An African Dream

I dream of a better life,
For me and my family,
Where we won’t be judged by our colour,
But rather by our abilities and character,
And to be given due respect as any other humans deserve.

These sentiments were echoed by all African friends I have, for all have tales to tell, of how they have been treated differently, how simple everyday activities such as taking public transport, hanging out at eateries, parking, etc was made more difficult for them just because of their colour.

Just last month I was invited to an African baby christening ceremony. As with any function, there was promises of good food, fun and an entirely new experience.

Not one to miss any of the mentioned factors, I was there of course, and was even early hoping to catch some of the cooking action.

The Chancellor from the African Embassy was there to ‘conduct’ the ceremony; which was held in the community hall of the apartment where the parents stayed.

Alas, the food was prepared elsewhere and bought in in containers, sort-of like “catered” food. But the cook was authentic enough (below the lady on the left), thus I was assured of some real African grub.

To plan an African meal, one must consider a starch base, emphasize is on yams, cornmeal, and lentils and wheat. So lets start off with all the carbo…

Red Bean rice
Actually I think they do have a name for it, just that everyone is soooo busy that they can’t quite attend to my never-ending Qs! “What’s the ingredients for this? How do you cook that? Why is the colour as such? Where do you buy the …”
I probably took the award for the most irritating guest ever!

Cooked with red beans (duhhh), it’s a simple dish, sweeten naturally from the beans. I liked it.

Jollof rice, You can read more about it here.
It looked somewhat like our briyani, but sadly, tasted no where near it. Rather plain actually, much much better if consumed with the stew.

Kenkey.

Seriously an acquired taste!
“a maize” of a ball. HUGE aint it??? And I saw EACH person consuming one!
I could barely manage a mouthful. Darn sourish too!
More on Kenkey..taken off the internet.
What is kenkey and how is it made?

Kenkey is one of the principal fermented foods consumed in Ghana. It is prepared from fermented ground white corn (maize). To prepare kenkey, the corn has to be ground first into flour and mixed with warm water, followed by fermentation (for two to three days) into maize dough.

The fermented dough is kneaded with the hands until it is thoroughly mixed and slightly stiffened, after which it is divided into two equal parts. One part of the fermented dough is partially cooked in a large pot of water for about ten minutes, stirring constantly and vigorously, after which it is combined with the remaining uncooked dough and mixed well. The cooked half of the dough is called “aflata”. The aflata-dough mixture is divided into serving-sized pieces and wrapped tightly in banana leaves, cornhusks, or foil. The wrapped dough packets are placed on a wire rack above water in a large pot and allowed to boil and steam for one to three hours, depending on their size and thickness. The final product, kenkey is served with a sauce or any fish or meat dish.

Yup, so we have all the guest eating this with their hands (which is the norm, btw), by breaking off parts of it and molding it with their fingers, with bits of chicken, fish, etc..just like how we eat our nasi kunyit.

African don’t call their curries “curry”.. everything is just “stew”. Likewise, I find most African food tend to be more on the sweet side, not so much of spicy as chillies are not a main staple.

This was the Chicken Stew that was served that day.
The “gravy” is not brownish-based like most stews we are accustomed to, and looks can be deceiving..for though it was red, it wasn’t spicy. Bearing resemblance of our Ayam Masak Merah, but doesn’t taste remotely anywhere the same. Mildly sweet. Other than that, disappointingly tasteless.
The rough ingredients guide:
Sliced onions (African food seems to use onions and tomatoes a lot), tomatoes, tomatoes sauce, small grounded chili or chili powder else chili boh can be used as substitute & chicken stock cubes.

Fried fish.
No one could tell me what sort of fish, and it didn’t look appetizing, hence i didn’t take any ;p

Finally there is chilli!
Bland stew, bland rice, bland sour kenkey..seeing chili was a bliss..
Very “chilli flakes in oil” kinda texture, consisted of onions, chillis, grinded dried shrimps and black pepper sauce.
Result is this dark-coloured paste, and as expected from the ingredients, it wasn’t spicy enough. Maybe I’m just used to our Malaysian bird’s eye chilies and sambal…

Oh, of course there was a whole bowl of it.. but there was a perpetual queue at the buffet line making taking pics a drag so I end up taking most pics of whatever that was on my plate. LOL.
Fried chicken.
Garlic, ginger, onions grinded together and marinated. Then fried. It was VERY dry. Took some mouth muscles to get the meat into assimilation-able form.
The noodles (or is it pasta?) was so plain, I figured that it was meant to be eaten with the lamb balls stew and not on its own.
The Lamb Meatballs is good… should have taken more of it!
Soft, meaty and sweet (again!), but a minor sting of spiciness. Nice.
Desserts – Trifle.

This was extremely sweet (after all, if their food is sweet, then desserts are meant to be sweeTER no? ;p), and the jelly was more mushy than springy/firm.
That aside, the very rich milky custard, layered with marbled sponge fingers & topped with fresh black cherries was a great palate cleanser.

My African friends said there are a few African restaurants around, with one in Puchong and another in Cheras, but the only one that I really know of is OUT OF AFRICA RESTAURANT & KUDU BAR in PJ, of which I been meaning to pay a visit for eons… Seems really expensive from the menu but for the experience..why not?

7, 8, 9

No, its not the counts of me doing sit-ups.. (though I really should be doing so for the amount of food I have been consuming lately…)

Familiar?

She is the force behind these…

And just last Saturday myself and Ken was at one of her famous soirees, where a live Jazz band played amidst free-flowing white wine and lovely canapes.

Meet one of the most successful woman entrepreneur of our decade, Michelle Kwok, with members of the Cuturrufo Jazz Band..
The Cuturrufo Jazz Band featuring Cristian Cuturrufo gave all music aficionados a taste of pure Chilean passion at the Souled Out and 7atenine on 13th and 14th March 2009.

Bought in to perform in Malaysia for the very first time with support from the Embassy of Chile, the quintet enthralled the audience with their renditions of Latin Jazz and snazzy Jazz Funk.
The band incorporated their signature beats to produce an interesting amalgamation of sounds that mesmerised the audience.
The band’s leader, Cristian Cuturrufo, is one of the most distinguished trumpeters of Latin America and is recognised as the hottest and fastest trumpeter of Chilean Jazz.
He was honoured in 2001 the Premio Altazor, a coveted prize and the most important artistic award given in Chile, as it is an award for artistes given by artistes.
Enhancing the whole event was an exhibition by renowned photographer, Gonzalo Donoso, well known for his portraits of musicians and bands. 20 of his selected works were prominently on display at SOULed Out and 7atenine on both nights.

And of course, for me the highlight of the night was…
THE FOOD!
Delightful canapes….where the flavours of the world come together in airy creations like the salmon pastry and tomato cheese puff tartlets.
Each came in a delicate small portion but were just enough for us to savour the taste.

Light as air pastry, with smooth spread of creamy fresh salmon.

Rich pecorino cheese, blended finely with sweet momotaro tomatoes, imparting a refreshing tomato-ish flavour that compliments so well with the cheese. Simple, yet delightful. Kudos to the chef.

The new menu has recently been launched as well, we have been told it was designed by celebrity Chef in Black, Emmanuel Stroobant and at helm in the kitchen is a French chef.

I think that is him (on the left) grinning from the kitchen. He seems pretty cheeky and looked amused with my picture taking activity.

I find the canapes, devised from simple original cuisine but based on unexpected textures and complexities; came froth brilliant creations like the smoked prawns and mango and chilli, or the beef, caviar and peppers.

The crunchy prawn sits atop a medley of homemade mango salsa, which was mixed with finely minced chilli & onions. Sweet yet with a slight tinge of spicyness. A hint of smokyness could be traced in the crunchy prawn.

We relished on the tender slices of juicy beef with melt-in-the-mouth textures, thanks to the marvelous pairing of creamy, mild spicy mayo with crunchy fresh capsicum that bought both a sweet and spicy flavour to each morsel. I detected a hint of black pepper as well and the luxuriant caviar topping hits all the right notes.
A single bite on the beef is recommended to enjoy the combination all at once.


Pandan chicken with a twist is what I’ll call this.
The meat seems to have been light minced, and seasoned with the spices.
What I like was the smooth & rich creamy peanut sauce, still with little nibs of nuts, but fashioned more like a spread yet with the peanut flavour intact. Again, simple original cuisine but based on unexpected textures and complexities.

Another simple yet tasty fare. Nothing great about the batter but the freshness of the fish was evident. Sweet, moist, flaky flesh got the thumbs up from us.

A favourite among our dining companions was the Tempura Fried Asparagus. The tender young stalks of asparagus was sweet and the light crisp outer batter makes eating greens a breeze.

Even our local “goreng pisang” has its moment. Drizzled with shoyu dashi, the bananas was ripely soft, sweet and came lightly battered. None of the roadstalls kind of flour of course.

Flipping through the new menu, we couldn’t resist the desserts.
Asha, the PR counterpart from Alice George Communication ordered the Pandan Yuzu cream brulee (RM15.70).
Described as classic cream brulee scented with pandan leaf & served with yuzu ice-cream.

Yuzu is basically a Japanese citrus fruit. Small pieces of rind of this fruit was in the ice-cream. While the ice-cream itself is sweet, bite into one of the rinds & you’ll find it a bit bitter, very much like our lemon rind.
The creme brulee itself is marvellous. Strong aroma of pandan and balanced sweetness level makes this dessert an absolute must.

cafe latte trifle. RM19.70
Trifle of espresso jelly, almond crumble and coffee cream topped wth ice cream.
The espresso jelly was strong and very hard. Perhaps it was meant to be so? I’m not sure. While it does not suit my palate, coffee addicts would enjoy this.

Tickets for the night was priced at RM137 per pax which included unlimited glasses of fine Chilean wine and canapes.

About 7atenine.
Since its opening in 2006, 7atenine’s reputation has surpassed expectations with locals and visitors alike for this establishment.
Conceived and designed as an ‘International Lifestyle Destination for Food, Service and Experience’, this bi-level luxury restaurant and lounge is located at the upscale Ascott Residences – a stone’s throw from the Petronas Twin Towers.

In recognition of its iconic status, 7atenine was honoured with the accolade of ‘Best Chill Out Bar of the Year 2007-2008′ and the ‘Top Ten Hot Concept of the Year 2007-2008′ at the prestigious Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (HAPA).
Their resident mixologist, Frankie, was awarded ‘Best Mixologist-Malaysia 2007′ at the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup.

Reservations: Tel: 03 2161 7789
email: [email protected]
web: www.sevenatenine.com

Operational Hours:
Mon – Fri :5pm til closing
Sat : 6pm til closing

Pics credits to Ken of FoodPOI.com, where it is due.

Milk for Nourishment…

Any fresher you’ll have got to squeeze it yourself ;p

What, you may ask??

THIS!
You would have thought we would be stuffed from all that hawker indulgence…yet en route to our homes, the 4 of us stopped at this stall.
Where?
Easy, at the Air Itam market. Just right opposite the famous AIR ITAM LAKSA.
Only open at night.

As usual, it’s Ken, the food master’s (or monster) hehehe.. recommendation. Trust him to find all the hide y-holes of superb old-school favourites.

Frothy, rich, creamy, fragrant, smooth and tummy warming fresh, fresh, fresh nutritious elixir!
See the heavy bronze pot used? No cheap alum or stainless steel here. It is said that the bronze retains the flavour better..
I was wayyyy too stuffed to order one of my own, but if I do, I’ll definitely add an egg! (Better than egg with Stout I tell you!)

Choices: Just milk or milk with milo.

Here the 3 of them ordered the milo version.
So he starts with the milo, then the milk.

Next is the sugar. DO opt to add an egg for extra booster …adds to the aroma too!

Stir baby, stir! Vigorously too..
Puuulllllllllllll………… (masuk angin a bit/trap some air) .. LOL.
I mean, that’s where the “lightness” comes from no?

Concentrate sikit.. angle must be right you see…symmetrical as well..
Tariikkkkkkkkkk………….
Allocate into the glasses.. see the nice froth on top?
This stall sells nasi lemak too. Imagine, a steaming hot glass of milo with FULL cream milk and fragrant nasi lemak…sighh..

Since I was so stuffed, I didn’t order & instead took a sip from Ken’s glass.
Ohhhh….REALLY wished I hadn’t eaten sooooo much just now!!. A most satisfying glass of brew…wished I could have had a whole glass to myself..but alas..my stomach doesn’t expand as well at night. Day time yes.

Finally satiated, we literally crawled back to the car….

Dinner – Pantai Timur Cafe, Paya Terubong – PENANG

After a very dismal snack of Tanjung Malim’s Yik Mun’s pau , we landed in Pg and headed straight for dinner at a place VERY highly recommended by Ken.

Ahh… what is Penang if not for her hawker food….

Each one of us forked out RM30, left it in the middle of the table & all food was paid from the pile. We left the ordering to Ken at first, as he had certain favourites that he wanted us to try.

After patiently waiting for the cam-whoring to be over, I dug into the first dish that arrived.

Fried Spicy Rice – RM3.00

Darn good stuff~ nice and spicy. Served with clear tom yam soup (additional RM2.00) with a mid-sized prawn and cuts of squids.

And.. of course we ordered seafood..
Fried “tan” kam heong style , with curry leaves, onions and dried shrimps. RM10.00
Grilled Stingray – RM10.50

Soft and juicy clams…
Deep fried Mackerel with soy sauce, coarsely chopped garlic and bird eye chillies – RM3.50 each

The fish was first sliced into half, but still in one piece, and deep fried till crisp. Simple, yet just perfect with the bird eyes chillies and soy sauce.

Belacan fried rice – RM3.50

This dish was actually complimentary. (Shows how influential Ken of FoodPOI.com is!) The stall owner remembers him by name and even remembers his favourites!

As for the rice, it was very aromatic indeed..and to me, the best part!
Sides includes tender slices of beef in dry curry, julliened green mangoes (sour and adds a twist to the dish), chopped peanuts for crunch, sweet boiled prawns and fried scrambled eggs.
Mix it all up and each mouthful was most satisfying! Savoury, sweet, crunchy and sour. A medley of flavours & textures that left us craving for more.

It’s Penang, we are in Penang, Penang food is good.. it was as if there was some kind of chant going on in our minds..

So we ordered….
Otak-otak – Nyonya – RM2.00

and ordered….
Chee Cheong Fun – 2 rolls for a small portion – RM1.60
and ordered…
Chai koay – RM0.80 each. Yam cake – RM1.00 each.

And a slight variation of the Oh Chien (oyster pancake), this is fried with small lala, instead of the standard juicy oysters.

With barely any room left in our stomachs, we added an order of Curry Mee, we just couldn’t resist it as the stall was just right in front of our table!
We also told her “Ka liow ai” meaning “All want”! ;p

For RM5.60, we got a huge bowl overflowing with tau pok (beancurd puffs), fishcakes, chicken kidneys, 1 piece of curry chicken, cockles, chewy squids, long beans, potatoes and beansprouts.
Not the best I have tasted but still good. The coconut milk stock was just lacking in “ooopmmmhh”!

Tom yam fried bihun with seafood – RM3.00This one was also sadly not up to mark, somehow lacking in body and aroma, with nary a taste of tom yam flavour. Too mild for our preferance. BUT for RM3.00, there was an abundance of seafood in there! Still worth the $!

Stomachs bulging, and definitely more than satisfied with dinner; put us all in a good mood. All thoughts of disappointing paus forgotten, we headed to our respective homes for a good night sleep, with plans for breakfast already made and confirmed! ;p

To be continued..

The Start of The Journey…




27th Feb 2009

We headed off to Pg, THE island of gluttony (very apt destination for a bunch of gluttons like us ;p) on a scorching Fri afternoon.

Doubling up as a food trip, we planned to stop at a few places along the way, both while heading towards Pg and on the way back..

1st stop was Tanjung Malim for the in-famous Yik Mun Pau.
Since I heard soooo much about it, and never actually ate it before, I was full of anticipation. After all, I’ m a carbo-freak.. I luvvv my bread, paus, cakes, pasta, rice and kuey teow and mee..

Sadly…

Seriously I can’t, for the hell of me, comprehend why it is famous! It is one of the worst pau I have ever tasted. Very much like those paus that one gets at the rest stops along the highway, while some of those actually tasted better!

Ok, maybe I’ll be kind and grant Yik Mun some slack, & at the very least I would say the fluffy, airy soft texture of the pau is err…nice.
The fillings left much to be desired. Very Malay-ish kind of curried minced meat (both for the chicken and beef ones) and plain red bean (one that Sunny ordered).

Overall, very processed- taste food, I won’t recommend this as easily as I would recommend Eng Heong Kaya Puffs, Penang Him Heang/Ghee Heang or Kampar Chicken bun.
To think that this is a trademark kinda place.


Unsatisfied, I googled it and yess… pls read the in-femez Motormouth post on it, AND THE COMMENTS after that! Explains it all!
Paus made by Chinese for the Malays – my exact thoughts!

I think I’ll better stop now lest I get assaulted with hate-mails from the Tanjung Malim’s paus fans..

Certainly no cravings for this one!

Coca Restaurant, MORE than just steamboat…

One more “thai…”

Yeah, after the sublime Tamarind Hill and all its “rustic-ness”.. it’s good ole Thai food again, this time at COca Restaurant, Subang Parade.

The Marketing Mgr cum host – super cool and frank lady Andrea..& celeb bakers BigBoysOven.
I like her, yup I really do.. a very unpretentious, astute lady who is very open to feedback and encourages frank judgments of the food. She has as a matter of fact, over time, invited quite a number of floggers for review in this restaurant

In operation for about 9 years in Malaysia, Coca has its own loyal followers and market niche.
Being strictly pork-free, their Malay clientele forms the bulk of their customers base, as well as the middle to upper class crowd, no doubt due to the quality and taste of cuisine served.

We started out with drinks and I ordered ais kacang, my all time fav dessert.

Let me gush please…this is one absolute divine-ish Ice Kacang ever!
Loads of firm yet soft (yup, no mushy ones here) squiggly chendol strands, this luscious concoction was made even more decadent with the topping of creamy raspberry-streaked vanilla ice-cream. Let it melt & mix it in with the ice and be assured of heavenly bliss in every spoonful.
Sigh.. do I need to elaborate further??
Generous with the ingredients, I unearthed cincau, jellies; both round and in strips, shredded nutmeg (that adds that nice nutty, cinammony taste), crushed peanuts for a bit of crunch, BIG soft attap seeds – which I normally omit in my ais kacang order BUT here they got the really good ones, for it was chewy and sweet; in my little bowl of treasure. Well worth the price of RM9.50? I’ll let you decide, for you just got to try it!

Moving along, before I dedicate this whole post to the Ais Kacang alone, the main course was spread out for us..
However…. here I would like to start off with the desserts review instead of the mains..I think the reminder of the Ais Kacang just got me going.. cos now my mind is all on sweets and desserts..

Nahhh..this is not on the menu, for it was personally baked by Sunny of BBO.
Tartelette Citron Meringue. Price to be advised. .
But one of the sinfully marvellous desserts we had that night. Very zesty filling, with fresh cream and crunchy tart shells. Kindly order from BBO to get your fix!

This is a winner too, Steamed Tapioca with Coconut Milk. RM12.00
Sweet, dense and..chewy too. Drenched with thick creamy coconut milk, every chunk was a pleasure. The sprinkling of sesame seeds on top imparts a roasty- nutty flavour to it. Good idea.

Same sauce, this time rained over The Mango Pulut with Durian. RM23.80

For the consideration of the customers, the durian puree was served separately, so durian- haters (whoever you are, you’re weird! ;p) you are still able to enjoy this dessert with the sweet mangoes and sticky glutinous rice.
Note: Only setback here was the section right in the middle of the mound which was hard and dry. We suspected that the glutinous rice was made in advance and frozen, and was not properly thawed- through before it was served.

Ken’s favourite – Tub Thim Krub – Water chestnut with coconut milk and jackfruit – RM7.50
He considers himself an expert and Tub Thim Krub the litmus test of any self-respecting Thai restaurant.
Plus, he slurped up every drop of it. Guess you guys know the verdict..
Ok now that i’m done gushing myself out with the desserts..here are the mains..

Sultry Mango Salad was up first..
Those strands of toothsome crunchy green mangoes, evenly coated with the piquant and sour dressing certainly did a good job of whetting the appetite and got us craving for more.

The Deep fried Mussels. RM12.80
Frankly I didn’t like this. The batter was dry and hard and the mussels inside tasted rubbery. Probably over-cooked?
BUT the rest enjoyed it and had no complains so please don’t mind me. ;p

Steamed Jade Fish Thai Style (Market Price @ Rm17 per 100g)
Steamed with chili padi (bird eyes chillies), garlic, lime and fish sauce. Truly Thai-style and extremely fresh; for it was just ‘fished’ out from the aquarium inside the restaurant itself.

(Recently COCA has diversified their business and expanded their menu. Aside from the traditional steamboat offerings of which they have established a name for themselves, ala-carte dishes, fresh seafood, Thai traditional dishes & buffet takes centrestage in their outlets, both in Subang Parade and 1 -Utama)

Soft smooth flesh, with the sauce that marries a good combination of sourness; perked with the light sting of bird eyes chillies. A recommended choice if you intend to order steamed fish here.

Pandan Chicken RM8.80 for 2 pcs.
The quintessential Thai style chicken. Their version may not be the best I have tasted, but nevertheless it was well marinated with soft meat texture.

Tamarind Style Prawn (Market Price @RM18 per 100g)

Really large, see this fella on my plate??
Sweetish and sour sauce complimented nicely by the fresh natural sweetness of the prawns. Perfect for prawn lovers. Just like the next dish.
Though it was a vegetable dish; Brocolli with Prawn (Market Price @ RM16 per 100g) one can be forgiven for thinking that this was another prawn dish, for the crustaceans again are big and literally engulfed the greens.
One of their signature dishes : Coca Curry Live Crab (Market Price @ RM12 per 100g)
The curried crabs had firm white flesh and sweetness that indicates fresh fresh fresh! The gravy was thick and fragrant. While I find it a tad overwhelmingly strong of curry powder taste, I could be wrong.
Still it was a delight to pick out the flavourful bits and savour it slowly.
Another way to enjoy the sauce is to mop up with a side order of man tou (flower buns) at RM1.80 per pc.
Food outlets nowadays does not only market their food, but the ambiance as well. Decor, lighting and settings plays a huge role in the branding package. Being a Penangite, I couldn’t care less if I got to squat to chow my favourite dish, since ultimately its the taste that matters, but that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
So we see arty set-ups, colourful objects and intricate handiwork. Hence the start -up cost of a restaurant spent on decor alone probably exceeds the chef’s salary for a few years!

Nevertheless, aesthetically pleasing surroundings does adds up to the dining experience.
At COCA, the decor focused on (what else) Thai ornate furniture, handmade artwork, dazzling statues and rustic vases; all beautifully displayed with cleverly positioned lights.




More on the session:
Ken of FoodPOI, plus credits for the pics!