Monday, September 24, 2012


We went to the Empire Gallery in Subang Jaya to look for food. This shopping centre is becoming more and more a foodie place since the kaboom. I believe most people go there not so much to shop but to eat. I have so far done 7 reviews of the makan places in the Empire. This is my 8th and probably not my last. It bespeaks the variety of food here. The place we picked this time was the Belanga.

Belanga is a Malay restaurant chain specialising in peninsular east coast cuisines. The founder is a lady from Kelantan. Besides this restaurant, they also have outlets in the Gardens (Mid Valley Megamall) and the SSTwo Mall. The outlet at the Empire is charming and very well decored in a modern and contemporary ambiance.

Their menu was a selection of mouth-watering Malay fare - various types of nasi (kerabu, dagang, lemak, etc), mee (curry, laksa, soto, bandung, etc), satays, soups, and others. We opted for rice.

Dinner started with our drinks. I went for my normal iced lemon tea. I wished it was bottomless but alas it wasn't. For the beer drinkers - forget it. This is a very Malay place.

The first rice dish we shared was the nasi kerabu. There was a choice of ayam percik, grilled beef tenderloin or grilled fish. We opted for the chicken. I would had gone for the beef tenderloin because the visual of the beef in the menu was so appealing. But my wife is not a beef person. The tomato rice was served with chopped fresh vegetables, some keropok and a thick peanut gravy. We mixed the chopped greens into the rice and gravy. It was delicious. The ayam percik was also very good. But probably because at that late time of the day, it was not entirely freshly roasted. Still we enjoyed it.

Next was the nasi dagang. It was a traditional Kelantanese brown rice steamed in coconut milk. There was a choice of curry chicken, rendang beef or ikan tongkol (tuna). Nasi dagang at the east coast is normally eaten with the fish. So we follow the norm and went for the tongkol. The rice was superbly fluffy and aromatic. It was served with some chopped cabbage, pickled cucumber and carrot and an egg. The tuna was a little fishy. I think it was not entirely fresh. Because of this, I thought the nasi kerabu was more enjoyable.

This bowl of oxtail soup was fabulous. It had generous portions of tail that tasted absolutely delicious. There were also potato, carrot, onion and celery - garnished with some fried shallots and spring onion. The celery gave the soup a distinct taste. The spices were adequate and not overpowering. I loved this soup but unfortunately my wife would not have any of it.

This plate was listed as "Spring Rolls" in the menu. It looked and tasted anything but. It was a roll alright - in the kind of translucent rice wrap that are commonly used in Vietnamese cooking. The inside were mostly chopped vegetables that tasted rather bland. There was a small bowl of sweet yellow sauce that did not help in any manner to enhance its flavour. We didn't like it.

The Belanga, much to my surprise, turned out to be a lot better than I had expected. The food was generally good. And the service was friendly too. If you hunger for some east coast makan, I would certainly recommend this place.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kemunting Lunner

During our last visit to see my parents-in-law in Sungei Petani at the recent Raya break, our niece's boyfriend led us this rustic seafood restaurant for lunch. We drove in a convoy of 3 cars. It took us nearly an hour and we finally arrived at Kedai Makanan Dan Minuman Kemunting Kenneth Ng.

I will not be able to direct you there. Unfortunately I did not have my Garmin to take down the co-ordinates. So the best I can do is to provide the full address - Lot 1331, Kampung Kemunting, Pekan Karangan, Kulim, Kedah. The drive went through some rough roads and ended in a place like this.

But the surrounding scenery was breath-taking. Enjoy some of the snapshots I took.

The restaurant was not much of a place. It was basically a large dingy shed with the barest of amenities.  The place was not crowded. There were some people sitting around idly, perhaps waiting for their food. But the nearby kitchen was a hive of activities.

There was shed by the lake - ideal for a relaxing meal. Unfortunately it was already taken.

Kenneth Ng, the owner himself took our orders. As it turned out, he was a grumpy man. He told us curtly that since we did not make prior reservations, we would have to wait awhile for our meal. Who makes reservations in a place like that? Not as if they were doing a roaring business. When we asked what was good in his menu selection, he tersely replied that everything he cooked was good and made no recommendation. What an attitude!

And indeed, we had to wait for more than an hour before the first dish arrived. In the meantime, we were served mugs of nutmeg juice which was really not the ideal drink for a seafood meal. I would had preferred the simple Chinese tea. But we were not offered the choice. The kids had to buy some prawn crackers to relieve their hunger as it was approaching 3pm by then.

The first dish that finally arrived was this deep fried tilapia. Perhaps it was the hunger, but it tasted wonderfully delicious. The fish was very fresh and was fried to its full glory. It was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I was munching on the fins and bones. They were delightfully crunchy.

Next was the curried wild boar meat. It was a dry curry. The meat was surprisingly tender. The flavour and aroma of the curry was absolutely superb. I like curried wild boar a lot and have tasted it in many places. This place perhaps serves one of the best.

The patin was huge and steamed in 2 halves. The head was steamed in a clear soya and fish sauce. A very good choice. The fish was expectedly very very fresh. The belly of the fish was heavenly. It was soft and tender, and so very delicious. The patin is one of my favourite fresh water fish.

The tail half was steamed in a chilli and bean sauce. Another wow. The sauce was spicy and rich, and complemented the fish. I enjoyed it absolutely.

These are chicken - young chicks. I can't help but notice that people in the north like to eat premature birds. They were marinated and deep fried. They tasted good. The skins were crispy. The bones were crunching. You could practically eat the total bird - bones and all.

Finally, the green dish...

By the time we finished our meal, it was over 4pm. A meal between breakfast and lunch is called brunch. What do you call a meal between lunch and dinner? Lunner? This was exactly that. I had such a full meal that dinner became unnecessary. Kenneth may be a grumpy man, but he sure cooks a good meal.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Birthday Roast Lamb

To commemorate Crystal's attainment of suffrage, we decided to host a small makan-makan at our home. We got a canopy erected at our porch and some tables and chairs. One thing led to another. What we had intended to be a small gathering eventually turned out to be a full blown party.

It was her party and her night. We had our family members and close relatives over, and a group of her friends. The parents did not get to invite any of their friends.

The theme of the night was roast lamb. The last time I had this delicious animal was in SP's place. That was more than 2 years ago. So I was really looking forward to the treat.

Mrs Wong and her husband run a catering business, specialising only on one dish - roast lamb. She came to our place at about 2.00pm to set up her roasting equipment. The lamb was from New Zealand. It appeared to be marinated and was skewered whole over a simmering charcoal fire.

The roasting took about 4 hours. It was a slow deliberate process. Mrs Wong was there to periodically turn it over. Eventually it was this beautiful golden brown, mouth-watering roast of a lamb.

What a beautiful sight. Who can resist a roast like this?

After the guests had arrived, Mrs Wong started to carve the animal. The first bites were heavenly. It was hot, juicy and succulent. The meat was tender and aromatic. It is not easy to describe the taste of freshly roast lamb. Total culinary delight.

We had other dishes to supplement the meat. They were mostly home made. SP brought this pot of spaghetti.

LV fried this meehoon.

And LL made these drum stick roasts.

Crystal made this lovely potato salad herself. "Why do I need to cook on my own birthday?" she complained.

More salad and rocket to accompany the meat.

Vegetable dips.

We also ordered some kuehs from Nyonya Colors. They delivered - COD. The kuehs were nicely packed. They were delicious.

These spring rolls and samosa were also from Nyonya Colors. But they were not so nice.

I believe the guests enjoyed the food - especially the lamb. At the end of the evening, thank God, we did not have to deal with too much left-overs.

And of course, cakes for the birthday girl. This was the first time I see a cake with a portrait on the icing.

Happy Birthday Wan.