Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BEEFING UP CHINESE CHEFS




It was a feat of sorts...hats off to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) for succeeding in corralling 28 top Chinese chefs together.

The aim? To mark the launch of MLA Red Majesty Chef programme where the head honchos of top Chinese kitchens in Malaysia and Singapore will be beefed up with improved cooking techniques, modern methods of preparation and presentation of Chinese cuisine. Naturally, the ingredient of choice here is Australian beef and sheep meat for the creation of contemporary Chinese dishes.

The resultant dinner was an exquisite menu of beef and lamb creations starting with Crispy Lamb with Hawthorn Chilli Sauce and Chilled Five Spice Lamb Combination (pix above). Fabulous textural constrast accentuated by the subtly sweet hawthorn chilli sauce defined the first starter; the second was just as captivating thanks to its sheer simplicity.

The subsequent Double Boiled Superior Beef Broth with Sliced Beef Rump and Tendon hit the spot all right since it was a rainy night. Richly flavoured yet light and clear on the palate, the salubrious brew left us asking for more.

Raising the bar further was the Golden Centre Eye of Rump Beef Nugget accompanied by Chef's Special Spicy BBQ Dip. The beef's splendid melt-in-the-mouth tenderness paired with the wickedly spicy sauce left us at a loss for words.

An amalgamation of tart, sweet and smoky nuances held us spellbound in the Slow Braised Lamb Neck with Caramelised Honey Sauce.

After that, Poached and Roasted Beef Rump Cap Escalope dressed with Garlic Black Bean Sauce took centrestage. Again it was faultlessly prepared giving rise to nods and murmurs of appreciation all round.

Even our local white coffee made a cameo appearance in the Thirteen Fragrant Spice Lamb Shoulder Flavoured with White Coffee Sauce...such ingenuity!

Inspired by the local street food scene, the Stir Fried Ho Fun (Flat Rice Vermicelli) was glammed up with Sliced Soy Beef, Shimeiji Mushroom & Poached Quail Egg. Oozing with fab wok hei (that elusive, irresistible smoky "breath" derived from a super-high heat wok), it was one of the evening's best dishes. The poached quail egg's rich smoothness and the delicate brown capped fungi's mild earthiness added brilliant textural interplay to the scrumptious ensemble.

Milk Pudding with Lychee dressed with Caramelised Honey & Red Dates complemented by Tropical Fresh Fruit brought the curtains down on a high note.

All 28 chefs were given a rousing standing ovation by dinner invitees. Well done and thumbs up to MLA for this superb initiative. Bravo!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CLAIM TO FAME



Yours truly claimed her brief share of the media spotlight thanks to this recent interview with one of Malaysia's local English daily - New Straits Times. Twas the perfect opportunity to flog my food guide! Read all about it...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

FABLED VENETIAN FARE


Breads. Nope, not the run-of-the-mill loaf but light, airy and rustic hand-made ones that taste absolutely heavenly. Le Meridien's Executive Chef Antoine Rodriguez is not kidding when he said the Italian breads at Favola are one of the outlet's signature specialities. Served with three different dips: truffled potato, roasted tomato and extra virgin olive oil-balsamic vinegar, the splendid loaves and grissini (breadsticks) would adequately put paid to any carb-free diet plans.

Lunching at Favola (a worthy successor to Al Nafourah), one can't help but be seduced by the charming and tasteful ambience that artfully blends modern and rustic accents. The food follows a similar slant - everything appears simple yet flavourful and is presented with panache minus any pretensions.

The Capricciosa Pizza (RM40++) is delightfully thin and crisp; laden with hot pepperoni, mozzarella, tomato, roasted artichoke, anchovy fillets in olive oil, black olives and garlic. An amazing aria of toppings that leave you wanting more after that very first bite!

For some inexplicable reason, risotto is really the bees' knees for me. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven after my first spoonful of the Risotto con Cappesante (RM45++)! The plump rice grains were creamy, tender and just a tad al dente; richly imbued with a melange of seductive nuances - that of leeks, lemon zest, chilli and basil. Crowning this masterpiece was three large, succulently plump and super-sweet pan-fried sea scallops...drool, drool, drool!

Of course, no Italian meal is ever complete without pasta. At Favola, a choice of dry and fresh pasta is available in various guises. We sampled Conchiglioni Marinara al Cartoccio (RM45++) - a supremely scrumptious parcel of conchiglie (shell-shaped pasta) baked with seafood in tangy tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese. This sterling composition of Italian culinaria tastes so good, you'd be tempted to give it a standing ovation.

Never judge the Lasagna al Forno (RM45++) by its 'cover'...for underneath that splotchy cheese crust drizzled with truffle oil lies layers of piping hot, fresh pasta sheets layered with braised Wagyu beef cheek. It's a pity the meat's all minced up but the deep-seated, hearty beef flavour's simply unmistakable. Garfield would've given this two thumbs (should that be paws?) up.

The Grilled Salmon Trout doesn't even need to fish for compliments...I daresay diners would readily heap praises on it anytime. Redolent with the distinct aroma of rosemary and thyme, the fish's inherent flavour is exquisitely perked up by a classic interplay of garlic, tomato, olive oil and lemon juice.

Brace yourself for some snap, crackle and pop when you sample Favola's fabled Tiramisu (RM25++). Laced with Illy coffee, the decadent treat of mascarpone, coffee jelly, savoiardi (sponge fingers), egg yolks and cream bear a sprinkling of sweet crusty crumbs and 'pop rocks' candy that lends the dessert an unexpected effervescent touch.


You know the Cassata (RM30++) and Budino di Cioccolata (RM25++) are seriously out of this world when my lunch companions made short work of both treats while I was being regaled to Chef Antoine's early culinary exploits! From my one and only tiny spoonful, I could tell the stack of Haagen Dazs ice cream and cake that forms the Cassata is to-die-for. Ditto for the dark, dense and alluring chocolate pudding served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

So what's a gal to do but vow to make a return trip in search of Favola's fabled fare.

Monday, May 03, 2010

IN THE MOOD FOR FOOD


Food always has a way of putting me into a good mood...and vice versa. I brought two old friends recently to Albion KL - a modern British dining outlet. We opted for the 3-course set lunch (RM35++) which turned out to be a hit & miss affair.

While I loved my starter of mixed salad leaves with sliced roast pork - pix above), the main (grilled chicken breast with couscous - pix below) could have done with a zesty sauce as the whole ensemble tasted a tad dry on the palate. For dessert I opted for no-fail Affogato. You cannot imagine how much chit-chat 3 women could indulge in over one lunch ;-D

Once a week, I would head over to Pasar Kampung Pandan for my fix of Nasi Lemak or Roti Canai.
There's several stalls here which sell tasty Malay fare ranging from Nasi Dagang and Lontong to Kuih-muih and Roti Canai. One particular vendor even specialises in Thosai, Chappati, Putu Mayam and Vadai.

Prices are reasonable and most importantly, parking is a total breeze. After such a delightful treat, one is bound to slip into a happily satiated mood.

Last weekend Mom brought us to this little stall in Semenyih for Wantan Mee. She already forewarned that we had to get there early to beat the crowd or else the noodles would be sold out by noon!

The noodles were certainly worth waking up early for. They were toothsomely chewy and well-tossed with a subtly sweet dark soya sauce accompanied by slices of char siew (sweet BBQ pork).

Customers can also order BBQ Chicken Wings separately. Although somewhat burnt at the edges, they were scrumptious. The sweetish marinade is similar to the one used for their char siew.

Those who don't fancy Wantan Mee can sample the stall's Curry Laksa. I'd prefer the fiery red broth to be spicier and more lemak (the coconut milk is rather thin I thought). Ingredients wise, there's no complaint as the noodles come with cockles, tofu puffs and fish balls.

The little coffeeshop also does pretty brisk business for its Kaya-Butter Toast as most customers usually have this as a percusor to their noodles. When we started snapping pixs of the stall surreptiously, the owner actually ticked us off! I guess they have more business than they could handle so food bloggers are definitely not welcome here...