Wednesday, 24 December 2014

christmas in taiwan & malaysia: schneeballe and other delights

Christmas decorations in Taiwan.

It's Christmas, and we are finally back in Australia after nearly 5 months in Asia!

We spent most of December in Taiwan and, subsequently, just a few days in Malaysia before our eventual return, so we caught more than a few glimpses of the Christmas festivities in both those countries. Here they are...

A gorgeous cute bear named ThanQ (pronounced "Thank You"), the mascot of Pacific Sogo department store. The story goes that ThanQ began his existence as a soft toy, but after lots of cuddles from many children, their love brought him to life, and now he wants to give back to the community.

ThanQ the Sogo bear. So adorable.

At Breeze Center (yet another shopping mall), we came across a stall, Bo Schneeballe Cafe, selling the most intriguing German "snowball biscuits".

The snowball pastries at Bo Scheeballe Cafe.

A schneeball is made from strips of dough layered into a round shape, and then deep fried. It is hard, crunchy, and generously sized.

For this reason, there is a mallet and a board available at the cafe, where we were invited to smash our schneeball into manageable pieces for consumption.

It was so much fun! I gleefully hammered away - perhaps almost a bit too enthusiastically...

Our schneeball safe and secure in a packet, ready to be hammered.

We opened the packet and sure enough, our almond chocolate shneeball was all in smithereens, bite-sized morsels ready to be eaten. It was quite delicious, and definitely worth it for the experience. Apparently smashing pastry is an exhilarating activity, one that I'm glad to have done at least once.

Smashed up schneeball!

On to something a little odder... at the Taipei City Hall station one night, I found myself sniffing the air. "Do you smell garlic bread?" I asked Simon.

Then, we saw it: outside a bakery, a Christmas tree made with sticks of garlic bread. Quirky!

A garlic bread Christmas tree outside Semeur bakery.

Eventually we said goodbye to Taiwan, and flew to Malaysia, where we somehow ended up visiting more shopping centres...

At Pavilion, there is a giant Santa-Claus-tree. (There were also some creepy elf-dolls, I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of them.)

Christmas at Pavilion shopping centre in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

We also visited Suria KLCC at the Petronas Twin Towers. There was great atmosphere the afternoon we visited, with a jazz band under the big centerpiece Christmas tree. I heard them playing a lovely rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which compelled me to take a picture of the scene.

Indoor decorations at Suria KLCC.

 At night, the park and fountain area came alive with a water and light show.

Water and light show in front of Suria KLCC.

It was all quite majestic.

Christmas tree at Suria KLCC.

And now I'm back in Australia, looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Friday, 12 December 2014

honey rose cucumber limeade

Hello, everyone!

With all the travel that I've been doing, it's been a while since my last recipe post... so here's one, to mix things up a little.

This drink may seem quite unusual, but it is inspired by an Indonesian drink, "es timun", which is, in essence, a cucumber limeade. I made the original version a while ago, but have since played with the concept a little by using honey instead of sugar, and splashed in some rose water as well, just for touch of floral fancy.

Honey rose cucumber limeade.

honey rose cucumber limeade (serves 4)

4 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon rose water
3 tablespoons honey
4 cups water
1 Lebanese cucumber, grated
12 ice cubes

In a big pitcher, stir lime juice, rose water and honey together. Pour water in gradually, continuing to stir as you do, just to make sure all the honey is dissolved. You may chill this solution in the fridge, or use it immediately.
When you are ready to serve the drink, divide freshly grated cucumber and ice into 4 glasses, then pour in the lime-rose-honey solution. Serve immediately.

Honey rosewater cucumber limeade.

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

kelantan market: pasar besar siti khadijah

The bird's eye view of Kelantan market from the upper floor.

The big market at Kelantan - Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah - is quite an experience, a whirlwind of smells and colours. If I recall correctly, there were three levels: fresh produce on the ground floor, dried or processed foods on the first floor, and textiles on the top floor. I won't say much more... here is the pictorial tour!

This looks similar to snake fruit, but not quite - does anyone know what it is?

Assorted dessert jellies. The green one is used in "cendol", I'm not so familiar with the red one.

An array of pickles.

Malay ladies buying and selling "kuih" - cakes that are usually eaten for breakfast.

The market stall where we got our "nasi kerabu".

Really really delicious "nasi kerabu" at the market. The blue rice is coloured with natural flower dye.

Many different types of crackers, that you can buy home to fry up for a crispy treat.

Dried fish - so many sizes and varieties!
The end. I have to confess that I was mostly drawn to taking photos of the food and not much else. Hope that this post is, regardless, an interesting and satisfying glimpse of Pasar Besar Siti Khadidjah!
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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

kelantan: food, fish, and traditions.

Malay cakes - the ones pictured are "kuih lompang".

When we arrived at Kelantan, my parents immediately whisked us to one of their favourite restaurants. Upon arrival, we see a table full of Malay cakes. We had the "kuih lompang", a wobbly sweet steamed cake made with rice flour and topped with grated coconut. It was scrumptious.

For our main meals, we all got nasi kerabu, a traditional Malay rice dish with herbs, vegetables, and crispy coconut-flaked fish.

Nasi Kerabu, a Malay rice dish. Kelantan is famous for their Nasi Kerabu.

Kelantan state borders Thailand, and for dinner that night we had Thai food. We noticed the restaurant had fried hornet larvae (if I recall correctly - otherwise it might be bees or wasps) and decided to take the plunge. It wasn't as creepy as I imagined. They were crispy and hollow, and took on the taste of the garlic with which they were fried. I found them to be at least tolerable, and Simon actually liked them so much he kept going back for seconds!

Fried hornet larvae.

The next day, we drove around to get ourselves a few glimpses of Malay traditions in Kelantan.

We visited a shop/factory where we observed people weaving songket - a brocade textile.

Songket weaving in Kelantan.

We also saw some guys flying kites. But not just any kite - the traditional Malaysian kite, "wau bulan".

Traditional kite flying in Kelantan. This type of kite is called "wau bulan".

Dad took us to a wharf where fishermen store their catches. There are some cats around the place, I imagine they must lead a pretty good life. Fresh fish everyday!

Cat eating a fresh fish. That feline is living the life!

And of course dad had to buy some fish.

Fresh fish.

We took it to a restaurant that night, and had it cooked by the chef. It was truly excellent. As my dad said, "Sometimes you get seriously great fish, but not a great chef. Sometimes you get a seriously great chef, but not a great fish. Here, both the quality of the fish and the craftmanship is inpeccable." It was a lovely meal with which to end the Kelantan experience.

(By the way, due to the demographics of Kelantan, even though this was a Chinese restaurant, the songs played were Malay, which was quite a quirky juxtaposition, hehe.)

Fish cooked Chinese-style at a Chinese restaurant in Kelantan.

But wait - there's more about Kelantan to come! In my next post, I'll take you on a tour of the fantastic market there.

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

buah binjai (white mango)

Buah binjai, or white mango, at the Terengganu market.

We came across these potato-like fruits at Pasar Payang, the big market at Kuala Terengganu. Curious, we asked the vendors what they were. "Binjai" was the answer. How's the taste? "Sangat asam." Very sour. "Makan dengan sedikit garam, sedap." Eat with a little bit of salt, it's delicious.

Convinced, we purchased a few to try.

Over a few days it ripened further and gave off an increasingly pungent scent. My mum was not impressed by this turn of events, and we were finally persuaded to take the plunge...

Mangifera caesia, also known as: white mango, binjai, jack, wani, yaa-lam, bayuno.

So we finally peeled it, sliced it and ate it - yes, with a touch of salt, as suggested by the fruit vendor. The first bite, and a few subsequent ones, had an intense acidity that made me cringe, but then it grew on me and became more tolerable, even addictive. It has the texture of a mango, and tastes like a super-sour version of a soursop.

I'm glad that we tried this, and hope to see it again in the future so I can buy more - with a texture that lends well to blending, and such a strong, assertive flavour, I'm thinking this white mango could be pretty amazing in a mixed fruit smoothie.

Intensely tart white mango with a sprinkling of salt.

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Friday, 31 October 2014

more in terengganu: hawker food and a market

This is part two of our time in Kuala Terengganu - after we returned from our lovely stint in Redang Island.

We drove across the Sultan Mahmud bridge to Duyung island for a saunter. It is a serene and pretty place.

Duyung island.

We enjoyed more street eats.

Such as this pulut lepa, for breakfast - fish floss in sticky rice, wrapped in banana leaf, and grilled over charcoal flames.

Pulut lepa, fish floss in glutinous rice.

ABC (air batu campur), or ais kacang, the popular Malaysian shaved ice dessert with assorted beans, jelly, palm seeds, sweet corn, drizzled with syrup, and in this case also topped with ice cream...

ABC or ais kacang, a shaved ice dessert.

More keropok lekor. Can you tell it's our favourite snack around this parts? They taste different each time, too. At this stall, it's slashed and slightly hollow, which makes for greater crispiness.

Keropok lekor.

We had blood cockles with a chilli dip...

Blood cockles, which we Malaysian Chinese call see-ham, served with a chilli sauce.

And squid slathered in sambal sauce.

Squid with sambal sauce.

We also took a stroll through the big Kuala Terengganu market called Pasar Payang.

It's busy, and colourful with things like these assorted pickles...

Various assorted pickles.

And cute little dodols. This is a sweet, chewy confection made with glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, and palm sugar. The brown ones are the original plain, and the green ones are pandan. You can also get other flavours, such as durian ones.

Little dodol sweets.

Also, in case you were wondering, this is how keropok lekor looks like before they are cooked. You can buy it to boil or fry at home.

Uncooked keropok lekor.

The produce at this market were plentiful and exotic. Some I hadn't even come across before, like the tampoi fruit. This may also be referred to as ngeker.

Baccaurea macrocarpa (known here as Tampoi or Ngeker).

They also have pulasan, which is reminiscent of the rambutan, but instead of a hairy appearance, it has more solid-looking blunt spikes.

Nephelium mutabile (known here as Pulasan).

All in all, Terengganu has been a great experience, and I suspect I shall remember this segment of the trip as one that introduced me to the traditional fish snack, keropok lekor, and subsequently where I fell in love with it, as well as all the fun (and occasionally haphazard) times we had exploring this Malaysian state together - me, Simon, and my parents.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

kuala terengganu: laksa, keropok lekor, roti paung

Having spent quite a few days in Kuala Terengganu, I think I'm going to give it at least two posts. Here's part one, which is the food we pounced on during our first 24 hours there.

For dinner we had a special local fish snack called keropok lekor, made with fish meat and sago flour/starch, then deep fried and served with a chilli sauce.

Fried keropok lekor.

Every state in Malaysia has their own take on laksa, and in Terengganu, they have, in fact, two versions - "kuah merah" (red broth) and "kuah putih" (white broth).

The one has the rice noodles in a reddish, curry-like soup.

Terengganu laksa kuah merah (red gravy/broth).

In this one, the rice noodles are in a whitish soup, and it has a lighter taste, which I prefer.

Terengganu laksa kuah putih (white gravy/broth).

The next morning, for breakfast, we tried keropok lekor again, but this time, the fish sausage was boiled or steamed.

Steamed or boiled keropok lekor.

We also indulged in the soft, sweet and buttery "roti paung", served with extra butter and kaya on the side.

Roti paung - butter buns.

After this, we took a ferry to Pulau Redang - but we came back for more later, as you shall see!

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

redang island adventures

Arriving at Pulau Redang...

Hello, Redang Island.

Pineapple juice.

Thank you for welcoming us with your warm weather and icy-cold fruit juices.

Mango juice.

Thank you for Teluk Dalam beach, which was like our own little piece of paradise...

Teluk Dalam beach.

Even if we had to stay alert to keep our belongings safe from lurking monkeys who like to steal.

Monkey in the jungle bordering the beach.

Thank you for the gorgeous village kittens who were so adorable...

Adorable kitten.

And so endearingly playful.

Playful kitten.

Thank you for the hospitality we received at the restaurants, such as this man who came out dancing with a fish, just because we expressed curiosity about what an "ikan ebek" was.

Man at restaurant, with a big fish - an "ikan ebek", also known as indian threadfish or diamond trevally.

Thank you for the very, very delicious keropok lekor...

Keropok lekor - local fried fish sausage.

And all the very freshly caught and cooked fish we consumed everyday.

Grilled fish wrapped in banana leaf.

And where we stayed, there wasn't much nightlife, but we had pleasant walks in the quiet of the night, and we watched strangers catch fish for their dinner...

A stranger's catch.

And we went around sighting tokay geckos, for they are very cool nocturnal creatures who don't seem to mind too much if we discreetly hang out with them.

A tokay gecko.

And thank you for letting us swim with the colourful fishes in your clear waters, I only wish I had bought an underwater camera to capture those glorious moments.

Thank you for everything, Redang Island, we had a wonderful time.

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