Friday, 20 October 2017

Taking Time Off For A Pleasant Lunch

        Work activities have taken precedence this month with exams, marking of exam papers and preparation for a royal visit to our school. But I managed to sneak in a lunch with one of my partners in crime on Monday.
Opens from noon till 10 pm on weekdays (closed on Wednesdays) and till 11pm on Fridays - Sundays

        Doi Chaang Coffee at Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh is one of the twelve branches in Malaysia. Doi Chaang is a village in Northern Thailand and it is where the coffee beans for this cafe are planted, harvested and processed. Although this cafe started operations in 2015, I'd not given this place a second glance till it was recommended by a foodie friend.
        I was in for a surprise. Before I could even step into the cafe, I was amicably greeted by one of the baristas. "Miss Chan! Remember me?" he enthused. The face was familiar but the name escaped me; to avoid hurting the young man's feelings, I promptly smiled and lied.
        Orders were made and paid for at the counter. I ordered a cappuccino to go with my smoked salmon pesto spaghetti (RM23 for a set) while my partner in crime had the same pasta a la carte (RM19.90).
My cappuccino with its nice coffee art
My smoked salmon pesto spaghetti (love the almond flakes)



        The cafe was cozy, with both sofa and dining table setups, lots of magazines for reading and some interesting artifacts for photoshooting. Service was brisk and pleasant. And the complimentary wi-fi service gave the hare a run for its money.

Eye-catching range of Malaysian-made soda called The Tapping Tapir

Quirky artifacts

Mummy pointed out this vintage radio

        Yes, the coffee tasted good, not too darkly roasted. But I must say that I'm more partial to the coffee at my favourite Six And A Half. Yes, the pesto based pasta was not drenched in oil as the one in Three Little Pigs & The Big Bad Wolf is, but it lacked the extra yum that was served at the latter. 
        All in all, it was an enjoyable eating experience, and I would love to return with my other partner in crime, and especially to triumphantly call my ex-student by name, to prove that I do indeed remember him. I'd spent the entire lunch trying to dredge up his name from my grey cells, but it just eluded me till later. I'd barely driven 5 minutes away from the cafe when all of a sudden, the name popped up! And that's how it is with my failing memory šŸ˜Ž

Friday, 6 October 2017

Finding A Hidden Gem

        The existence of this eatery first came to light when Nancy, a fellow blogger from Ipoh, introduced it earlier this year. Soon after, my colleague, Lee, raved about it. As he's a food connoisseur, this prompted me to rope in one of my partners in crime to stake out the place.
       
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Mama Noodle Cafe is tucked away at Hala Wah Keong, Taman Mirindy. Its specialty lies in its loh shee fun, a kind of short white noodles made from ground rice flour. Hubby cannot fathom what draws his musophobic wife to these noodles that sound like "rat noodles" in Cantonese. At Mama Noodle Cafe, their loh shee fun is not sourced from any factory, but is proudly home-made (by Mama, maybe?). Their soup is flavourful, making it an exquisite base for the noodles. There are several ingredients to choose from to make up one's bowl of noodles - pig's stomach, signature meatballs (fei yuen), beancurd paste crispy pork (nam yue zhao yoke) and preserved vegetable meatballs (dong choi yuen). Those who are averse to rat noodles can take their pick from other types of noodles that are available.
Their bilingual menu


Their daily specials

        On our first visit, Mummy ordered the crispy pork noodles in soup (RM5.00) while I picked the crispy pork with signature meatballs noodles in soup (RM5.50). We especially enjoyed the soup that was packed with flavours and was so good that I wished they had been more generous with the amount. Some may think the crispy pork is a tad too sweet but I think it complements the noodles perfectly.
Mummy's pick of the day

My bowl of noodles with treasures

        Good things are meant to be shared. Since we were so pleased with the eatery, I brought hubby there a few days later. When his eyes fell on the sole curry item on the menu, he was sold. He had the traditional white curry yellow noodles with roasted pork and skin (RM6.00). As they had run out of roasted pork, they substituted that with crispy pork.  I opted for crispy pork and preserved vegetable meatballs noodles in soup (RM5.50). The popular loh shee fun had all been snapped up for the day so I had to make do with hor fun.
What a delightful brunch!

        Hubby was quite enamoured with Mama Noodle Cafe so we returned to this eatery three days later. His choice for that morning was the pig's stomach, crispy pork and signature meatballs yellow noodles in soup (RM6.50) while I was faithful to the crispy pork and preserved vegetable meatballs loh shee fun in soup.
Looking at the dark vermilion soup, one can take a guess that it's bursting with goodness!

        How could I leave out Papa dearest? A few days after that, I took him there. I decided to let him try the pig's stomach with signature meatballs beehoon in soup (RM5.50), Mummy chose the signature meatballs hor fun in soup (RM5.50) while I unwaveringly went for the crispy pork and preserved vegetable meatballs loh shee fun in soup.
A trio of noodles plus a side dish of fried wantons for Papa, Mummy and I

        Mama Noodle Cafe is definitely on our list of places to have brunch in Ipoh as it's a hidden gem!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Chasing Rocks and Boats at Turtle Estuary

       The little town of Kuala Penyu (which means Turtle Estuary in Malay) is 101.7km away from Kota Kinabalu and entails a drive of 1 hour 48 minutes. It is not popular among tourists, apart from those who are heading for Pulau Tiga or better known as Survivor Island. Kuala Penyu is the gateway to the island, which shot to fame after being the first ever "secret" location of the hit reality series.
Mud spa session in Pulau Tiga
Back in 2002, when I was teaching in Sabah, I organised a memorable trip to Pulau Tiga with my colleagues. I have hazy memories of the sleepy town of Kuala Penyu, from where we boarded the speedboat over to Pulau Tiga.

       
The turtle at the roundabout tells you that you have arrived! (Pic taken from Vicky's website)
        Kuala Penyu may be easily dismissed by tourists but it is the "secret" location of two sites that have been plundered by photographers. And it is the main draw for hubby's visit to Sabah. It certainly was not easy for us to locate the two sites.

        The first site, Batu Luang, was located with some help from Vicky, our hostess at Sawangan Beach Lodge.
It was situated on an isolated beach, about half an hour away, and involved driving on some gravel road. The high lone rock with a tuft of "hair" was indeed quite a sight to behold, but hubby was disappointed to find that the mossy beach rocks dancing around the high lone rock were nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, hubby was still able to capture the photos that he wanted. I was contented to sit in the car, enjoy the book in hand (Dr. Lee Su Kim's "Manek Mischiefs"), marvel at the vivid sunset and tried to imagine the characters in the folktale behind Batu Luang.
Follow this path down to the beach (a glimpse of Batu Luang can be seen).

Behold Batu Luang...the lone rock with the tuft of "hair"!

Batu Luang from another angle

Batu Luang at sunset

        Vicky had earlier enthralled me with the tragic story of Batu Luang, also known as Batu Punggul. A wedding entourage was making its way from the bride's house to the house of the bridegroom. Unfortunately, they were caught in a thunderstorm. So they sought shelter in one of the caves along the beach. When the storm abated, the group made their way out of the cave to continue on their journey. The bride was the last to leave the cave and as she was approaching the exit, suddenly, the cave collapsed. The bridegroom, who was holding on to her hand, tried his best to pull her out. But her hand slipped from his grip, leaving only her wedding ring in his palm. A celebration then turned into a tragedy when the bride was sealed in the cave for eternity.
        The second photography site in Kuala Penyu that hubby was scouting for was the boat graveyard. We tried asking about it and showing pictures to many locals, but no one seemed to know. Finally, we stumbled upon a boatman, who pointed us in the right direction. The sorry sight of dilapidated boats whiling away their last days of their lives in a hidden corner of Kuala Penyu may not be of interest to many. But it was a promising sight for a photographer. Hubby was blessed with another glorious sunset, and he succeeded in getting lovely shots of the forgotten boats.
A desolate sight of forgotten boats


Glorious sunset

        Our two-night stay at Kuala Penyu was fruitful and hubby loved it. Our accommodation at Sawangan Beach Lodge was cozy and comfortable. And I enjoyed my time with Vicky, who was often manning the little grocery shop in the compound and was always eager for a chat.
With Vicky at Sawangan Beach Lodge

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Galloping Into Cowboy Village

        Teachers in Sam Tet, both primary and secondary, have been feted annually. In conjunction with the Teachers' Day celebration, the Parents & Teachers Association as well as the Board of Governors have always treated us to 8 to 10 course dinners. It is a heartfelt gesture to show appreciation to the hard work that we teachers put in all year round.
        This year, the Sam Tet Alumni collaborated with the two bodies to organise an even more memorable celebration --- the Founder's Day & Teachers' Day Dinner. And the theme for last night's dinner was Cowboy Night!
        Sam Tet was transformed into Cowboy Village for a night. Images of a typical street in a cowboy town, complete with straw bales and Wanted Person standees, had been put up, offering plenty of photo-taking opportunities. Guests arrived decked in their Wild Wild West attire and were proffered a cowboy hat each. We had tons of fun imagining ourselves as cowboys and cowgirls. 
        It was indeed a very enjoyable and entertaining evening, one that will be long remembered. Yee-haw!
Wanted for being sexy???


With Lee Yuen Keong, notorious for his "crimes" in school!

With a ferocious Red Indian

Trying (and failing miserably) to look like a cowgirl who means business!

Cowboys and cowgirls for a night

With Adeline Fong, the prettiest cowgirl ever!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Succumbing To Sinful Pleasures

      Taking advantage that tomorrow's a holiday for my school and hubby had a dinner appointment with his colleagues, I made a date with my partner in crime. We were enticed to succumb to a sinful meal at one of Ipoh's latest eateries...a restrobar with a name that conjures up scenes of immorality --- OpĆ«am.
      Fans of Patisserie Boutique in Old Town will be lured to OpĆ«am because they are both owned by Nicole Gan, who is also behind all the luscious dishes and desserts. OpĆ«am operates from a corner lot house opposite DeGarden and lots of parking spaces are available behind the restrobar.
       Learning from a past experience, I made the reservation a week earlier. True enough, even though it was a weeknight, it was a full house. There were not many tables available but it was a cozy dining ambience. Service was fast and most importantly, the food was delicious. As I had such high expectations of Nicole's culinary skills, I was rather worried that I might leave disappointed. My worries were unfounded.
       My partner in crime had previously been to OpĆ«am with her hubby. She must have enjoyed her choice that time around because she ordered the same dish again today --- Giant Scallops & Smoked Salmon Pasta (RM55). One may balk at the price but one look at the humongous scallops, one will know it's worth the price. 
Angeline's choice of Giant Scallops & Smoked Salmon Pasta

        I have always been partial to pesto sauce, so when I saw it being paired with sea tiger prawns (another love of mine), I was drawn to it. The pasta was cooked al-dente, the pesto sauce had the perfect consistency and was not too oily, they were generous with the sea tiger prawns and I adore the pine nuts that were tossed with the pasta. I would not hesitate to order this Sea Tiger Prawn Pesto (RM42) again.
My utterly scrumptious Sea Tiger Prawn Pesto

       OpĆ«am does not have an extensive dessert selection but it's an interesting one. I was torn between the Salted Egg Croissant (RM16) and the Black Cherry Liquour Tiramisu (RM26). Finally, I decided on the latter as I was keen to compare it with my favourite tiramisu at Indulgence. It was definitely a much bigger slice than the one at Indulgence and the taste of liquour was unmistakable. But I prefer the texture of Indulgence's tiramisu, where there's more of the ladyfingers to sink your teeth in, as opposed to the mousse-like mascarpone cheese.
The very decadent Black Cherry Liquour Tiramisu

        Thoughts of the calories that I've packed in were fleeting as the dinner was most enjoyable, because of the company as well as the food. Hmm...perhaps I should work out at the gym for another hour tomorrow after my regular zumba session.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Introducing The Noodles Of Sabah

        My previous post on having Sarawak's kolo mee gave impetus to this post, which is on its lesser known cousin. Many are familiar with both the kampua and kolo mee of Sarawak, and fans are delighted to find them at many places in Peninsular Malaysia. My first taste of a reddish kolo mee was at a coffee shop in Penang, and I have also spotted it sold at a Tanjung Sepat shop that caters to tourists.
     Both kampua and kolo mee are basically springy egg noodles that are made without the use of any alkaline water. Both are traditionally eaten dry, tossed well with lard and sauce. In fact, both the names kampua and kolo mean "dry tossed".  The differences lie in the thickness and texture of the noodles, as well as how they're served.
      As the focus of this post is not on Sarawak's pride and joy, I shall not elaborate on the difference. I would like to introduce their lesser known cousin, the kolo mee of Sabah. From my four-year stay in the Land Below The Wind, I know Sabahans love their noodles and can boast of many different varieties, but have chosen to remain low-profile. Hence, not many people know of the different ways kolo mee is served in Sabah.
      The simple egg noodles are treated differently in different towns in Sabah. Visitors to Sabah are encouraged to try the famous Tuaran mee. The handmade noodles are made using only egg yolks. They are first toasted in oil in the wok to prevent them from clumping together, then blanched to reduce the stiff crunchy texture, before finally stir-fried to a dry finish with eggs, vegetables, and meat or seafood. On our recent trip to Sabah, I took hubby to the town of Tuaran to try its famous specialty.



      Tamparuli, a town that is 12 minutes away from Tuaran, has also garnered fame from its Tamparuli mee. It's very similar to Tuaran's version, but the noodles that are made in Tamparuli are rounder, slightly larger and has a springier texture.  The location of Tamparuli, which is along the route to Mount Kinabalu, has ensured that the Tamparuli mee has its own loyal fans.
Picture of Tamparuli mee is taken from the Internet

       During my four-year stay in the Cowboy Town of Kota Belud, I often visited an unassuming stall hidden behind the UMNO building. It was run by a student's parents. Their version of the kolo mee is tossed with dark soya sauce, served with chicken meat or char siew (which, by the way, is often referred to as sasau in Sabah), a bowl of chicken broth and a small helping of fried shallots on the side. Passing by Kota Belud during our recent drive from Simpang Mengayau to Kundasang, I was busy showing hubby Kota Belud's Tamu, the school where I taught, the church that I attended
My first posting was at this school
St. Edmund's Church, where I was baptised
and the house that I rented. By the time we decided to have lunch, it was rather late and the kolo mee stall had closed for the day.
Photo of Kota Belud's kolo mee is taken from the Internet


Photo of this bustling kolo mee stall in Kota Belud is also taken from the Internet

        Fortunately, I had another chance to revive my memories of Sabah's kolo mee and this was in the sleepy town of Kuala Penyu. I personally think Kuala Penyu's kolo mee cannot hold a candle to Kota Belud's kolo mee. I chose to have my kolo mee with sasau instead of sauyuk (roast pork), while hubby ordered a bowl of Kuala Penyu's egg noodles with seafood in soup, which he enjoyed very much.
Kuala Penyu's sasau kolo mee and seafood mee in soup

       I've been told that other towns like Beaufort and Tawau also dish up different renditions of kolo mee. I guess if one decides to try all the different ways Sabahans enjoy their egg noodles, a visit to almost every town in Sabah would be necessary.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Having The Best Of Two Worlds

        It was a blow to hubby when his favourite wanton mee shop took the Hakka braised pork wanton mee off its menu. Taking pity on the poor man, I decided to replicate this for one weekday dinner. 
      During the weekend, I had cooked the Hakka braised pork with black fungus (for the recipe, visit http://irenechanal.blogspot.my/2015/10/dishing-up-hakka-meal.html) with an extra portion stashed in the freezer. Then upon returning home from work on a weeknight, I heated up the meat. A colleague had earlier given me some dried kolo mee from Sibu, so I decided to have that instead of wanton mee.
      I guess the aroma of the steaming hot Hakka braised pork with black fungus poured onto the kolo mee that had been tossed with sesame seed oil, dark soya sauce and oyster sauce must have wafted upstairs. Hubby commented, "What's that nice smell?", to which I answered, "Come down for dinner, darling."
      True blue Sarawakians may take offence on how their prized kolo mee is cooked in my kitchen. After all, kolo mee is supposedly tossed with lard and served with minced pork and char siew. But I believe a wee bit of ingenuity goes a long way. It's like having the best of two worlds : a much-loved Hakka dish with Sarawak's pride and joy. And most importantly, hubby is all smiles.
Hakka braised pork with black fungus kolo mee