Sunday, 15 June 2008

Cambodia part 2

Famished from our journey and early wake up call, we headed into town for some food. Dropped off at Khmer Kitchen - recommended by our driver - the restaurant is located right next to the old market and bang in the middle of the popular, touristy pub street area. The restaurant itself is unpretentious with it's wicker chairs and patterned cotton tablecloths. However, it was 11 in the morning and it was deserted - the lights were off and the staff were sitting at the tables chatting amongst themselves. It did become livelier after we went in - a pre-booked party of about 25, mostly middle aged bikers from the UK, (that's the normal paddle bicycle, not the motor powered kind ;) walked in. A mini bikers trip methinks.

We started our meal with steamed vegetarian Khmer dumplings and some fried spring rolls (haha no, I don't think they are particularly Cambodian but we just couldn't resist!). The skin for the dumplings, made from rice flour, were on the thick side and the inside was stuffed with fried garlic chives (gau choy in Cantonese, which has flat leaves). The flavour was good but it was a little too doughy for my liking. The spring rolls were the standard sort you find anywhere and nothing to write home about.

The mains on the menu were meant to be shared and they cook most dishes to your choice of meat, seafood or vegetables. I suppose this makes it all very flexible but not very traditional. We had Khmer curry with pork - a thin coconut based stew, heavily flavoured with cinnamon, with thin slices of pork, chunks of potato, carrots and sweet potato. It was rather good and we could smell this cooking as we walked into the restaurant earlier. Behind it the Khmer curry in the picture was the fish stew with coconut milk, which (judging from my memory of it) wasn't particularly memorable.

Stir fried minced pork with beansprouts - tasty but again not great. I'm sure this dish was called something else on the menu but being the usual scatterbrain (despite my best intentions! ;), i didn't write any of the names down (I still don't).

A firm favourite - the long bean salad with mince pork. Not your typical salad, mind you. It was served warm to hot -fresh out of the pan :) Flavours were good with the usual suspects of fish sauce, garlic and lime juice mingling with good ol' porky juices :) and the vegetables (long beans and thin strips of carrot) crunchy.

On the way out of the restaurant, we saw this woman selling roasted sweet potatoes from her little push cart. I believe she also sold roasted bananas.

There was also this un-manned stall with dried and drying cockles. In typical tourist fashion there was a chorus of 'arghhhhhhh!!!' from us. Though there wasn't anyone at this stall while we were there, I did see quite a few other dried cockle stalls during our stay and quite a few shells on the ground. A local favourite, then. There was also a bottle of sauce at the stall, which I assume goes with the cockles but in that boiling mid-day sun ... I do wonder how safe the stuff is. Yes, yes, TOURIST!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Cambodia (non-foodie) part 1

Cambodia, wow!

Approaching Siem Reap (that's Tonle Sap - the world's largest freshwater lake at the top of the photo)

Before going I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had sat through classes at university and wrote papers on the Khemer Rouge and Khemer life after the atrocities but what would it really be like? And I think 'wow!' says it all. To be fair I didn't see huge amounts of the country..really a tiny bit of Siem Reap and some surrounding areas but I definitely loved what I saw. Despite the boom in tourism in recent years, there is still an amazing charm about the place and the people. To think how I 'ooo' and 'ahhhhhhh'-ed and 'emmmmm'-ed before deciding on Cambodia when I was planning this trip (as Jo decided to let me plan the majority of the trip - being from the region and all... for good or bad... I think it all turned out pretty well in the end :) Now having been there I would jump at the chance of going back..yes, definitely!

Padi/Paddy fields

How did we (myself, Jo, my mum, my sister - Candice, and her 2 friends Edwin and Way Cheng) get there? On the disgustingly early morning flight from Kuala Lumpur - Siem Reap at 7am. Yup, one of those budget airlines where you have to wake up at 3am to get to the airport and everything that can be considered 'comfort' is an optional extra :) Want to be the first 10 people to board the plane? Cough up the dough! Other than all that hoop-la it was a comfortable flight - sunny skies and minimal turbulence all the way.

Upon arrival -watch as all the cameras emerge. Haha yes, they were taking pictures with the plane! Is it a remarkable aircraft? Well, I didn't think so - it's a plane! But what I did find remarkable was the airport building, it was a beauty! I've seen (and stayed at) nastier looking holiday resorts! High ceilings, sandstone statues, even a large fishpond and a manicured garden in the courtyard. And for such a little, developing country they sure do have some sophisticated immigration hardware! But beware - all this is charged to passengers departing on international flights from the airport at a rate of US$25. Pretty steep I thought.

Picked up by the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) hotel driver, we were given lovely cool (scented with jasmine) towels to freshen up with as we were driven to the hotel - the long way - via Angkor Wat. I thought the approach was lovely - the tall trees, the quiet-ish road - and suddenly the famous towers of Angkor are in front of you. Surrounded by the moat, and the slow pace of life, it is really is quite tranquil (just ignore the constant beeps of the tuk-tuks). No pictures I'm afraid - still slightly rusty at the whole 'touristy' thing, I didn't whip out my camera fast enough. I did 'ooh' and 'ahh' alot though :D

Our hotel is in town - the former summer residence of the French governor- and by the river. Thank heavens we stayed away from the larger hotels, all which are situated by 'Airport Road' - a hot, dusty and much too commercially driven stretch. The FCC has 30 rooms in total making it very pleasant. The staff were really friendly and the rooms were lovely. All very 'boutique'. A perfect base for lots of temple visits. More on that coming up soon!

Monday, 9 June 2008

One last meal at .... Delicious

One last feeding before we headed out to the wilderness... one last meal... and where better than at Delicious? I totally have an obsession with this place! Yes, the food is not bad... bordering on pretty good... hey, I'm a pessimist...but there's something about Delicious I really like.

Maybe it's the oversize cushions they have or the pretty decor with the clean colours of white, aqua and terquoise - so soothing ... or maybe it's the damn yummy cakes they have. Calorie-fest confections that always brings a smile to my face.

Today we were after solid food - the sodium loaded sort. First up though- drinks. Jo ordered a strawberry smoothie, which was a blend of strawberries, milk and ice. Or was perhaps there was ice-cream in there...definitely a cream/milk base. She seemed pretty happy with it, though I suspect she wasn't aware it would be that creamy. I had a mango and kaffir lime smoothie... and I cannot rave about enough! An icy mango concoction comes near to ice heaven for me but throw in some kaffir lime leaves and it takes it to another level. A whole new playing field. A lime twist without the sourness. If you look closely you can see the little green specks of the leaves.

Jo's order of a steak sandwich came with a small side salad and fries. Shoe-string fries....emm..oily, crunch goodness. We had ordered another portion of fries (not knowing her sandwich would have fries - no, it doesn't say in the menu) but it never came. One huge problem with Delicious - service is hit and miss...mostly a miss though. The place has been over about 3-4 years now and it's still a problem..shame. Anyway, being little piggies that we are ;) we just had to have that portion of fries that never arrived and ordered another. It was good. Thin, hot and crispy..with a little bowl of aioli.

The sandwich was pretty good. Steak cooked medium-well done, closer to well done ...with sauteed onions and grain mustard.

My order of chicken salad was real disappointment. Grilled chicken served with a salad of spinach, dried cranberries, avocado and some sort of home made potato crisps - sweet potato? Sounds alright, taste wasn't so alright. The thick dressing was very heavy on dried herbs or should I say herb - rosemary perhaps? I normally like my herbs - I've been known to be overly generous in my use of coriander but dried herbs is really a different matter! Rosemary no less! The dressing was also too thick and from the photo you can see how some leaves have a tad more dressing than others. Sigh ... weeks after this and I'm still disappointed. Good thing I had my brilliant mango smoothie to keep me happy :D

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Good food, bad food and food I miss...

Here's a sight I miss when I go to a supermarket in London - the abundance of greenary in the vegetable section! Vegetables in Chinatown don't really match up ... mainly because I'm going to have to pay a bagazillion times more for one measly bunch :)

I know I was on holiday but I couldn't resist cooking. I was actually looking forward to it...itching to get my hands on some raw ingrediants and creating a mini feast...a nice salad ;) There Jo and I had been in KL all of 3 days and we had eaten our way through quite a lot of food. And I mean ALOT of food! Big Chinese meals with my father, meals with my mum, snacking with friends, secret cake trips to Delicious... hehe... well, it had taken a toll on us and I just wanted a nice, 'clean' salad. So here we have it - Thai inspired seared beef salad.

The usual salad greens with de-seeded tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and lots of herbs - mint, coriander, Thai sweet basil, lemon grass. The dressing was made with lots of garlic, lime juice and zest, Thai sweet chili sauce and oil. Pretty simple stuff but lots of cutting. The beef was a thick juicy rump steak ... my sister laughed when I told her I had bought rump... what do people have against rump? I rather like it..price wise ;) and taste and yes, even texture wise. I seared the beef in a hot pan without any oil... perhaps I could have cooked it a while longer as it was still rather red in the middle. Yes, red as in the cow has JUST moo-ed it's last 'moooooooo' :D Red enough for my sister to stick her portion in the microwave for a few seconds...

Bad food.... McDonald's nuggets! I like McDonald's nuggets...just not these ones. Feeling a little peckish after our 'clean' salad, Jo and I headed to a 24 hour McDonald's at 2am. Food-wise...what a waste of time!!! If they keep a store open the whole day, they could at least serve some semi-decent food! The nuggets had obviously been cooked some time ago and had been sitting around for some time. The fries were limp and dry and cold... but I wasn't up to complaining and just ate it..haha...I wasn't going to leave it!!!

Yup, the next day we just went and stuffed ourselves even more with my sister :) It was a 'bit of this and a bit of that' lunch, which means we end up with wayyyyyyyyy more food than we can ever eat. Some yong tau foo, which means stuffed beancurd but today translates to ... anything you can stuff with fish paste. Here we can see some (left-right) bittergourd/bittermelon, pork balls below it, deep fried tofu, deep fried fresh tofu and aubergine/brinjal/eggplant below.

I can never resist pork balls (which aren't actually stuffed with any fish paste but it's always to have some non-stuffed food on the menu) and just had to have some. The non-fried tofu in the soup was to make us feel better about ourselves. Cheating our little brains into thinking that we were eating good, healthy food ;) And of course some good deep fried beancurd make up for our portion of healthy tofu! Don't worry... we did also have a 2 person portion of wat tan mai fun (deep fried rice vermicelli with an egg-y sauce of vegetables, meat and seafood) and some 'side dishes' from the 'mix rice' stall. Those photos came out really blurred so I won't bother posting them.

With all that food we just had to go walk it all off, so off we went shopping at Pavilion. I'm still sore from the fact my beautiful old school was pulled down for this monstrosity but the shops are rather good and makes for good browsing, espcially when there's hardly anyone around. But energy levels do drop and for a 'little pick me up' we headed to a little cafe specializing in matcha (Japanese powdered green tea). I'm not a 100% certain but the cafe might actually be called ... Matcha :) I had a matcha ice-blended which tastes exactly like green tea ice-cream and my sister had the same thing but with extra azuki beans (red beans) added before they blended the drink. I have an intense dislike for red beans and stay well away from it! My 6 year old nephew also came along and he was surprisingly well behaved throughout :) His treat? Hot chocolate with no matcha in sight.

Deep Fried Goodness

Look at these beauties! I can never say no to Japanese deep fried oysters also known as kaki fried. Crispy panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) exterior encases a big juicy oyster interior. Served with bulldog sauce ... a thick fruity-ish Japanese sauce with strong hints of Worcestershire. Served at good Japanese restaurants :)

Tuna sushi does not come with the oysters. It was only to prop up my oyster while I fiddled with my camera :) Tuna sushi is served at most Japanese restaurants.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

KL fooding

What better way to start the holiday than some food at the night market? I've been told that the pasar malam (night market) at Bangsar has gone down hill in the last few years but I couldn't resist a visit, plus it was a nice introduction for Jo, my British friend who would be my partner in crime for the next 3 weeks. I used to come down here nearly every Sunday evening when I lived at home but my friends were right, it had changed. The stalls were now squashed closer together and with the new canopies put up to block out the evening sun, rain... whatever. One thing that hasn't changed was....

Yes, the Fatman Steamboat van. Sticks of processed food - meatballs of chicken, beef, pork next to piles to fishballs, squidballs, prawnballs, animal innards of liver and intestine, soy products of soft tofu, deep fried tofu, soft beancurd sheets, deep fried beancurd sheets. There were also piles of fresh meat and veg on sticks. Pick up which stick you want, dunk it into one of the three bubbling pots and wait until it's cooked. Eat either plain or smothered in some of the sauces provided - garlic chilli, plain chilli or sweet brown sauce. Emmm yummy. My favourites - pork balls and pig's liver.

To wash it all down, some fresh squeezed sugar cane juice made by the pressing machine.

Of course there's always place for cake in my tummy! So off we went to Delicious at Bangsar Village, about 2 steps away from the market. My choice was a banana chocolate fudge cake. Ohhhh dearie... if you LOVE chocolate and banana, then this cake is for you.... but cake, what cake? There were 2 thin layers of cake and all the rest was chocolate fudge.

Jo chose the banana cake with warm caramel sauce, which came with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Equally yummy. Chocolate, good. Caramel, good.