Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Focusing on the Chicken Part 5

        Lest people think that chicken posts have to be solely associated with food, I am ending my month of posts about the plucky fowl without focusing on food. This domestic fowl (and all its parts) not only ends up frequently on our dining tables, but also finds its way in quite a number of English idioms.

     Getting up with the chickens this morning, I decided to pay tribute to them in this post. Thinking that my brain could function better in the solitude of the early morning, my hopes were dashed when repeated sounds of a banging metal door shattered the silence. It always ruffles my feathers when my Korean neighbour chooses to announce her arrival or departure by slamming the door. This is not something trivial because our houses are attached to each other so the sound reverberates and sometimes, it feels like it’s a mini earthquake. I really do not know what goes on in that bird brain of hers but she has also been known to play handyman in the wee hours of the morning by hammering against the wall!

       When hubby sees me fussing like an old hen, he eggs me on to confront her. Refusing to do so does not mean I am chicken hearted; I just prefer to maintain a civilised relationship, well, for as long as I can. I would rather walk on eggshells than launch World War 3. Nevertheless, I have spoken up, when the need arose. Her multitude of cars often block our path, and there was once I could not reverse out because of her inconsiderate parking. I tried calling out to her several times but there was no response. Feeling a rage brew inside me, I got into my car and honked loudly! Fortunately, that got her rushing out, with an apologetic face, which I returned with an angry look.

        I know Buddhism warrants one to be humane to animals, but leaving food leftovers on the road to feed the stray cats is really taking things to the extreme. And scattering the stale rice mixed with yucky meat and vegetables over to the road in front of your neighbours’ houses is downright rude and irresponsible! This time I did not chicken out. I lodged a complaint to the house developer (at that time, the house developer was still overseeing our gated and guarded community). Her practice seemed to halt very soon after my complaint and I was feeling smug about it. Hubby told me not to count my chickens before they are hatched. How right he was! She was soon back to her nonsense. And I went to complain again! I later found out that her other neighbour had also marched to the developer’s office in fury, threatening to bring in the local municipal council.

        My Korean neighbour is no spring chicken but she dresses like one! She loves to wear skin tight pants and puts on heavy makeup. Despite being a housewife, she is tardy where house cleaning is concerned. The part-time Indian maid who used to work for me was also cleaning her house for several months. Saras finally could not take it, complaining to me that my neighbour’s house is extremely dirty and unhygienic! She does not even bother to clean up after her dog’s menstrual blood stains the floor!!! I’m not certain if this was one of Saras’ cock and bull stories, but she had nothing to gain by telling me this.

         Having good neighbours is scarce as hen’s teeth, but fortunately, my neighbours on my left are gems. The husband is friendly and helpful. The wife, who has a sunny side up, is not a mother hen but trains her two daughters to be independent. Both girls are polite and pleasant, always ready to lend a hand to their mother where household chores are concerned. If only my Korean neighbour is more considerate!

  1. Get up with the chickens - wake up really early
  2. Ruffle one’s feathers - annoy someone
  3. Bird brain - senseless
  4. Fuss like an old hen - get angry
  5. Egg someone on - encourage, goad or incite someone into action
  6. Chicken hearted - cowardly
  7. Walk on eggshells - try very hard not to upset someone or something
  8. Chicken out - run away from something because of fear
  9. Count your chickens before they are hatched - predict a successful outcome before the final outcome is confirmed
  10. No spring chicken - not young
  11. Cock and bull story - untrue story
  12. Scarce as hen’s teeth - extremely hard to find
  13. Sunny side up - cheerful attitude
  14. Mother hen - very protective

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Focusing on the Chicken Part 4

     Ask any Malaysian if he or she has tasted chicken chop, and you will probably get an incredulous look that goes to say you must be nuts if you have never eaten this quintessential dish at Malaysian eateries serving Western food. But ask a true blue British or American the same question, you may be asked if you mean a new kind of karate chop or if you are referring to chicken pieces in chop suey (an American Chinese stir-fried dish of vegetables and meat). 
     Apparently, chicken chop is a local creation, probably introduced by the Hainanese chefs who wanted to cater to their British colonial masters working in Malaya. It is a very versatile dish as the boneless chicken can be deep-fried, pan-fried or grilled and then smothered with various kinds of gravy.
     Although I prefer to try other dishes whenever I go to a Western restaurant, I do have a weakness for Hainanese Chicken Chop. This is deep-fried boneless chicken drenched in onion gravy. In Ipoh, I have found two establishments serving an excellent version of this.

Sin Hoong Fatt's Hainanese Chicken Chop

1.      Restoran Sin Hoong Fatt (better known as Vegas Ipoh) 
         1, Lebuh Cecil Rae, Canning Garden, 31400 Ipoh

View of the coffee shop from the Canning Garden market
                 Although this Halal coffee shop opens from morning, it is somehow more bustling in the evening. John Junior’s Western food stall starts business in the late afternoon and this is where I get a caramel-coloured onion & green peas gravy enveloping my chicken chop. In addition to the french fries, tomato and cucumber slices, this plate of chicken chop also comes with a slice of bread for you to mop up the scrumptious gravy. By the way, John Junior’s dad (John Senior, I presume) was an excellent Hainanese chef in his heydays and I can still remember his delicious pork patties, which he used to sell at another coffee shop in Canning Garden.

Cathay's Hainanese Chicken Chop
2.      Restoran Cathay 
         17A, Jalan Dato Tahwil Azhar, 30300 Ipoh
Photo of the coffee shop taken from Rebecca Saw's blog

                   A very old school Hainanese coffee shop, this eatery has been popular among Ipoh folk since the 1970s. In those days, it used to be at another location near its present premises, and was also frequented because of its famous Indian mi goreng. I practically grew up eating this Hainanese chicken chop and especially love its tangy, tomato-based gravy. I also prefer the thicker cut of fries. Another dish that I like to order whenever I go to this coffee shop is its French toast with heavenly kaya.
Simply yummy French toast with kaya

     Apart from these two eateries in Ipoh, I have also tasted an exceptionally yummy version in a very unassuming Hainanese coffee shop in the sleepy town of Kuala Kubu Bharu.  It was at Kedai Makanan Hailam Sun Sun Nam Cheong that I sank my teeth into the most mouth-watering Hainanese Chicken Chop. It was so palatable that I considered giving in to gluttony and ordering another plate. Hmm...perhaps I should pester hubby to make a detour to this town the next time we go to Kuala Lumpur, just to satiate my desire.

Sun Sun Nam Cheong's Hainanese Chicken Chop
A photo of the old coffee shop taken from a blog


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Making My Heart Melt

     I am interrupting my chicken series for today's post. After all, this blog is all about La Bonne Vie (The Good Life) and I was gifted with such a sweet surprise. I cannot let this day pass without recording this wonderful gift.
     After a busy day in school, I came home, jaded, sticky and sweaty. Upon opening the door, my eyes fell upon this huge bouquet of pink and purple roses. My jaw literally dropped!

     It was totally unexpected. Hubby had left for a meeting in Bukit Jalil at half past four in the morning. The meeting was supposed to end around four in the evening. By the time his driver eases out of the infamous traffic jam and drive back to Ipoh, it would be late. I texted hubby at about half past five this evening to see if he was already on his way home. The cheeky fellow answered in the affirmative. In truth, the meeting had ended very much earlier and hubby had arrived home at four in the evening! He had then driven out to get the roses to surprise me.
       This Valentine's Day surprise is so touching. Knowing that he had a meeting in Bukit Jalil today, we had a pre-Valentine's Day dinner at Three Little Pigs & The Big Bad Wolf last Friday. Old married couples like us do not jostle with the masses on the actual day and pay through the noses for special menus. Old married couples like us do not expect to be given presents on special occasions like Valentine's Day. Old married couples like us do not make a fuss over Valentine's Day and get all lovey-dovey on this day. Every day spent with your loved one is Valentine's Day.
     And yet, being greeted by the sight of the roses on Valentine's Day, especially when it's least expected, is so heart-warming. Hubby really made my heart melt today. Merci beaucoup, mon amour.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Focusing on the Chicken Part 3

     Those who know me very well would know that I am devoted to lemongrass, and anything that has lemongrass as one of its properties. Lemongrass soap and lemongrass shampoo from Australia and New Zealand respectively are the little luxuries in my bathroom. Whenever hubby changes the bed linen, he would sprinkle drops of lemongrass oil onto the bed to delight his wifey. If lemongrass drinks are in the menu, I’d never fail to order them. And needless to say, I love lemongrass in my food too.
     This post is not only about my beloved lemongrass as the chicken saga continues. So I am sharing the recipe of a regular dish in my kitchen — Fiery Lemongrass Chicken.

The chicken, the trusty pestle n mortar and the 4 important ingredients

Fiery Lemongrass Chicken

Ingredients :
2 boneless chicken thighs (cut into pieces)
9 bird’s eye chili (less can be used for a less fiery dish)
3 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass (pounded)
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp water
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dark soya sauce
1/4 tsp sesame seed oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tom yam paste

Method :
  1. Season chicken with cornflour, pepper, dark soya sauce, sesame seed oil, half of the brown sugar, fish sauce and half of the tom yam paste. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Heat oil in wok and stir fry the garlic, bird’s eye chili and pounded lemongrass with the remaining tom yam paste till aromatic.
  3. Add marinated chicken and the remaining brown sugar, toss till well-mixed and fry till golden brown.
  4. Add water and simmer until sauce has thickened. Serve hot.
This recipe was adapted from Minty’s Kitchen’s Thai Spicy Lemongrass Chicken     

My Fiery Lemongrass Chicken

     If you are wondering why fiery dishes are always featured in my kitchen, the answer is because I cook to please hubby, who enjoys spicy dishes. The spicier, the better, that’s his motto.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Focusing on the Chicken Part 2

     Continuing the focus on the chicken, I present to you one of my staples for brunch —- shredded chicken on wanton noodles. Many stalls selling wanton noodles would have this in their menu, but not all of them can dish up a delicious fare. In Ipoh, I have found three establishments that serve an excellent plate of shredded chicken on wanton noodles.

Restoran Tet Shin
27, Jalan Yau Tet Shin
     Fong Yee, a petite and sweet lady in her early 60s, has been selling wanton noodles since I was a little girl. She used to operate from another coffee shop a few streets away (opposite old Fohsan). Even if I neglect to specify that I do not want my noodles drenched in gravy, she can remember exactly the way I like my shredded chicken and mushroom wanton noodles. Her noodles are very springy and the shredded chicken is extremely well-marinated, with a tinge of cooking wine.
Fong Yee's extremely sedap noodles

Restoran & Kafe New Weng Fatt
1, Lebuh Taman Ipoh, Ipoh Garden South
     Mr. Lam’s wanton noodles stall is called Weng Kee Gopeng Mee. His father has a very famous wanton noodles stall in Old Town, and the family decided to spread their wings to this part of Ipoh. His shredded chicken gravy is a little gluey, but tasty nonetheless. Mr. Lam operates this stall from morning till night so this is the only stall from which I can have my shredded chicken wanton noodles day and night.
Mr. Lam's version of the noodles

Restoran Ko Pi Tim
2, Medan Ipoh 1D, Medan Ipoh Bestari

     Out of the three establishments, this is the most frequented because of its proximity to my parents’ place and there are many other noteworthy stalls here that interest my parents (who are not as zealous over shredded chicken wanton noodles as I am). The noodles are also cooked al-dente and when topped with the yummy combination of shredded chicken and mushroom, it makes me dig in with fervour. Unlike the other two stalls, this one also offers another firm favourite of mine — curry chicken with wanton noodles. If I can throw caution to the wind, I would order this every single occasion, but I restrain myself for fear of clogging up my arteries with the scrumptious curry.
I order this toong ku kai see noodles at least once  week.

The incredibly delicious curry chicken noodles, which I only get to enjoy once in a blue moon

Friday, 3 February 2017

Focusing on the Chicken Part 1

     In celebration of the Year of the Rooster, I'm dedicating all my posts this month to the plucky fowl. Hopefully, I won't be accused of talking cock. 

     Chicken was the centrepiece in one of my recent new dishes. Since hubby enjoyed it so much, I'm sharing this easy recipe, and it will remind me to cook it again soon.

Colourful dish of Fiery Chicken Cubes

Fiery Chicken Cubes

Ingredients :
300g chicken fillet (cut into cubes)
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
6 dried chillies (I used 9, because hubby loves it 
        extra spicy)
20g young ginger (cut into thin slices)
1 egg (lightly beaten)
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp potato flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp dark soya sauce
1/2 tsp shaoxing wine
2 tbsp oil
6 tbsp water

Method :
1. Season chicken fillet with salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame seed oil, pepper, 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce and dark soya sauce. Leave to marinate for 1 hour.
2. Add beaten egg to the marinated chicken. Toss in the flour mixture.
3. Deep fry the chicken cubes till lightly golden brown. Dish out and drain well.
4. Saute garlic, onion, ginger and dried chillies with the oil and the remaining sesame seed oil.
5. Add sugar, the remaining oyster sauce, the shaoxing wine and the water. Mix well.
6. Pour in the pre-fried chicken cubes and give it a quick toss. Serve hot.

This recipe was adapted from Amy Beh's Cubed Chicken with Spicy Chillies.