Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Antoni Gaudi

Today is Antoni Gaudi's 161st birthday! I'm glad to see this when I open up Google this morning. It immediately reminded me of the lovely Europe trip that we had 2 years ago, the amazing magical Sagrada Familia, the fairy-tale-like Parc Guell......The works of Antoni Gaudi may seems strange on photos, but they are marvelous when you stand in front of them!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Simple Yummy at Chew Jetty

I blogged about Chew Jetty Cafe last year. This is one of the places we frequented. The food is simple, good and cheap.

Besides the normal hawker food, you can also have home-cook-seafood here. The phone number of the home-cook-seafood is written on the blackboard of the coffee shop. You can always call and place order. (Be early though, sometimes the food finished before 7:45pm!). The owner will bring the food from their home at Chew Jetty to the coffee shop.

"Chi Ya Hu" is my favorite fish for deep fried. Not a fancy dish but this is no longer a dish that you can easily get. My mum does cook from time to time but she always complain about the price ("This used to be something very cheap, used to be fish for the poor", she has to repeat this every time we have this at home)

"Balitong" too is hard to get now. Ever since the outbreak of Hyperthesis a few decades ago, "Balitong" and cockles share the same faith where they were listed as the high risk food. "Balitong" status dropped from one of the most popular Malaysian seafood to something no one seeks after. So, for Balitong lovers out there, you can always come to Chew Jetty Cafe to practice you sucking skill :)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cuti-cuti "Half" Peninsular Malaysia - Day 2 - Nasi Ulam Kampung Kraftangan

After our Batik Workshop, we went back to Pasir Belanda to shower and change before we continue our exploration.

Our first stop of the day: Nasi Ulam Kampung Kraftangan (to be very honest, we were aiming for the food, visiting the Craft Museum was just something you do just because you were already there)

Nasi Ulam Kampung Kraftangan

This restaurant serves varieties of food. It is self-service so you could take your own sweet time to explore the food counter while having headache deciding what to take base on your stomach capacity. Dad, who grew up with his nyonya grandmother, was especially thrilled to find the variety of ulam that he could choose from. I was surprise that the sambal, sauces (they even have durian sauce!!), chillies, kuah are all free flow!!

The senior citizens and I, somehow, at some point of our youth, were trained in eating with bare hand. With such simple yet delicious food, we decided to eat with bare hand, just like to locals. I have to say it was really fun in a traditional restaurant like this. Believe it or not, eating with bare hand actually made the food taste better :)

The Ulam

Deep fried ikan keli

Traditional style fried chicken

Hmm.... I don't remember the name of this dish

This is a restaurant that you should never miss if you were to visit Kota Bharu. It serves good and extremely cheap food! With the dishes listed above, a cup of milo ice and 6 cups of teh tarik, lunch for seven of us cost less than RM40!

How to go? Just set your GPS to Kampung Kraftangan :)

of course, we had a brief visit at the Craft Museum too

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cuti-cuti "Half" Peninsular Malaysia - Day 2 - Batik Workshop

After a great breakfast at the White House, we went back to Pasir Belanda.

3 of us enrolled in a batik workshop but the senior citizens wanted to follow. They imagined that they could shop for some nice batik while we learn batik drawing. So, 7 of us followed Pasir Belanda staff, together with an Australian family, walked cross the kampung to the Batik Workshop.

The senior citizens grew up in an environment like this so they were very excited almost about everything. Mama said "take the photo of that beautiful kampung house!" and Wei Wei said "Hey! I grew up in Malaysia too!" haha!

When we finally arrived (actually just about 10 minutes walk), we were shocked!!The batik workshop is just a small hut at the back of a kampung house! All the senior citizens found some excuses and "cabut". They went back to Pasir Belanda to swim, to read, to relax, to have "math class" while we stayed to learn some basic skill of batik drawing.

THIS!! Is the batik workshop

It's literary a sweat shop!! Everyone of us was sweating while drawing. However, it was an unique experience. While we were busy learning, this dilapidated hut was full with visitors. Hen came with her chicks, the cat and kittens wandering around. The two Australian kids had great fun chasing the animals.

The drawing tools

Our masterpiece :)
We were given a white cloth that has been divided into 4 sections. Wei Wei, Sonia and I were responsible for one section each while the instructor drew on the remaining one. Since we came unprepared, we were having headache at the beginning as none of us know what to draw. We had to brainstorm for ideas.

Finally I settled for something cartoonish and easy (mushrooms) while Wei Wei drew some colourful vibrant sunflowers with butterfly. Sonia was the best student. She diligently drew an underwater dolphin accompanied by angel fishes, jelly fishes and corals.

Handling the hot wax was a bit tricky as if you don't hold the tool steadily at the correct angle you will get a line with uneven width or even sometimes a big spot instead of a line. The colouring part was fun. We learnt how to shade and tone.

Once completed, the students had to leave their works with the teacher so that their drawings could go through the other chemical processes before the masterpieces were delivered to Pasir Belanda. (Unfortunately, we were out after the batik class. We reached Pasir Belanda after 10pm so we decided to get back our masterpieces the next morning. When we went to the office to get our drawings the next morningg, the staff went to check with her boss and Harry came to me with a bad news. He didn't know that there were 4 students enrolled in the batik workshop the day before. So when the batik instructor sent the batik, he didn't open to check. He gave the bag to the Australian family when they were leaving. He promised us to try to contact the Australian family after their Taman Negara trip and try to get them to send the batik to my home address when they reach Kuala Lumpur. I'm not sure if he managed to find them, and I'm not sure if they managed to send us the batik. I just hope that we could receive the package before Sonia goes back to US. )

So, What Happened?

We are all born scientists. So what happened?

When toddlers learn by testing hypotheses and analyzing evidence, why not all the supposedly-scientifically-trained-engineers do the same?

Should we blame our education system for promoting robotic learning and total suppression of curiosity? Should we blame the parents for focusing only on exams results and little else? Or should we blame ourselves for letting others mold us into someone we are not?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cuti-cuti "Half" Peninsular Malaysia - Day 2 - Kedai Kopi White House

My dad used to work in Kota Bharu more than 3 decades ago, when I was 4 or 5. I remembered my first flight experience is to visit my dad in Kota Bharu with my mum and my grandma. I don't really remember much of Kota Bharu, except some weird Malay-grammar-hokkien, the flood, my first ever Malay friend who played masak-masak with me every afternoon communicating in an unknown common language, the metal bed at the second (or third) floor of the shop where I secretly throw in a lot of grape seeds hoping that one day I have a vine bed (the idea still sounds cool to me to date though it never happened), the banana leaf Indian Restaurant (that none of us could recall the name and failed to find the restaurant during this trip), and, THE Kedai Kopi White House. Some how, the half boiled eggs stayed vividly in my memory.

Wei Wei taking picture of the signboard of The White House

My dad missed the nasi dagang, and both my parents confirmed that this shop serves one of the best coffee in Malaysia. So, planning a breakfast at The Kedai Kopi White House is inevitable.

We were lucky to find a table when we arrived. This White House is almost always full house. We ordered 7 sets of half-boiled-eggs, kaya toasts and coffee. While waiting, we grabbed almost every single types of nasi that the shop sells. All of these nasi were good! Unfortunately, the nasi dagang was no longer the nasi dagang that my dad remembered, he missed the one cooked with "red rice". I have no memory of that and I still think the one we had was very good :)

When we almost done with our nasi, the half boiled eggs were served. To appreciate how good the half boiled eggs were, first, you must understand that these were cook simply by adding boiled water into the traditional iron mug (of course, with eggs inside la~). They must have really spent effort in doing their DOE and perfect their RSM. I bet they have their own high standard in selecting their raw material too. The results: marvelous!

The half boiled egg and the aromatic coffee make a perfect breakfast combination! Oh, and that toast!! The bread is toasted with charcoal (that explained why you have to wait and wait and wait), crispy outside, fluffy inside. And, the kaya is the kill. I am never fancy of kaya but I have to admit that their homemade kaya is good. Not too sweet, not too lemak, not too thick, just nice for me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cuti-cuti "Half" Peninsular Malaysia - Day 1

31st May 2013 (Driving route: Bukit Mertajam --> Pulau Banting (brief stop) -> Kota Bharu)
Tasik Temenggor
Wei Wei flew back on 30th May 2013 evening so that she can joined this road trip. We planned to start as early as 6:30am, but with a huge group, we ended up departed around 7:30am. We drove 2 cars, the senior citizens in one car, while the younger ones (including me, haha!) were in another.
It was a nice drive, and Banjaran Titiwangsa is as pretty as I could remember. The brief stop at Pulau Banting was very refreshing too.

The traffic was quite smooth, except from time to time you have to crawl behind the lorries / buses. The traffic getting worse when we were approaching Kota Bharu. Too many traffic lights to slow down everything.
Khao Jam (Nasi Kerabu) from U-Lang Corner
By the time we reached Kota Bharu is already almost 1pm. We went to a few shortlisted restaurants but most of them were closed! (Friday!! Kelantan!! What was I thinking!?) We finally found "U-Lang Corner" that's still open but the only thing left was the final set of Khao Jam.
We gave up! We 'da bao' the final set (for tea break at hotel later, and the nasi kerabu from was so good that my mum and aunts were planning to revisit for next day lunch), and we went to McD to settle our first meal in Kota Bharu in the Friday afternoon (lesson learn!)
After lunch, we drove to Pasir Belanda Resort. I had the location set at Waze in both my iPad and iPhone so I was very confident. However, after passing through the Malay graveyards and kampung houses, in the middle of the kampung road, the iPhone screen went 100% grey, and on the Waze's map, that's nothing else but a blue dot at the middle of nowhere. We were panic. Wei Wei started to search for Pasir Belanda on her Google Map and it pointed us to Kota Bharu city center which is a few kilometers away. I decided to trust Waze and continue to drive to the blue dot direction even though there's no more map available on Waze. Apparently Waze is correct. Pasir Belanda Resort is so deep in the kampung that you won't see it on the GPS map! You can imagine how glad we were when we finally found this lovely place.
Pasir Belanda

After check in, we had a good rest. We use my yoga map to set up a nice spot at the middle of the garden for free wifi and book reading spot while our mums and aunts catch up on all the gossips for the past 3 years. :)

For dinner, we went for this famous Thai food restaurant "Chengmai" at Wakaf Baru. First of all, the roads are very confusing. How do you read a map where all the roads from every directions of a roundabout are named "Jalan Wakaf Baharu"? So we had to asked for the directions a few times even with the help of Waze. The trick is: look for Kampung Kulim.

Secondly, again, this restaurant is deep inside a kampung. While we were quite stressed out trying to find the way, I guess the senior citizens were getting worried following us too. So you can guess how relieved we were when we saw this lovely sign of "Chengmai Thai Food Restaurant". 

After we parked our car, my aunt said to me "this better be good". Well, it is beyond good! The food is great!!We ordered a plate of pandan chicken, a set of pork knuckle, a tomyam kung, a plate of siam steam la-la, a plate of belacan kangkung (ok, this one is very disappointing), and our favorite: steam prawns with bamboo shoots and coconut milk. This particular dish is sourly and 'lemak' at the same time, and has a very unique after taste that ensure you want for more. In fact we actually had repeated order. The price is quite reasonable too. 7 of us with the food stated above, 1 bottle of sugar cane juice (1.5l) and 1 bottle of soya bean (1.5l) cost less than RM200.

If you were to visit Kota Bharu, this Thai restaurant at Tumpat is highly recommended. 

5D4N "Half" Peninsular Malaysia Self Drive Route

I love family trip, I love road trip, I love Malaysia (especially the beautiful East Coast), I love good food. You can easily tell how much I love this wonderful trip.

31st May 2013 
Driving route: Bukit Mertajam -- Pulau Banting (brief stop) -- Kota Bharu
Activities: Good food, relax, "math class"
Accommodation: Pasir Belanda Resort (RM220 for 3-pax superior room)

Millage of our trip
1st June 2013 
Driving route: Wat Mai Suwankhiri (Dragon Boat Temple) -- Wat Pikulthong (Standing Buddha) -- Wat Matchimmaram (Sitting Buddha) -- Pantai Tujuh -- Wat Photovihan (Reclining buddha)
Activities: Good food, batik workshop (RM30 per pax), kampung kraftangan, temples, night market
Accommodation: Pasir Belanda Resort

2nd June 2013 
Driving route: Kota Bharu -- Bachok -- Kuala Terengganu -- Sungai Lembing
Activities: Drive along the beautiful coastline
Accommodation: Lembing Riverview Resort

3rd June 2013
Driving route: Sungai Lembing -- KL
Activities: Sunrise at Bukit Panorama, Sungai Lembing Town tour, KLCC
Accommodation: My uncle's show-house-like-villa

4th June 2013
Driving route: KL -- Ipoh -- Bukit Mertajam
Activities: Shopping at One-Utama, Dinner at Ipoh  老黄芽菜鸡

Other itineraries:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

北越逍遥游(八):Hanoi Cooking Center

I always wanted to attend a cooking class when I travel oversea. I always think it must be cool to learn one or two signature dishes of the area, and I always believe that through cooking classes you can really learn to appreciate their culinary culture. However, this never happened. We were always too busy having fun or too busy doing nothing. There was once when Wei Wei and I went to Guilin, we have planned and almost enrolled to a cooking class and then suddenly the weather turned sunny. We decided that it's a crime to stay indoor in such wonderful weather so again we didn't attend the cooking class.

During our recent Hanoi trip, BB and I have a free day at Hanoi, and we had run out of ideas what to do at Hanoi besides drinking coffee after coffee. So, we decided to give the Hanoi Cooking Center a try. We enrolled in the Ha Noi and the Northern Highlands cooking class that cost us USD55 per person.

Hanoi Cooking Center

We reached the center around 9am. We were serveda cup of local herbal tea at the restaurant while waiting for our guide and the other customers. The ambiance was nice and I enjoyed taking photos of the surrounding. After everyone gets ready, the guide led us through the ally and headed across the street for wet market.

The guide is very knowledgeable and did a very good job in explaining. She even show us how to select the best fish sauce or spring-role skin etc. We were shown where to get the fresh-from-farm vegetable and fruits, freshly catch seafood, etc. We also saw some exotic food i.e. worms, frogs, snails etc.

Ingredient selection explanation session

See the tongue?

Old lady showing us how to wrap the Pinang

Something special, not-in-the-menu raw material for our cooking class

After the wet market tour, we went back to the classroom. It's a kitchen with a few working bench. 2 of us share a bench, share the utensils and a set of raw material. After the chef showed the steps, everyone of us has to go back to our working bench to prepare the food.
The Chef in action

It is interesting to learn to cook the Vietnamese food. You can actually see a lot of Chinese and Thai influence but at the same time their sauces (fish sauces especially) gave the unique signature that you couldn't miss.
The nicely flavoured dish (but the worms are too creamy for my taste)

After the class, we went to the restaurant upstair for lunch. (One can normally eat their lunch at the lovely courtyard but it was raining so we all opt for the indoor restaurant)

I love the idea that you eat what you cook. Bee Bee and I were pleased with the results and we were quite proud of ourselves :)

The wine/beer/juices/soft drinks are free flow so we had great time enjoying the food we prepared and chit chat in the nice environment.

Banana flower salad

Caramel pork

Seafood spring roll

and the happy cook