Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Restoran Foong Foong - Ampang Yong Tau Foo

Restoran Foong Foong has been in existence for as long as I can remember. Lunching there brings back fond memories of my childhood. A treat for me then was to go for lunch at Foong Foong's. I love the Yong Tau Foo there. It was simply delicious as far as my young impressionable mind is concerned. The piece de resistance for me has always been the fried sui kow.
When my hubby suggested lunch there on Christmas day after church service, I was more than happy to indulge! As it was then as it is now, getting a table at Foong Foong is no mean feat. There is nary an empty table when we arrived, so we had to resort to standing next to the diners to finish their food. We ordered a plate (that ended with an extra order) of the fried sui kow that I loved so much. It tastes just like how it used to be, with the perfect crispy sui kow skin and bouncy fish filling with bits of jicama and carrots that gave it an extra bite. As with how I used to love this, my daughter now loves this too.

We also ordered an assortment of soft tofu, fishballs, soya beancurd skins, brinjals and ladies fingers. The yong tau foo came stuffed with sufficient fish paste that were nice. The only downside was they must have added a lot of MSG into the food coz I was so thirsty after lunch. Be as it may, Foong Foong is still my favourite yong tau foo haunt.
Foong Foong is located at 621-A Jalan Merdeka, 68000 Ampang.

Christmas Treats

We attended a Christmas potluck dinner on Christmas eve. I'd take any excuse to bake so I baked an assortment of cupcakes and cookies for the party. It's the first time I've ever baked and iced cookies and I thought they turned out pretty good. Needless to say, the cupcakes and cookies were a hit with the guests, especially kids both young and old!
These are chocolate cupcakes with Christmas sugar decorations. Gets the festive mood going, don't you think?

For the adults, I made a batch of carrot cupcakes.

For children (and adults) of all ages, individually packed iced Christmas cookies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Orange Marble Cake

It was Friday and I am having one of my cravings again. I want so much to eat some marble cake, and no, a slice from the cake shop just will not do.

I have so many cravings with this pregnancy and because of that, I've been whipping up lots of stuff in my kitchen. Last Friday I made some orange marble cake with cocoa and fresh orange juice and rind.
The orange juice and rind gave the cake such an intense flavour. I'm never one who likes to flavour my cakes with artificial flavourings. The smells emanating from the oven is heavenly and sometimes I wonder what my neighbours must go through every time I bake a cake! Free smells abound in my neighbourhood and when there's extra the neighbours get to share some too. It will be Christmas soon and no doubt my neighbourhood will be filled with free smells yet again!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Creating a gingerbread house

My daughter joined the Gingerbreadhouse decorating competition at the Bangsar Village Shopping Centre yesterday. She's never done something like this before so I thought it will be a lot of fun for her to get her creative juices flowing.
We were given a cardboard box (Bummer! Not a real gingerbread house) in the shape of a house, then a bowl of icing and lots of colored rice, cereals, candies to decorate it. My little girl had such fun decorating the gingerbread house! See how intense she looked!
The end result is a pretty house that is now placed at the shopping centre for judging later, along with the houses made by the other participants. It wasn't so much joining the competition as much as having fun as a family. This little activity really made her day. Another priceless experience to add to her growing list of fun activities!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Steamboat at Tasty Pot Sunway Mentari

The Chinese people have an affinity for steamboat. It’s comfort food at its best and is one of the most popular choices for Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

It’s been a long time since we had steamboat (since our Chinese New Year reunion dinner!) so when I got a flyer from a colleague about Tasty Pot, it just about piqued my curiosity! So off we went for a feast at Tasty Pot on Sunday.

The selection of food at the buffet counter is enormous. There’s the fresh seafood section (large meaty crabs, flower crabs, prawns, shellfish of all kinds including green mussels, scallops, clams, bamboo clams, etc). The fish ball section has enough items for a feeding frenzy. Then there’s also the vegetables section where you get all types of vegetables and noodles. Tasty Pot has an additional section for BBQ (salmon fish head, fish, prawns, sausages, potatoes and lamb). Finally, there’s a section for the usual fried noodles and fried rice for those who can’t live without their carbs. For RM23.90 per adult and RM11.90 per child it’s great value for money!

The crabs were very meaty, quite unlike those teeny little things we normally get at buffet lines. However, take note that the claws are as hard as rocks. It takes tremendous effort to crack them open! The crabs are very popular at the buffet line so they run out fast. However, the staff does replenish the food, although there’s some waiting time. There’s a selection of 2 soups per table, of which you can choose from a variety of herbal chicken, Thai tomyam, curry soya bean, soya bean and porridge. We selected the herbal chicken and Thai tomyam. We really liked the herbal chicken soup. The soups were quite tasty and sweet especially after cooking all that crabs and prawns! After dinner, there’s the desserts counter where ice-cream and fruits are served.

Tasty Pot is located at No. 9 Jalan PJS8/18 Dataran Mentari, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel : 03-5630 1282.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Our gastronomic journey through Hanoi

Our gastronomic journey in Hanoi continues! With the huge selection of street food at every corner of Hanoi, one never goes hungry!

The Old Quarter is a haven for street food. Walk along its streets and you’re bound to find something to soothe your hungry tummies! On our many walks around the Old Quarter, we found street stalls selling Vietnamese noodles, grilled cuttlefish, fried calamari and fresh-cut fries, snails, salads, banh mi pate, fried rice and local dishes, grilled chicken/pork on sticks and lots more! It is a never-ending discovery … our only complain being not enough time to savour them all.
On weekends where a section of the Old Quarter houses the weekly night market, even more food stalls are set up. A walk through the night market reveals two stalls selling freshly made bread and pastries which looks and smells delicious. Then there’s steamed sweetcorn, ice-cream, lollipops of every size and color, grilled chicken (much like satay), cuttlefish, desserts and of course, the Banh Mi Pate! In the day, virtually every corner of Hanoi has at least one food stall. We had delicious pho for breakfast at the cost of USD1. I’m sure it could have been cheaper and that we’re actually paying tourist prices, but USD1 is a small price to pay for such delicious comfort food.
At a street corner at Van Mieu we found a nifty little shop selling Bun Cha and Nem Cua Be (fried spring rolls). The smells emanating from the little charcoal grill is enough to make me swoon!

Who can resist the thick Vietnamese drip coffee? I like mine black with sugar. The coffee is robust and oh-so-good! It’s the perfect wake-me-up drink. As a matter of fact, we loved the coffee so much we packed some home along with the stainless steel drip.

For desserts there are little shops along the Old Quarter that sells cut fruits drizzled with condensed milk and of course, countless sweet soups. It’s enough to give one a sugar high! One thing about the Vietnamese is they all love their sugar.
If you're looking for something healthier, fresh fruits are a great option. We found some big custard apples for VND50,000 for 3 fruits. It's a little pricey, but still much cheaper than what we'll have to pay for in Malaysia. The fruits were so sweet! Their apples are crisper than the ones back home too.
We had a great time scouring the streets of Hanoi for good food. Our daughter had such a great time there that she's asked us when we'll be back in Hanoi.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Life is not a textbook!

Lately I’ve seen quite a few letters in the newspapers on the standard of education in Malaysia with some readers suggesting that the Education Ministry bring back English-medium schools and some steadfastly holding on to their belief that BM-medium national schools are the way forward.

Mostly the arguments are centered on how disadvantaged our graduates are in the job market after spending more than 12 of their growing years in BM-medium schools as they are unable to converse adequately in the English language, thus making them non-employable especially in big multinational corporations. Nevermind that some of these graduates have national exam scores of 10As and above. The fact is that many, if not most, of them can hardly muster up enough courage to string a sentence in English, let alone hold a conversation with the interviewer. Their command of English is certainly cringe-worthy. However, I do not think that this problem is prevalent only in the BM-medium national schools, as a matter of fact, I think students from Chinese schools face the same problem.

English is not a language that can be learned by the textbook and I think this is where part of the problem lies. Our education system tries to cram in as many subjects in an average school day as possible, which is about 6 hours. As most of the subjects were either taught in only BM or Chinese, that effectively leaves about 30 to 45 minutes each day for English lessons if they’re lucky. On top of that, many of the teachers in the national schools are not well-versed in English either.

In part our educational culture is also to blame. It is no secret that our education system is one that encourages memorizing of texts. I spent 12 years in the national schools and I can attest that we were encouraged to memorize the textbooks. I was lucky in the sense that I had access to a wide range of encyclopedias at home and was encouraged to read. I’ve heard from many people that these days, their children are taught to memorize whole essay samples in school so that they can reproduce them in exams, word for word. I was horrified to say the least and I am even more horrified that some parents seem to think this is perfectly acceptable. Shouldn’t creative writing be encouraged instead? This is but one example of our system. We hear all the time that we should “think out of the box” and yet we encourage our children to “think within the box” by curtailing their creativity. Has anyone ever thought how difficult it must be to “think out of the box” when you spent almost your entire growing years on “thinking within the box”? Do we just expect our children to suddenly start being creative? Unfortunately, after years of going through the grind, it is not surprising that the children forget what creativity means.

What good is it to churn out straight-A students year after year when these students are lacking in so many areas? It is hard to find someone to have an intellectually-stimulating conversation with because many of them do not have the general knowledge required to even start a conversation with! Life is not a textbook. I fear for the children who will eventually discover this fact when they finally leave school.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

KOTO (Know One, Teach One) Restaurant, Hanoi

I've read about KOTO in some websites whilst searching for information on Hanoi and thought that it is quite like Jamie Oliver's 15 where street kids are taught hospitality skills to enable them to have a better chance in life. KOTO Hanoi is supported by KOTO International which is an Australian-based non-profit organization. KOTO graduates are highly sought after by the hospitality industry and many now work in top hotels and restaurants in Hanoi.
So, that brings me to our lunch at KOTO on the first day of our holiday. KOTO is located right across the Van Mieu pagoda on Van Mieu Street. The facade of the restaurant is simple but once you enter it, you'll find that the restaurant is spread over four floors. We were brought to our table on the 3rd floor where photos of past graduates now working in top hotels and restaurants are hung on the walls.On the way up the winding stairs, bricks with names of sponsors and friends of KOTO line the walls.
Our menus were brought to us immediately by a pleasant young lady. After ordering our drinks - sweet fragrant passionfruit juice and mango juice, we ordered an eggplant dip which came on crispy rice crackers.
My hubby ordered Bun Bo (beef vermicelli noodle) because he loves beef. The Bun Bo came in two separate bowls. One bowl with the beef and another with the thin rice vermicelli. We were asked to pour the beef into the rice vermicelli and add the fresh herbs and the fish sauce. After a quick stir, the Bun Bo is ready. The verdict, as expected, was very good! It is unbelievable that such a simple dish can be so immensely satisfying!
I ordered a Bun Cha (grilled pork vermicelli) and Chao Tom (minced prawn with sugar cane) to share. The Bun Cha is quite similar to the Bun Bo with the exception of the grilled pork replacing the beef. The grilled pork is heavenly! It's so delicious and fragrant and the minced pork balls accompanying it is wonderful! I could barely stop popping the grilled pork and pork balls into my mouth.
The Chao Tom is decidedly different from the Thai version. The Vietnamese version came in a bamboo tray filled with condiments such as fresh herbs, sugar cane, rice paper, vermicelli and of course, the minced prawn. We're supposed to wrap all these into the rice paper, roll it up and dip it into the fish sauce. Surprisingly our little girl loves it. The novelty of playing with her food certainly appealed to her and having it taste delicious afterwards was obviously a bonus.
Admittedly, dining at KOTO costs a little more than usual but it's all for a good cause so I'd certainly recommend it. KOTO's address is 59 Van Mieu Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi, Vietnam. Tel : (84-4) 747 0337 or email customerservice_koto@netnam.vn.