Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Malaysia- Jalan Alor

 I was thwarted by the unexpected Malaysian heat. Little did I know that Autumn in Malaysia still lends to sweaty armpits and diminishing appetite. But I came prepared..
Being the diligent blogger that I am, I scoured foreign blogs for good eats in Malaysia. I came up with a compacted list of must try hawker food stalls.

1. Wong Ah Wah's Chinese Malay Cuisine . Wong Ah Wah, started out with a small hawker stall selling notoriously good grilled chicken wings. News of the chicken wing spread like a virus and attracted hawker trotters from all over the world. Thus, one stall turned into three restaurants.

Aromatic basil, chili and garlic stir fried with clams. Fiery flavors oddly cooperative in this sweltering heat.
 Wong Ah Wah suggested the pairing of ice cold beer to temper the spicy dishes and tropical heat. Amidst panting and fanning, I managed to squeeze in momentary sighs of bliss as the ice cold beer hit my palate.

Ahh.. the infamous grilled chicken wings! A hybrid of Western BBQ wings and Asian teriyaki wings, it managed to achieve the best of worlds. Delicious!

2. Meng Kee Fried Sting Ray
In hindsight, tearing on stingray flesh should be the last thing a diver should be enjoying. After all, wasn't I frolicking with one only a few days later. Guilty as charged.

Upon my research on Malay eats, I was intrigued to find oyster pancake a top contender. This version is pan fried with less starch which lends to a crispy crust, slightly different from the Taiwanese version we are accustomed too.

Jalan Alor, one of the biggest food hawker centers in Malaysia, is a kaleidoscope of colors, smells, sounds, and people. Interspersed amongst locals are vaguely local foreigners (if there such a thing!) brushing away hawkers and their persistent laser lights and trinkets. Clamoring of pots and pans, fanning of charcoal grills and bilingual hawkers urging you to "sit and eat" encompass only a tip of the iceberg of Malaysia's exotic multi ethnic society.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tickets, Barcelona

Tickets is the culminating end of our food journey in Spain. Maybe not the sole reason I'm here in Spain right now, but if Chef Frania was not able to score me a seat at Tickets, I would still be in the planning phase of our Europe excursion. Albert Adria helms the kitchen of this highly regarded tapa joint in Barcelona. Tables are booked three months in advance and is much sought after since the shuttering of El Bulli. El Bulli has always been THE restaurant of my dreams and it is no surprise that being an avid fan of the Adria brothers, procuring a seat here was mandatory.

Unlike El Bulli's white linen, over the top, molecular extravaganza, Tickets is much more subdued. Less of molecular gastronomy and more of simple, fresh ingredients. Chef Adria appears to enjoy the focus of one singular ingredient and playing it up a few notches. Expecting smoke, bubbles, and eccentric food puns, I was surprised that his creations were simply ..simple. This did not bother me at all. In fact, this highlights the difference between the two brother's culinary style and allows Albert to pave a road of his own.

The jamon of all jamon - Joselito. Instead of curing the jamon for 12 months, this morsel of meat was cured for 5 years. Cut paper thin, this was by far the BEST jamon I've had to this day. Even A, who avoids pork at all costs, described it as "lovely".

Of course, spherication of olives is the gold standard of everything Adria to Andres.
 The Spanish olives compared to Bazaar's were much bolder in flavor and instead of one, we were able to try 4 different types of olives.

Of the 20 tapas we ordered, our favorite was unanimously the white anchovies marinating in olive oil. Umami, a word often abused and misused, is most likely the best word to describe this blissful creation. Never has a single item, untampered by enhancer or chemicals, tasted this umami.

Filaments of toro belly, with salmon roe, and nori. We were instructed to roll it into sushi with miniature tweezers, much like the instruments I tweeze my eyebrow with. A very  novel idea indeed!
Another encounter with papillote this trip! This item was not on the "English" menu and was served only to Spanish speaking diners. Fortunately, I noticed with my beady eyes right away and was able to get us one of this beautiful pea papillote.

Albert Adria at work
By mid meal, Albert Adria dropped by Tickets and even manned the stoves himself! This is unheard of in the US! Someone of his status would never be seen ladling sauces much less cutting fish. Albert Adria's restless nature is apparent as he zips one from one table to another and appears almost seconds later in the kitchen.

As our Spain trip comes to an end, I've grown to love wine and understand what "tapa" truly is. At the same time, there is growing resentment of how Americans have butchered the concept of tapas. Miniature pizzas should never be labeled as tapa and wine CAN be served in cups. Spanish cuisine is much more diverse and complex than just pinxchos and tapas and this trip has barely scratched the surface. Hence, there is still much to see and learn. Next up, San Sebastian...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

El Quim de la Boqueria

Hidden in a remote corner of Market Boqueria is El Quim. El Quim is not a hidden secret. This is and Bar Pinotxo is most likely where every tourist, local heads first on an early morning hunt for breakfast/lunch/brunch.

The menu is extensive, ranging from your typical sausage breakfast to baby eel and calf's head. Not feeling especially daring after a long night of bar hopping, A decided to go for the sausage... steamed mussels in tomato broth..I grimaced internally as she said, "Mussels". Mussels? Did we really fly thousands of miles to have steamed mussels?? But she got lucky. The mussels were indeed the best I've had. The broth was an unworldly tomato concoction, pungent with spices and herbs - perfect for hangovers. The mussels were fresh as can be, succulent, sweet. Of course, she smirked, "See, I know my food." Sure.

Being the daredevil that I am, baby squid on fried egg was a must. Perfect squid, only miniature sized, and much more tender. Hit!

Seared foie over a fried egg and a ****load of wild mushrooms. By the time this dish presented itself, we have already ingested three artery clogging dishes - at 10 am in the morning. Thus, enjoyment of foie gras over egg was rapidly declining.

Nonetheless, El Quim in the Mercado Boqueria is a must for adventurous food lovers. The market itself has a bounty of fresh exotic items and food stalls that would make a gourmand gasp. For the less adventurous, there are also finds of imported fruits and common snacks. Word has it that many of the famous chefs shop at this market every morning to replenish their supplies.