Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."
 -Japanese proverb

Banana leafs and dosas

It was my last day in Kuala Lumpur. Everyone at my hostel said they ate fantastic food at this Indian place around the corner. So I went there for lunch and dinner.
I wasn't even sure what I was ordering for lunch. I saw people eating lots of interesting curries off a banana leaf, and I wanted a banana leaf as a plate too. I was too shy to ask for a fork, so cleansed with Purell, I ate with my hands. There was way more food on the plate than shown above. Servers kept coming around with silver pots, scooping mounds of unidentifiable dishes on to my leaf; and seeing how my right hand had now become my utensil, it was impossible to take more photos, lest I wanted to be licking curry off my screen.

I've never eaten rice with my hands before. In the summer, I was convinced by an Atlantic article to eat salad with my hands; but after experiencing rice, I'm not quite convinced. The stickiness and dirtiness of my hands afterward is too much. But it was fun!
At dinner, I went overboard by ordering a roti and a dosa. Those are my two plates at the bottom. The top plate was my friend's vegetable curries.

Despite my truly magical enormous appetite, I could not finish my double dosage meal.

By the way, lunch and dinner only cost me CDN$6 each meal (total). No tax or tip necessary.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I never knew...

...that they drink out of plastic bags in Kuala Lumpur. (And other Asian countries.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eating in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown

I'm Chinese, and grew up with a father who is an amazing cook, and I ate great homemade Chinese food all my life. Then I visited Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, ate one dinner and said, "I've never eaten Chinese food in my life before till now."

I met up with a friend of a friend from Toronto, and his girlfriend, who was actually from Kuala Lumpur and lived there most of her life. She took us to an ordinary-looking restaurant in Chinatown with plastic cups, bowls and chopsticks. Then she ordered us one of the most delicious meals of my life.

In the bottom right-hand corner is marmite chicken; to the left is spicy fried pork, and up top is garlic-sauteed bok choy. All incredibly simply dishes that were so ridiculously flavourful. You get sweet and savoury, and saucy, and crunch, with garlic and veggies, and I love when food has so many layers.

I never knew Chinese food could have so many layers.

Monday, March 22, 2010


356 College St.
Toronto, ON
(416) 500-3852
Date Visited: Sunday March 14, 2010
Before Caplansky's had its College Street opening, I read and heard a lot about how wonderful the smoked meat was. How it was -- get this -- Toronto's answer to Montreal's Schwartz's! Uh, skeptical? Yeah, I certainly was. (And my pitiful Schwartz's post needs a new one because two summers ago we had a smoked meat taste test in Montreal that needs to be documented properly.)

When we sat down for lunch, I was tempted to order the BBQ Brisket on a Bun ($8) but decided the good ol'7 oz. smoked meat on rye (also $8) needed to be tasted before anything else.

Verdict? I liked but I didn't love. The meat was dry in some places and then too much fat in others. There was something off about the rye bread as well. I'm a stickler when it comes to my carbs. Oddly, I don't think the bread was dry enough. (How is that even possible...) And of course, the seasoning was nothing special, and for all you Schwartz's fans out there, you know it's Schwartz's spicy, peppery seasoning that takes its meat above and beyond.

Oh well. Maybe next time I'll try the BBQ brisket. Good atmosphere though, and servers are extra accommodating.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Iron Cupcake Toronto

I'm not a huge fan of cupcakes but one of my closest friends, Stephanie, is. (In fact, there's a crazy personalized NYC cupcake tour posting that still needs to be written...) So when I heard the Liberty Village cupcake shop, For the Love of Cake, was hosting Toronto's first Iron Cupcake competition, and that the secret ingredient was going to be beer in honour of St. Patrick's Day, I decided we should go.

It was chaotic and packed but we somehow wound up relatively close to the front of the line when they started handing out the mini cupcakes. This is how it worked:
  • Each person had a ticket with 4 of 16 numbers on it, and so you were judging four of sixteen cupcakes.
  • The other side of your ticket listed all 16 numbers, and you judged visually who you thought had the most aesthetically pleasing cupcake display, aligned with the St. Patty's Day theme of green.
Cover was $5, and it included the four mini cupcakes plus tea was being given out for free. I felt a little jipped because apparently No. 4 had some sort of accident. My friend heard "baking accident"; I heard car. I hope it wasn't car.

The one in the upper left-hand corner was No. 15 and the ultimate judges' winner. It was also the one Steph chose as her favourite -- I think mainly because the cream cheese topping really pushed that particular cupcake to a higher state of deliciousness. The one in the upper right-hand corner, No. 16, was People's Choice and had my favourite visual presentation.

The baker called it "Morning After St. Patty's Day." As you can see, there are little Guinness "cans" spread around the bed and even a mini Advil box on the nightstand. Now that is some serious creativity and theme dedication.

We also liked this cheese spread one, though it's difficult to make out the cupcake in this shot. (It's underneath the pretzel sticks.)

For the most part, all the cupcakes we sampled were very good. It was funny to sit on a floor, at a little table, swapping these mini baked goods and trying to debate the finer points of why one may be better than the other. Except for one of Steph's cupcakes, I couldn't really taste the beer component in any of them. But I think it would be fun to experiment next time I whip up my own batch.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Apple pie

I'm deleting photos from my hard drive and noticed this photo filed under the "Food Blog" folder, but no post of it. I probably Twitpic-ed it and let it go.

This pie was made back way back in October, you know, prime pie-making apple season. I cheated and bought frozen Tenderflake pastry, using the second pie sheet as the top, which is why it looks so odd and bubbly. It still tasted delicious though. I used Canadian Living's "Best-Ever Apple Pie" filling recipe.

Next time, I'll make the pastry from scratch... maybe.

"Who'd you rather be? The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?"

This song always makes me feel so damn amazing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Have you ever eaten a mango in the shower?"
-Darcy Hagerman via Jess Lemon at Moksha Yoga North York

Malay curry laksa!!

I don't try to pretend that I know all the flavours, cuisines, cooking methods, restaurants, cultures, people of the world. All I know is what I like and what I don't. And I like curry laksa. Correction: I love it. Funny, because the only time I ever had it was in Kuala Lumpur.
It was a couple of stalls down from where I had my chicken noodle soup breakfast. I ordered laksa, thinking it was something else actually. What it is essentially is noodles in a spicy curry broth with chicken, fried tofu, cockles (i.e. little clams) and lots of cilantro (or at least I prefer lots of cilantro!). I'm sure there are tons of variations but this is very Malaysian-style. Two noodle soups in one very hot and humid day. I felt really Asian.

I also had curry laksa in Singapore later on, where apparently the style there is to use a lot of coconut milk so the broth is whiter and ... um, milkier, and sweeter, which I did not like.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kuala Lumpur's Little India

With the KL Tower behind me, I walked down this road looking for Chinatown.

But I wound up in Little India instead, and stumbled upon a shop with a stellar display of Indian sweets. I couldn't resist even if it was 11 in the morning.

Indian sweets come in all shapes and sizes, and this teeny, doughnut-like one caught my eye. It somehow was a perfect blend of dense but flaky; syrupy sweetness without overcoating my mouth. Little India, and Kuala Lumpur in general was a great wonder of outdoor food stands for every possible food imaginable.

From grilled fishes... (that I did not try)... fresh waffles...

...that I did try, with strawberry jam folded inside.

I have awful childhood memories of my mom making homemade Belgian waffles with one of those fancy wafflemakers. Yeah, you read that right. I said, awful childhood memories of a mother making what's supposed to be delicious breakfast foodstuffs for you from scratch. I don't know why but the smell when I woke up in the morning always made me nauseous as a kid. So to this day, I have a strange phobia when it comes to waffles. Every time someone has them, I do try a little bit, just to check and I actually have had no bad experiences with waffles since I was a kid. So I may actually start to enjoy them without hesitation in the next few months. I can feel it coming.

After all, I liked this waffle on KL's streets and ordered it by my own brave self.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chicken noodle soup

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from Kolkata, India at 11:30 p.m. local time. By the time I arrived at my hostel via bus from the budget airline terminal, it was nearly 1 a.m. It was my first trip to Asia: a solo backpacking experience I designed for myself as a brash, strong-headed kid, who recently graduated with her bachelor of journalism and wanted to taste adventure. Having tasted life in Kolkata, I was ready to call it quits, but I kept it going somehow and decided when facing defeat, I would eat.

The next morning, I set out at 9 a.m. humidity in search of food. I wasn't sure what I wanted to eat but I stuck to the rule that if the place is busy with locals, it should be good. By the end of this southeast Asia tour, I found it was the best rule I could arm myself with when it came to experiencing the authentic daily meals of every city.

Somehow I lucked out with a hostel that was located just down the street from one of the most popular food stall strips in KL. I stumbled upon a couple of fellows frying up bacon, which completely blew my mind. I thought this was supposed to be an Islamic country...

As much as bacon tempted me, the place was more of a market than a sit-down place. If they were layering those delicious pieces of fat on bread with some eggs, I would've been all over it. Instead I opted for the guy who called me over to his stand with the plastic chairs and tables set up right off the sidewalk.

I opted for what everyone else was eating -- or at least looked like they were eating: chicken noodle soup, Asian-style, of course.

It was simple, hot and dirt cheap. It was the first time I ate noodle soup for breakfast, though it's virtually common practice throughout Asia.

I felt ready for exploration.