax. At the same time.

Of course, being Malaysians, some of us will prefer some chilli dip to give the chicken some kick – no worries they got that too.

And a pretty powerful kick, too. This is spicier than most chicken rice chilli I've encountered.

It turned out to be a great meal – prepared the traditional way, without any frills. Just plain good cooking done by someone who had quite obviously been perfecting his art over many years.

So, so glad that our two previous dinner plans didn’t work out.

Got this shot as business was winding down for the day.

Snack-sized review
Pig parts soup and smooth poached chicken rice served from a tiny standalone stall on a sidewalk in KL. Simple, rustic food that’s made very well and offered at extremely good prices.

Price: As old-school as the stall’s looks: only about RM15 for a delicious meal for two including drinks.

Hours: Opens about 5:30pm till they run out… which could happen as early as 10pm.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Nuffnang Food Fest at Sunway Pyramid

Being a food lover and Penangite (which, I’m told, means I’m a miser) I obviously had to attend the Nuffnang Food Fest.

It’s been billed as Malaysia’s first-ever Tw(eat) fest. You don’t have to pay cash to eat, just post a Tweet and you’ll get a free food sample from the stalls at the festival.

It’s nice to see the Cannes Grand Prix-winning idea of Pay with a Tweet brought to life in Malaysia in such a yummy way.

The festival was great, with a lot of my favourite makan places participating. It was totally worth enduring the horrendous parking at Sunway Pyramid to be there.

Here are some highlights from my food crawl around the Nuffnang Food Fest.

First sample was from Cielo Dolci, one of our favourite gelato places. They always have creative flavours and very well-made gelato. For this event, we immediately zoomed in on the two most interesting flavours available: kedondong and nasi lemak. The kedondong was nice and sourish and refreshing, with bits of kedondong peel in the gelato.

Kedondong Gelato

What totally blew our minds was the nasi lemak gelato. It really tasted like nasi lemak! It had the gingery flavour that immediately made me think of nasi lemak rice, a rich creaminess that reminds me of santan, just the right hint of sambal and even tiny bits of crunchy ikan bilis and possibly peanuts. It really was nasi lemak in gelato form, and I feel, done in the best way possible.

Nasi Lemak Gelato

Cielo Dolci is located at Paradigm Mall. They do serve nasi lemak gelato occasionally, and kedondong when it’s in season. Just follow their Facebook page to find out when certain flavours become available.

Next, it was a bowl of curry pan mee from Dai Ban Noodles. Not too bad, but I still prefer their more traditional pan mee. And of course, their pork burger trumps everything else I’ve had there to date.

Curry Pan Mee

The sample from Crayon Burger was disappointing. Their miniature sample burger had too much bread, too little filling and was way too dry. Their actual-sized burgers (which they were selling for the discounted price of RM10 each) looked like they might be better, but they had been pre-made and left sitting out for too long so I wasn’t willing to pay for them. Guess they hadn’t really gotten this whole sampling thing down yet. I am curious to try out their freshly-made burgers though. Guess I’ll visit their shop (which they said is located near Station 1 in SS15) one of these days.

Crayon Burger - These pre-made burgers were going for RM10 each. I don't think anyone in their right mind would buy these, unless they're drunk out of their skulls at some music festival somewhere with no other food in sight.

The people who did get sampling right, and seemed to be able to do no wrong, was My Burger Lab. The queue for samples at their stall was so incredibly long, it reminded me of queuing at their actual shop. The guys running the stall were every bit as helpful and friendly, taking time to chit-chat with people in queue, helping them get their Tweets done in time to help move the queue along faster. The burger sample (I had the Waterballoon burger) was very nice, with just the right ratio of bread to patty to cheese to watermelon and lychee.

Waterballoon Burger

The sample from Nando’s was notable because of how big it was: a whole drumstick and thigh per person was a truly extravagant size for a sample.

Hot Peri Peri Chicken

Another of our favourite makan places, Zuo from the Publika food court, had nasi lemak rolls. They were quite delicious, tasting extra-salty to compensate for the extra doughiness of the tortilla wrap. It was a tiny bit on the dry side, however; I would have preferred a little more gravy. But all in all, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Nasi Lemak Roll

Sek Me Choy was interesting because it was one of the few stalls I was not familiar with. They serve Chinese dishes and are notable for their peppery Singapore-style bak kut teh. The soup was not as peppery as the one I tried in Singapore, and tasted quite mediocre. Maybe the one at their shop will taste better. I won’t be trying though, because I am not a fan of pepper and much prefer herbal bak kut teh. The fatty pork in mantou also tasted only so-so.

Pepper Bak Kut Teh

Pork Mantou

There was a cooking competition by Maggi between a few well-known bloggers. Then there was a cooking demonstration by Maggi’s Executive Chef. We got to try the two dishes he made: a fruit salad as well as an instant noodle salad. Both were very refreshing and tasty. The fruit salad had crunchy fruits and a creamy yogurt dressing. The noodle salad had a riot of flavours and textures – crunchy vegetables, aromatic cilantro, a tangy dressing and more.

Fruit Salad

Instant Noodle Salad

We were quite full by the time we saw N Brew’s stall offering liquid nitrogen ice-cream. Curious, we both got a sample each and were glad we did. It was a simple vanilla ice-cream, but the texture was just incredible and unlike anything I’ve ever had before. It looked like a really heavy and dense ice-cream, but was extremely light and silky-smooth, disappearing almost immediately on contact with my tongue. The cone was also very light and crumbly and tasty. I really must have more of this stuff soon.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice-cream

We had many more samples at the food fest, but these were the most memorable ones. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there. The samples were generous (though not many were Nando’s-generous) and by the time we left, I was completely stuffed and regretting (only very slightly) eating so much.

I really hope they do it again next year.