Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Banquet: A Restaurant in Overboard Mode

You'd think that you've arrived at Kuching International Airport when you see this.

But then next to it is a grill & lounge.

And then right in our face is the largest signboard in the world.

This is probably the most kiasu restaurant signboard in the whole of Kuching. You cannot miss it. Wherever you turn your head, it's there. You can even see it with your eyes closed.

This signboard is so huge that when Grandma sees it, it will scare the generations out of her.

But once you're inside, it's not bad at all.

You'd feel like you're in a hotel restaurant.

You can see the stage behind. It's obvious that they cater for wedding dinners, Grandpa's still-alive 100th birthday celebrations & other special political dinner functions.

I wanted to say this photo is not bad. But then I changed my mind since it wasn't good either.

It's very difficult to find good dim sum in Kuching.

They're probably as rare as the Sumatran Rhino.

So when we first heard about this place, we went crazy.

Nothing much in there. Yup, it's rare alright.

The prices here are a bit on the higher side.

This is how the menu works. They just circle whatever you order.

We heard that the restaurant was built by a guy who used to work with MBKS. That means a lot of kang tao. Apparently he quit his job & became something like an independent contractor & made his money there.

We thought it was the guy in blue but it wasn't. He's probably a partner or a manager.

The dim sum comes in this high tech trolley with wheels. Since there was no one there, I was wondering whether it was on remote control.

It had real power.

You could tell by now that this blog entry has a lot of photos. Yes, although it was a cloudy day, there was ample light, and I was just shooting away like a mad food paparazzi.

Greg & Nee presents to you the Dim Sum Photo Delight!

Nee: Yum Cha must have Siew Mai. Siew Mai is Nice. Crunchy and fresh.

Greg's Yum Cha Must have, Feng Chaw ~ translated Phoenix Claws. Just good old chicken's feet.

Xioa long bao. Really no good cause too dry. The good ones usually have gravy squirting out when you bite into them. This one was a Sahara desert pao.

Scallops Dumpling. Same as Shark's fin Dumpling. So so.

Shark's fin Dumpling. Expensive but taste like Siew mai and har goa combined. No good.

Another dim sum must have, Har Goa. Nice. Skin light yet chewy and filling crunchy and fresh.

Cheo Cheong fen. can tell by looking at it. Need I say more.

Beancurd rolls. So so also. Taste the same like the rest.

Char Siew Bao. Chicken Version. insults. Pork does taste better. But skin is wonderful light and spongy. I'm sooooo jealous.

Gan Zhoa Nu Her. Beef with Kuey Tiaw. So so only. The wok breath is really not enough. Tasted better ones before.

The Whole Dim Sum Family photo.

One thing that you'll notice about The Banquet is that it puts a lot of effort into its interior decor. This water feature would probably make you feel like swimming in it.

But please don't do that, it's actually a men's urinal. A sexy one with see-thru windows.

Kid: Look Ma! Can see people pee inside.
Mother: Where? Oh. Yes, I see. Mmmh. Yes. Wait a minute.

Hey son, cannot see hah!
Afterwards say bak chiam! (grow eye neddles)

This toilet is just too classy. My pee wouldn't even come out. I am not worthy.

Nee: Ehm the above slightly more intelligent comments are by me. The rest you know la.

Banquet rated 6.5-7/10 for Dim Sum. 10/10 for Toilet and Deco.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Superior Wombok Soup

This is not about cooking our good fellow friend and blogger, Wombok. This is a soup dish. A very home cooked dish that can be frequently seen during Chinese New Year reunion dinners or on those huge Chinese family occasions. You can really only find this in homes, not in restaurants.

It has been raining quite madly in Kuching for the past one week. Almost 24/7. This is definitely an appropriate one for chilly evenings. Both of us enjoyed it so much we hardly touch the other dishes on the table.

Wombok is also known as Wan Nai Bai, which is a very versatile vegetable. Hear that Wombok?

It can be stir fried, simmered, pickled, steamed and of course for soup. That sounds like a 101 ways to torture Wombok. Koreans use this vegie for their famous Kim Chi. We call it Superior here because got Hor Liau (Hokkien for Good Ingredients).

The Soup:
10 cups of superior stock

1) Parboil 1 kg of pork big bones and/or chicken to rid the blood and smell.

2) With 10 cups of water, simmered in with the pork big bones and/or chicken bones for at least an hour. Continue simmering with small fire while preparing for other ingredients.

1 piece of thumb size ginger
5-6 cloves of garlic
25-40 gm of dried scallops
6-8 pcs of dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in room temperature water and cut half
1.2 to 1.5 kg of chai yuan chicken/free range chicken, cleaned and chopped to smaller pieces
2-3 pcs of good quality fish maw, soaked in room temperature water and cut to smaller pieces
8-10 leaves of wombok, cut to each leave of 3 parts
1 pcs of carrot (optional)
Seafood like mussels and prawns (optional)
Pork balls/fish balls (optional)
Meat balls (optional)
Salt to taste

2) When ready, discard the bones. Place ginger, garlic, dried scallops, mushrooms and chicken pieces in the stock and bring to boil. Simmer for another 1/2 hour to 45 min.
3) Optional items can be added at this stage and simmer for 10 min or so. Otherwise, add fish maws and wombok and simmer for another 15-20 min.

4) Add salt to taste. In fact, the soup is so superior, you hardly need to add any salt.

Homemade Meatballs:
300gm of mince pork
150 gm of prawns shelled and pat and chop to pieces
2 stalks of spring onions
1 teasp of sesame oil
1 teasp of huatiaw wine
1 teasp of salt and pepper
2 tbsp of plain flour
3-5 pcs shitake mushrooms, soaked, softened and chopped to small pieces

Mix all ingredients together and stir till gluten develops. Slap against metal bowl until meat mixture becomes springy. Shape to round balls.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Not a Foochow Yam Kueh (O Kueh)

O is the Hokkien pronounciation for yam. Foochows call it Wor. Foochows eat their Yam (Wor) Kueh a whole piece pan fried. Normally, the kueh itself has meat, dried prawns and mushrooms and there will be no toppings.

Other dialects seem to take Yam Kueh, plain yam only with toppings. Hokkiens call them O Kueh. It's definitely one of my favourite kueh but we only like homemade ones. This is because the ones selling out there are so miserable I could hardly taste the O or anything else at all. It's all flour only! If i made mine, I would in all kiasu-ness combine the foochow and the none foochow way.

The Kueh:

400 to 450 gm of good bin lum yam, diced to small pieces
160 gm of rice flour
80 gm of tapioca flour
150 gm of mince meat (pork or chicken)
4-5 pcs of big dried shitake mushrooms, diced
20 gm of dried prawns, chopped finely
1 tbsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of pepper
850 to 900 gm of water

1) From the 850 gm of water, take say 1/4 to be cooked together with the yam. Cook for about 10 min and check. If the yam is cooked (you can break the pieces), stop cooking. Do not overcook yam. It is much nicer to have kuih with little pieces of yam to munch with.

2) In a large bowl, mix flours with sugar, pepper and salt. Add about 1/4 of the water. Stir well until there are no lumps. Set aside.

3) Cook dried prawns with some oil till fragrant. Add meat and mushrooms. Stir fry till fragrant. Add to yam mixture.

4) Add another 1/4 of water to the mixture. Stir till ingredients are combined and smooth. Add flour water mixture. Continue stirring. Then the last 1/4 of water. Cook and stir and if the bottom feels sticky, stop. Dish out onto an oiled 9 inch cake tin.

5) Steam over high fire for 20min. You can slice the Kuih and pan fry with a little oil and eat it as it is in the Foochow way. Slice only upon cooling.

200gm of salted radish, washed. Taste to see if it is not too salty but please dont overwash, it will be bland
80 to 100 gm of dry prawns, chopped finely
1 tbsp of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of red shallot, minced
2 -3 stalks of spring onion, sliced finely
3-4 tbsp of oil

6) Heat oil. Stir fry dry prawns till fragrant. Dish out. Add radish to oil. Stir fry till fragrant. Add others and a little salt to taste. Add back the dry prawns. Dish the topping onto the cooked yam kueh immediately after the kueh comes out from the steamer. Press toppings gently with the back of spoon onto the kueh.

7) Cool before cutting. At least 3 hours. Serve.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nasi Briyani

This is one of our favourite Malay food. I think the origin is West Malaysia & not Sarawakian. It's one of those easy to cook dishes where you just close your eyes & throw everything into the pot. I must have forgotten what threw in cos I missed the salt. So it came out quite bland.

This dish can be done with chicken or lamb. When cooking with lamb, heaped the teasp or tablesp.

1 no of chicken maryland or lamb shank
1/2 tsp of tumeric powder
2 tbsp of oil
2 tbsp of light soy sauce
A little sugar

1) Marinade chicken with all the seasoning.

250 gm of Rice ~ Jasmine or Briyani (I just use Beras Wangi)
50 gm of glutinous rice
1/2 tsp of tumeric powder
2 tbsp of ghee
1/2 tbsp of garlic and shallots each
340 to 400 gm of water, personal preference of wetter or drier rice
2 tbsp of milk
1 tsp of salt

2) Wash and drain the grains. Marinade the rice with tumeric powder

3) Heat wok and add ghee. Add garlic and red shallots. Stir fry the ingredients. Add seasoned rice. Add salt. Continue frying till rice feels tight as you flip and stir. Place in a rice cooker. Set aside.

1 no of cinammon stick
4 pcs of cloves
4 pcs of cardomon
1 tsp of jintan manis, pound or blend all four items to powder
2 tbsp of ghee
2 tbsp of cooking oil
1/2 tbsp of mince garlic
2 tbsp of red shallots, minced
1 tsp of ginger, minced
1 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of salt
1 no of red chilli. diced (deseeded if you dont like it too hot)
1 no of green chilli, diced (deseeded if you dont like it too hot)
1 no of bombay onion, diced

4) Heat oil and ghee, add garlic, shallots and ginger. Stir fry till fragrant. Add marinade chicken meat. Continue stir frying for a 2-3 min.

5) Add pounded spices, curry powder and salt. Stir and mix well. Continue cooking for another 4-5 min or until chicken change colour. Add chillis and bombay onions. Stir and dish out onto the rice in the cooker. Add 340gm of water and milk. Cook with rice cooker.

7) Dish out and add raisins. Serve with Keropok and pickled cucumber, cabbage and carrots.

Interestingly Greg likes this bland version. He says the lack of salt allows the original fragrance to come out better. Hmm.... he is learning. Must train more. Where's my whip?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

A lot of christian churches nowadays have bible study groups called cell. And they meet once a week, sometimes, to study bible & pray. Sometimes to get together in fellowship.

Our cell is called Agape. If you look up it's meaning in, you'll find this:
1. Christianity Love as revealed in Jesus, seen as spiritual and selfless and a model for humanity. 2. Love that is spiritual, not sexual, in its nature.
3. Christianity In the early Christian Church, the love feast accompanied by Eucharistic celebration.

Then there is another more general definition for agape:
1. with the mouth wide open, as in wonder, surprise, or eagerness: We stood there agape at the splendor.
2. wide open: his mouth agape.

This is what our cell is. Our mouths are always agape, in awe and in anticipation for the food set on the table, at each of our weekly meetings. Everything else is secondary heheheh.

Our cell group's motto seems to be Eat, Drink & Be Merry. Hopefully our Pastor will never find out. Besides the spiritual food every Friday, physical food is also of equal importance to us.

Unbeknownst to our cell group members, they are actually victims (Guinea Pigs put to the test) in the hands of Nee's culinary experiments. MUAHAHAHAHA!

Nee's latest try outs for Christmas ~ Sticky Date Pudding with hot ButterScotch Sauce.

Like every one of our fellowship meetups, good Christians turn into wild animals when they see food.

And as usual, after feeding time, everyone would sit around the table and groan about overeating. We know. Excessive stuffing of oneself with food is bad for the body. And that is why each sinful feast is followed by repentant jogging sessions on Sunday mornings. Some of us will laboriously drive all the way to Stutong Park to run, while others like us will participate in our dreams.

Last Friday was supposed to be our last meetup for the year. Guess what? It wasn't. There's another bigger Christmas meal meetup on the 21st. Ngai Tee!

Century Egg Porridge with Lean Meat

Pi Tan Shou Rou Chow is really one of the nicest dish I have ever accomplished. I normally cook this when Greg and I are overloaded with junk (ie. rich food for few days/weeks in a row) and for the cell suppers. It's especially good on rainy evenings.

Porridge for me has always been equated with supper somehow. Maybe it was because of all those good uni years when we braved freezing cold to go out for porridge at Supper Inn.

I have cooked this a few times before but Greg usually digs in straight away without taking the photos. It almost happened again. But this time around, I managed to scream at him before the spoon went into his mouth.

To say this is a clean and clear dish is not really true because I loaded it up with lots of goodness. It is more like a one pot goodness = I'm lazy.

200 gm of jasmine grain
45 gm of glutinous grain
200mm x 200mm beancurd sheet, cut to small strips
4 cups of water

1) Clean rice and place in a pot filled with water. Cut beancurd sheet to strips size of 1cm x 3-4 cm long and cook together with rice. Let it simmer till water almost dries up and grain becomes wet rice. You can do this in the morning and set aside till before you want to cook.

100 - 150 gm of lean pork loin (the beginning part of that long strip)
1/2 teasp of salt
1/2 teasp of pepper
3/4 teasp of sugar
1 tbsp of cornflour with some water.

2) Cut meat into long thin strips. Season with seasoning and set aside. This is a way of treating the meat and when you cook it, the texture will be smooth and tasty.

180 gm of minced pork (I like to use 5 flower meat and ask my butcher to grind it)
1 teasp of salt
1/2 teasp of pepper
1 1/2 tbsp of maggi seasoning/ 2 maggi concentrated chicken stock
1/2 tbsp of sesame oil
1 tbsp of cornflour with some water

3) Season the meat and set aside.

9- 12 cups of water
2-3 century eggs, diced
2 stalks of spring onion
1 tbsp of minced ginger
1 tbsp of chicken stock
salt, pepper and sesame oil to taste

4) In a big pot, pour water (start with 8 to 9 cups first) to the (1) mixture. Loosen the wet rice as you pour the water in. Boil uncovered. Stir. Continue adding water up. When boiling, add (3) bit by bit. Turn to small fire.

5) Add century eggs, minced ginger and chicken stock. Continue stirring over small fire. Finally add (2) and seasoing to taste. Add water if too sticky. Boil for another 5 min or so for the lean meat to cook. Serve with chopped spring onion and homemade yu tiao.

If you like your porridge watery, you can add another cup or two of water. We like ours watery sticky NOT sticky sticky nor watery porridge-below-water-on-top. This water bit is very personal.

But do remember, if you dont serve immediately and let it cool, porridge will tend to absorb water and becomes thicker. Your rice type has an effect too.

Cook uncovered at all time. Stirring continously is important. Prevent burnt bottom.

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