Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Moon Garden vegetarian

My wife and I were wrecking our brains one Saturday evening figuring what to have for dinner. We were not particularly hungry and finally decided to head to a vegetarian cafe for some not-so-heavy vege food.

The place we went to was Moon Garden Vegetarian Cafe & Bakery in Subang Jaya Taipan. It is along a row of shops on Jalan USJ 10/1A. As the name implies, this place is more than just a cafe. It also sells various vegetarian cakes, cookies, pastries, desserts, etc.

A section of the shop is provided for dine-in customers. It is tastefully decorated and provides quite a pleasant dining atmosphere.

We browsed the menu. In spite of being vegetarian, it was surprisingly comprehensive. It offered a good variety of choices - Japanese, rice, noodles, Western, salads, pasta, pizzas and even dim sum. Click to enlarge the menu for a better view.

We had the combo sushi plate. It was the first time I ever had vegetarian sushi. It was surprising good. Quite authentic even without any meat. The taste of the sushi rolls was augmented with some vegetarian floss. I enjoyed the sushi.

But I cannot say the same for the Formosa Style Noodle Soup. The soup was a confusing blend of beans, vegetables and I-don't-know-what. In it were pieces of pseudo meat and ham. It did not taste good.

The baked Cheesy Rice Casserole was good. It was served in a disposal metal foil container. I particularly liked the melted cheese over the rice.

I ordered the dim sum totally out of curiosity. I wanted to see how they make siew mai (烧卖) without meat. And it turned out absolutely disastrous. It did not quite looked like siew mai, let alone taste like one. This wannabe totally did not make the grade.

Dessert was a milk pudding with some strawberry syrup. It was good. Absolutely nothing to complain about.

After dinner, my wife brought some cookies and some vegetarian sambal. They were pretty expensive. As we were paying at the counter, I asked the cashier about the cafe. It turned out that they belong to a small chain of Moon Gardens. Apparently they have other outlets in USJ 1,  Sri Hartamas and Melaka. Check out their website here

I had mixed feeling about Moon Garden. I was not sure if I liked or disliked the place. Would I return? Perhaps. There are a lot more in the menu to try. Some wannabes may turn out good.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SS4 pork noodles

I was driving around in PJ one day after some chores, trying to decide where to stop for brunch. Then I remembered a pork noodle stall around SS4 which I had not visited for a long long time. The shop used to be one of my favorite for pork noodles when I was living around the vicinity more than 20 years ago. I decided to re-visit it and see if there was anything I could gather for this blog. I didn't have my camera with me and decided to use my mobile phone. That was the reason for the rather poor quality of my pictures.

The stall is in a coffee shop known as Kean Fatt located at the end of a row of shop houses at the junction between Jalan SS 4A/1 and Jalan SS 3/59. Over the years the noodle stall has apparently become very popular. I could not find a place to park and it was only after 2 rounds in the vicinity, was I lucky that a car pulled out from a slot. The side road (Jalan SS3/59) was jam parked and vehicles spilled into the residential areas behind the row of shops. I do not know if the many cars was because of the popularity of the stall, but the coffee shop was certainly packed and almost everyone there was waiting for their pork noodles. I had to share a table with another guy and he gave me a funny look when I started snapping pictures of the coffee shop, the stall and finally the noodles.

The name of the stall is 槟城, translated to read "Penang". The frontage of the stall states that they have porridge and mee suai (面线). I believe you can ask for the mee suai, but I am not sure if you will be able to get any porridge.

I used to know the guy who owns the stall. He used to be quite friendly, but not so this time. I do not know if he still recognized me. He was not friendly when I approached him to order my noodle. He did not acknowledge my order and I was not even sure if he heard me. When I told him that I wanted to take his pictures, he just nodded - no acknowledgment, no smile - and proceeded on with his work.

Be prepared to wait in this noodle stall. The guy prepares a lot of noodles. I had to wait about 35 minutes before I got mine.

I ordered a large bowl - minus the liver and intestine. When my noodle finally arrived, it was indeed without the innards. In spite of his busy preparation of so many bowls of noodles before mine and his non-acknowledgment of my order, the guy actually heard and remembered what I wanted.

After the ritual pictures taking, I took a sip of the soup. It was good and I thought I found the reason of his popularity. But I was soon to be disappointed. The noodles were soggy. The pork was coarse and quite tasteless.  I have tasted other pork noodles where they marinate the meat that turned out to be smooth and flavorful. Not so here. The vege in the soup was meager. There was not enough chu yaw char (猪油渣). I did not enjoy the noodle at all.

And the noodles are quite expensive. He charges RM5.00 for a small bowl and RM5.70 for a large one. He is at least one ringgit or 25% more than other stalls. But he is doing a roaring business. I do not for the heck of me, know why. Would I go back again? With the parking and the long wait.... I very much doubt it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hainanese Taste

Hainanese and Teochew seem to have good affinity. And I speak from experience. On the same road as Teow Chew Meng on Jalan SS2/30 in PJ, just several shops away, there is this makan shop that serves Hainanese fare.

I have been to this place many times - mainly for breakfasts. It is a simple restaurant with a very pleasant ambiance. It has a nice contemporary Chinese setting with marble tables and stools, and traditional Chinese wall decorations.  Like its Teochew counterpart, I notice that the restaurant attracts the more mature customers.

The kitchen at the back is open and you can see your meal being cooked. It is reasonably clean and is staffed by a number of foreign young men.

The restaurant boasts "The Original Mee Pok" on a signboard. Mee pok (面薄) is a flat noodle that is normally eaten dry - kon-lo (捞). According to a Wikipedia write-up, it is Teochew in origin. It is more popular in Singapore with the bigger Teochew population there. How a Hainanese makan place can boast of original (Teochew) mee pok, beats me. Perhaps it is the part of this affinity that I mentioned.

Whatever the origin, I find the mee pok here quite nice. When you order the mee pok, you have the choice whether to have chilli sauce in your noodles. It is quite unusual for kon-lo noodles (面) to be eaten with chilli sauce in Malaysia. It is a more popular practice in Singapore. The noodle is served with minced pork and a generous dose of the tasty, crunchy and sinful chu yaw char. It also comes with a bowl of soup with some fish balls and slices of fish cake in it.

They also serve mee pok in soup, but I prefer the kon-lo preparation.

The fried chee cheong fun (猪肠粉) is rather unique. This is the first place I know that serves fried CCF. And why not? CCF is really very much like koay teow. If koay teow is so popularly fried, why not CCF? The CCF here is fried like char koay teow with taugeh, chives, egg, etc. Looks like char koay teow and tastes like char koay teow.

The yam cake - woo tau kou (芋頭糕) is quite good. It is home made. It is soft and has the full flavour of yam.

The restaurant serves a variety of fried fish stuffs. They have fish cakes (), fish stuffed fu chuk () , fish stuffed sui kow (水饺), fish stuffed spring roll (春卷), etc. You can order them individually or a combo plate of the mixed fish stuffs. They are quite good. I enjoy them.

They also have meat dumpling - kao ji (餃子) in Cantonese or gyoza in Japanese - served with the usual ginger strips in black vinegar. I am no big fan of this meat dumpling. I guess the ones they serve here are OK.

A variety of Chinese desserts or tong sui (糖水) such as red bean, barley fu chuk, tau fu fah, black pulut, etc, are available here. A list of the local favorites is on a big signboard. Below the signboard is the slogan in Chinese that translates to read - "We don't want to be the biggest, but the best".
The various food they serve here are highly doubtful to be Hainanese in origin. Even the tea which they call and claim as Hainanese tea is doubtful because I have seen it in some mamak shops. But the tea is very good. I always go for it when I am there. It comes in a glass, with a clear demarcation between the tea and the milk, and a foam on top. It is kinda like Irish coffee - you are not sure if you should stir to mix it up.

Hainanese or not, I find the food in Hainanese Taste good and worth going back again and again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dasht Behesht Iranian Restaurant

An elevated road system connecting Subang Jaya to the Subang Airport Road was opened not too long ago. One way to join this elevated road to go to Subang Airport and to the Federal Highway is along Jalan Kemajuan Subang near Carrefour in Subang Jaya. We were driving up this road one day when my wife spotted an Iranian restaurant on the left hand side.

The restaurant is sited on the ground floor of Casa Tiara apartment building along Jalan Kemajuan Subang. To get there, drive along Jalan Kemajuan Subang from Subang Parade towards Carrefour. Immediately after Carrefour, turn left into a side road, into Subang Avenue apartments. Casa Tiara is at the end of the side road, after Subang Avenue.

The place was very quiet when we arrived there one Saturday evening. We were the only customers in the whole duration of our meal. It was only when we were paying our bill that a couple of middle-eastern looking guys walked in.

The place was decorated in a kind of mix between Iranian and Chinese. The decor was apparently Iranian but the table and chairs were unmistakeably Chinese marble. An Iranian guy attended to us. He said he wasn't the owner of the place, that he was just visiting and had not decided whether or not to stay on in Malaysia.

The thing that I found most odd were 2 rows of beds on both sides of the restaurant. The Iranian guy said they were for people to smoke shisha - a big middle eastern implement for smoking tobacco through water. Fortunately nobody was smoking at that time. I cannot imagine having a meal surrounded by horizontal people puffing away on their tobacco pipes.

The menu was kebab, kebab and kebab. They had kebabs of various types. There were only 3 dishes in the menu that were not kebab - a fish, a lamb shank and a chicken dish. We asked for the fish. The Iranian guy told us they didn't serve the fish any more. He claimed they could not get good quality fish in the Malaysian markets. With that out, there were really not very many choices.

Tea was served after we made our orders. It came in the most charming and elaborate teapot set I have seen for a long time. The Iranian tea was good. It was served with cube sugar imported all the way from Iran. The cube sugar was quite unlike what we have in Malaysia. It was not very sweet and it flavoured the tea well.

We had a kebab - but of course. It was a combination of beef and chicken, served with rice in 2 colours. The meat was really very nice - tender and aromatic. I found the beef especially good. The rice was the long grain type - not unlike the basmati used for briyani. It was not starchy and tasted quite good.

The lamb shank was also served with the rice. The lamb was quite simply cooked but it was tender and was quite delicious. I liked it.

More rice in the chicken dish. Only this one had (as what I heard from the Iranian) "ball" berries on it. I searched the net for "ball berries" but couldn't find any. The "ball" berries were quite unpalatable by themselves. They were sour. But the rice tasted good with them. The chicken was quite ordinary. Looked like curry chicken but tasted far from it.

The meals were served with 2 sauces. One was an oily red sauce - again looking like curry but not at all.

The other was a light yellow sauce which I preferred. It had the strong flavour of mutton and went very well with the rice.

After the meal, I asked for Iranian desserts. The guy told us they did not have any. He said desserts in Iran were made by women. I guessed they came to Malaysia without their wives.

The guy recommended an Iranian yogurt drink. I was gamed to try. And I was sure glad that I did. It was really good. So very refreshing. The drink, like all yogurts, was sourish. And it was also somewhat salty. The sour and the salt seemed like an odd combination for a yogurt drink. But it was good. My wife tells me that we can get "yogurt masin" in some mamak shops. After this experience, I will have to try our local variety.

In spite of some of its oddities, I quite like this Iranian place. And the food is really not bad. Unlike Malaysian food which is normally quite strong in taste, I found Iranian flavours rather mild. Yet they were quite delicious. I think I got more natural flavour of the meat in Iranian cooking.

We will back there again, only I don't know when. Looking at the pace of their business, I hope they will still be around when we decide to do so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gou Lou Choy fish head

It was my good old friend KP who told me about Gou Lou Choy (高佬财). Gou lou (高佬) in Cantonese means 'tall fella' and Choy (财) apparently is his name. The assumably lanky GLC runs a fish head meehoon (鱼) stall in Shui Kee (水记) coffee shop in Jalan Alor, KL. About a month ago, GLC opened a shop in PJ selling his specialty.

The makan place carries his nick name - Restoran Gou Lou. The shop is located on Jalan SS 21/60 in PJ Uptown, Damansara Utama, not too far from Jin Xuan Hong Kong dim sum restaurant. It is on the same row as the PJ Uptown OCBC. When KP told me about the new PJ shop, my wife and I did not loose much time heading there.

The shop has a big picture of GLC and his Jalan Alor stall. Indeed he looked very tall.

When we arrived at the place on a Saturday morning, it was rather quiet. As we progressed into our meal, the breakfast crowd started to move in.

Gou Lou offers fish head noodles in various styles. You could have fried fish head (i.e. fish head, deep fried before being cooked in the noodles), or you could have the "original" un-fried fish head. You could opt for clear soup or you could prefer milk in your soup. You could also have tom yam soup with your fish head and noodles. If you do not like fish head, you could even have a bowl of curry noodles with seafood or chicken. Beside fish head, they also serve fish meat and fish paste. The menu is quite comprehensive. And of course, they serve the usual beverages.

My wife ordered the fish paste (鱼滑) with noodles in milky soup. The fish paste was so very nice. They were smooth and chunky and tasted fantastic. The milky soup was rich, sweet and aromatic. 

I had a bowl of curry mee with seafold. It was OK, not fantastic. The curry was so-so. There were shrimps, sotong, la la, tau fu pok and some long beans. But I kinda regretted ordering the curry noddles. Next time, I will go for fish head.

We also shared a bowl of fish head soup - without noodles. We opted for the un-fried "original" fish head, without milk. There were some hum choy (咸菜) and tomato in the soup. The soup was somewhat salty but otherwise very delicious. The fish head was really very fresh - not a trace of fishy smell. However they obviously used fresh water fish as I could detect a little taste of mud. All in all, we were glad we opted for the un-fried fish head as we really enjoyed the freshness of the fish in the soup.

Our experience in Gou Lou was great. This is another place, like the sisters curry laksa, where the success of a humble coffee shop stall has grown into a full fledged restaurant. We will definitely return to Gou Lou. If you like fish head and enjoy this unique Malaysian way of cooking it in noodles, you should pay GLC a visit - either in Jalan Alor or in his brand new place in PJ Uptown.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spinach porridge

It was my neighborhood friend Gary who introduced me to spinach porridge. I tried it at his suggestion and have not turned back. Many people, young and old, had balked at the idea of cooking spinach in rice. I am not very particularly fond of rice porridge but I liked this spinach broth and I think you might too. It is easy to cook, nutritious and so pleasant to eat.

You will need about 250 gm of spinach. You could use the normal spinach or baby spinach. At the last cooking, I opted for baby spinach. I do find that using normal spinach produces a better spinach flavour in the porridge.

 Wash and cut the spinach into small pieces like so...

Boil the spinach in a pot of water for 2 to 3 minutes and let it cool. Do not discard the water. Use the spinach favoured water to cook the porridge.

Use half a cup (about 100 gm) of uncooked white rice. Wash, then mix the rice in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Marinate the rice in the oil for about 30 minutes.

You will need about 50 gm of baby conpoy or dried scallops (干瑶柱). The quantity is really up to you. If you like more flavour, use more. 50 gm is just nice for me. You could use the normal conpoy. I normally go for baby conpoy because it is a lot cheaper and taste just as good.

Pour everything -  spinach (and water), rice and scallops into a rice cooker. Add water to about the 1.5 litre level. Again, the amount water is your preference. I like my porridge to be light and dilute. If you prefer a thicker broth, you may want to reduce the water. Do not forget to select the rice cooker to porridge mode.

Cook for about 2 hours. Your effort will look something like this..

Add some salt to taste. The above recipe is for 3 persons - including second helpings. Adjust your ingredients for more servings.

You can eat the spinach porridge on its own. It has enough flavour. Or you can eat with simple accompaniments like salted egg or Chinese pickled lettuce. It makes a very pleasant light meal. I cook it once awhile to get away from the monotony of the usual rice.