Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ah Koon Western Knife Fish Balls in Johor: Day 1

This is no kung fu movie although the name may suggest something like that.

We were in Johor Bahru & Singapore for a break about a couple of weeks ago. We normally like to stop by JB to meet up with my ex-uni mates Chia Hwee and his wife Sabrina. This couple is one of the most hospitable friends that we have, always ferrying us around and feeding us all the time. But come to think of it, when they were in Kuching, we were also guilty of feeding them until they exploded. So I guess what goes around, comes around!

As it normally happens with us, we were whisked off straight from the airport to Ah Koon's fishball place. According to Chia Hwee, this place is famous for their sito fish products ~ west knife fish (direct translation).

The eatery requires you to pick your own noodle (dry or soup; thick, rice, vermicelli or lao soo fen), followed by the items that you fancy.

This is one of their specialties - fried fish cakes side order dipped in chilli sauce.

This was what we had:
Dried noodles in soya

Oyster soup.

Soup noodles.

Soup with a variety of yong tao foo items
The fish items were definitely the main attraction here. They were all amazingly smooth and impossibly crunchy. I wouldn't want to imagine what they did to achieve such effects. Let's just assume that it was real culinary kungfu.

This place is supposedly very famous. I saw a lot of photos of Singaporean actors on the wall eating fishballs. But we do find all the items a wee bit too salty for our taste and we could also taste the msg. But nonetheless there were tasty & definitely enjoyable!

This was where we stayed at in JB. It's a relatively new hotel called Paragon (recommended by Chia Hwee).
The tip here is to always go for a newer hotel, as they would have special introductory rates, & newer rooms.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Dinner This Year

The year-end celebration seems to be a funny social phenomenon. This is the time when everyone is celebrating everything possible under the sun - birthdays, anniversaries, annual dinners, promotions, good exam results, & there would be someone striking Jackpot somewhere. And a celebration is not a celebration if its without food. And so begins the race to eat before the end of the year comes.

We, like the rest of you of course, were not spared from this social binging. And when you come from a large extended family like Greg's, there's a tendency to combine ten anniversaries & ten birthdays all in one night's worth of dinner. Things probably start rolling 2 weeks before and cap with his Uncle William's Christmas birthday or is it new year dinner. And not to forget our yearly cell group's dinner too.

We spent Christmas eve at Greg's VERY extended family's, this time at his youngest uncle Francis' home. I made a Shepard's pie & a couple of quiches for my mum-in-law for the pot luck.

Christmas day this year was at our place with my family. I decided to do something just for them since most of the time we're at Greg's VERY extended family marathon-like celebrations. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the partying, eating, drinking and be merrying without having me to cook up a storm.
This year's preparations where a bit more challenging. I normally have two gas tanks for cooking at the back of the house. Guess what? They both ran out & it was Christmas day.

Guess what again? Santa doesn't deliver gas tanks on Christmas Day.

But fortunately I had the electric cooker & portable stove to rely on. Thank God. But going back to basics was really tiring.

Fortunately these were done on time:

Australian Ham on the bone, complimentary from Roger ~ it was braised again in pineapple sauce.

Braised Lamb Shank ~ which my dad quite liked. Mind you he does not eat western food.

Rissoto with prawns and asparagus.

Chicken mango salad in lettuce cups ~ couldn't find the smaller cups so I had to make do with the less 'refined' version.

How can anyone go wrong with asparagus and bacon wraps.

French beans drizzled with aged balsamic and olive oil.

And this bottle of sparkling wine was really gorgeous. We learnt that we couldn't call it a champagne just because it did not come from the champagne region. Tonight, we're bringing another one to Alex and Jac's party. It's just another excuse to drink.

Cheers to all of you out there. What better reason to celebrate, it is Christ's Birthday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Xmas Delights From Nee's Kitchen

Christmas is about one day away & usually at this time of the year, Nee would be whirring, stirring & baking away in the kitchen.

I've just set up the Christmas tree today & the lights are now blinking. The holly is up & the candles are on the dining table.

And as always, I am playing the role of the kitchen helper, fridge space organiser, secretary, driver, errand boy, and stand by maid.

Behold, delights from Nee's Kitchen:

Apple Crumble

Heather's Four Seasons Stawberry+Mango Cream Cake -NEE: She wanted a surprise. Hopefully this is enough of a surprise for this talented gal. This idea if i remember correctly is from chickyegg. We must give credit to people. Thanks!

Winter Wonderland Strawberry Cream Cake

Chocolate Mud Cake
BTW, I am also Nee's blog representative.

NEE: This year's favourite orders are the strawberry cream cakes, double choc fudge cakes, choc hazelnut cheese cakes, crumbles and some other chocolate items and fruit cakes as well. Greg did not manage to take all the photos. Everyone is going chocolaty!

We wish you all a very blessed Christmas & a very Happy New Year ahead.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jeju Day 4: An Encounter with Daejanggeum

Six years after its television debut, Daejanggeum (Jewel in the Palace) is still the most watched Korean drama series ever in Asia. Mention this to any Malaysian housewife & they will show you their complete pirated DVD collection which they've watched repeatedly 10 times.

For those who live in the jungle, or not Korean-wave-inclined, Daejanggeum is a drama series about the legendary first female royal physician of the Joseon Dynasty. The chapter where she was cast away on an island was shot in this particular place called Oedolgae, which was located south of Jeju island.

As with most other tourist spots on Jeju, Oedolgae was created by violent volcanic eruption 1.5 million years ago.
The place is defined by pine trees & high cliffs that overlook into the ocean, and strange rock formations which have become legendary stories.

The Oedolgae actually refers to a strange rock that sits upright alone. Its also called Grandmother Rock. The story goes that once upon a time, an old woman waited for her fisherman husband to come back from the sea in desperation. She waited in vain & in full sorrow until she turned into a rock.

Funny, I've heard this turning -nto-a-rock thing before from my grandma. If you tell lies, the lightning will strike you & turn you into one. I guess it worked with kids of my generation. We were dumber & ranked lower on the evolutionary scale back then.

There's supposed to be another rock lying down which was believed to be the body of the deceased husband. I don't really know which one that is, but I'm sure its in either one of the photos. See if you can recognise the corpse.

From this point-of-view, you can see the old lady's side profile with the crop of hair at the top of the rock. She seems like she's wailing with her mouth wide open in sorrow & pain, just like in the Korean drama series.
The Oedolgae is also called General Rock. Legend foretells a general who fought against invading Mongolians. He cleverly disguised the rock as a giant, & that scared the sh*t out of the invaders & they defecated in their pants & committed suicide.
There is a spot called Cow Rock & I think its here.
It's supposed to be a good place for fishing & for watching the sunset.

And I think the island opposite from Cow Rock is called Beomseom island.

We stopped at about here cos the trail didn't seem to end. We didn't want to go on at this point just in case we'd turn into rocks.

Korean actress Lee Young Nee spotted.

Oh wait a minute. That was Nee. This was the real Lee Young Ae.

I didn't think she looked as good on TV as she does in real life. What a beauty.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stir Fried Kailan with Beef

Stir fry kailan with beef is a good dinner dish. You get both the meat and vegies in one dish. This is always a combination that is not so easy to cook. Kailan needs to be crispy and crunchy yet well cooked. Beef needs to be tender and tasty. I personally just use beef with either the sukiyaki or the shabu-shabu cut, so that saves the cutting.

200 to 300 gm of sirloin or tenderloin beef, thinly cut seasoned with
1 tbsp of light soya
1 teasp of sesame oil
1/2 teasp of salt and pepper
1 heaped teasp of corn flour

1 bunch of kailan, washed and cut
1 tbsp of shallot, sliced and roughly minced
3 - 4 pcs of ginger
2 tbsp of shaoxin cooking wine
salt to taste

1) With a pot of boiling water with 2 tbsp of cooking oil and 1 teasp of salt added, blanch the kailan very quickly. Don't cook through the veg at this stage. Drain and set aside.

2) In a wok, with 2 tbsp of cooking oil, stir fry the ginger and shallot til fragrant. Bring to high heat, add seasoned beef, stir fry and loosen the meat if they are sticking together. Add 2-3 tbsp of water.

3) When the meat turns 80% pale, add pre-blanched kailan, stir fry till both meat and veg are well mixed. Add salt or oyster sauce (optional) and cooking wine. Dish out and serve.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jeju Day 4: Seongeup Folk Village & the Secret Gwantangnae Restaurant

It feels like we have not left Jeju at all. We're almost at the end of the year now, and we're still not done with our Korean holiday postings. This must be the longest holiday that we've ever had. If we're a TVB series, we'd be the longest running one in history. Nee is rolling her eyes.

There's this place called Seongeup Folk Village, which was the natural stop after Seongsan Sunrise Peak.

Seongeup Folk Village used to be the administrative centre of the local government at one time. Then somehow or rather, it became a Folk Village for tourists. Putting this in the Malaysian perspective, it's almost as if Putrajaya gets recycled into a Folk Village one day, hundreds of years from now, or maybe sooner.

I hope this was not the Prime Minister's house then with traditional toilets. Otherwise his official diplomatic guests would really have to hold until the next venue.

The Folk Village, as the name suggests, showcases the villagers' way of life, how they worked & lived back then. For example, Jeju is famous for the unique fences around the village houses. Reaching up to just around knee height, the fences were probably more as an obstacle to prevent farm animals from wandering into the garden, rather than to prevent Malaysian/illegal immigrant robbers from trespassing.

However, the fences have another socio-cultural role. Usually there'd be 3 bars up. One bar up means something like 'back in a while'. Two bars up mean 'out for the whole day'. Three bars up mean 'gone travelling'. It's not hard to guess which one ours would be.

Jeju is also famous for these rock figures which you can find almost everywhere on the island. They're called Dolhareubang or Stone Grandfather. Made of volcanic rocks, they were once posted in the northern, eastern, western & southern gates of fortresses to guard the security, health & prosperity of the residents.

This post has probably misled you but on that day, we were not there to visit the Folk Village. Unbeknownst to worldly travellers & tourists out there, we were actually brought to a secret restaurant by our dear taxi driver Mr. Kim.

This restaurant is called Gwantangnae, and it's located just outside the Seongeup Folk Village.

Now what we didn't know initially was that this place was 'off limits' to foreign tourists like us. So, if we had just stupidly walked into this restaurant, we'd be Tae-kwon-do kicked out. But fortunately, Mr. Kim had the local connections & were able to pull a few strings (actually just one) & kao teem for us.

Although we got there around noon, curiously there weren't a single costumer around. This was purported to be one of the most renowned restaurants in Jeju, extremely well-featured in all major TV food shows in South Korea, as the proud owner passionately attested.

Before I could sit down, I was arm locked by the eccentric Mr. Gwantangnae himself & dragged away for an obligatory tour around the restaurant. Although he couldn't speak a word of English, you could tell that this guy was very passionate about his 'work'. On the walls were screen captures of all the TV appearances that he's ever made & he nudged me to make sure that I took pictures of those as evidence.
Then came the poses.

Believe me when I tell you that these poses were all his ideas.

Including this.

This was the only picture that we had of our dear taxi driver/tour guide/translator Mr. Kim. Although he may look like a member of the South Korean mafia taking us for a ride, behind those mysterious shades were the kindest pair of eyes that you'd ever find.

The specialty in this shop was their local barbeque black pig & pheasant meat & they were amazing.

The restaurant also makes, packages & sell their own renowned buckwheat noodles, which were so soft that they almost blended with the soup & they would most definitely melt in the mouth.

We bought a couple of packs of those noodles just to see how Mr. Gwantangnae looked like in the 80s.

The lunch spread came with Soju, the Korean version of rice wine, which came down pretty strong, but was an excellent accompaniment to the meal, cos I didn't have to drive. So I had a taste of what it felt to be a real Korean man.

These are the usual Korean side dishes galore.

This was actually one of the highlights of our whole entire trip. We didn't expect such a gracious host who would sit with us, took interest in where we came from & what we do, & even extended an invitation for us to stay with him.

Well, either that or this owner was basically Chiak Pa, Bay Pao (Eat Full, Sell Buns).

As a sign of our gratitude for such warmth & gracious hosting, we reciprocated by adding our business card to his collection.

We were also obliged honoured to sign his autograph book.

We found this one single experience to be one the most memorable ones we had in our stay in Jeju. It wasn't just about good food. It was the authenticity of the place & most of all, the warmth, generosity & sincerity of the host. And this was one of the reasons why we love Jeju.

Nuffnang Ad