Curry..Glorious Curry!

Curry is an interesting and ubiquitous food and its varieties or should I say permutations are just breath-taking..

Broadly speaking, in Malaysia we have Indian Curry, Malay Curry, Chinese Curry and Peranakan Curry (or Nyonya Curry).

It goes without saying that the taste and preparation of curries are different between the group but not only that as even within the group the preparation of curry are different depending on whether they originates from the Northern or Southern part of Malaysia.

Since curry are so ubiquitous and with so many varieties I will only talk about one of my favorite – the Curry Noodles or Curry Mee.

Curry mee is a versatile dish as you can eat it with curry chicken, steam slice chicken, prawns, cockles, egg-plant, lady finger, long beans, fried dried tofu, char-siew (honey roast pork) roast pork and even deep fried breaded chicken and many more.

According to wiki it seemed that Curry Mee is sort of unique to Malaysia and Singapore. How true that is is anyone guess 🙂

But I do grew up eating curry mee. My parents sold it. And during primary school I frequented the malay uncle stall selling curry mee in the school canteen. Though I don’t know it at that time, the uncle is selling a wash down kind of curry so that kids like us can enjoy it without fear of having a burnt tongue (from the spiciness!) or an upset stomach!

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Normal Type of Curry Noodle

The ingredients (spices and such) for the curry base are quite simple, however, different household or hawkers will prepare it differently with a plus or minus of certain spices according to their experiences or preferences.

The basic ingredients would include garlic, small onions,  lemon grass, cloves, star anise, belachan (shrimp paste), cinnamon, chilies, curry leaves.The same ingredients can be use to cook curry chicken or curry wild boar – it is just a matter of using the right amount and for curry wild boar you may need to add other spices as well.

To start, give the ingredients a good toss in the work until the aroma start filling the room before adding the curry paste. Do make sure there is sufficient oil and it is not overly hot otherwise you will burn the curry paste and the curry will be spoil.

The curry paste can be bought from the wet market, the supermarket or home make. And it can be in powder (dry) form or can be wet curry paste.

Cooking with dry curry powder will give you a different flavor from cooking with the wet curry paste. So you would need to experiment to know which is better for you.

And oh yes, not forgetting the coconut milk which must be divided into the first press and the second press. Some hawkers are using Carnation Milk instead of coconut milk or both together.

So, there you go, preparing curry mee soup is that simple! 🙂

However, to make a good curry mee soup it is not only about the ingredients / spices that you use. The trick is also in the sequence of the cooking, the control of the heat, the oil and the timing of frying the ingredients into the correct consistency.

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The color of the curry soup is dependent on the amount of oil used and the consistency of the soup will depend on the amount of coconut milk used.

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Quite often I came across curry mee that is water like and bland which means there is not enough curry paste, spices nor coconut milk in the mix.

Curry mee come in 2 type – either soup or dry with a varieties of toppings.

In Ipoh, Dry Curry Mee is prepared with black sauce, soy sauce, some oil (either garlic oil, pork oil or sesame oil) bean sprouts, slice steam chicken, siew yoke (roast pork) and sometime char siew (honey roast pork) or fried pork skin top up with mint leaves and accompanied with a small lime.

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Ipoh Dry Curry Mee

However if you try ordering the same in KL, most often than not you will receive a blank stare. 🙂

We normally have our noodle with sambal chilly sauce or birds-eye chilly. But for curry mee we will be given a small bowl of cooked chilly paste. I normally don’t want it as it is either too dry, too salty or too oily. Personally I like soy sauce to go with curry mee.  A dip of soy sauce will enhance the flavor of the curry mee. If you have not tried it – do so!

In other parts of Malaysia, such as Muar and Kulim they serve a different type of dry curry mee. They have less toppings than the Ipoh dry curry mee but nevertheless as tasty.

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Lunas Dry Curry Mee

Most of the time I prefer not to order the curry chicken with my mee as the curry chicken is most often overcooked and dried. My preference for curry mee is to add steam slice chicken and bean sprouts as it is a good combination to the flavorful curry taste.

However, the curry chicken in the picture which I had in Lunas and Muar respectively is surprisingly good, juicy and tender – a class above most of the chicken curry I had in KL.

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Muar Dry Curry Mee

Penang curry mee has always been out shined by its cousin the Assam Laksa and Hokkien Mee. However, Penang curry mee has its unique taste compared to the rest. Their soup is not overly thick with coconut milk and the aroma from the curry paste is strong. And what I like most about Penang curry mee is that they also serve with plenty of mint leaves (which I love! 🙂 ) always with fried pork skin, coagulated blood and small lime. (cockles is an option for me. Not really a big fan though some would swear that with cockles the curry flavor will be enhanced… well……)

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And from the color of the curry soup I am sure you already know it is the famous Penang “white” curry noodle 🙂

white curry Pg 2012

OK. Before I wrap up and go for my curry mee – here’s a few more varieties of curry mee for your enjoyment!

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20150225_124441_Richtone(HDR)-1 20150114_102300 Sarawak Laksa 22Oct 2

Chicken Rice in Malaysia

I grew up helping my parents sell hawker food and we started selling chicken rice soon after my dad learned the preparation of the chicken rice from one of the more famous “hainanese” chicken rice stall in Ipoh. (In their heydays they can actually sell almost 100+ birds per day!)

So it goes without saying that I am very fond of eating chicken rice (and who doesn’t in Malaysia and Singapore 🙂 ) and on top of that I am also fond of commenting on the chicken rice that i tasted.

There are different type of cooking for the chicken. The traditional “hainanese” style offered in Ipoh is mostly boiled chicken (in Cantonese we call it “pa-kai”) and then there is the more popular roast chicken and deep fried chicken which most people would not be bothered to differentiate and lastly the less well known stew chicken in herbs or soy sauce (with other ingredients) which is brownish in color.

The size and type of cooking is different in different town in Malaysia. So far the biggest chicken in terms of size can be found in KL while the rest of the smaller town have smaller chicken though it is supposedly of the same breed. As such the meat of the chicken found in KL is tougher and the cut by the chicken rice seller is also bigger. (and of course they charge more too! 🙂 )

The chicken served in Kulim and Muar have softer meat and possibly because of the way it is cooked the meat tend to fall off the bones and lack the chewy-ness found in Ipoh and KL chicken.

In KL we can easily find the different type of cooking as I mentioned above and in Kulim most of the chicken are roasted over coal (not Deep Fried!) while Muar people seemed to prefer boiled chicken.

Each time I have chicken rice with my friends they will be like – what’s the big deal Brian? It’s just a plate of chicken rice!

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Chicken Rice Ball in Muar

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Kulim Chicken Rice

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Another Kulim Chicken Rice

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KL Chicken Rice

And therein lies the problem!

A plate of chicken rice is not just a plate of chicken rice – it is and has always been a combination of the fragrance cooked rice, the tender, juicy and silky smooth chicken, the right concoction of soy sauce with stock to create the chicken sauce and lastly the garlic and chilly combination sauce.

Not to mention the other condiments like pounded ginger sauce, dark sauce, cucumber and spring onions!

Many chicken rice stall I tried focuses mainly on the chicken itself and neglected on the rice, the chilly sauce and the sauce for the chicken. Without the combination or should I say the complementary items being prepared to perfection it cannot be a wholesome chicken rice eating experience.

One can only say they have eaten a plate of chicken or a plate of plain rice at best.

In my humble opinion, a plate of chicken rice can only be considered “whole” and good if it is served with light yellow “fragrance” rice, soft, tender yet chewy chicken top with light soy sauce prepared using chicken broth and lastly the right mix of garlic and chilly as the chicken rice chilly sauce.

ChillyI ever had chicken rice that serves only plain white rice is a total turn off for me. It is an abomination and a great insult to chicken rice lover!

Hor Hee, Hor Yee Noodles in Ipoh

I grew up eating a lot of Ipoh famous food without even realizing and “Hor-Hee”(河嘻) or Cantonese call “Hor-Yee” is one of those. Though it is not one of my favorite sometimes I do feel a longing for it 🙂 and unfortunately until today I have not been able to find any hor-yee seller in KL! Please let me know if anyone came across hor-yee in KL – okie?

Anyway, hor-yee is a unique noodle soup quite different from its more famous counterpart in Ipoh the “slice chicken noodle hor-fun” (鸡丝沙河粉)Hor Yee

Why I say it is unique is because hor-yee is served in a small bowl and its soup are clear and sweet. During my teenage time in Ipoh most hor-yee are served in a small porcelain soup bowl that has a red cock decor. It seemed like a standard kind of bowl that most hawkers use during my time coz even the beef noodle soup peddler who uses a bamboo stick to carry his beef soup on one end of the stick and his crockeries on the other end uses the same porcelain soup bowl with that red cock in it. And even the small little chilly bowl and soup spoon has that red cock logo! Strange…

Anyway, I digressed. Sorry. No more red cock.

As I was saying, the soup of the hor-yee is clear but it sure taste sweet. It is normally serve with flat rice noodle or glass vermicelli noodles with 4-6 small hand made fish-ball (you know it is hand made when the texture are not silky smooth and sometimes you can see potholes in the fish-ball), a generous helping of deep fried sliced fish cake (this is the delicious one. By the color of the fish cake skin which is quite brown you know it is very well fried and Crispy! ) and a wonton look alike dumpling with minced fish meat inside.

During my younger day the hor-yee seller is generous with this wonton look alike fish dumpling as they will give us 2-3 pieces in each bowl. Today you will normally get only 1 or the most 2 pieces. Ok – I have not been entirely frank. During my time, these wonton look alike is actually smaller. Maybe that is why we get more then. :-p

The hor-yee is normally sprinkled with deep fried onions, spring onions and preserved vegetables which gives it the ummph!

So, the next time you guys visit Ipoh be sure to give hor-yee a try!

Sulawesi – Makassar – Soroako Assignment

I have to confess. My assignment in Soroako happened years ago and I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to share my delightful and delicious journey.

Time are tight for me then so I only managed to sample a few of the wonderful food in Soraoko. Oh, besides the good food, the natural scenery and the beaches are wonderful. Here’s a snapshot of one of the famous lake. I am not sure if it is one of the 3 famous lake of Soroako.

Dermaga Soraoko2 (Medium)MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOk. Back to food. 🙂

One of my fav.. well, actually I have a few but then I need to choose one otherwise it wont be call a favorite isn’t it? 😛

Ok. Ok. One out of my few favorites is the Coto Makassar.

DSCN0425-1I just down know how to start describing this aromatic, herbs heavy and flavorful dish. On the first spoonful, the flavor actually explode in your mouth and you will have this satisfying moment when you got to taste something real nice.

The soup itself has real body (to borrow a term use in wine tasting), spicy with peppers, aromatic with herbs and heavy with grounded peanuts. In the soup you can find diced beef and offal, some version has little ribs but most consist of only diced beef and offal.

You take the soup with “ketupat” – rice packed or woven in palm leaf, squeeze in the little green lime and add in some special spicy chilly paste if you are looking forward to burning up your taste buds. Most warungs (small stall) provide other condiments such as salt, pepper and sweet black sauce for those who like to make the soup more flavorful.

Another type of soup which looks quite similar to Coto Makassar is call Sop Saudara (or maybe you can call it the cousin of Coto Makassar since saudara in Malay means relative or cousin …wakakakak…just joking.)

Unfortunately I lost the picture of Sop Saudara (If you want to know how it looks like I recommend a google search or just click on the link) but it too consist of beef cubes (I was told mostly beef shanks) and some potatoes and sometimes innards.

The Sop Saudara I had at a side walk, with cars and motorbikes whizzing about, somehow has quite a lot of innards so, for a while I had always belief that sop saudara are like our Ipoh/KL mix beef soup with tripes, liver etc.

One other soup which I particularly like is Sup Konro.

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Sup Konro. Apology for the shaky pixs.

sup konro_1-1Sup Konro is beef ribs soup so I normally introduce it to my friends in Malaysia as Bakuteh of Indonesia 🙂 But then of course, there are no semblance between the two, not in terms of taste nor the meat.

The soup konro are hearty and the beef ribs are yum yum soft. But then of course it depends on the shop you visit for I had tried one soup konro which is not that really nice. The soup itself tasted quite similar to Coto Makassar as it also has peanuts but the similarity seemed to end there. If memory didn’t failed me it seemed that the Coto Makassar soup I has has heavier spices than Sup Konro.

Soup Konro is normally eaten with a plate of rice and the condiments again are the super spicy chilly paste, small green limes, black sweet sauce, salt and pepper.

Ok I believe we have enough soup for the day.

Let me introduce another Makassar special to you call Pisang Epe. (Grill Bananas) Again I lost the picture but you can easily Google it. 🙂

I discover Pisang Epe by chance as I was going for a stroll along the river side near the hotel i put up in.

There are rows of food stalls by the river side and I saw a guy grilling something which I thought is satay until I got nearer and saw that he is actually grilling bananas over a satay griller!

So out of curiosity I ordered one – the normal Pisang Epe as he has a few different flavors.

He first grilled the bananas, then he put it into a wooden press and flatten it. After flattening the grilled bananas he add in some palm sugar syrup and handed it over to me. The grilled bananas smell nice possibly because of the charcoal burn but because of the palm sugar and combined with the natural sweetness of the banana I find the pisang epe too sweet for me. But, it is a nice experience as I have never seen a pisang epe stall in KL.

Talking about bananas in Makassar, I found out that they have a different version of fried banana compared to KL/Ipoh and it is call Pisang Molen.

This Pisang Molen stall also sell one of my favorite noodle – Bakso! (Beef Noodle Soup)and also sell Mix Ice (Es Campur) which is not my favorite as it is too sweet!

Their Es Campur is always top up with sweetened milk which I am not able to adept to.

Anyway, talking about Pisang Molen. The way it was prepared reminds me of “pan-mee” Ipoh/KL.

The stall owner will roll the dough over a press a few

time before wrapping the bananas in it and deep fried.Soraoko Town9-1

I can only equate the feeling of eating pisang molen akin to eating curry puff minus all the flavor of a curry puff.

The pisang molen I tried had a rather crispy but dry crust and the bananas, well, is not really tasty. 😦

Ok. enuf of soup and bananas. Until later… cheers!

Pisang Molen

This is how Pisang Molen looks like!

Simple Lunch

chickenrice lunchSimple quick Lunas chicken rice for lunch. Chicken is flavorful and tender but the rice is not up to par yet.

I àlways believe a good plate of chicken rice lies not only with the tenderness of the chicken but importantly the fragrance of the rice.

Unfortunately a lot of chicken rice seller tend to overlook this. Sigh*

Nakhon Sawan Province – Thailand

I’ve never been to Bangkok let alone Nakhon Sawan so I was very lucky that during my recent trip there I got acquainted with 2 very nice people who has since became my friends. Without Nui and Eke I think my food adventure would’ve became just burgers and “anything on-sight.”

Soon as Nui picked me from Don Mueang my food adventure has begun. Our first stop on the 30 minutes drive to Nakhon Sawan is along the highway at a place call Mae La Pla Pao Restaurant. In Malaysia highway

20130707_164750 our highway R&R is make up mostly of small stalls, so to see an actual restaurant smack right by the highway is quite an experience for me.

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We had some nice spicy and tasty tom-yum which is very rich with coconut milk. There are big juicy prawns, cuttle fish and fish slices in the tom yum. It is a different version of what I use to have in KL and of course I know there are different version of tom-yum as some tom-yum are relatively clear without coconut milk.

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The accompanied dishes include this quite huge Snake Head fish. Alright, so it doesn’t look that huge 🙂 I had a bigger meaner one in Nakhon Sawan itself but that will be in another post. Anyway, I say it is quite huge because in KL our normal steam or grill fish wont be coming in these sizes.

20130707_160853 (Medium)The popular way of cooking the Snake Head fish in Thailand is to sprinkled it with sea salt then have it wrapped in aluminum foil  and grilled.

When the fish is served we will have to peel off the rather coarse and hard skin to get to the meat.

The fish are fresh so the meat has that freshness sweetness and the meat are well, mea20130707_160901 (Medium)ty and juicy. Compared to the regular fish we have in KL the meat of the Snake Head fish are fuller in texture and give you a better fuller chewy sensation in the mouth. And oh yes, the fish is accompanied with some super duper hot bird’s eye chilly in fish sauce.

Our next dish is the Muar equivalent of Otak Otak but served differently.

There are different style of making otak otak in Thailand, some are drier and some is with a little bit of “juices” and this is just one of them. In Malaysia we only have 2 main type of otak otak – the Muar and the Penang. I would venture to say the Thai otak-otak is quite like the Penang. The otak we had here are steamed and wrapped in betel leaves. I am not sure if it is betel leaves or morinda leaves but the smell and taste are “sharply” distinctive. Will have to find out more if I have the opportunity for another visit.

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Besides the otak otak we also have succulent deep fired fish cake and fried vegetables.20130707_161421 (Medium) 20130707_161155 (Medium)

The fish cake is fantastically aromatic and tasty. Each bite of the fish cake will give you a different “sensation” like WoW! or “OMG”! depending on whether you bite on the aromatic herbs or on a bird’s eye chilly 🙂 The accompanied condiments are something new to me. I have yet to find out the actual name for it.

Look at the prawns in the vegetable. We can hardly find prawns of this size and that many in a dish in KL, unless of course if you will to pay top bucks to eat in a chinese restaurant.

For desserts we had Thai Coconut Pudding – which smells “coconuty” terrific ! And of course, the weather being so hot and with the fiery tom-yum soup we definitely have to cool it with a few Thailand beer!

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And we are still far far from reaching Nakhon Sawan! That will be another post. Right now I need to enjoy my food! cheers!

Kulim Food Forages

MY first week in Kulim. Never been here – haven’t heard of any good exciting food either. So I did a search on the web and lo! there were a few postings about the local food. Unfortunately I was so busy I just don’t have time to go check out – maybe later especially that famous duck rice at Lunas.

Anyway, here are some of “ok so-so” food I managed to find during spare time. First is breakfast, right, talking about breakfast there is a dearth of choice near the area of my work! If I wanted more choices will have to drive 20 minutes into Kulim town ….!

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Curry noodle

OK. My first Kulim curry noodle. It came with a piece of chicken and lots of long beans. Taste? Ok-lor. Price – cheapo. Only RM3.50.

But the curry soup is not as heavy as those found in KL.It seemed they are easy on the coconut juice over here. And from the look you know they don’t use much oil either unlike some in Ipoh and KL where the curry looks so fiery “red” hot.

It’s not superb tasty neither is it bad but the curry (hot-ness) itself is hmmm.. more like the curry noodle you’ll find in our school canteen – it looks like curry it just doesn’t taste like the real one 🙂

But to be fair, the curry paste that accompanied the noodles are not too bad. It has the right flavor of a curry paste minus the saltish taste.

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My hunger not so sated I decided to rush out during lunch break determined to beat the traffic to reach Kulim town so that i can have time to recce for something more satisfying. A kind soul told me Kulim town is on the way to Tesco so I whip out my Galaxy Note and key in Tesco to Google Map. 15 minutes later I reach an area with colonial buildings and a few banks and instinctively I know I am there. Make a few turn and confirmed this is the place. There are quite a few kopi tiam around as well as those dilapidated street side stall with badly maintained zinc roof.

Saw a stall with quite a few people eating so decided to check it out.

20150209_183814 (Mobile)They are selling ‘wat-tan-hor”. Looks ok, so I ordered one.20150209_183227It is a strange “wat-tan-hor” – I mean compared to what I always have. You can hardly see any “wat-tan” (eggs) and there is no prawns. Only veges and chicken pieces. And they add bee-hoon inside so it is more like KL “yin-yong” (deep fried bee-hoon with kway teow) But the thing is the bee-hoon is not deep fried here.

The preparation is also different. The sauces are pre-prepared in a big soup pot. The uncle will fry the noodles when you order and then someone else will scoop the sauce onto the hor-fun.

It looks strange but the taste is not bad. It just lack “kick”. If  the “hor-fun” are fried on high fire and then splash it with a dash of pork oil then the taste will come out like “olala” and this is the “kick” that is missing here.

Anyway, for RM3.80 I don’t think I can complain much.:-)

Day 2 – now that I know my way around – I am determined to find something that can leave an impression on my taste buds.

And driving around I think I finally found it. Not far from the “wat-tan-hor” place I saw this “wonton noodle” shop.

My initial reaction was – aiyah.. wonton noodle… but being short of time i decided to give it a go. Die, die la. Not that I have not being dissapointed for the last 2 days.

This shop also served other stuffs like chicken legs, “sui-kow” etc but I ordered a normal wonton noodle.

20150210_185304 (Large)The noodle looks plain enough but surprisingly springy, chewy and tasty. The tasty part must have come from the well mixed dark soy sauce top up with some pork oil and deep fried pork fats. Biting into the noodle give you a kind of satisfying “chewy” feeling and mix with the dark soy sauce with pork oil – it is just heavenly!

On top of that, there is not a hint of 20150210_185847alkaline water in the noodle and based on the texture of the noodle I instinctively guess it must be an “egg only” noodle. To confirm my theory I purposely struck up a conversation with the young man running the stall.

Apparently his dad has been selling the same wonton noodle for the past 50 years on a push cart! And they have been making the noodle by hand until today!! And Yes – it is confirmed these are “egg only” noodles and therefore the body of the noodle are chewy soft but not soggy soft and definitely not as “elastic” hard to chew as the normal full alkaline based wonton noodle.

However, the disappointing thing is the wonton is so so so small. It seemed like a trend in most smaller town. They can’t make wonton noodle any bigger than 20 cents coin. Strange.

Anyhow, with my hunger fully placated- I shall take a break here and will most probably continue to share my food forages in the days to come.