On the hunt for seafood in Kuching

Dinners out with family and friends in Kuching typically revolve around seafood. Kuching is famous for its seafood restaurants where fish, crustaceans and molluscs are displayed for your selection. On this trip, I was taken to two of the excellent but less well-known locations.

I was surprised when CH, her sister Monica and friend Jenny took me to a mall. Seafood restaurants in Kuching are typically open air or at least self-contained. But there is a seafood restaurant on the top floor of One Jaya Mall, this is a sister branch of a seafood restaurant at Top Spot, Jalan Bukit Mata.

Continue reading


On the hunt for (hawker) food in Kuching

It is impossible not to be a glutton in Kuching. My wonderful friends and extended family want to treat me, and I am very amendable to be indulged. I quickly gave up trying to pace myself and just surrendered into the fuzzy, food-filled clouds of joy. Unfortunately (or luckily, says my future cardiologist), this time I only had 4 days to stuff myself silly. Let the marathon makan (eating) session begin!

Mornings typically begin with my beloved popiah and teh-C peng (as per previous trips). Both Choon Hui Café at Ban Hock Road and Yun Nan Gardens kopitiam near Song Thian Cheok Rd served up excellent popiahs. I scrutinized the popiah lady and it finally dawned on me how she managed to get the popiah so tightly wrapped; she wraps the filling in half, then starts rolling.

Continue reading

8-Treasures Vegetarian Stir-Fry

Chinese New Year 2013 ushered in the Year of the Snake. For us, it was another excuse for several prolonged family feasts. There was a lot of sitting around a table laden with food, picking away at morsels and waving zai jian (goodbye) to our collective resolutions to get healthy, eat less and do more exercise. Mi brought her home-made achar (spicy pickles) which is eaten with freshly deep-fried prawn keropok (crackers). Her secret ingredient is top-quality Malaysian hei bi (dried shrimp) which gave it a really savoury dimension.

My  contribution to the CNY table is a traditional auspicious dish, the 8-treasures stir-fry. 8 in Chinese sounds like the word for ‘fortune’; that’s what I’ve been told. (My command of Chinese is so haltingly bad, even my 4-year-old niece refuses to put up with it.)

My version of the 8-treasures vegetables is borrowed from Kylie Kwong’s Recipes and Stories. This is all done quickly in a very hot wok, so most of the effort is in getting the ingredients ready.

This is such a simple dish, and there doesn’t appear to be any rules to this, so be creative, and use what you like to eat. Choose between the various mushrooms (fresh, canned or dried), tofu, vegetables (lotus root, baby corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoot, asparagus, snow peas) and even lily buds. The idea is to get a range of textures and flavours. Continue reading

Malaysia Nyonya Restaurant, Howick, Auckland (take 2)

Malaysia Nyonya (87 Picton Street) is a stalwart in Howick and has served Nyonya cuisine for over 6 years. It is one of the more formal Malaysian restaurants where you can relax and take your time over your meal. There is a fantastic selection of dishes on the menu, which spans not only the Nyonya cuisine but also Malaysian favourites. There are also several special dishes which have to be ordered 24 hours in advance; the golden pillow (see below), Hainanese steamed chicken and herbal duck. I last reviewed this place over a year ago: Malaysia Nyonya review 25 March 2011 and when Malaysia Kitchen Programme asked for a review, I looked forward to coming back and revisiting some favourite dishes.

Continue reading

Malaysian cooking class with Zaida & Chef Liza

The longer I reside in New Zealand, the more I yearn for traditional food from my childhood. We can get Malaysian food here, but the lack of certain ingredients and the still somewhat conservative palate of the general populous mean we don’t get the truly authentic range of foods I used to take for granted back home.

That’s why I get excited when chance arise to learn how to recreate some of these authentic dishes. I  might be hard-pressed to whip these up on a weekly basis; but these are perfect when you want to surprise and impress family and friends with your culinary prowess.

A few weekends ago, Zaida Ahmad (Auckland Malaysia Society‘s Food Programme Co-ordinator), with her guest, Chef Liza, held a special cooking class. It is clear that a culinary gene runs in Zaida’s family. Liza Zainol, Zaida’s aunt, is a celebrity chef in Malaysia. On top of running her own Culinary Academy and jetting around the world advocating Malaysian cuisine, Chef Liza also manages her own television production company making her cookery series.

‘Sedapnya!’ (It’s delicious) – Chef Liza

Continue reading

Malaysian cooking class with Zaida Ahmad

One of the hats I wear is as the occasional Food Editor for the Auckland Malaysian Society (AMS). AMS is a community group, staffed by a passionate band of volunteers who do a great job in sharing the culture of Malaysia.  Luckily, AMS committee members are incredibly patient with my very meager activity (*thanks Patric and Dorin!).

AMS is fortunate to have among its members, a fantastic cook in the form of Zaida Ahmad. And better still, Zaida shares her classic Malaysian recipes by holding several cooking classes during the year. These are homey dishes you are unlikely to find at Malaysian restaurants. Continue reading

Chef Rasa Sayang, Birkenhead, Auckland

It felt really odd going across the Harbour Bridge for a meal, until I realised it was only 20 minutes from where I live. And for a place like Chef Rasa Sayang (25 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead), you’ll be glad to have made the trip. This place is run by a husband and wife team from Kelantan.

This very nondescript place serves authentic Malaysian food in a friendly, family environment. Chef Rasa Sayang has only been opened a few short months, but has already amassed a loyal following. Quite a phenomenon as most of this has happened through word of mouth, – they do not yet have a web presence or even a listing in the white pages. Continue reading

Honeydew Sago

Chilled honeydew sago ‘soup’ is a popular Malaysian dessert. I don’t recall eating much honeydew fruit on its own, but I do remember eating this dessert at restaurants. Restaurants’ versions can be somewhat bland and watery; I prefer to make my own, where I can be (and am!) lavish with the amount of melon.

This truly is a simple recipe, I promise. Honeydew sago is best eaten chilled, so I make it about 4-6 hours before serving and leave it to cool in the fridge. I often double the recipe for dinner parties, as you can see from the pictures below. Continue reading

Ais Kacang

There’s nothing more cooling on a hot, muggy Malaysian afternoon than a bowl of ais kacang (red bean ice dessert). Growing up in Kuching, it was a huge treat to head down the road to St Mike’s Café after a Saturday morning of school club activities, and order a 40 sen (equivalent to around NZD$0.16) bowl of ais kacang.

Ais kacang is a simple Malaysian dessert of sweet red beans, shaved ice, with gula Melaka (palm sugar) syrup, evaporated milk or santan (coconut milk) and topped with a splash of grenadine syrup. Ais batu campur (aka ABC, mixed ice dessert), which has a range of other ingredients included, is often erroneously called ais kacang. Continue reading