Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

Pan Fried Haloumi

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Grated Lemon Zest & Squeezed Lemon Juice on it
Pan Fried Haloumi

OK, I'm inspired to write. Or is that to regurgitate? ;-)

In any case, whatever it is, I felt I should share my experience of Pan Fried Haloumi.

I've seen this done by quite a few cooks. Nigella being the latest.

I didn't have her recipe but how hard could it be?

And I was correct in that it was easy.

I bought a packet of Haloumi cheese from TMC. Can't remember the brand. Sliced it in thirds and then divided that into 3 thin pieces each.

I drizzled a smattering of olive oil onto a hot non stick pan and waited for it to just being smoking.

Having thrown in the Haloumi I started to get worried that it would be like Mozarella and melt on me. But it didn't.

In less than a minute (at least it seemed like that) I flipped it and it was a nice golden brown.

Grated some yellow yellow lemon zest onto it and then squeezed half a lemon to add zing. I would imagine that it would taste divine with an herb sprinkled on top as well. Take your pick. Something herbaceous and grassy would be appropriate.

It was divine. Lemony, salty, firm, bitey, it was everything I had hoped it would be. Makes a brilliant starter.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Sneexe was talking about mashed potatoes on my Nigella's Chilli entry and it reminded me of this fantastic recipe I found somewhere. Can't remember where it was from now but it was the best mash I've ever had.

Roasted Garlic Mash Potatoes

4 Russet Potatoes - I use Russets because they're nice and floury and full of that earthy potato flavour. Great for mash. I allow 1 for each person. That's a LOT of mash.
8 Garlic cloves, skin on (adjust for your own taste, I love my mash really garlicky and because they're roasted they're almost sweet and nutty)
1/4 cup of cream
2 oz butter
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Parsley - I use curly leaf. The flavour of flat leaf and curley leaf parsley is almost the same and the premium you pay for flat leaf is really not worth it if its just for home consumption

  1. Turn the stove on to medium and dry roast the garlic cloves in a non stick pan until the skin turns spotty black.
  2. The garlic should be slightly squishy so you can mash it together with the potatoes.
  3. Boil the UNPEELED potatoes in boiling, salted water until they are tender. A great test to see if they're ready is sticking a sharp filleting knife into them and when you lift the spud with the knife it should fall back into the water.
  4. Pour the water out and allow the spuds to dry with the residual heat.
  5. Peel the spuds and just squidge out the cloves of garlic.
  6. Use a masher or potato ricer to mash the potatoes and the roasted garlic together.
  7. Add the unsalted butter and the cream and still till smooth.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Garnish with finely chopped parsley.
Goes great with Boeuf Bourguignon, steaks, stews, sausages, toad in the hole, and so on and so forth. ;-)

Dae Sa Kwan - a Korean Restaurant in Desa Sri Hartamas

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

At 12 my parents decided to send me off to boarding school in the UK. Gorgeous place, Prior Park College (see pics below;when I look at it through the eyes of adulthood. But at 12, it was Frankenstein's castle to a young, inexperienced Malaysian boy whose idea of cold was Cameron Highlands at night.

A photochrome of the Palladian Bridge looking up at Mansion HouseA real picture of the Palladian Bridge and Mansion House, the administrative centre of Prior Park College

It was then that I met the Guards. Both of them were educationists and they presently run a very successful educational consultancy for students going to the UK or Europe.

At that point in time, I had to take an examination known as the common entrance to determine whether or not I was up to a certain level for school in the UK.

David (whom I addressed as Mr Guard for umpteen years) was my invigilator. In effect, the Guards' saw me grow up. Over the years, the friendship has strengthened and they have become lifelong family friends.

Fast forward to the present day.

David and Carmen were both in KL keeping an eye on business and called Dad and Mum as they usually do when they're in town, and fixed a time for dinner.

Having racked our brains for a couple of days wondering where to take them for food, I eventually suggested Dae Sa Kwan to Mum. Hearing that it was a Korean sort of steamboat, she readily agreed. Mum's teochew but her cantonese eating habits, which she's passed on to me, means that anything with soup must be good.

Since this was the first time the Guards' had Korean food I decide to throw them in at the deep end with Kim Chee. They're adventurous sorts in any case, and they dug in with relish.

An assortment of tidbits from the menu - the interesting one was a waterchestnut savoury jelly
Kimchee "steamboat"Mixed yummies in the kimchee hotpot - small franks, luncheon meat, PORK, Wong Nga Bak, Fun see, vegKorean Beer - very light. Our lagers tend to have more body and hops flavour
A selection of the tidbits that came with the Kimchee hotpotA Korean Egg Pancake - really yummy seafood omeletteSomething the Koreans are famous for - grilled meats

Go try it. Dae Sa Kwan.

Chynna in KL Hilton

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Chynna restaurant in KL Hilton
Chef behind the food bar
Table setting which they remove and replace with white flatware
A long mirror runs like a border round the restaurant - if you look closely you can see me taking a pic ;-)
This special teapot that is served by only this one particular waiter trained to pour it
Chynna from the entrance - see if you can spot Allan ;-)

When the relatives on my Mum's side get together, it's always a bundle of laughs. It's a smaller family than my Dad's side but only because there has been attrition. The silver lining in all of this is that the rest of the family has drawn ever closer. And like any good Malaysian family, we congregate over food. Yes, Malaysian! Not Chinese, not Eurasian, not Indian, but Malaysian. The reason I'm so emphatic about all this is because my family is such a polyglot of ethnic intermarriage it would be impossible to classify which original race they were from. My cousin, who invited us to dinner last night, is Muslim and married to a Malay gentleman. I've got cousins on the distaff side who married Brits, cousins and aunties who are mixed indian eurasian. So, I'm not even going to TRY and classify anything. As far as I'm concerned, I'm first and foremost Malaysian and my race is Malaysian.

OK, this entry was actually about food before I got on my high horse! ;-)

So here it is...

Now, I only took photos of the highlights. If I'd taken photos of everything, I'd still be here tomorrow uploading this entry.
The "Loh Mei Kai" was rather pedestrian to say the least. It is tough to make Chinese food like this taste chinese without the obvious ingredient; pork. Dried shrimp only go so far.
This shrimp and dumpling soup was the highlight of the entire lunch. It tasted like a take on "siew loong bao." Except that instead of the soup inside the dumpling, the dumpling was drowned in the soup. Very nice. Lightly sweet, the broth was clear and nicely spiced with the heat and herb flavour of the ginger.
Dessert was quite unique if not rather special. I felt they were trying to be clever for the sake of being clever and not sticking to the one primary rule in cooking. The flavours come first. This was a lemon grass jelly with grapes and a lemon sorbet. Sounds very interesting does it not? The lemon grass flavour though was very very subtle. The lemon sorbet drowned it. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't bad. It was very refreshing. But it still didn't seem like a true dessert. Rather it seemed more like a palate cleanser.

All in all a very positive experience but I happened to glance at the bill; over RM800. *faint*

For that amount of money, it provided a lot of atmosphere but the food itself was rather run of the mill. Nothing particularly special or unique. Fresh food but...

Gasping for compressed air

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Daniel Yap took this pic - he named it Nigel and Allan - B****rd! ;-)

Allan and I had dithered all year about diving in the Lembeh Straits last October.Sigh!

Daniel Yap took this pic - he's a damn good photog

Were we ever sorely tempted! But with Hari Raya coming and the rest of the busy season peeking round the corner, we decided that discretion had to be the better part of valour and we needed to earn some money instead of haring off on what was a glorious adventure with Allan's brother Daniel, his girlfriend Chui, and our madcap divebanana bunch!

Daniel Yap took this pic - crab feeding in anemone

If it were not for Allan's sensible arguments about well, being sensible, I would have dropped everything packed one pair of shorts, one pair of underwear and headed off on Air Asia. Sometimes, in your musings do you still wish you were 15? If you’re 15, don’t bother answering. If you’re in your late 20s and on up you know exactly what I mean. Actually, if you asked Allan he probably would say that I haven’t grown up…yet. Hey, we all live in hope.

In any case, at that point in time, our godson Jeremy was about to sit for his A levels. After hearing about our diving escapades he expressed an interest in learning how to dive…someday.

Serendipity strikes at times like these and since we were hankering for some bottled air as well as casting about for a “graduation” present for him, we thought what better than to get him certified and we would have one more thing to do together.

Fast forward to early February and we began searching for dive spots which basically had to conform to certain requirements. We wanted a 5 star Padi centre, a good instructor for the newbies (eventually there was more than one), decent lodgings, and beautiful dive sites.

Enter Redang Kalong and Alex.

Redangkalong promo pic

Along the way we also accumulated some new groupies. As things stand 9 of us will be heading up to Redang.

I’m chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel of our CRV and drive off into the night only to arrive at dawn at the Merang jetty to take the early boat over to the island. It’s for times like these that the phrase “sense of adventure” was coined.

It’s been almost 8 months since our lungs felt the rasp of metallic air through a regulator and it couldn’t be more timely. Diving is truly one of the miracles of our modern world. When you take the step off the boat and your head submerges you are instantly transported to another realm. A realm where weightlessness takes on true meaning, a realm which has inhabitants of its own in a social circle you will only ever be able to peer at but never to join. It is an alien planet peopled by the strange and the beautiful. The poisonous and the mundane. It is all blue/brown/grey at the depths we visit and that’s just up to 45m. But when you shine a light on them all manner of colours leap out at you. It's voyeuristic.

While we live on the fringes of the truly hard core divers (who hop from dive site to dive site and then return home for 3 months to accumulate enough money to barely survive for the rest of the year diving) it is without a doubt one of the most exhilarating sports that I’ve ever experienced. Skiing would be a close second.

Now if you’ve seen me, you’ll know that I’m not an athlete. As a matter of fact, the word “athlete” seems to have been coined with me in mind as the antonym. I was built for comfort, not speed!

Since December I've also been resigned to the fact that I would not be able to take any more underwater pictures this time around. I'd given up looking for our little digital camera. 2 days ago, my Uncle asked me what camera I'm using now and when I mentioned that I'd lost my camera my Dad pipes up chirpily "oh, you leave it all over the place so I thought I'd keep it for you." For 3 months! Without telling us.

Roll on 28 Mar and rubs my hands together in glee!

Nigella's Chilli and Melting Wok's Char Siu with Rum & Raisin Ice Cream

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Ever since I got my "Nigella's Feasts" for Christmas, I've been trying odds and bods from the book. The first, a Chocolate Fruit Cake was YUMM-MEE!

I love her style of writing and I can just imagine her with her plummy accent speaking to me in the book. She writes as she speaks which is wonderful. It allows her personality and her genuine-ness to come through.

In any case, I was intrigued with the Chilli topped with cornbread recipe and have been wanting to make it for some time. That and Melting Wok's Char Siu recipe. The opportunity presented itself and I made it for the toughest customers I know. Allan's Mum and family and my family. Of the two though, Allan's family is more vocal about what they like and dislike.

Actually, Allan and I are very fortunate as we have a ready made focus group for any of our new cakes we test in our kitchen. ;-)

The other thing that we believe is that we shouldn't save something for a "celebration." Every day should be a celebration of life, love and family, and so for our Sunday night dinner we broke out the bubbly.

The bottle of Prosecco we had with dinner

It was a chance to really channel the Domestic Goddess as we also tried out her idea for Rum & Raisin ice cream and her favourite bit of bubbly, Prosecco, which is amazing value for money at around RM65 each.

Inebriated Raisins
The drowned raisins - after a day or two they will look rather the worse for wear. After a week they plump back up and the rum becomes a dark rum syrup

Enough good quality raisins to stuff an airtight bottle (an old jam jar worked wonders for me)
4 cloves (You can increase this or even use cinnamon or whatever grabs your fancy)
Dark Rum - enough to cover the raisins (Please don't use rum flavouring)
  1. Fill half the bottle with raisins and drop in the cloves
  2. Stuff the rest of the bottle with raisins
  3. Trickle in the rum until it's absolutely full
  4. Cover the lid tightly and refrigerate for at least a week
You can use this to just mix into a tub of vanilla ice cream for really boozy Rum & Raisin. It's better prepared the day before the party or event. It allows the rum to work its way into the ice cream otherwise the raisins will pop in your mouth with small, nasal clearing, shots of rum.

The Verdict

The Golden brown cheese crust on the cornbreadMy mashed up Chilli, Cornbread, sour cream and guacamole

Nigella's Chilli Con Carne recipe is everything she makes it out to be. It's subtly spiced, meaty, well balanced. I can't resist tweaking recipes and my changes were simple; I substituted 500g of minced pork for the same amount of beef that the recipe calls for. So in effect, I used 1 kg of minced beef and 500 g of minced pork. I like the sweetness that pork imparts to a meat recipe. Furthermore, I simmered for 2 hours instead of the 1 1/2 hours that the recipe called for and added a teaspoon of honey to the finished recipe. To my mind this gave it a richer finish. And being Malaysians, I felt it needed more heat than 2 tsps of dried chilli, so I added an extra tsp.
The almost neon lime green guacamole - select the blackest avocados you can find in the supermarket and make sure they have a nice bit of give in them - mine were a little underripe
The gloriously tart sour cream

It was perfect served with the guacamole and the sour cream. The tart creaminess of the sour cream and the grassy herbaceous notes of the guacamole/lime mixture proved the appropriate foil to the sweet richness of the chilli. The grated cheddar added just the right hit of saltiness and even my Mum who's not a fan of cheese, to say the least, was chowing down.

It was indeed a large pot and we bagged it up and froze the left overs. It was hearty, filling, comfort food. Just what the doctor ordered for a one pot meal with a salad.
The sliced up Char Siu

Now, the piece de resistance. The Char Siu. Can I say OMIGOD?! Sweet, subtly spiced with the warmth of the five spice and the smoky-ness of the caramelised honey and golden syrup. The Chinese wine gave it an aromatic edge. Yes, now you've got me. Sorry lah Melting Wok, being the tweaker I am, I made a few minor changes to the method and to the ingredients. I couldn't find Maltose (Mak Nga) in Bangsar Village so I substituted Golden Syrup.

Instead of frying it the entire time on the stove top, I caramelised and sealed the meat on the fire and then transferred it to a 180C oven to bake for 10 mins. Took it out, turned it and baked it again for another 15 mins.

It would have been better if I had been able to get better pork belly or Kap Sum Yoke. It would have been even more tender and the flavour would undoubtedly have been more intense had I marinated it overnight. But as usual my impetuous nature got the better of me and I just absolutely HAD to make it. So I gave it an hour to marinate and then cooked it. Even so, it was a palpable hit, as they say.

Since, it wouldn't really have gone with the Chilli, I served it as a starter for everyone to pick at.
Home made rum and raisin ice cream

The Ice Cream was boozy, creamy, and after a hot hearty dish, it was a very welcome treat. The raisins were dark little surprises as they squished between your teeth and released their potent liquid which vapourised up your nasal passages. Allan sat up with his family and chit chatted till the wee hours while I crawled upstairs had a shower and snuck into bed. There are few things more satisfying than having your loved ones enjoy what you made.

What is the intent of my blog?

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

At present my blog seems to just "a day in the life of..." but it seems to be shaping up heavily skewed to food.

Wow! What a surprise! ;-)

In any case, the intent of this blog was just to run through my thoughts and provide some catharsis for myself during the course of the day. So there we go. Not intended to pull readership or is it meant to do anything except regurgitate in written form who Nigel A. Skelchy might be.

I've always loved writing and the exactness that you could glean from the written word, particularly in English. And how each person draws on their own experience to view the world. So that's part of what this blog does as well; to provide me a space to string sentences together.

Digitalis Unexpectoratum

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Sort of sounds like a Harry Potter spell doesn't it?

All I can say is that I certainly hope that the men had fun! Or is this a case of an overzealous Gombak chief following instructions to the letter? Although I'm certain the honourable Minister didn't mean ANYTHING salacious suggested by the headline! (Major CYA qualification! hehehe)

Friends for dinner (Majorly NON HALAL food entry up ahead)

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Sambal belacan for the Loh Hon Chye
Dinner for 8
Choi sum & garlic stir fry

We didn't have our friends FOR dinner. We had them over to have dinner with us.

It wasn't any special occasion but Mum had made something that's been a favourite of mine ever since I can remember.

Keluak curry.
Keluak Curry

Buah Keluak is a this little dark grey nut. Favoured by the Nyonya or the Portuguese Eurasians. It's more commonly made with Chicken. But in our family, pork is meat of choice. Or specifically spare ribs. The bone-in gives the curry a sweetness and richness that belies it's rather dark demeanour.
Keluak meat mashed into my rice

Each person was given their own chopstick (singular) to dig out the meat inside the nut. The meat itself is black and tarry and for those on a low carb diet don't bother. It just does not taste the same without hot rice and the keluak curry gravy drowning the rice. Or as they say in mamak's, "banjir."

The taste of Keluak can be strange for Keluak virgins not knowing what to expect. It has a distinct earthy flavour with a tinge of bitterness. But the soft, oily texture is akin to adding buttery smoke to your hot rice. All the spices that go into the curry only serve to frame that flavour.
Loh Hon Chye

Mum had also made Loh Hon Chye which is traditionally a vegetarian dish. But being the carnivores we are, she actually sometimes uses spare ribs as well besides a good deal of "lam yue" and dried oysters.
Sambal belacan on my Loh Hon Chye

With uncharacteristic restraint, and a nod towards tradition, Mum deigned to leave out the ribs. But there was no way she was leaving out the delicious flavouring agent of the smoked, dried oysters.

I'm not certain how many people eat "Loh Hon Chye" this way, but in our family sambal belacan is laid out and you help yourself to liberal amounts to mash into the "vegetarian" dish. Amazing doesn't come close. The "lam yue" gives the dish such a smoky sweet sourness along with the heat of the chillies that my mouth is watering as I write this. No wonder I am the size I am! ;-)

We also had "Chee Keok Seen" or Vinegared Pigs Trotters. Since Mum didn't make this one dish I feel safe in saying that it was not the best I'd ever tasted. It lacked the bite of vinegar and the heat of the sufficient ginger. Since this dish is a confinement dish meant to put the heat back into a post natal woman's body, it also sometimes includes a dash of Benedictine Dom.
Chee Keok Seen

Being the ever filial son (I hope my mother is not reading this - she'd probably laugh herself silly) I must be honest and say with no bias (nudge nudge wink wink) that Mum's Loh Hon Chye and Keluak curry are the best.

Furthermore, no pig is safe with us. If you have a pig for a pet, keep it away from our house lest it become breakfast/lunch/dinner.

Fraser's Hill and Bentong - Part 3 - Photos

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Sunset at the Methodist bungalow
Shooting the rapids
Dragonfly on the rocks

Fraser's Hill and Bentong - Part 2

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

As we left Fraser's we had planned to visit the SPLASH centre.

But as we got to the bottom of the Gap junction, Raub/Bentong looked more interesting. Our sense of adventure prompted us to take a left instead of the usual right and off we went on a balmy Wednesday morning, meandering along roads which were shaded by leafy glades of bamboo and rainforest trees.

We drove through the valley town of Tranum and ended up in a little hamlet called Tras before we decided to stop and have a coffee break. But even here we had not escaped the pernicious hand of "civilisation" with machine made pau's and diesel lorries rumbling through what looked like an orchard town full of durians.

We definitely drew the attention of the villagers and all of a sudden I felt like a big city interloper who had no business being there.

Sitting down to a lovely cup of local coffee (lovely because it's fried in margarine) we proceeded to peel the pau. It was definitely of the Mcdonalds franchised variety, but it still tasted decent. Fluffy, pristine white pastry wrapping the requisite sticky "char siew" filling.

Not being sizeist but I think Tranum and Tras both share half of the proverbial horse that make them, together, a one horse town. Loved them both. Does that sound too Hollywood producerish speak? Or should I add the "darling."

From Tras we swung round and eventually headed off to the busy metropolis of Bentong. On the way in, I spied with mine little eye, a signpost pointing the way to "Air Terjun Chamang."

I was awed. Water was gushing down like gravity had concentrated all it's efforts at the bottom of the falls. And it was picture postcard picturesque.

Deciding that we had enough of straying off the garden path, Allan and I called a friend who is originally from Bentong to ask her for advice as to where and what to eat in Bentong. What we didn't expect was "I'll meet you at the restaurant."

It turned out that she had come up to Bentong over the weekend to visit her family and she was going to have lunch before heading down to KL. 20 minutes later we were ensconced in her 2nd favourite restaurant ordering our food. Her favourite was closed on Wednesdays.

One thing I've noticed about food outside of KL is that it's not as intensely flavoured. I'm not certain if this is a function of LESS MSG or it's just that our food in KL tends to be hit-over-the-head-with-sledgehammer type of cuisine but sometimes I prefer less of an assault on the senses so that you can actually taste the various flavours making up the flavour profile of the dish. We had stuff which wasn't out of the ordinary but was absolutely delicious and made more so by the company. Honey Ginger Chicken, Spring onions and ginger sauteed with sliced fish, and spinach in soup.

Allan had seen some lovely golden "pisang mas" on the way into the restaurant and so we stopped by to sample some of Bentong's produce, seeing that Bentong is a well known farmer's town. Just as we walk over however, our friend points out the tau foo fa stall next to it and since it proved too much of a temptation, we indulged. Yes, where food is concerned, we're easily distracted.
Silken, glistening, fragrant, hot, just set soya bean milk sweetened with the herbaceous vanillin notes of Pandan sugar syrup. Divine. It didn't slip or slide down one's throat as much as it got incoporated into the taste buds and vanished. It was magical. If you can imagine rippling silk in gustatory terms, you'd be close. I have not had better in KL.

I'm sorry I can't give the name of the shop because it was a stall behind the wet market.

From Bentong, we found our way back on to the highway and before you knew it we were avoiding KL traffic again.