Sunday, October 27, 2013

The independent food scene in Malaysia - it's alive!

Was at the Great Food Escape in BSC today and saw some really interesting and innovative food ideas by small entrepreneurs.

Great to see the independent food scene alive although I wonder where a lot of these vendors are selling when not at these foodie events (which are often poorly publicised and frankly, very small in size and scale). I don't usually publish pictures on my blog but this seemed to be the fastest way in which to capture a sense of what was interesting to me and intriguing as well. I didn't taste much (diet, thou foul creature) but here were the ones that interested me...

Hand crafted sodas are big in the US but haven't really caught on here.
Wonder how these guys will do. But did like the localised brand name.

Japanese puddings was the other interesting idea that caught my eye.

Available at The Bee at JAYA ONE, these guys had only a few flavours left. At RM8 a pop, it was quite a premium product although not for the BSC crowd. Would have been interested to try it, esp the Cendol flavour.

The cookie recipe in a jar thing is pretty common when you go on Zite (my favourite app for food porning) but hasn't really caught on here (but then again, Malaysian food blogs not known for their unique recipe ideas generally). But these were some nice ideas from Craft Kitchen and the cookies tasted quite good too (I had a little...crumb...)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Great KL Breakfast Challenge

There are people who skip breakfast all their lives, and then there are those of us who know the secret to breakfast. One, that is it the key to keeping your weight at a decent level so that you can continue to enjoy food and secondly, that breakfast is simply a continuation of whatever food dream you had the night before (or an opportunity to realise the gluttony of the day before).

I adore breakfast and my greatest challenge is finding new fresh and interesting places to go for breakfast in KL and PJ. The problem is that Malaysians are very much breakfast people but as much as I enjoy tosai and roti canai or even mee goreng/maggi goreng in the morning with a nice cup of milo ais kosong, I'm also a HUGE fan of Western breakfasts, especially sweet options. My criteria is also quite exacting because it requires not only that the breakfast place have a good set of choices (savoury and sweet), but that the coffee also be up to scratch. The coffee part is a real issue because NOTHING ruins a good breakfast like a so-so cup of coffee.

In no order of preference (and this list will be updated as I go along) here are some of my favourite breakfast haunts, and preferred items:

Here are some of my favourite breakfast places:

Alexis Bangsar/BSC

Breakfast is only available on weekends but the menu is generally well thought out although short in my view on sweet options. My favs:

  • The corned beef hash (okay, so we don't know what goes INTO corned beef but Alexis does a pretty good one)
  • The pancakes (size has shrunk of late but still good - great to order to share if you want to avoid the temptation of the cakes)
  • The Hearty Breakfast - value for money since they throw in juice and a coffee and they have great baked beans - only minus point - no oink.
  • Salmon scrambled eggs - worth it for the fabulous dill butter they smack on top of the fluffy omelette.
  • Swiss rosti - you might end up in a carb coma after's great with a side of baked beans.
And if you still have room, cake beckons.

Uncle Lims, IKANO

By far in my view the best toast bread around and I like the wholemeal version. This is real butter and proper not overly sweet kaya. The coffee is pretty good too (just don't order the white coffee which obviously comes out of a packet). I like going there on weekdays since the crowd is kind of crazy on weekends and that's when your 3/4 eggs end up coming out runny.Oh, their curry puffs are pretty good too (oddly, Ikea-esque).

Toastbox - Midvalley or Pavillion

I don't tend to order the kaya toast here because I'm not a big fan of that Singaporean methodology of putting a whole thin slice of butter into the bread and I reckon their kaya is too sugary. My preferred poison here - eggs, the peanut thick toast (they use a combination of Skippy and some local peanut butter - smart) and the coffee (although standards have declined at MV since they changed the team there sometime in 2011).

PapaRich (various locations around Klang Valley)

No introduction needed and the expansive menu will cater to just about every Malaysian breakfast craving. Rumour has it that only certain outlets have decent control over the quality of the food, namely, Bangsar, Damansara Utama and Old Klang Road so gastronomic mileage varies. I love the steamed bread with kaya personally and the roti bakar susu - so evil.

Nirwana Maju, Bangsar

I love their tosai, especially the masala tosai. Roti is not too bad, the roti bom is heart-stopping and their maggi goreng generally holds its standard. Beware the early morning retiree crowd, who invariably consume all the fabulously fluffy apam before 930am.

Illy Espressamente @ BSV

This is a great place for a morning start that is slow and languid and Internet connection means you won't feel totally lazy as you stuff down their fabulous maple syrup and peanut butter sauce laced pancakes with a great cup of Illy java. The pastries are pretty good (although the pain au chocolate loses to that of Heistland Bakery downstairs in the Village Grocer) and they have a nice breakfast meal combo. Juices are made fresh in case you feel like abstaining from coffee and must confess a weakness for the cheese-turkey ham Cornetto. The Pavillion outlet is pretty good as well but it always feels like it's been hit by a bomb if you turn up at say 10ish although the management is quite cool about people buying pastries from The Loaf next door.

The Loaf @ BSV

Whilst they don't have as wide a selection of pastries as the Pavillion outlet, the BSV outlet offers a respectable selection for breakfast. The coffee is pretty good and comes in a nice solid mug that makes you feel like wrapping your hands around it and just chilling as you ease into the start of the day. Lots of people do meetings here and I personally quite like meeting clients here for breakfast or lunch. For brekkie, pick something from the counter selection (the toast bread with kaya is not too bad but hardly stunning and stay away from the toast bread with peanut butter - the photos are deceiving). Stick with the pastries instead and you'll be fine.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Antipodean - making breakfast an art

Strolled past this place in Bangsar last week and finally made it in there this week after my advance scouting party had declared it was pretty good.

No pictures since you can just google the place and all those food blogs that have more images than words will appear. I cater only to the literate gastro-types on my blog, thank you very much.  I have to say I liked the decor very much - decor is not something I pay very much attention to and I maintain that decor and ambiance are not one and the same. This place was not overdone, with comfortable chairs (very important if you want to park yourself there) and no frigging lighting that shines on the table and blinds me when I'm eating my food.

Yes, a certain eatery in Bangsar has bloody spotlights that shine on the table and I'm told the owner likes it that way. I want to eat, not be blinded, for god's sakes. Yes, I like to be able to see my food but not under the fluorescent glare of whatever fancy lighting that is obviously not subtle in any way.

The Antipodean bills itself as Kiwi cafe although the food seems to me to be somewhat indistinguishable from the Australian style breakfast cafes ala Bills based on the menu. Interestingly enough, the word Antipodean according to Wiki, refers to occupants of the Antipodes, which includes Australia and New Zealand. Anyway, let's quibble not because Kiwi or Aussie, this place is a long overdue upstart in the very dull Brunch scene in KL (specifically Bangsar) and from what I can see and what I've eaten, they're doing a heck of a job giving long overdue jolt to Bangsar brekkie/brunch scene.

First, the coffee.  Brunch with Bad Coffee is a travesty in itself and reason for epicurean aneurysm. The Antipodean has not just a respectable list of coffee choices, but a list of coffee choices that makes it clear that they are not amateurs when it comes to coffee.

Incorrectly, I thought the giant mixing machine in the back of the cafe was for making bread. Then when I stepped out and looked at the sandwich board and saw the words 'Coffee Roasters' I realised, the bags that looked like flour bags were coffee beans. Me suspects they are somehow related to those gourmet bags of coffee that have appeared in BSV under the Merdeka brand.

In any case, it's obvious that the people behind Antipodean are serious about the coffee in the place (and the food too). In my not so humble opinion, only a place with a real barista (you know the ones at Starbucks are not real baristas right?) would list a Bicerin on their coffee menu and separate between a piccolo latte and a standard latte. A Bicerin is a technically complicated drink to make - it's essentially what Starbucks called a mocha except in Starbucks, they don't bother with the art form of it and just shovel everything into one cup and slosh it all up. Properly presented, a Bicerin should look like the three layer tea - you should be able to see the individual layers of chocolate, espresso and milk. Since making the drink involves three liquids of different viscosity whilst not allowing them to mix, this is not for the novice coffee maker.

I will open myself to criticism by saying that the presence of a gwai loh behind the espresso machine says something about how serious these Antipodeans are about their coffee. No, there's nothing wrong with local baristas per se and i will save this for another debate but suffice to say, Asians (bar the Japanese) very rarely demonstrate a level of commitment to perfection in the merely ordinary, such as a cup of coffee, compared to Westerners.  And if we can't commit to excellent in something as fundamental as making a good cup of coffee, then is it a wonder that the quality of product when it comes to more complicated dishes is often mediocre if not average at best in Malaysia? And is it any surprise that the food scenes in Singapore and Hong Kong continue to be heavily dominated by Western chefs?

On the point of the coffee: to what extent it is the beans, the machine or the barista or all three? I maintain that the human touch is essential to a cup of good coffee. The invisible factor of effort put into each cup, and dedication to perfection often makes the difference between any old dogsbody making coffee with great beans and a superb machine, and a BARISTA.

Anyway, the coffee which was fantastic (better than Illy Espressamente - my regular coffee stop) and a proper flat white it was. I look forward to trying the Bicerin on my next visit and might even brave an espresso.

Another major plus for the Antipodean is that they serve bacon. And by bacon, I mean PORK BACON, not beef bacon. I am not here to offer political or religious correctness with regards food. Bacon, like ham, should be used to refer to items made from pork meat, not chicken or turkey or whatever else. For the longest time, places that served oink with their breakfast menu (and you can count them more or less on one hand - J&R and The Blue Cow) could get away with serving so-so food and so-so Big Breakfasts/All Day Breakfasts because they had bacon on the menu. And the places that had decent breakfast options (Plan B, Alexis) in turn were hobbled by the absence of bacon on their menu, which would have complimented their generally excellent breakfasts choices. The pancakes at Alexis for example, would have SUNG with the addition of a side order of bacon.

Now admittedly I am writing this only having sampled the French Toast at Antipodean. The French toast wasn't quite up to my expectations (neither sufficiently fluffy, nor richly custardy) but the bacon was excellent (a perfect mix of fat and lean) and the chicken sausages were excellent. And a friend on the next table who had the scrambled eggs said they were excellent, with fairly generous portions as well. And you know what, my waiter asked me how I wanted my bacon - normal or extra crispy. And you just know, this is a place that takes breakfast SERIOUSLY.

Further, a place that is bold enough to offer porridge on the menu (hopefully Malaysians know what porridge is - no, not the Teochew variety) wins my respect off the bat. I will be back to try the Butterscotch Pancakes (with a nice side of crispy bacon), and the Porridge with Honey and Banana. The post 11am menu also looks very interesting and well worth a second visit (for lunch) to explore those options. The limited selection of cakes and baked goods are also pretty enticing and hopefully will complement their excellent coffee.

Update: was there today again. The scrambled eggs at this place are pretty good although I just realised from the menu that they don't have that absolute classic, fried eggs with bacon. Hmm. Something has to be done about that. The scrambled eggs with bacon on Croissant however was pretty good, with a healthy stuffing of rocket so that you don't feel completely like your arteries are clogging over. and managed to have a taster of the apple pie and Apple + Cashew cake. Whilst not too bad, I will certainly not hold up my stamp of approval on these two. The apple pie had a nice tasting crust but was too crumbly for my liking and the cinnamon was too strong. The Apple + Cashew cake was interesting enough but again, seemed to suffer from an overdose of clove spice. Coffee still good (had the iced Americano this time in lieu of the insanely hot weather.)

The final plus point for the Antipodean is prices that I consider fairly reasonable, and which hopefully will put some pressure on Plan B and Alexis to do something about their prices (more so Alexis, which has been raising prices and cutting portions of late). The big breakfast is RM18, a good RM10 less than Alexis although admittedly Alexis provides coffee and a glass of juice. But given that the Antipodean has bacon AND great coffee,  I'd say their lower price is just feather in their cap, alongside the other advantages the already have.

A quick word of caution: the place is obviously getting quite a reputation - at 11am only two tables were occupied but half an hour later, the place was more than half full. So it's best to visit early or avoid being in the middle of the weekend Brunch hour squash.

Antipodean Cafe,
20, Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar.
Tel: 03-2282-0411

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Same Supplier?

At Toastbox (which actually has very good nasi lemak, at economical prices), I saw these being delivered...

And then I'm at the Shell Station, and I see this...

If there are OEM roti canai dough suppliers (wondering why roti canai tastes so ubiquitous now eh?), I suppose there could be OEM Nasi Lemak suppliers too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Experiments in Durian - Durian Tiramisu or Durian-Misu

Upon receiving an invitation to attend one of her sister's fabulous food extravaganzas from a buddy, I decided to experiment, seeing as it is durian season here in Malaysia, with a durian dessert.

My last attempt at a durian dessert was my Durian Pie and that went down generally quite well with friends who were into dessert + durian. So this time I was inspired to make a Durian Tiramisu (or Durian-Misu)

I am not by any means the first person to think this is a great concept (google Durian Tiramisu and you'll find someone has beat me to the idea, in the form of a Durian Tiramisu Cake). That being said, I am a purist when it comes to certain things (like NOT using gelatin) and at the same time, I have a Nigella-like aversion to adding extra work to my dessert efforts. Perhaps it's this that is the inspiration behind some of my dessert experiments.

The Durian Tiramisu took me about 1 hour to make although I was being very leisurely about it. It has no booze, because I adhere to that time-tested superstition that Durian and Alcohol do not mix (and I haven't found something that goes with it yet). I'm planning to try out a different incarnation of this particular recipe this weekend so it might be Version 2's recipe here next if that works out . In the meantime, my guinea pigs responded brilliantly to this so I think this one's a keeper. I don't usually put pictures on my blog but this one deserved it (if only because it's a personal creation) and to preserve the recipe idea for posterity. Thanks to my pal Honey for the pictures, taken with her amazingly brilliant camera.

As with all things Durian, it's never obvious it's durian something unless you smell it. Alas, they haven't come up with a way for you to smell the pictures, as well as see them. But trust me - this has durian in it!

The recipe I culled from reading various Internet sources on the origins of tiramisu and then modified accordingly.


4 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
8-12 durian seeds
500 gm Mascapone Cheese
224ml liquid whipping cream

1 1/2 - 2 cups of cold milk
A carton of sponge fingers (chose the one with packs of 42- 48)
2 bars of 100gm 70% cocoa dark chocolate (Frei or Lindt is good)

Part 1: Prepare the chocolate milk.

You could use normal chocolate milk but we all know there's no chocolate in that. This has a much better flavour.

1. Break up 50gm of the chocolate into a heat-proof bowl and melt either in a microwave or over a pot of gently bubbling hot water.

2. Add the milk and whisk. Set Aside.

Part 2: Make Zabaglione

1. Remove seeds from durian. Mash the flesh with a fork, and then pass the mashed durian flesh through a fine sieve using the back of the spoon. You should end up with about 1/2 a liquid cup of pure durian puree.

2. Place egg yolks together with caster sugar into a heat-proof bowl and onto a bain-marie (that's a pot of gently boiling water). Whisk until you have a smooth, silky custard, known as zabaglione (Italian), or Sabayon (French) or custard to the rest of us. The custard should be heated through to avoid salmonella risk)and hot when you taste it. You shouldn't taste any of the sugar granules or a very raw, eggy taste when you test-taste the zabaglione. If you still can taste the sugar granules, continue whisking till it is smooth. Do not over-beat or let it boil - if it curdles, it's game over. Ideally it should be smooth and silky, and drip thickly off the whisk. Approximate time: anywhere between 10-15 minutes.

3.Put the room-temperature mascapone cheese into a large bowl. Pour the whipping cream into another bowl.

4. Pour the zabaglione over the mascapone cheese and then stir it together with a spatula. It might get a bit claggy or clumpy at this point but don't panic.

5. Whip the cream. Fold the whipped cream into your zabaglione-mascapone mixture. This should smooth out the custard.

6. Add the durian puree. It is best to add the puree in installments of 1/3 so that you don't create an overwhelmingly strong custard. Add 1/3, stir to combine and then taste. And then add another 1/3, stir and taste again. Depending on your audience, you may want to stop at 2/3 or go all the whole hog. I used all the durian puree (about 1/2 cup) because cold desserts often lose a bit of their flavour after being chilled. But to each to his own. This is durian. But you don't want to have too much.

Don't worry if the custard seems a little watery at this point. It will thicken up.

Part 3: Assemble

You need a glass/oven-proof dish that is about 6-7cm in height, and about 45 cm in length. Shallow dishes usually do better for this dessert than a deep one.

1. Dip the sponge fingers in the chocolate milk and lay onto the base of the dish. Pour 1/2 the durian zabaglione-mascapone mix using a ladle over the sponge fingers. Spread evenly with a spatula.

2. Layer another round of sponge fingers soaked in chocolate milk. Pour the rest of the durian zabaglione-mascapone mix. Make sure the sponge fingers are covered in the mixture.

3. Place it in the freezer for 2-3 hours if in a rush. Otherwise, chill overnight in the fridge.

Before serving, grate the remaining 150gm of chocolate finely. Sprinkle in a thick layer over the top. Serve within 10 minutes of removing from the fridge or 25 minutes if from freezer.

Pointers and Notes

Avoid using durian that is frozen as this tends to cause it to weep or release liquids. If you are using frozen durian, mash it, and then leave it to stand so that the liquids come out, and then strain off the liquids before using it. I use 1 day old durian that has been left in a tupperware in the fridge to firm up. This makes removing the flesh a lot easier.

I am against the use of store-made available around the year durian puree. Period. Fresh or nothing.

Use a genetically modified variant like D24, and go for one with a sweet flavour. Kampung Durian is not a good choice as the flavour tends to be uneven. How much you need varies because of the size of the seeds but look to get about 8-12 seeds. (anywhere between RM15-25).

For ease of grating, have the chocolate in a freezer before you start grating. Use the smallest section of the grater for better texture. I don't use cocoa powder because I find it creates a choking sensation when you accidentally 'inhale' the powder whilst eating the dessert.

Chocolate should be 70% cocoa - Frei or Lindt is best. Do not use cooking chocolate.

If chilling this dessert overnight, make sure to cover it tightly with clingfilm to avoid both the durian smell getting into other items in the fridge like milk and yoghurt that are highly sensitive to strong smells, and vice versa.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where's the Beef, Carl?

What is it with Carl's Jnr and their beef supply seriously?

I've been to the place TWICE in the last two weeks and have walked up to the counter only to be told that they do not have any beef and it's only chicken burgers. Seriously, who the hell eats a CHICKEN Famous Star burger? Get real.

How on earth can you run a burger business and not have beef? How can a company screw up their beef supply chain to this extent that they don't get a regular beef delivery? Do I have to resort to doing what these three old dears are doing in order to get a beef burger at Carl's Jnr?

Of late, I have also noticed the quality and standard of their french fries has seriously dropped. The last time I ate at Carls Jnr MidValley, the fries were soggy and tasted like they had sat on the countertop for far too long. And don't get me started on how there don't seem to be enough staff and so the tabletops are always dirty. If I'm paying 10 bucks for my burger, I expect someone to frickin wipe the tabletops and clear the garbage.

In shocking contrast, I had a burger at McDonalds last week over lunch and the fries were crisp and the patty was hot and actually didn't taste like cardboard (which it did the last last last time I ate at McDonalds in SS2).

And I've got to say, the burgers at Wendy's are actually pretty good.

Where's the Beef, Carl?

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Doughnut Lands - RM2.50 for Krispy Kreme...

...will it prove too steep for the average Malaysian pocket?

And is this going to be enough of a profit margin at RM2.50 per doughnut?

How long will the queues last? Is there room for a premium doughnut player in town?

My spies inform me that the line at the inaugural Krispy Kreme store in Berjaya Times Square was as long as a snake today, all the way out to the entrance of the mall, say my spies.

However, it wasn't that long that they couldn't get a box of the doughnuts themselves.

Price point: RM2.50 per doughnut for the plain original glazed and RM2.80 for the more exotic variants with topics and the sort.

Having sampled the plain original glazed version from the box of six I received, I am pleased to say that it holds up muster to the ones I ate in HK with no variation or deviation in flavour or quality. But, as the Krispy Kreme head honchos were probably at the opening, QC is unlikely to be an issue. (we need to check back in on this in about 3-4 months because that's how long it took Big Apple to take a plunge). And I maintain the superiority of the Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut over Big Apple any day. (see my story 'Much Ado about Doh' which compares Krispy Kreme against Big Apple against J Co.)

A biggest test for Krispy Kreme is probably going to be the MidValley store, which will open to considerable competition from Big Apple and Dunkin Doughnut. The inaugural store in Berjaya Times Square is home territory for the KK franchisor in Malaysia, which is the Berjaya Group (also the franchisor for Wendy's, Starbucks, Kenny Rogers and Papa John's Pizza).

I will be posting a list of my favourite doughnuts in due course.


The Original Glazed Doughnut - note how the glaze is almost translucent and slightly matte. And the glaze *scrunches* when you bite into it.

Four In the box - the topped one is one of my favourites: New York Cheesecake!

The original glazed, from another perspective. The scrunching effect of the sugar (indication of the quality and smoothness of the glaze) can be seen here.