PEr FYI

May 30, 2020

Kinotoya Bake, Sapporo…what’s not to like?

Kinotoya Bake cheese tarts ranks among Hokkaido’s most iconic foods, on par with Sapporo Beer, soup curry and milk and ice cream.

Kinotoya Bake cheese tart is what makes it “Hokkaido-style,” specifically, instead of, any one of the thousands of cheese tarts eaten all over the world. The tried-and-true recipe calls for a firm, crunchy, buttery tart shell to nestle the sweet, salty, cheese mousse-like cream cheese core. It  tastes more like an angel food than a traditional cheese tart (despite its use of cream cheese). Nevertheless, it’s one of the better dessert options in Hokkaido.

And — if you eat too much of it — it’s a pretty satisfying way to get a tummy ache. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 24, 2020

Flying wanton mee, Petaling Jaya…hawker or showman?

Since the emergence of hawkers in the 19th century, the role of the cook has not changed. For the most part they toiled entirely comfortable in their anonymity. Today however, successful hawkers are entrepreneurs, budding scientists and showman.

A humble plate of wanton noodle is deemed too plain and unsurprising to command a place here in Seapark and so the hawker makes simplicity shine – the gravity-defying bundle of noodles tossed two storeys high and deftly caught it in his sieve. He then transferred the noodles to a bowl, ladled a good helping of lard and shallot oil as well as dark sauce over the springy strands, and gave them a good mix. Apparently, the science behind it is the higher you toss, the more hot water gets dispersed. So when you mix the noodles into the gravy, they absorb better, the overall taste doesn’t feel watered down.

The definition is flying noodles is no longer those they serve you on board a flight anymore. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 25, 2020

Siamese Boat Noodle, Bangkok…just go

There’s no beating around the bush. This Siam Paragon noodle joint serves, you guessed it, boat noodles.

The highlight was the Australian wagyu ribeye, beef ball, braised shank and tendon where the soup comes with a gorgeous beef flavour with a hint of spiciness and the beef itself is seriously tender and tasty to boot. While the much loved Australian wagyu ribeye is perfectly cooked and a firm bestseller here, another favourite is the suitably spice steamed wontons with Sichuan chilli. And I never tire of the grilled pork ball (3 skewers) with pleasingly flavoured sweet chilli dip. The crispy pork fat is also a crowd pleaser.

The place is regularly packed and it deserves to be busy. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 23, 2020

Eneko Shop, Sansaku market, Otaru…serious about seafood?

No trip to Hokkaido would be complete without sampling Japan’s most prized resource – allergies permitting. A stone’s throw from Otaru stations, the Sansaku market  presents a terrifically seductive dance of fresh, gorgeously prepared seafood and shellfish, tucked in one of Hokkaido’s most beloved neighbourhoods – Otaru.

Eneko Shop offers the kind of food you have to work for. It’s virtually impossible to avoid a queue, and you’re likely to be elbow-to-elbow with strangers. Stunning seafood dishes like octopus are profound in their simplicity, bringing out clean, startlingly robust flavors. Make sure you have the more ambitious dishes like the Seafood rice bowl with Hokkaido specialty, ikura (salmon roe) for a total experience which is dizzying and unforgettable. Everything is exceptional. It’ll leave seafood enthusiasts bragging for weeks.

You’d be advised to come with an appetite. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 16, 2019

Luke’s Lobster, New York City…it’s hard not to love.

There’s a lot of joy to be had in a lobster roll. Priding themselves on the fact that they work directly with fishermen to pick out the best seafood, Luke knows a thing or two about lobster.

Unable to decide at The Plaza Food Hall, I went for The Luke’s Trio – 1/2 crab, 1/2 lobster, 1/2 shrimp and preceded that with clam chowdah. All the meat are well-chilled, fresh and tender; they melt in your mouth along with the butter, which is flavorful but not overpowering

It’s big on flavours and it’s huge on joy. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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December 26, 2018

Nasi Kandar Pelita, Kuala Lumpur…KL’s worst dining experience

I want to do you the nigh-priceless service of telling you somewhere it’s imperative you don’t visit.

Some meals can feel like a punishment, and if that’s your bag, I can’t recommend Nasi Kandar Pelita enough. The nasi goreng and fried chicken were nothing to trouble Instagram with. The Maggi goreng was challengingly bland. It is profoundly awful. This is truly Malaysia’s capital’s worst dining experience, just short of eating broiled peanuts from a stall at Chow Kit Road run by a man with weeping dermatitis.

There are several words I can drum up to describe the treatment we received from the wait staff, but let me limit it one: shoddy. No, wait, remembering the wrong food they’d served despite reminders, I would add: uniformly bad.

We left hungry, of course we did, and RM60 poorer. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 23, 2018

Pappas Crabcakes, Washington DC…Well, this was a letdown

Oprah Winfrey named Pappas Crabcakes as one of her #FavoriteThings2015.

Pappas built its reputation on chunky with lump crab, filler-light, and only lightly spiced with crab seasoning, allowing for the full expression of crabby flavor. I ordered the snack plate – 2 fried blue crab balls, old bay seasoning French fries, coleslaw, tomato, lemon, choice of sauce. Sadly the jumbo lumps here at the MGM National Harbor tasted as if they’d spent more time in a freezer than in the Chesapeake Bay.

Obviously Oprah didn’t eat at the Pappas outpost here. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 2, 2018

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, Ho Chi Minh City…feast upon mouthfuls of incredible flavours

Banh Mi Huynh Hao is better known as Lesbian Sisters Banh Mi. The reason being that the store was opened by a lesbian couple and was originally staffed by an all-lesbian workforce.

Here, the banh mi (which translates simply as “bread” in Vietnamese) the once humble pork and pickled vegetable sandwich now elevated to heights of gastronomic chic. Banh Mi Huynh Hao is a street food stall that serves a baguette stuffed with a plethora of coldcuts, pate, spicy mayo, and fresh vegies. It is freshly made in front of your eyes and made to order. It is made to excite. The freshly baked baguettes which are kept warm in a charcoal-fuelled oven tend to be particularly airy and crumbly. The flavour was slightly sweet and extremely moreish.

This surely is Ho Chi Minh City’s finest Vietnamese cuisine. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 24, 2018

The Halal Guys, New York…great street meat

A food cart under umbrellas in can’t-miss yellow and red serving platters of halal lamb and chicken on 53rd and 6th in the Big Apple with never-ending lines that reeled down the block.

Your options are “chicken,” “lamb,” or “combo”. Lamb, roasted on a rotating spit and chopped to bits before a final crisping on a flat-top grill; chicken, simply grilled; falafel. The juicy lamb is the draw, sharply seasoned, with just enough melting fat. You want that as a sandwich or over rice? I chose sandwich. The secret “white” sauce is a must.

But take that white sauce away, and I don’t really get what the big deal is. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 5, 2018

979 Nine Seven Nine Kopitiam, Penang…salted vegetable minced pork bihun soup is unmissable.

Penang is replete with high quality dining options that won’t break the bank, it just takes a little local knowledge to sort the wheat from the chaff. NSN is a super cheap local eat where you can stay stuffed without emptying your wallet. It may be a simple, humble little joint, but it’s astoundingly satisfying.

The star of the show?

The real deal comfortingly basic  salted vegetable minced pork bihun soup is remarkably deep, savoury and a wonderful depth of flavour. It is a contender for “best food in Penang” and I was told it regularly attracts long queues of devotees. It succours the old school and the hungry. It is no beauty but a winner. Seriously incredible, now I can NEVER stop craving for it. The deep fried wanton from a nearby stall in the same eatery is equally unmissable. Both are perplexingly cheap and  insanely economical.

Take friends, and order big. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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