Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Japan May 2007 : The Grub

Since I was travelling alone for most part, I didn't manage to get many pictures. Very susah travel alone... no one to carry my bags! LOL!

Plus, I was meeting quite a few customers for the first time for lunch, I had to be the serious me.
As usual, I rarely get disappointed with food in Japan. This time, I chanced upon an all-chicken restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo where I ordered flame grilled chicken thigh with raw spinach salad, washed down with a bottle of Asahi Premium Draft beer.

I was also brought to a German restaurant in Kobe where we feasted on Kobe beef, sausages from Kobe beef, Kobe wine (sweet) and one of the best baked Camembert and cheese platter I've ever had!

In between, I had Petit Plus almond chocolate cookies from their 24 hour convenience store AM/PM for breakfast while commuting in the subway/Shinkansen and Italian pizza dinner (how can?, you ask - I say can cos the chef is Italian and ingredients flown in from Italy) in Osaka.

The breakfast at hotel in Tokyo (I have to admit I did skip subsequent days' breakfast - unfortunately, sleep had taken precedence).

Lunch at Fujino, all-tofu restaurant in Tokyo : www.kyotofu.com.jp Visit the site if you understand Japanese. Yudofu is actually a specialty in Kyoto but I had it in Tokyo.

It was supposed to be a refreshing and light lunch but after the 3rd course, I was full to the brim. Was good quality soy products, soft & silky. Tofu ice-cream was delicious with the cookies!

Lunch of beef curry with rice and pickles at Granvia Hotel's coffee house, Kyoto - a quickie as I had to rush back from Nijo Castle to meet my colleague who traveled from Fukuoka. And was expensive too! About USD30 with orange juice. Saving grace was that it was yummy. I have to add that Granvia Hotel is convenient for Kyoto as it's on the same building as Kyoto train station (Kintetsu Line, Shinkansen and subway)
Lunch in Nara - seared tuna and sashimi moriawase, with Kirin beer and sochu

Dinner in Kyoto - Restaurant Mimiu - check out the superthick unbleached toothpicks!

Street vendor selling buns in Kyoto
Japanese sweets on display in Kyoto - the one wrapped in leaf is kashiwamochi (mochi wrapped in oak leaf), I believe.
Lunch at Nara Train Station - Shrimp Okonomiyaki (my worst meal in Japan - I prefer small and light bites and this okonomiyaki was just huge and heavy - octopus was alright though hideous in form).

Yatsuhashi - a type of sweets, triangular-shaped - Kyoto specialty. This one is made of black sesame. OK, I know the 2 pieces of black triangular thingy doesn't look appealing but don't be fooled by its glum look. If you like black sesame glutinous rice balls, you will like this. Due to limited bag space, I couldn't buy more than I wanted to.
Sushi roll (maki sushi) and chakin sushi 茶巾寿司 in the MAS plane to snack on just before landing from Kansai Airport to KLIA - this time I didn't bother with the pictures as I have already done quite a bit of onboard pictures taking here and here. And I totally zonked out the moment my bum hit the seat due to lack of sleep.

All I can say is that I am getting to be more adverse to plane food but am learning to appreciate the satay in MAS flights. Malaysia bolehlah!
Non-food pictures later!

Crunchy, Creamy, Meaty, Nutty Goodness!

Am dreading the uploading of photos from Japan... I reckon it would be a slow process. So, here's a little appetiser (literally) for a start...

I present you.... CHICKEN CELERY SALAD!

It's one of our favourite salads - I kid you not. We have this very often. Why? Cos it's easy, healthy (if you use just a smidgen of mayonnaise), it keeps well and if you love celery, you would likely enjoy this.

It's great as sandwich filling which means it will be quite a complete meal - chicken for protein, bread for carbs, raw walnuts and mayonnaise for fats and celery for daily vegs intake.

There is also the flexibility to increase or decrease any one of the ingredients too!

I first made this salad when I got back from visiting Barry' family in Canada. Barry's sister, Alisa made this one day and I happened to be at her place when she was making this salad. I fell in love straight away with this simple yet (ful)filling concoction.

I did tweak the recipe a little bit though with the addition of chilli powder for that extra kick and raw walnuts for more crunch.

Ingredients :
1 skinless chicken breast
chilli powder
freshly ground sea salt
1 tsp olive oil
10 raw walnuts (coarsely chopped)
2 stalks of celery (finely diced)
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise

Season chicken breast well with chilli powder and freshly ground sea salt.

Heat the olive oil and fry the chicken till browned and cooked - turn once. Set aside to cool before cutting into bite-sized pieces.

Toss the walnuts, cooked chicken, celery, black pepper and mayonnaise in a wide bowl. Sprinkle more chilli powder if desired. Serve slightly chilled.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Grilled Salmon Kyoto

I got sore throat on the plane back to KL - bummer. And I have just got tonsilitis last month too! I think it was dehydration (been imbibing alcohol in the cabin and then falling asleep thereafter without drinking water - a no-no but what the heck, it was Saturday) on top of the lack of sleep (been sleeping about 4 hours a day for past week).

I need 8 hours of sleep as a minimum every day. Anything less than 8 hours, I get cranky, zits and sore throat.

Being at home always makes me crave "light" foods like porridge, vegs and fish. And mind you, cooking is like a healing balm for me. This explains why this post first before the one on Japan.

Bought some salmon steaks yesterday and since I was sick, I cooked it the usual simple way : rubbed some chopped garlic and ground sea salt, grilled the salmon before squirting some lemon juice over before serving.

Barry took me to the doctor's yesterday and the meds helped. Today, I felt better after sleeping the whole morning away and resting in the afternoon. And that means, cooking the same thing differently! I still have salmon and I do not like to keep seafood for more than 24 hours in my fridge. Seafood must be eaten fresh.

I browsed online and Grilled Salmon Kyoto piqued my interest - because I have salmon and also, I have just visited Kyoto. I can't relate this recipe to Kyoto though but it sounded good enough for our dinner. (I had my favourite porridge and stirfried vegs early in order to take meds - so, won't eat much when Barry is home).

This Grilled Salmon Kyoto recipe can be found in a few websites - I will just quote Allrecipes' recipe.

Below is my version for 1 salmon steak :

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp green onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
a pinch of ginger powder (my fresh ginger dried up in my absence)
2 tbsp Choya Ume liquer (which I bought last August)

1 salmon steak (1 inch thick)

Mix all ingredients except salmon. Marinade salmon with the combined ingredients for at least 30 mins. In my case, I left it to marinade for 3 hours in the fridge, covered.

Remove salmon from marinade. Pour marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.

Lightly oil the grill grate. (I used the top shelf of oven to grill with the heating elements on top switched on and lined the bottom with aluminium foil. Temp. 250 degs C). Cook on grill for 8 minutes per inch, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Turn salmon once. (So, 4 minutes per side). It's best not to overcook but I cooked mine a bit longer as I do have a preference for the slightly burnt taste - LOL!

Serve with the extra marinade which was cooked (MUST!) on the side. The salmon was really soft from the marinade - very flavourful. I liked it a lot. And Barry loved it too, especially the marinade.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Travel Notice

After a month plus of traveling hiatus, I will leave for Japan on 22 May 2007. This time, I will be going to Tokyo (again! - will get some macarons from Pierre Herme or Joel Robuchon if I can squeeze in the time), Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe. It does sound crazy for a 6-day trip but c'est la vie (at least for me)!

I do like Japan a lot, with their emphasis on quality and service, the Japanese are so meticulous. Oh, I remember the superb quality of Belgian chocolates which tasted better than those in Belgium - I won't mention names.

I have made up my mind to stay in a ryokan in Kyoto, maybe go for a dip at the onsen if time permits.... So much to do, so little time....

Next, Bintan Island 18-20 June 2007 for regional meeting and I have not decided if I would go to Europe before June ends since I will definitely be going this September and again in November. I am looking forward to the trip in November for a symposium which will end with gala night/grand dinner at Clos Vougeot, a chateau near Dijon, France. But, I will not and cannot get drunk despite the famous wines which will be making their appearances since I am my big customers' chaperone.

In addition, we are going to Langkawi again in July with friends.

And there will be the usual short trips within Asia now and then.

Hope to write about Kyoto when back.

P/S : I was frantically trying to book stay at ryokan even with help from the Japanese partners (cos a lot of them speak no English) to no avail - 2 of those I called said that to get a ryokan for 1 person is very, very difficult.

P/P/S : On macarons, I didn't manage to get them this trip as I had to go Kyoto/Osaka area but will do so next as I believe I would have more time in Tokyo then. I was very disappointed with myself nonetheless.

Oil Painting

In March, I wrote about going back to painting and look what Barry got me!! A kickass oil painting starter kit above - it has oil colours, canvas, brushes, palette and even an easel!! (Poodle not included).

The easel also functions as storage for the colours, brushes and palette - so, can organise better. It's so cool!

I had been talking a lot about doing oil painting just weeks before that and because I have only done watercolours, he even got me a step-by-step to oil painting book!

I have even found the perfect spot to do painting - on the patio, with soft music from our trusty little black Bose soundock.

Now, I just need to get some solvent and linseed oil and to find that print suitable for a beginner and I am all set to paint!

My dream is to one day paint a scene from Venice like below in oil :

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Outing - Telawi Street Bistro

We went out and had a blast of an evening last Saturday at Telawi Street Bistro, Bangsar. It was organised by Elsa to surprise Sai (whose actual birthday was one week before that) with a birthday cake.
Mike, Elsa and birthday boy, Sai
It was really fun, I had a peach bellini, danced a bit, chatted with people, watched funny antics of people liberated in the presence of good company and possibly drinks.... birthday boy was enjoying himself.
Sai posing for the camera.....
Me, Beth, Dian, Mark


Mother's Day Cake for Me!!

Aren't these lovely? Barry's biz partner came by and look what they brought me for mom's day (cos I am mommy to Claudia, the toy poodle and Barry)! LOOOOL!!!

2 slices of beautiful, rich, dark chocolate cake lightly dusted with a bit of confectioner's sugar and topped with zig-zags of white chocolate and strawberry halves! They were from Kuala Lumpur Renaissance Hotel's bakery.

Though not a fan of cakes and sweet stuffs, I wiped clean a full slice as these were just amazing!

Almond Shortbread Cookies

I love shortbread cookies - especially those with nuts (as I have said before, I am nuts about nuts!). So, this morning I made a batch of almond shortbread cookies adapted from this recipe from Joy of Baking.

125 grams salted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (90 grams) + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) + 1 tbsp almond flour (meal)
2 tablespoons (15 grams) rice flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line baking pan with parchment paper (I use Glad Bake).

In the bowl of your electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours (all purpose, almond, and rice). Add this mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated.

Press the shortbread dough evenly into the baking pan to form an even circle of about 8mm thick. Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork to prevent the shortbread from puffing up. Using a sharp knife, score (make shallow lines) the top of the shortbread into 8 even pieces.

Place in preheated oven and bake until it is nicely browned (biscuit color), about one hour 15 minutes. Transfer shortbread to rack and cool for five minutes before cutting into 8 wedges (along the lines scored) on a cutting board. Cool completely on a wire rack.

The cookies were light with the almond flour adding a subtle nutty aroma to it.

The recipe allows a choice between rice flour or cornflour - the next time I would try with cornflour for a more delicate texture.

I would think drizzling some melted dark chocolate on the surface after cookies are cooled would be decadent.

Delicious with a pot of coffee or tea as tea-time treat. Or hot chocolate.....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day : Lunch at New Harvest Restaurant

For mom's day, we (her 5 kids and family) would usually organise a meal together. Actually, hanging out with mom is something which we do all the time and especially for mom's day, there is no exception.

Mom loves going out with us, loves seeing her kids doing stuffs together - the more, the merrier! But sometimes, we have to do it separately, this year for example.

We (my 2nd sis' family & I) had a lovely lunch with my mom yesterday for an early mom's day celebration. She will have dinner tonight with my 2nd bro and subsequently some outings with another bro and sis over the next few days.

For lunch yesterday, my bro-in-law made reservation at New Harvest Restaurant in Klang. The below are some of the dishes we had :

Crabmeat and Pine Nuts Wrap - I was very surprised to see the generous amount of toasted pine nuts (expensive stuff) atop the crabmeat, eggs and turnip (for crunch) combo which we wrapped in crisp, fresh lettuce. Delicious with the chilli sauce that came with it.

Next, came the sharksfin soup - I didn't take any picture as sharksfin soup being sharksfin soup, they do not usually differ much in the looks factor. Nothing extraordinary. Crispy Grouper Slices in Butter Sauce - I don't normally like "saucy" dishes but I simpley loved this one because the slices of grouper fish were simply crispy and the fragrant sauce really complemented the fish well (can tell fish were fresh - no fishy smell at all!).
Noodles dish is a must for every of our celebration as it symbolises longevity. We had river prawns noodles. Again, freshness of the seafood was detected. The broth was just right in consistency and deliciously flavoured by the prawns.
Mushrooms and Broccoli Vegetarian Combo - A nice, light addition to our meal to fulfill our veg. intake requirements.
My favourites : black sesame glutinous rice balls - we ordered 2 variants, dry and in ginger soup version. Personally, I prefer these balls in soup though at New Harvest, the soup was not made with brown sugar which I prefer. There was a slight hint of bitter taste to the balls dry version which I believe came from the skin of ground almonds used to coat the balls. Nonetheless, the balls themselves were great.

We had a very good dining experience at New Harvest. Definitely great food at very reasonable prices. And most importantly, mom enjoyed it!

New Harvest Restaurant Sdn Bhd

19 Jalan Goh Hock Huat, 41400 Klang, Selangor DE (In front of Court's Mammoth)

Tel : 03-3345 2288


Saturday, May 05, 2007

My Favourite Places Re-visited.......... Many Times Over....

On days when I am feeling less adventurous and am seeking comfort food AND familiar faces, I would go to these places......

Tempura Moriawase - Zen, Sunway Pyramid - this time I didn't go for my favourites kani chawanmushi (crab egg custard), avocado tempura maki, stamina roll (unagi roll) and grilled beef with ponzu sauce. I bring people to Zen all the time - at one point, once or twice a week even, for weeks ....
Char Koay Teow - Little Penang Cafe, Midvalley Megamall - every now and then I crave this... would pop over to Midvalley at lunch just to get a fix. I almost drooled thinking about the soft, silky flat rice noodles accompanied by soft eggs, crunchy beansprouts and chives, cockles (haha!!) and 2 big shrimps served with lots of cut chilli padi in soya sauce... so shiok!!! Second only to making a trip to Penang for its famous fried koay teow. The other stuffs offered are generally good.