January 31, 2012

Chinese New Year 2012, Day Two: A Traditional Carnivorous Hakka Affair!

Another tradition handed down from my family’s ancestors is to start the second day of the brand new year with an over abundance of meat for lunch after our vegetarian day!

For the second day of the Chinese New Year, we would usually visit our fifth uncle in Seri Kembangan. Although he is the youngest uncle, the family would gather there as he would prepare a luxurious feast of Hakka dishes which he learnt from his late mother. I was also told that he is the only male in the family that had his mom’s secret Hakka recipes!! J

So after a day of vegetarian fare, I was ready for some glorified wonderland of meat. It’s definitely not an easy task but somehow, this ‘Mm Suk’ or Fifth Uncle always cooked up huge portions of Hakka dishes to feed six families through the whole day. I even tried to learn some recipes but the dishes were always ready when I arrived… sigh... oh well, I guess I will just stick to enjoying them… hehehe!

Secret recipes are meant to be undisclosed! Mm Suk’s Special Sauce is definitely worth the hush-hush. The sauce is absolutely magnificent if I may concur! I tried replicating it but somehow it never tasted the same as this one. The clandestine sauce contained spring onion, shallots, garlic, bird-eye chili, soy sauce and etc. Flavors are aromatic from the bulbs and heady from the soy sauce while bird-eye chilies pack quite a punch. The version this year had the addition of spring onions but minus the coriander and was even better than last year.

A simple boiled chicken is a requirement in this Hakka household and every year, Mm Suk would change the types of chicken depending on the availability. This year we had a lovely big Kampung Chicken with a nice yellow skin. Last year, we had a luxurious ‘Yim’ or Castrated Chicken which cost a bomb… read that here!

Pairing up both chook and sauce was simply a match made in heaven!! Comfort food and was certainly the first dish to be polished off by us because of the awesome sauce… J

I was told that soup is another must-have in this Hakka household. Being Hokkien intermixed with Nyonya, my family does not focus much on soup in our meals. When I knitted myself into the Hakka clan, only then I began to really enjoy the importance of a great soup.  

Fish Maw with Pig Stomach Pepper Soup was quite similar to my mom’s Pig Stomach soup minus the fish maw. I do have to say this one fare different in flavors as the abundance of fish maws does add a flavor of the sea to the spicy pepper soup. Needless to say, I downed two rice bowl of this luscious peppery broth that day!

Hakka Cha Yuk is heavily popular and despite the many ones I have tasted, everyone seemed to taste a little different in flavors. The recipe calls for advance treatment as the flavors taste better the next day after it has been braised. The dish is aromatized by five-spice powder and fermented beancurd and pork belly is used for extra flavors while black wood ear fungus added the crunch. My mother-in-law makes a mean version of this which I really like so this version was only average for me… however; I still salute Mm Suk for going through the trouble to make a big batch of this all-time favorite Hakka dish just for us… J

A luxurious Braised Sea Cucumber, Fish Maw, Chicken Feet and Mushroom were added to this year’s feast. The dish was overloaded with the sea treasures while the chicken feet added the gelatinous touch to the gravy. The fish maw here looked different as it is the non-fried version. Lots of wobbly textures in this one while the savory gravy had an almost sticky consistency to it. Not my cup of tea though…

I also never knew of arrowroot or ‘Nga Ku’ till I was introduced to it a few years back. The Hakka clan of mine loves to Stir-Fry Nga Ku with Pork Belly with either leeks or spring onions. During this festive season, this dish will always make an appearance on feast from every relative of mine. I have also learnt the recipe from my mother-in-law so there is a benchmark already fixed in my head for this dish. The one here fare pretty good although it may not be the best-looking in appearance.

Ok… apparently vegetables are not seen during this meal except for Chinese lettuce as this meal was suppose to showcased the over abundance of meat to signify properity. However, there is one universal Malaysian Chinese dish that seems to sprout out especially during festive seasons. Kiam Chye Buay is a myriad of mish-mash of leftovers all ingenious boiled with preserved vegetable or ‘Kiam Chye’ to magically transform leftovers to an irresistible dish! The version here is contributed by my mother-in-law who makes a super spicy and sour Kiam Chye Buay. I could never resist this as I love sour and spicy flavors. On the other hand, my mom makes a sour version without the spicy flavors. Both taste completely different! I am sure you all have your favorite mom’s recipe that you favor!!

I am no maven in Hakka cuisine but I really enjoy the flavors of the dishes. The meal we savored on the second day drives the significant tradition of cooking from the heart! Nothing beats soul food… Thank you Mm Suk!! J

What’s your Favorite Hakka dish?

January 30, 2012

Chinese New Year 2012: Ushering in the Water Dragon with a Vegetarian Feast!

Happy Chinese New Year to You & Your Family!
Gong Hei Fatt Choi!
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Keong Hee Huat Chai!

How have your Chinese New Year celebrations been so far? Mine has been blessed with loads of glorious food, time spent with family, relatives and friends, lots of gambling sessions, lou sangs, laughters and even tears (of joys.. that is!). Having a week of internet-less time really makes me realized how much time I spent on the web and how much I enjoyed my ‘simple’ time with my family… J

I had a few good days in KL and spent some in Penang with my family so you know what’s coming, right? Loads of food… but for now, I will start with my family tradition of every 1st day of the New Year where we dined ala vegetarian the whole day. Some of you may wonder why I never blog about Reunion dinner but my family and I always had our reunion dinner with another two families and most of the time; we will have it earlier and dine out. On the actual day before the New Year, we would usually dine on simple home cook meal as we would be exhausted from all the previous cleaning and running around preparation for the New Year.

This New Year, the younger generations have voiced out to take it easy and sleep in a bit before we all headed over to our eldest relative’s house for the 1st meal of the Dragon year. In addition, the younger generation has also volunteered to bring a dish each to contribute to the lunch to avoid the elders being overwork. Since I love curries, I decided to contribute a Vegetarian Mutton Rendang!

Here’s a glimpse of our 1st meal of the 1st day of the Dragon Year!

My first attempt at the Vegetarian Rendang Mutton turned out pretty good and I was really please with the results. Very creamy and redolent of lemongrass, chilies, galangal, turmeric and lots of coconut, the curry was not too spicy but just enough to make me downed lots of rice. I added fried potatoes and vegetarian mutton pieces that you can buy nowadays. Recipe is at the end of this post for those who is interested! J

Mushroom Soup by my cousin where the dark broth is just simmered with loads of dried shitake mushrooms and red dates.

Braised  Vegetables with Vermicelli and Fermented Bean Curd by my Mother-in-law where a plethora of vegetables are all stir fried and braised till soft for a natural vegetarian sweetness.

I love the Vegetarian Char Siew by my 4th Aunt for its sweetness and aromatic flavors!

The 4th aunt also made a Sweet and Sour Bean Curd Puff that was the first dish to be clean out. An irresistible classic in vegetarian form!!

Stir Fried Mixed Vegetable was another basic stir-fry of whatever vegetables you take fancy and flavored with a light seasoning of soy sauce and vegetarian oyster sauce.

Here’s the recipe for my curry taken from a magazine with slight additions…

Vegetarian Rendang Mutton
Adapted from Country Style Vegetarian Cuisine by Famous Cuisine Magazine

200g vegetarian mutton
150g potatoes
50g young coconut (grated white part only)
4 blades kaffir lime leaves (whole)
2 blades kaffir lime leaves (finely shredded)
1 tbsp red chili paste (add more if you like spicier)
2 tbsp vegetarian curry powder (mixed with 1 tbsp water into a paste, optional)
1 stem lemongrass (bruised)
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anises
5-7 cardamoms
250ml thick coconut milk
100ml water
Salt to season

6 dried chilies
5 red chilies
2 stem lemongrass
3 candlenuts
10g fresh galangal
10g fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp cooking oil
½ tsp salt

1.   Cut potatoes into chunks and deep fried them till crisp. Remove, drain well and keep aside.
2.   Stir-fry the shredded young coconut in a hot work (without oil) over a low heat until aromatic and golden brown. Dish out and set aside to cool.
3.   Blend all the ingredients for the Spices till fine. Add more water or oil to ensure that the paste is fairly smooth.
4.   Heat up 5 tbsp of cooking oil in a pot with medium heat, add in blended spice paste and stir till the oil and spices are aromatic and separates.
5.   Add in the red chili paste, vegetarian curry paste, lemongrass stem, cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamoms, whole kaffir lime leaves and stir for another few minutes.
6.   Pour in water and coconut milk. Stir well and set to simmer over low heat until the gravy is thick and reduced. Add in the fried potatoes, vegetarian mutton and salt to season.
7.   Simmer for another few minutes, add in the golden brown shredded young coconut and shredded kaffir leaves, mix well and once the curry reaches another boiling stage, turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

*For early preparation, you can fried the spice blended ingredients, fry the potatoes and fry the shredded young coconut one day in advance and store them in the fridge for a faster cooking time.
**The rendang keeps for another two days if you store the finished curry in the freezer. I had leftovers and the flavors were still great but the potatoes were too soft after reheating.

I had a great day to start of the Water Dragon Year… how about you? J

January 22, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

May the Auspicious Water Dragon Bring Loads of Well Wishes
To You and Your Family!

Hugs, ChasingFoodDreams

January 21, 2012

Ti Chen Chinese Restaurant, The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur: A Newly Refurbished Palace of Emperor to Usher in the Dragon Lunar Chinese New Year!

I am certainly experiencing a lot of Laughter before the new Dragon Year arrives!

The year of the dragon is said to be a transformational year. Ti Chen, translated as Palace of Emperor, is set to usher in a new Lunar Chinese New Year with its newly refurbished décor. Ti Chen, located at the neighboring Saujana Golf and Country Club, is definitely glam up with a gorgeous interior and is set to welcome guests with a refreshing ‘Fatt Choy’ menu this festive month!

As I walked into the Ti Chen, what strike me right away were the bold and contrasting colors of black and red with splashes of white. Dark panels with a fusion of oriental and contemporary motif adorned and liven up the whole atmosphere. Light gauzy flowing material provided sections to the whole ambience while soften up the sunshine from the glass windows surrounding the whole restaurant. A bold and alluring attractiveness summed up the whole new Ti Chen!

Catering to the festive mood, lots of Chinese red lanterns dressed up the ceilings and set the stage for the Chinese festivity mood!

For the coming Water Dragon, different prosperity set menus have been carefully put together to reflect a memorable feast. Each set menu is paired with wine or liquor to jazz up the occasion. We had the honored of savoring of one the four ‘Fatt Choy’ menus labeled Jade Set priced at RM988++ that day.

We started off with the mandatory dish of Salmon Yee Sang. Slivers of bright salmon were delectable as usual and the array of ingredients provided the much significant crunch, sweet, fruity and nutty flavors and textures. I detected some jelly fish for a nice chewy texture as well.

Our next soup course was Shark’s Fin Soup with Crabmeat and Dried Scallop. Fairly thick and silky smooth, the golden broth was laced with superior broth, chunks of crabmeat and shredded conpoy, lending an aromatic ocean flavors to every spoonful. A dash of vinegar added more oomph to the soup!

Roasted Chicken with Tong Kwai had gentle flavors surprisingly. The bird was roast till the skin was crisp and beneath it lies the gravy tinted with Tong Kwai. I like the overall dish as it proved decent. My only one request to the chef is to ask for more sauce as it wasn’t enough to coat that whole bird.

Surprisingly our table wasn’t much a fan of prawns but I had no complaints as there were more for me!! Maybe it was just the hassle to peel prawns that some people don’t like. The Stir-Fried Prawns with Seasonal Salt was executed very well as the shells of the prawns were super crispy and flavors were dashed with a distinctive salt seasoning. In fact, I like the crunch of the skin so much; I didn’t peel it but devoured the whole prawns with shells! J

The fish course had us savoring Steamed Red Snapper Fish with Superior Soya Sauce. Flavors were good as per the norm but I personally thought the fish was a bit overcooked. The freshness of the fish did make up for the cooking part and the superior soya sauce is very aromatic and savory.

I like the Braised Sea Cucumber with Fish Maw, Dried Oysters and Fatt Choy! Soft big pieces of sea cucumber were well braised with great savory flavors and the pieces of light beige fish maw delicious with the sauce, Even the dried oysters were braised very well. Green broccoli provided its usual color and vegetable flavor to the overall dish.

Chef Special Loh Mai Fun came in the aromatic lotus leaf. The glutinous rice was steamed till soft and sticky with jewels of vegetables, mushrooms, dried shrimp and topped with fried shallots and sping onions. Yum… I have two helpings of this rice!

We finished the meal with Fresh Fruits and Red Bean Mochi. Simply but utterly satisfying as it was a refreshing end to our heavy meal!

Besides just great food, guests are also treated to a scenic view of the golf course with lots of greens over the course. I had never had any interest in golf but maybe I should with such a gorgeous view!!

One can expect a luxurious dining experience at the new Ti Chen Chinese Restaurant. The ambience and scenic view is certainly the plus points while one can certainly expect the best from the kitchen and service at Ti Chen!

Fatt Choy Set Menus

Pearl Set
Rm88.80++ Per Person (Minimum 5 persons)
Rm888++ Per Table of 10 persons
With a bottle Mesterio Cab Sauv Red Wine

Salmon Yee Sang
Shark’s Fin Soup with Four Treasures
Roasted ‘Pei Pah’ Chicken
Steamed Red Snapper Fish Teo Chew Style
Stir-Fried Prawns Vietnamese Style
Braised Sea Cucumber with Dried Oysters, Black Mushroom and Fatt Choy
Fried Rice with Sea Delicacies
Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Dried Longan
Mandarin Orange
Jasmine Tea

Jade Set
Rm98.80++ Per Person (Minimum 5 persons)
Rm988++ Per Table of 10 persons
With a bottle Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years

Salmon Yee Sang
Shark’s Fin Soup with Crabmeat and Dried Scallop
Roasted Chicken Tong Kwai
Steamed Red Snapper Fish with Superior Soya Sauce
Stir-Fried Prawns with Seasonal Salt
Braised Sea Cucumber with Fish Maw, Dried Oysters, and Fatt Choy
Chef Special ‘Loh Mai Fun’
Two Varieties Dim Sum
Seasonal Fruits with Mandarin Orange
Jasmine Tea

Golden Set
Rm138.80++ Per Person (Minimum 5 persons)
Rm1388++ Per Table of 10 persons
With a bottle of Hennessey V.S.O.P

Abalone Yee Sang
Shark’s Fin Soup with Sea Delicacies
Roasted ‘Pei Pah’ Duck
Steamed Sea Grouper with Superior Soya Sauce
 ‘Ying Yong’ Prawns
Braised Broccoli with Abalone, Black Mushroom, Dried Oysters, and Fatt Choy
Chef Special ‘Ee-Fu’ Noodles with Sea Delicacies
Warm Sea Coconut with White Fungus
Chilled Mochi with Mandarin Orange
Jasmine Tea

Emperor Set
Rm228.80++ Per Person (Minimum 5 persons)
Rm2288++ Per Table of 10 persons
With a bottle of Singleton Single Malt Whisky 12 Years Old

Abalone Yee Sang
Superior Shark’s Fin Soup with Dried Scallop
Smoked Duck
Steamed Red Grouper with Lemon and Superior Soya Sauce
 Stir-Fried Tiger Prawns with Superior Soya Sauce
Braised Broccoli with Alisan Abalone, Black Mushroom, Dried Oysters, and Fatt Choy
Chef Special ‘Loh Mai Fun’ in Lotus Leaf
Double Boil Red Dates with White Fungus
Red Bean Paste Pancake with Mandarin Orange
King Tea

There are also delicious varieties of Yee Sang available ala carte, from Rm38++ to RM288++.


Ti Chen opens every Tuesdays to Sundays from 12noon to 2.30pm (lunch) and 6.30pm to 10.30pm (dinner). For dining reservations, call 03 7840 5502 or email dine@thesaujana.com

There is even a Fatt Choy Room Package for those looking to spend quality time with the family during Chinese New Year with packages starting from RM265++ onwards. This package is valid from 13 January to 6 February 2012. Contact reservations at 03 7843 1234 or email reservations@thesaujana.com for more information.

Ti Chen Chinese Restaurant
The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Saujana Resort,
Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS,
40150 Shah Alam, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-7840 5502

*Thanks to Azimy & Izzrin for the invite!

January 19, 2012

The Tranquerah, Authentic Malacca Cuisine: Celebrate The Dragon Year with Malaccan Nyonya Cuisine!

An Early Lou Sang Affair with Alan Yun, Isaac Ong and fellow Bloggers at The Tranquerah!

Calling out all Nyonya fans! How about celebrating this coming Dragon year with a Nyonya Lou Sang and Set Menu? No stranger to Nyonya cuisine, I admit I am a super huge fan since I do have the Nyonya blood running through me… J. Craving for something a little different? Check out The Tranquerah at Encorp Strand that serves authentic Malacca cuisine with recipes from Chef Florence Tan! Read about my first visit here.

We were graciously hosted by Alan Yun, multi-talented actor and restaurant owner together with Isaac Ong, Malaysia’s Top male model, one lovely Sunday lunch to savor a Chinese New Year menu with a Nyonya twist!

The ambience at Tranquerah certainly held its charm and with the second visit, I saw more knick knacks from the past that really brings out an old school charm to my memories. From marbles or ‘Ba Ku Li’ to cigarette holders, wooden panels, batik molds and biscuit tin chairs, the eclectic mixed of décor is truly mesmerizing!!

Seen here is the ever charming Alan who was kind enough to explained Tranquerah and its origin and cuisine while hunky Isaac posed a photo with little genius Ethan!

I also caught three lovely bloggers in my lenses… Fish, Yvonne & Merryn!

Starting off the festive journey of gastronomic Nyonya fare is a Baba Nyonya Yee Sang!

Truly unique and obviously different from the usual Chinese Yee Sang, the Nyonya Yee Sang served at Tranquerah mimicked the Nyonya Jelly Fish Pasembur where the ingredients are kept to a minimal but the flavors are fabulous. The Yee Sang comprised of shredded jicama or ‘Bangkuang’, lettuce, cucumber, crispy fritters, brown squid and jelly fish. The sauce is a sweet concoction of chili sauce with crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and lime or ‘Kat Chai’.

A squeeze of limes and a pouring of sauce will get one ready for the tossing of the Yee Sang!

Let a four year old Ethan show you how to toss a Yee Sang! Btw… little genius Ethan has Malacca Nyonya blood in him too… J

Huat Ah... shouted everyone! I heard them asking for salary increment, big bonus, lottery winnings, more food, more business etc… hahaha!! How about you… what will you be shouting when you are tossing your Yee Sang this year?

A platter of fresh crunchy vegetables jazzed up with chewy squid and jelly fish while crispy fritters added more crunch and lime jazzed up the citrus aroma. What you get is a gorgeous flavor of sweet, spicy and savory with a myriad of textures! Do order this for that extra Nyonya experience this festive holiday. The Yee Sang is a separate order from the CNY set menu.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the dishes from the Chinese New Year Menu!

Pie Tee… oh my sweet Pie Tee! How I loved thee…J. Call these snack whatever you want, Top Hats or Pie Tee, these little pastry shells filled with vegetables are highly addictive with its crispy sweet flavors.

Nyonya cuisine features quite a number of braised dishes and for this menu; Sek Kay or Sek Ark is an aromatic dish of Nyonya Braised Chicken or Duck. Accompanying the bird is braised boiled egg and tofu. The flavors are deeply seasoned with soy sauce and chili, lending a lovely savory and slightly spicy taste.

In a Nyonya household, curry is a must and every household has its own secretly guarded spices for that authentic curry flavor. Chef Florence’s Nyonya Chicken Curry is delicious! Redolent of spices, the curry was not overly creamy but sufficient for flooding one’s rice. My first visit, the curry was super spicy but it has been toned down to cater to more general customers. However, if you love your curry super spicy like me, ask the wait staff to spice it up!

Chicken Meatball Soup is featured but I was told that the soup in the CNY menu is actually Hee Peow Soup or Fish Maw Soup. Simple and sweetened with cabbage, the soup makes comfort moments in one’s meal!

Ikan Talapia Goreng Chili has my vote for sure! Fried till crispy, the fish was also dressed up in a spicy chili sauce. Hit the dish with lime and you’ll find a spicy and sour flavors contrasting against the flaky fish. I wanted to hog this whole fish to myself… hehehe.

Sotong Masak Lemak Nenas is squid cooked in a creamy curry sauce with pineapples. This curry is more gentle in flavors but definitely richer with a creamy edge.

Everyone at our table loved the Sambal Bendi. Sliced Lady’s Finger or Okra was stir fried in a pungent belachan spice paste… decent and yummy for me!

One will often find Chap Chye in a Nyonya household, a medley of vegetables chopped and stir fried with bean paste. The version here also faired decent with savory flavors.

One has not experience a Baba Nyonya cuisine without the infamous Sambal Belachan! This kick-ass chili is powered up with pungent shrimp paste and lime juice to kick up the dishes another notch!!

In the CNY set menu, there are other dishes besides the above so be sure to check out the menu at the end of this post. In addition to the above dishes, we also savored some other dishes available on daily basis in their regular menu.

Uncle John, Chef Florence’s hubby, sure knows how to make a fabulous ‘Har Peng’ or prawn fritter. I am officially naming this as Uncle John’s Cucur Udang. Uncle John, I will certainly be asking for this when I go back to Tranquerah ya!

Isaac Ong who hails from Malacca sure knows his favorites at The Tranquerah! The hunky model (with a six pack... ahem ahem!) insisted we need to savor his favorite dishes of Gerang Asam Stingray and Sambal Terung.

I was glad we took his advice as the Gerang Asam Ikan Pari was superb! A sour curry laced with pungent ginger torch and asam, the gravy was just like how my mom makes it. Spicy, sour and very aromatic, I kept spooning the gravy on to my rice. Lady’s finger was added to soak up the flavors while the chunks of stingray were soft and moist. Highly recommended!!

Sambal Terung looked quite ordinary till the flavors hit me like a ton of bricks. Long pieces of soft brinjal or eggplant had soaked up the flavors of the sweet and savory sambal sauce and were utterly delicious with white rice. Another must-order if you are a fan of eggplant… J

We finished up our meal with a few Nyonya desserts like Ice Kacang, Bubur Cha Cha and Sago Gula Melaka. I for one loved the Ais Kacang for its fine shaved ice, sweet and aromatic gula Melaka and rose syrup and the abundance of cendol, corn, leong fun, peanuts, sea coconut, red bean and more in the dessert! Bubur Cha Cha is a little different from the northern one as this one had gula Melaka to perfumed it to another level of savory and sweet coconut flavors.

At The Tranquerah, it may seem that you’ll be reminded of the past with its décor and authentic dishes but rest assured, you will definitely make new memories with the experience of Malacca Nyonya cuisine! There are just so many dishes that are high on my favorite list from the first and now second visit. I am still seeing other dishes I would like to try Kerabu Mangga, Ayam Buah Keluak and Tamarind Prawns at The Tranquerah!

As Chinese New Year is just around the corner, here’s wishing everyone an Auspicious Gong Hei Fatt Choi from us all!

Call for reservations at 603 6142 4106 for a mix of the old with the new at The Tranquerah!

The Tranquerah
62A-G, Red Carpet Avenue
Encorp Strand, Jalan PJU5/22
Kota Damansara, 47810, Petaling Jaya
Tel: 603 – 6142 4106

Open for business on CNY eve and during the 1st to 7th days of CNY. Closes from 30 Jan - 2 Feb 2012

*Thanks to Alan for the gracious invite!