Friday, October 31, 2008

Revisiting Hanoi - The Sheraton Hanoi @ Westlake

My family and I were in Hanoi last weekend for our last holiday before I deliver our newest family member. I must say that this is a highly anticipated holiday because I love the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and besides, I’ve long wanted to show my family what surprises Hanoi has to offer.

Our flight arrived at Hanoi at 8:50am, long after the denizens of Hanoi has woken up and had their first bowl of hot steaming pho. After about 40 minutes by car, we arrived at our hotel, the Sheraton Hanoi. Amidst the hustle and bustle and the endless honking of cars, Sheraton Hanoi stood out like a welcomed oasis by the West Lake. Being in this location has its advantages and I think it is a perfect getaway after being in the city with its endless honking.

I had earlier emailed Ms. Kim Lien from Customer Service that my husband and I will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary and had gotten a confirmation right away that they will surprise us. What a surprise it turned out to be! We had a room with a view of the beautiful West Lake and our bed is decorated with rose petals and a lovely cake as well as a congratulatory letter from the hotel. There were candles on the night stand as well as rose petals in the bath. Truly romantic! Like all Starwood properties, The Sheraton has the requisite amenities to keep guests comfortable. It has a very welcoming pool with a pagoda and a very unique dragon shower. Take a little walk to the other side and you’ll be greeted with a moongate and a tranquil courtyard and lush gardens. I would have been perfectly happy here just sipping a cup of strong Vietnamese coffee. There’s also a gym and tennis court in the hotel grounds. What makes the Sheraton Hanoi truly stand out is its staff. They were all genuinely warm and friendly and were more than happy to accommodate us (me especially with my endless enquiries and requests). We’ve stayed at many hotels in many countries and I must say, the staff at Sheraton Hanoi is top-notch. This is exactly what 5-star service should be.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bosses from Hell

I’ve spent a good part of my life working and I must say, I’ve met all sorts of colorful characters. My job requires me to have a close working relationship with my superiors and unfortunately that means I’m privy to what makes them tick.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with very nice bosses but also unfortunate enough to work with eccentric and extremely inconsiderate ones (at least in my opinion). Some are there because of hard work, but most are there because of their skills in apple-polishing their superiors.

Here are some examples of my superiors – thankfully all long gone.

1. The Yes-Man
You’ll know if he’s on the phone with the boss coz the only words coming out of his mouth is “Yes, Sir!”.
2. The Inconsiderate Boss
I’ve worked with a superior who had the audacity to tell a colleague to ask his sister to postpone her wedding because it falls on the company’s accounts closing date. His reasoning is that if the wedding is postponed to another date, then he can have the day off. If this is not highly inconsiderate, I don’t know what is.
3. The Back-Stabber
You wouldn’t know what hit you because he’ll smile while stabbing you in the back.
4. The Indecisive Boss
Another one of my pet peeves. He’ll change his mind so much you’ll spent 10 days finishing the work that really only takes a day.
5. The Slave Driver
This is the type of boss who'll expect you to work late even when your work for the day is done. He'd rather you sit there and wait until 10pm then tell you, "Actually, you can do the work tomorrow", by which time you've wasted hours away from your family.

The only consolation I have is that what goes around comes around. I hope they'll get their just rewards when their time comes!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Final Exams

It's exam time again. Although our daughter is only 7 years old, you wouldn't believe how difficult the syllabus is these days. It's so tough (at least I think it is) that we have been revising and revising to ensure that she is at least confident enough to sit for the exam. I'm not hoping she'll score As, don't get me wrong. It doesn't matter to me what she scores because after all, she is only 7.
I read in the papers yesterday that the Education Ministry is thinking of adding History into the syllabus for Primary schools. The one thing that came to my mind was, "What? Another subject?". The kids can barely cope with the subjects in Primary right now. They barely have time to breathe coz all the time they have is spent either in school or at home doing their endless homework. And then there is the "do-we-or-don't-we" decision to either change Maths and Science back to Bahasa Malaysia or keep it in English. It's so stressful being a kid these days (also for the parents!) and I wonder if this is the right approach in getting the kids to love going to school.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The stork is visiting

It's confirmed .... we're expecting a visit from the stork early next year. After 7 long years, we're finally adding a new member to our little family. We're waiting with bated breath and in the meantime, enjoying our new experience. It's a different pregnancy altogether compared to when I was pregnant with our little girl. The little girl is now a healthy 7 year old who officially declared herself big sister in anticipation of the new arrival. She's been reading to the baby and kissing it goodbye before she leaves for school. I think she's going to be a great big sister.

I'm also enjoying the time to shop for baby stuff (every woman enjoys a little shopping). We have most of the items we need but the piece de resistance for me is the Quinny Zapp. Although I'm aware that the Quinny Zapp can only be used for babies 6 months and above, I still just love it for the very cool look and the fact that it can be folded up into a small bag. This will come in handy when we travel! If only someone would sponsor .....!

In the meantime, we're preparing for our world to be turned upside down again. It's going to be tough, but it's going to be so worth it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sushi & Grilled Salmon at Sushi Zen Midvalley Gardens

My family's favourite restaurant in Midvalley Gardens has got to be Sushi Zen. Whenever we crave for fresh feel-good food, Sushi Zen has never disappointed us.
We love the salmon heads (sold at Shojikiya) that are grilled either in teriyaki sauce or with plain salt. The grilled teriyaki salmon head is perfect in my opinion. The salmon head is grilled just right, with the flesh separating at the poke of our chopsticks and as you can see from the picture below, it's also very juicy! The skin is wonderfully crisp due to a kitchen blowtorch! Couple that with sweet teriyaki sauce and what you get is something that's finger licking good!
I also love the salt grilled salmon head which I like with a sprinkle of lemon juice. I think the lemon juice does complement the fats in the salmon flesh so it's not that rich. I like the crispy skin, just nicely salted.
For fleshier grilled salmon, I opted for the salt grilled salmon belly. I love the fatty belly because I thought the fats around the salmon flesh makes it really moist. Again, a sprinkling of lemon juice and the flavour is perfect.
Our little girl loves sushi and her favourite is the ikura sushi.
Sushi Zen's address is LG-K02, Lower Ground Floor, The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur. Tel : 03-2282 6160.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hawker Delights @ Jalan Peel, Kuala Lumpur

One of my favourite places to eat is at the Peel Road hawker stalls in Kuala Lumpur. My family and I have been eating here for years. After a long hiatus, we decided to check out Peel Road again. I was very happy to see that all the old stalls were still there after all these years. We ordered a variety of hawker food and realized that they taste the same too!
First to arrive at our table is the mix pork soup which usually comes with pork offal, pork slices, clotted pig's blood and salted vegetables. I loved the chewy intestines and clotted blood! The soup is as delicious as I remembered it. Next is the beef ball noodle soup. The noodles came in a thick minced beef sauce and a separate bowl of beef balls. For added measure, hubby ordered also beef soup which came with more beef balls and beef slices.
How could we resist ordering the very popular grilled chicken wings? The chicken wings were coated in a sweet honey sauce that was caramelized in a charcoal grill. Yummy!My dad being a lover of Char Kuey Teow naturally had to order his plate of noodles. The kuey teow came on a plate lined with banana leaves which imparted a natural fragrance to the noodles.We also ordered the fresh spring rolls to share. The spring rolls were served in a thin rice flour skin (like a lighter version of tortilla) filled with sweet jicama, beansprouts and tofu. The sauce lining the rice flour skin was just sweet enough.For dessert, we had the all-time favourite Leng Chee Kang which is a sweet broth scented with pandanus leaves and dried longans, served with jelly cubes, hard-boiled quail egg, sago balls, candied melon, dried longan and boiled lotus seeds. It's the perfect ending for a deeply satisfying meal!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Apple puffs

I had a sudden craving for apple pies over the weekend and what else to do but to make some myself? I'm not adept at making shortbread crusts so I decided to make apple puffs instead. I like my apples cooked soft over a hot stove - the old-fashioned apple pie. When the apples were ready, I filled them into puff pastry and popped them into the oven and voila! Home-made apple puffs oozing with soft apples! They are absolutely scrumptious!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fish noodle @ Hainanese Taste

A friend recently treated me to lunch at Hainanese Taste Restaurant in Sea Park. She was singing praises about the delicious fish noodles.

Hainanese Taste serves handmade fish noodles. I thought the noodles were tasty so I brought my family over for breakfast over a weekend.

Hubby ordered a Fried Cheong Fun with fish noodle which he liked. It was not oily unlike other fried noodles and the fish noodle in the dish gave it an extra bite. The smooth cheong fun (rice noodles) contrasted nicely with the fish noodles.Our little girl opted for Fish Noodle Soup. The thick strands of fish noodle came in a bowl of flavourful broth with fish cake and fish balls. It’s the first time she’s eaten fish noodles and she thought it was interesting. She had fun slurping up the noodles strand by strand. If it's any indication, she finished the whole bowl.I decided to order my usual ... rice noodles in soup. The flat rice noodles were smooth and came topped with vegetables, fish balls and fish cake. I like the fish balls which were very springy. I also ordered extra fried pork rind to add to the noodles. It gave the noodles a nice crunch.Hainanese Taste also serves the usual toasted bread with kaya and of course, thick Hainanese coffee.

The address for Hainanese Taste is No. 12 & 14 Jalan 21/19 Ground Floor, Sea Park, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel : 7876 5461.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Margaret's Yong Tau Foo

One of our favourite food haunts is Margaret Yong Tau Foo at USJ, Subang. It’s located on the ground floor of an apartment block unlike the usual shoplots. Although it’s location is not necessary good, it’s been enjoying good patronage from customers.

We ordered a variety of Yong Tau Foo for lunch. There’s ladies finger, soft tofu, tofu puffs, beancurd skin (tau kan) and chillies. The fish/meat paste stuffing is really good whilst the ladies finger remains crisp. My favourite item here is the soft tofu. It’s delightfully silken and contrasts nicely with the fish/meat stuffing. My daughter loves the beancurd skin (tau kan) which also happens to be a best-seller here. The tau kan is deepfried, thus leaving the outer layer crispy whilst the inner layer is stuffed with fish paste. The fish paste for the tau kan is chewy so you get a perfect combination of crispiness and chewiness!The Yong Tau Foo is served with a good serving of gravy. I really like the gravy here, it’s the perfect accompaniment for the Yong Tau Foo.

We also ordered the brinjals which were just nicely softened. I was really looking forward to the Assam Fish which we had on a previous visit. The fish was slathered with thick assam gravy which was absolutely delicious! Unfortunately today the fish used was kembong which I avoid due to allergies so we didn’t order it today.

Instead, we ordered the Paper Wrapped Chicken. The chicken was well-marinated in a thick ginger-based dark soya sauce which made it very flavourful. However, it is a little dry. I would have liked it better with more gravy like the one served at Balakong.Margaret Yong Tau Foo is located at V1-00-06 Subang Perdana Court 9, Persiaran Mulia, 47610 Subang Jaya, Selangor. Tel : 012-691 6576.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Claypot goodness at The Claypot Station

We had lunch at The Claypot Station at Dataran Sunway last week. The Claypot Station serves a wide variety of dishes in claypots.

Since we had just finished a spot of shopping, we needed something to fill our growling tummies. The Claypot Station seemed like a good idea!

We ordered 4 dishes to go with white steamed rice. We were recommended the Fa Tiu Frog which was paddy frogs cooked in dark soya sauce and Chinese rice wine. I really liked the thick gravy that smothered the frogs. It was finger-licking good!

The next dish we ordered was the Chicken in herbal soup. The soup was robust with the herbs, especially licorice. I liked the soup although I can’t say the same for the chicken. Somehow I didn’t think the chicken absorbed the flavour of the herbs well enough.

To counter all the meats we also ordered a plate of tofu with dried shrimps. The tofu was very soft and came topped with dried shrimps and oyster sauce.

For vegetables, we ordered the Sour & Spicy Vegetables. I’ve always loved this dish as the sourness and spiciness of the vegetables are so appetizing. The Claypot Station’s version is not too sour which I liked although it lacks the usual “kick” that the sour and spicy vegetables provides. I would have liked it a little more spicier.

The Claypot House is located at No. 23-1 Jalan PJU5/12, Dataran Sunway, PJU5, Kota Damansara, Selangor. Tel : 017-3936 352.