Friday, September 18, 2009

The Merdeka Malacca Food Trip, Part 2

..continuation from our Chicken Rice Ball experience in Part 1 ...

4. Amoy Fish-shaped Kaya Thingies, outside San Shu Gong

As you walk along the five-foot way outside San Shu Gong souvenir shop in the direction of Jonker St, you will be greeted with a small-scale version of a Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-esque mechanical contraption that produces copies and copies of this...

We don't know what it's called, but it looks the Japanese snack with red-bean filling called Taiyaki. In this true-blue Malaysian version however, it is filled with pandan kaya instead of red bean. Still tastes good tho.

5. Capitol Satay Celup, Lorong Bukit Cina

After some more strolling along Jonker Street, Guilingao in a place I can't remember and a short break in a friend's hotel room, we set out for our next destination, satay celup.
The place opens at 5.00 pm, and so we thought that leaving the hotel at 6.00 pm would give us ample time to avoid the dinner crowds.

But traffic was slowing to a crawl, and we were only nearing the place at around 6.20. My local friend/food guide started expressing her concerns already ("Sei lor, the road already so jammed up, surely no more place to sit already"). I scoffed at her concerns ("Cannot be lah. All the cars here going for Satay Celup meh?"). But always trust the locals, because right in front of the shop, we were greeted with this:

In KL, the age old traffic jam wisdom tells you that you have to leave your house early to reach your destination early. Leave the house 20 minutes later, get stuck in the jam and arrive in your destination 60 minutes later.

Same theory applies for the Malacca Satay Celup queue. Be there at 5.00pm and beat the crowd. 15 minutes late? Welcome to the queue. With such ungodly queues, they would certainly benefit from signboards like this one:

OUR wait time was 70 minutes, which was good because we worked up an appetite with all the waiting.

In a nutshell, eating satay celup is always an enjoyable experience in itself (What interactive food experience isn't?). That said, the enjoyment factor was slightly hampered by all the waiting. Like I said before, I am not a firm believer in irrational queuing for food.

The gravy that night tasted a bit burnt compared to my first experience in Capitol last year. Possibly the gerisik (coconut shreds) that was added to the gravy was overfried. Highlights were of course the century quail eggs (tasted 10x better than regular ones, probably 10x more in cholesterol as well) and the 'bonus' given intermittently. This time around, we had giant prawns (one each), some 'premium' squid, and one piece of abalone (that was pathetically split 9 ways).

At the end of our satay celup experience we were so stuffed that there was no way we could possibly have another bite. So at our next destination, the Portuguese Settlement we ended up just giving the place a look-see and walk off our heavy dinner.

6. Kerang Bakar @ Melaka Raya

Our friend then brought us along some dark back lanes to an enclave famous for its kerang bakar or grilled cockles. In typical fashion, this establishment offers a whole variety of grilled and fried seafood ( 'Lala', cuttlefish, 'balitong') and other stuff like sotong kangkung and tauhu bakar.

It would be most authentic to eat all this crouched on long benches underneath the kerosene lamps, throwing your kerang shells into the holes (with litter bags underneath) conveniently located in the middle of the table. Alas, given the popularity the place and the size of our party, we were not afforded the fortune of doing so and were instead ushered towards the regular chairs and tables at the corner of the lane (ugh).

I wasn't a fan of 'kerang' to begin with, the sight of the raw and bloody kerang only made me think of hepatitis. My friends, possibly vaccinated or immune or oblivious to this threat, devoured the kerang, plate after plate. I joined them for a few pieces of kerang, carefully selected to have no visible traces of blood, and it was admittedly very good. The blended chili/onion/lemon concoction used as dippiing sauce was specially mentioned by my food guide friend.

7. O Jian at Medan Makan Boon Leung, Melaka Raya

Not too far away is the very popular fried oyster omelette stall, recognizable by the crowd of people waiting for it. So popular is the place that to optimize their business, they went from sit-in to take away only, and there is only one standard item that can be ordered - any special requests would not be entertained. And as the popular Melaka saying goes, "Be prepared to wait". In our case, it was 30 minutes.
I can't vouch for its taste because we only got to eat it an hour after getting it. But it uses the authentic small oysters instead of the big ones favoured by the newer stalls in KL.

And that concludes the Malacca Food Trip report. There were so many other things we couldn't fit in this time round. So for the next Malacca Food Trip, we will be going for, among others- Nyonya food, Portuguese seafood, Masjid Tanah Mee Goreng. Until then...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The grass is greener on the Tokyo side.

When buying men's clothes in KL, there are three main factors that come into play: the mercilessly scorching weather, the limited selection of menswear labels and the negative perception about guys even attempting to dress up. I found a solution in Americana labels like Gap, Banana Republic, and the recently departed Gant that seem to adress all three concerns. These Americans sure know how to make their summer clothes comfortable in balmy weather while maintaining a modest but tasteful aesthetic .

I thought that the summer collection menswear that was brought to KL shores this year was pretty good- lots of nice shirts and shorts in breathable material and tasteful patterns (plaid, stripes, madras, gingham). That was until I saw this photo as I was flipping through a Japanese men's fashion magazine (Men's Non-no, if you must) and saw this ad in its first few pages:

This is the Spring/Summer '09 ad campaign for Gap Japan. I was as green (as the second model from left's canvas sneakers) with envy at the realisation that so many of the items did not reach Malaysian shores. Model 1's shoes, t-shirt, mint green bag; Model 3's scarf, bag, t-shirt, belt, pants, shoes.. and the list goes on. Luckily, I calmed down after I looked at the ad hard and saw the words: Gap JAPAN. Japan, the country with a fashion sense/buying power so advanced that clothing labels have released separate clothing lines especially for the Japanese market, Converse Japan, Paul Smith Japan. Some items released in Japan will never see the light of day even in the native countries of that brand, I comforted myself.

I got hold of the said issue of Men's Non-no, and the picture above does not do justice to the full-blown ad in the glossy pages of the magazine. Several details are not visible in the picture above, such as the crumpled texture of Model #1's t-shirt, the stripes on model #3's pants and the knitted belt on model #3,4,6 and model #5's micro check shorts.

Sigh, the sad state of Malaysian menswear.

*Please click here (Boimpression blog) to see pics of the full ad campaign for Gap Japan SS09

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Monica Zetterlund: Effortless Stockholm cool from the 60's songbird

There is a certain rewarding feeling to be had from discovering new music, particularly if the discovery was accidental, say from a friend's playlist, a movie or a shop's speakers. You become intrigued by the sound you hear and the emotions it evokes that it piques your curiosity about the song, its performer, its origins.

Today I had the fortune of coming across this very beautiful studio performance upon visiting the American Trad blog, Ivy Style. The performance is the 1966 studio recording of "Waltz for Debby" by Swedish jazz singer, Monica Zetterlund and the Bill Evans Trio. While the song in itself is a beautiful melody combining Monica's smoky (no pun intended) voice with the trio's deft accompaniment (replete with mid-song tempo changes), the visual component also contributed to the enigma of this Youtube video. The video begins with the camera on Monica chatting, glass in one hand and cigarette in the other, with the band playing at the background. She then saunters towards the grand piano to begin the session, then has a little discussion with the trio. Bill Evans plays the intro once, then again and this time magic begins as she joins in.

The coolness she exudes in this video exceeds anything seen in today's MTV. I will spend the rest of my afternoon watching her videos on Youtube.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Sartorialist, the book.

I was browsing The Sartorialist website and the current post was about his book signing in Colette, Paris. It was then that I realised that the book he has been mentioning about since early this year (here and here) is already out in the stores.

I am hoping to see it in the Malaysian bookstore shelves soon, but I have yet to decide whether or not to buy it. I love the works of the Sartorialist, but I follow it so religiously that I may not even need the book. I am not expecting the contents of the book to be vastly different from the blog postings, so if I decide to buy the book it would only be for easy referential purposes and as an homage to the man on the front lines of street fashion photography.

The book, available in hard cover and paperback versions, has been release in the US on August 12th and on worldwide release early this month. It can be ordered online from Amazon and the like.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Merdeka Malacca Food Trip.

Over the Merdeka weekend, what better way to celebrate our independence than to eat our way around the city where it all started?

Weather on that gastronomic Saturday was excellent- clear blue skies, the occasional sea breeze, sunny but not humid. All bodes well for our gastronomic sojourns, except for the crowds. People, people, EVERYWHERE. You had to queue for practically anything that was worth waiting.
Photographic evidence will be provided throughout the post.

After meeting our ex-uni-mate/tour guide for the day, we start our glutton-fest at our first stop for breakfast...

1. Hup Huat(?) Porridge and its next door Yong Tau Foo, Bunga Raya
Blindly following our local friend's directions, we parked our car in an open space carpark that had some sort of a shack at the back of it. Little did I know that the shack was where we were going to have our porridge! Turns out that behind the shack are a few little shops: one famous for their porridge, and the other an equally popular Yong Tau Foo establishment. It really felt like a shack, and so regrettably I didn't bother to snap pictures.

Taste verdict:
The porridge had everything in it: from shrimps to pork strips to century eggs. Texture was creamy with each rice morsel well broken into : definitely not the sort of porridge I'd associate with 'sick people food'. The Yong Tau Foo from next door was pretty good too, albeit being greeted with a limited selection still remaining for the day (it was already 10am). The filling for the Yong Tau Foo was genuinely fish-y, and the tofu tasted self-made and devoid of the alkali ('kansui') aftertaste.

As I didn't snap photos or take note of the shop's name, I did a quick google and I reckon this shop called 'Hup Huat' may be it. All I know is that it is located in the Bunga Raya area.

2. Cendol @ Jonker 88 Museum Cafe

A glimpse of the queue at the shop. Fortunately we were there before the hoards of tourists came,
and so didn't have to sunbathe for our food like these poor souls. Not here, at least.

This well-known Cendol establishment in the well-known Jonker Street needs no further introduction (as evidenced by the barrage of blog posts mentioning this place upon googling the words 'Jonker' and 'cendol' together). This is my second time here, and this time round I had the durian version of the cendol. In this version, they would add a scoop of durian cream on top of the cendol.

Here we also tried the Nyonya fish cake salad(?). It consisted of slices of fried fish cake (鱼饼) served with rojak-style julienned cucumbers and a red coloured sweet dipping sauce.

Taste verdict:
The durian cream tasted good and went well with the cendol, but I wish they had given more of it because the taste got drowned quickly under the heap of ice shavings and 'gula melaka'.

I have to mention that the cendol served here is different from the Penang version that is more soup-y and generous with the coconut milk, 'cacing' and red beans. The form of cendol here is more akin to 'ais kacang' with its heap of shaved ice topped with lots of gula melaka.

As for the Nyonya fish cake salad thingy, the combination is refreshing, but the fish cake slices were extremely salty and had to be balanced by the vegetables and the sweet sauce (perhaps that was the intention).

After that, we decided to take a break from eating and played 'tourist' for a while. We wandered around the shops on Jonker, then trekked' up St Paul's Hill and hung out there in the shade while waiting for the food to digest.

Well rested, we marched down to the hill to our next battle post.

3. Chop Chung Wah Chicken Riceballs

Looking at the queue outside Chung Wah, upon entering the souvenir shop facing it (San Shu Gong)...

Me : Look at those idiots lined up just for Chicken Rice Balls!
Friend : Yeah...
Me : What's so good anyway? I love food, but in my books no food is that good to justify queuing in the hot sun for it!
Friend : Yeah, yeah...
5 minutes later, coming out from San Shu Gong...
Me : Ok, where to next?
Friend: Eat chicken riceballs lo...
Me : What the? What's A, LL, and VY doing over there in the queue?
Friend: Doing what you'd never do in your holidays. Queuing up for food. And it's our turn to queue now...
Me: ........
Fortunately, the queue wasn't long (the shortest one for the whole trip) and the weather wasn't as hot as the photos suggest.

Anyway, due to the crazy tourist hoardes, the proprietors made ordering extremely simple. After taking a quick look at our table, all waiter had to ask us was:
"Half or whole chicken?"

That's it. No fuss over preferred chicken parts, type of chicken, soup, vegetables, number of rice balls, etc. Minutes later, the chicken was served (by an auntie who 'Siam!'-ed the poor girl who was in her way) and each of us were served with 5 rice balls.

I am not sure if extra rice balls can be ordered, but you could venture asking one of their extremely busy staff for it (at your own risk). A potentially Oliver-Twist-Sir-may-I-have-some-more situation there, moreover ironic considering that we are paying customers.
And a word of advice- do not even think of cheating your way into the restaurant for a table. The hawk-eyed staff will make sure you got 'served' in their own way, I witnessed it with my own eyes.

Chopsticks reaching frantically for the chicken.

Taste verdict:
Rice balls and steamed chicken were good, but not great. I found the rice balls slightly lacking in aroma while the steamed chicken was slightly bland and soggy in texture. While some chicken rice ball purists might appreciate its subtle flavouring, I prefer mine doused in soy sauce, dark or light. That's why I prefer the chicken rice ball sold in a place in Melaka Raya. Although less authentic in its ambience, the tasty rice balls and succulent chicken more than made up for its lack of atmosphere.

to be continued..