Kueh Teow Ketam + Satay Tulang @ Rawang Burger Bakar (RBB), Wangsa Maju

RBB

The last time I was in Wangsa Maju was when I had Pie Face at Wangsa Walk Mall. Wangsa Maju is really far for me, a 30 minute drive in perfect traffic conditions, so I don’t go there often. However, I was driving past last night when I saw this glorious sign – Kueh Teow Ketam! It’s at a place called Rawang Burger Bakar (RBB) and it piqued my curiosity enough for me to find a place to park.

Rawang Burger Bakar

This Malay owned eatery was still open late at night when other dining options have been exhausted. I’m not sure if this is due to Ramadan or if it’s usually open till late but I’m not surprised if it’s the latter. There were a lot of families inside, probably due to the fasting month. RBB is famous for their burgers but it just looked like regular Ramly style burgers with a few more bells and whistles so I had something else instead.

Nasi Ikan Terbang

It was the Kueh Teow Ketam which brought me here anyway. They also have a whole fried tilapia served with fried rice called Nasi Ikan Terbang (Fresh Tilapia) which goes for RM 15. You can have prawns with your kueh teow for the same price or clams (kerang) for RM 8. RBB has a very streamlined menu which emphasizes on their strength – you can have the same flower crab on top of fried rice or fried noodles for the same RM 15.

Kueh Teow Ketam

However, it seems like the signature dish of the place is the Kueh Teow Ketam (RM 15) so that’s what I got. It was really delicious! I used to have this jaw-dropping Malay style kueh teow when I first came over to KL in 2008 behind my office. This tastes similar. They use A LOT of spices and sauces to fry the kueh teow, making it ultra strong tasting. The provided home made concoction of sambal with soy sauce elevates the already salty, spicy and sweet kueh teow to new heights. The flower crab was served whole, and there was quite a lot of meat inside.

Satay Tulang

I also ordered the Satay Tulang (RM 12) coz I thought it was oxtail satay. It turned out to be huge chunks of chicken on a skewer. This took a long time to come, the server apologized for the delay and told me it’s coz the chicken takes a while to grill. The satay comes with nasi impit (boiled rice cakes), raw onions and cucumbers. I asked where the meat is from and was told it’s from everywhere, but especially the back of the chicken. Every single chunk has bones attached. This is an oily treat which isn’t easy to eat – you have to dig in with your fingers to get at all the meat.

RBB Wangsa Maju

I ultimately couldn’t finish the satay tulang coz of the cloying fat but the first two sticks were nice. It’s probably meant for sharing – a guilty pleasure of sorts. I enjoyed the kueh teow ketam though. It seems to be the most popular dish here, all the other customers were eating this too. Rawang Burger Bakar (RBB) looks family owned and the cashier is just a woman by a makeshift table. The meal cost me RM 30.50 with a Milo Tabur (RM 3.50) drink. The people are friendly and if you like strong tasting spicy kueh teow (or as they call it, cukup rasa) you’ll love the food here.

Eat clen, tren hard and accept no subs

I haven’t updated my blog in a long time and I want to start off the cycle by writing about something I’ve always felt the need to hide. I’m not even sure why besides a vague sense of it being right, and I’ll explain that the best I can now. I have had problems with substance abuse in the past and I’ve let my misadventures with methamphetamine, heroin and other fun and interesting chemicals define me. I’m the guy who was all for “better living through chemistry” and I wasn’t afraid to say it out loud to everyone who wanted to hear (and the ones who didn’t as well).

However, as I have grown older, I found myself looking askance at people like that. Admittedly there aren’t many people like me, and even less who has built up such an impressive chemical resume as I have. But the ones who have told me straight out that they’re users, I find that I tend to judge them a little. Even though I used to in the past? Especially coz I used to. I knew what kind of deviant I was and I’ll have no part of that. Now that I’ve quit for so many years, I find myself wanting to dissociate myself with other drug users.

My point is, most people have something against substance users, no matter if it’s recreational or a dependency. It speaks volumes about your character that you’re not willing to make your personal life private and maybe that’s why I stopped divulging so much. It doesn’t matter if you pop MDMA once a year or you’re shooting up smack every morning and lunch in the toilet. People don’t need to know.

There is an odd comfort in being truthful though, as long as you’re not shoving your personal politics down people’s throats. I’ve stopped using all illegal drugs for many years. However, a lot of my legacy is still there. I’m still on buprenorphine (Suboxone) and benzodiazepines.

Suboxone

I’ll talk about Suboxone first. It’s a very, very expensive and legal opiate substitute that the government has been pushing for several years. Government? So it’s free then, you say? No, it’s not. It costs RM 40 per 8 mg tablet and I take 2 per day. I used to run up RM 80 daily, RM 2,480 per month, RM 29,200 annually. RM 30,000! 30 fucking k per year! It was ludicrous.

I got on Suboxone as a legal way to get off OxyContin in 2012. I had a HUGE oxycodone problem. I was a monster. I would take 280 mg per day. That’s 14 tablets (one blister pack) of 20 mg OxyContin. It was, strangely enough, about the same price as Suboxone and offers a much superior high. However, it wasn’t legal, since I obtained them via doctor shopping, and that’s why I ultimately chose to switch over to the government Suboxone program. It was expensive but it was legal and I could travel all over the world with my prescription (except Singapore, who considers buprenorphine a Class A drug).

I was happily on Suboxone for several years before I realized I was hooked on it. Yes, that’s how buprenorphine works, it has a STRONGER binding affinity to your opiate receptors, that’s why you don’t crave other opiates like oxycodone. It’s not very pleasurable, but it’s good enough to prevent you from seeking other MORE pleasurable opiates like heroin. The buzz is acceptable, and it staves off withdrawals. Many Suboxone users already know this but I bet the general public doesn’t. Suboxone works by making you dependent on it. That’s why you don’t get withdrawals, it’s coz you’re still on opiates. In other words, you become addicted to Suboxone.

Quitting was hard. It was harder than OxyContin due to the longer half life of Suboxone. I tried once with the help of my better half and I’m not ashamed to say that I tapped out after 4 or 5 days, just when the withdrawals hit me really hard. I’m not embarrassed coz with my life experience now, I know that you’ll know when the time is right to quit. It’s when you want to, above all else, without any other reason, no pressure, no one to nag you, no guilt. You quit coz you want to be rid of it. That’s when you succeed.

I tried cutting down and I got down to 1 x 8 mg Suboxone tablet per day. After a few weeks, I cut it down to 1/2 then 1/4. It’s hard to get rid of that final bit, the “boost” you need each morning and which comforts you, but when you cut it out of your life, it’s a lot better. I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner but I know the answer to that. It was coz I wasn’t ready to.

The same thing with benzodiazepines. This is the most insidious drug I’ve ever taken. Not worse than meth, methamphetamine is the worst thing I’ve ever taken, all in all. But I personally think benzodiazepines are more insidious than opiates. You know why? There is no honest “value proposal”. I took benzos for fun at first, then to help with the come downs from meth, then I obviously got addicted to them. The one time I tried to quit was cold turkey, in drug rehab, coz the sick sons of bitches at the center didn’t know anything about benzodiazepines or how dangerous it is to quit cold turkey.

I seized in the jail cell while my ankles were shackled and my hands were handcuffed. I cried, I had multiple seizures, I thought I was going to die, and I wept again. It was a fucking nightmare, going from 10 mg clonazepam (Rivotril), 2 mg alprazolam (Xanax) and 20 mg diazepam (Valium) in a day to complete zero, cold turkey, back in 2007. I’m not sure if I can do it a second time. That’s what I thought for the next few years anyway, since I started taking them again after rehab.

However, and I’m really not sure what the catalyst is, I somehow decided to take less and less starting from last year. I was on 2 mg clonazepam (Rivotril) daily for many years and then I decided to start taking 1/2 of the tablet. Thus, I was on 1 mg. It felt better, and my head was clearer and I was feeling a lot more emotions and I thought that was good. It was. I cut again to 0.5 mg of clonazepam (which is 1/4 of the tablet).

One day, my doctor said he ran out of clonazepam and it’ll take 2 weeks to get the new stock so he gave me diazepam (Valium) instead. It was a 10 mg pill which is about equivalent to 0.5 mg of clonazepam (don’t look at the mg, trust me when I say these two doses are “similar” – think of clonazepam as being 20 times stronger than diazepam) but it wasn’t. I felt significant amount of anxiety and had mild panic attacks but I liked the clarity. Clonazepam has stronger anti-anxiety effects but it’s not as hypnotic as diazepam. I felt sleepier and I hated it coz it felt like I was “going back” on my progress.

I didn’t want to let myself acclimatize so I cut it again by 1/2 to 5 mg. I cut it again the week after to 1/4 of that and within a week I titrated the dose to 1/8, 1/10 and 1/12. Then I switched to 5 mg Valium (diazepam) – it’s half the amount of my previous 10 mg tablet so it’s easier to split for a smaller dose. The doctor didn’t have 2 mg ones. I then started splitting the 5 mg pill to 1/20 until I had to pinch just a bit. It was effectively nothing coz it was about 1/30 of a 5 mg pill – or 0.16 mg daily. Most people take 5-10 mg and I managed to cut it down to zero with my own super fast taper plan. I was essentially clean. The last bit to get rid off was more psychological than anything.

It wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t as bad as when I kicked it cold turkey in rehab. I kinda like the new clarity. It gives me purpose. It also made me feel bad about the time I’ve spent “under the influence” (kinda). Now, this is not medical advice, everyone is different and you should never cold turkey quit benzodiazepines coz you might die of a seizure.

However, I have grown to belief that it’s more like US FDA precaution. I’ve done plenty of things which should have killed me. I’ve taken things which I KNOW as a fact that’s over the LD50 (lethal for 50% of the population – everyone is different) many, many, God so many times and I’m still alive. There’s nothing wrong with being on benzos, some people need it for anxiety.

I just didn’t want it anymore. It was a personal decision.

This is probably the last thing I’m going to write about drugs. I’ve said I was off all illegal drugs. Well, now I’m off it all – legal and prescription included. I don’t want it to define me anymore. I just want to write an appendix for the blog. This is it.

Penang Durian Trip 2016: Black Thorn, Hor Lor, Red Gold Dragon, Red Prawn

Durian Penang

It’s durian season in the best durian producing state in Malaysia! Yes, I’m talking about Penang. They have some of the highest quality durians around. My better half wanted to head up north to eat the King of Fruits so we made the trip over the weekend. We managed to eat four (4) different kinds of local durians at four different stalls scattered across the island state.

Black Thorn (Orchee, Duri Hitam)

Black Thorn Penang

This durian first came on the scene in late 2012. I was the first to blog about Black Thorn and couldn’t find any information except from what I was told by the durian sellers. This is an example of a durian marketed right, it has really blown up and name recognition and demand has spiked since its debut. It now goes for around RM 60 per kg in Penang and it’s one of the premium durians out there. I paid RM 77 for this 1.54 kg durian.

Ochee Durian

My better half has never had Black Thorn before. It was a little early in the season so I went fully expecting to be disappointed but was surprised to see a few stalls offering it it Balik Pulau. This one had two Black Thorn durians for RM 50/kg. I took the smaller one and it was a beautiful example! Black Thorn has a concave spikeless bottom with a black thorn sticking out (thus the name) and it’s very distinctive with a thick, round stem, longkang (drain) running down the middle like a Teka (Green Bamboo) and reddish orange fruit.

Duri Hitam

The Black Thorn we had was ultra creamy, sweet with a very mild bitter aftertaste. There’s almost no noticeable fibre component (unlike D2 Dato Nina durians) so it makes for good eating. These are organic durians with no pesticides and such so you can see a caterpillar trying to get at the flesh. Haha. Organic durians taste so much better. This is the second best durian we had in Penang. I like Black Thorn but if you want complexity in flavor, you can’t beat a Red Prawn.

Hor Lor (Labu)

Hor Lor

The name Hor Lor actually means “gourd” – so called coz it looks like a gourd. We had this in the middle of town, right beside Macalister Road. It’s RM 30 per kg, cost us RM 40 for this 1.3 kg durian.

Labu Durian

I like the shape of Hor Lor durians. The hourglass figure pleases my eyes as well as my sense of symmetry. The durian was slightly dry and one-dimensionally sweet. You’ll love Holo if you like sweet durians.

Hor Lor Durian

The seeds are small and flat too. Passable, but not the best.

Ang Kim Lin (Red Gold Dragon)

Ang Kim Lin

This is a rather unusual durian which we found at a random stall. It has 4 segments instead of the usual 5, which I found rather interesting. This is similar to Sarawak jungle durians – the green and soft spiked variety we call durian isu. The durian also had taste characteristics which was similar to durian isu, which startled me.

Red Gold Dragon

The Red Gold Dragon durian cost RM 25 per kg and was very hard to open due to the large amount of impenetrable skin at the seems. You have to slice into this durian and wedge it open, there’s no easy way to open it without a knife, even after it’s open. You know how you can just push down on the sides and it’ll peel away? Not this one…just look at the seemless middle.

Ang Kim

This durian was quite strong tasting in a green way, but not from being unripe. The flesh was quite soft and wet and comes off the flesh easily. It really tastes a lot like durian isu, but not as intense. This still had durio zibethinus characteristics. It’s an acquired taste. I’ll have to eat a lot more before I’ll start liking it, but I’m really glad I tasted it.

Red Prawn (Ang He, Udang Merah)

Red Prawn Durian

This is the best durian Penang has to offer. Some say Black Thorn has usurped the #1 spot but I’m sure most seasoned durian lovers would prefer the complexity of a Red Prawn. I certainly prefer a good Red Prawn to a Black Thorn durian. I spotted the dusty brown color and short spikes characteristic of a Red Prawn and asked how much it was. I got this durian for RM 84. It’s RM 50/kg and this is a 1.6 kg fruit.

Udang Merah Durian

It was perfect! The durian opened up to reveal beautiful salmon pink flesh and the crescent curve which contributed to its name. I’ve heard a lot of false etymologies concerning the name, the most plausible one is likely to be that its said to look like a red prawn by its side.

Ang He

This Red Prawn tasted really delicious, complex and bitter and sweet. It has so many levels of flavor going on. Delicious stuff! All the durians we had in Penang were super fresh too. They just fell from the tree the previous night, and the stalk shows no signs of cutting (unlike many durians you find in KL) nor were there split bottoms, indicating an old durian. It’s perfect, silky and smooth tasting heaven.

Penang Durian

We’ll love to go back for another feast later in the season when different durian varieties ripens!

The Six Hunan Ramen, M Mall Penang

Seafood Ramen

The Japanese actually consider ramen a Chinese dish. Udon and soba are the two most popular Japanese noodles while ramen was imported from China. However, since Japan has done it a lot better since the Meiji era, ramen is nowadays thought of as Japanese. Thus, it was a bit of a surprise to see a ramen restaurant that actively advertises their proud Chinese roots.

The Six Hunan Ramen

The Six Hunan Ramen is located in M Mall. It specializes in ramen from Hunan and the spicy food from the region. One of their bestsellers is Ramen with Braised Pork Rib (RM 16.80) which comes with a generous side of glistening pork rib. I originally wanted to order two different bowls of ramen but my better half was quite full so she had something light instead.

The Six Penang

I believe this is a relatively new restaurant since I couldn’t find any reviews online. The interior décor is also very pristine. I love how atmospheric the entire place is, from the wooden menu boards handing from the ceiling in string to the warm ambient lighting. We decided to pop in for dinner. This was the only non-hawker food place we went to in Penang.

The Six Ramen

Our waitress was a friendly girl dressed in traditional Chinese garb. All of the staff is dressed the same way, male and female. It’s a nice touch to complement the flavor and look of the place. Everything from the hanging green plants to the giant paper fan on the wall makes this feel like an oasis of calm. I like the way the sun comes in from the shuttered wooden blinds too.

Premium Ramen

I had the Premium Ramen with Fresh Abalone (RM 26.80). It looks quite impressive on the menu and I’m happy to report that it looks exactly the same when served to us. There are two large scallops, a couple of prawns, shark’s fin analog (pretty sure it’s not the real thing at this price), Shiitake mushroom and beautiful tiny dried abalone. The in-house made ramen is very toothsome and the clear broth was good.

Shanghai Steamed Pork Dumplings

My dear had the Shanghai Steamed Pork Dumplings (RM 12). The Six Hunan Ramen also serves various smaller dishes, appetizers as well as rice meals. We both ordered fruit juices since it’s priced so affordably. The watermelon and honeydew juice was just RM 5 each. The bill came up to RM 59.25 for the two of us, which is very reasonable.

Hunan-Ramen

The Six Hunan Ramen is an interesting place to have a different take on ramen. It’s not the usual Japanese franchise or local halal attempt at replicating ramen. This is a Chinese lamien (拉麺) establishment that specializes in the spicy cuisine from Hunan. I tried the house blend chilli and it was quite spicy (in a dry and salty way). I’ll come back again next time we’re in Penang to try the other ramen offerings.

Sungkai Choy Kee Restaurant

Sungkai Pork Trotters

This is probably the most famous restaurant in Sungkai, Perak. It has a whole range of freshwater fish and prawns but they’re also well known for their righteous braised pig trotters. It’s about 1 1/2 hours from Kuala Lumpur itself and we popped in for a meal while coming back from Penang just now. My better half wanted to eat durians so I drove to Balik Pulau so she can feast on the King of Fruits to her heart’s content.

Sungkai Choy Kee

I haven’t even heard of Sungkai before today. I thought my dear had misremebered the name of sungai (river in Malay) when she told me about Choy Kee. I was surprised to find out that she’s been here before, with her parents, and they loved the pig’s trotters here. I had an idea in my mind of what pig trotters are – they’re basically the feet, right? Well, not here. The portion of pig trotters they serve include the hock so it’s basically a pork knuckle with trotters attached.

Choy Kee

The waitress also came out with a dish of ikan terubok. Apparently, the owner mistakenly thought I had ordered it, as did my dear. I basically nodded and said “Okay” (as in, I understand) when he explained how they prepare their terubok fish – how it was fried and then braised for a very long time so all the bones are soft. I was very full so I sent it back. I would normally have eaten it out of curiosity. I do like toli shad. But no means no and silence does not mean consent. smirk

Braised Pork Trotters

My better half had rice with the Braised Pork Trotters (RM 38) and she said it was very good. She finished her rice anyway. I also had a few pieces but I was not impressed. There’s nothing wrong with the pig trotters. I guess they’re quite good if you like this style of preparation. However, the thinness of the gravy put me off. It’s similar to bak kut teh in terms of taste and viscosity. The skin is wrinkled too, like it’s been fried before braising.

Restaurant Choy Kee

Don’t get me wrong, this is purely personal preference. I suspect being stuffed from our gastronomic adventures in Penang had a thing or two to do with it too. Maybe I would like it more if I had been hungrier. I don’t know. I usually like pig trotters. I got a portion to go for my dear’s parents too, since they like the braised pork trotters here. Choy Kee will even provide you with a frozen one upon request, ready for takeaway.

Sungkai

The bill came up to RM 80.30 but the bulk of that is from the two portions of braised pork trotters (RM 38 each). Naturally, we couldn’t finish our dish. Each portion is good for 2 pax. We passed the frozen pork trotters to my dear’s parents as well as some souvenirs we got from Penang and took our half-eaten one home. I’ll probably eat it for dinner again tomorrow. I won’t drive down to Restaurant Sungkai Choy Kee just to eat pork trotters but I’ll not hesitate to come back to check out their seafood offerings next time we go to Ipoh or Penang.

Bak Kut Teh Klang Yip Yong @ Kota Damansara

Bak Kut Teh Klang Yip Yong

Yip Yong is the nearest bak kut teh to my condo and I’ve eaten here quite often. The parking in this particular area of Sunway Giza can be a bit of a nightmare but there’s a multi-storey carpark for around RM 1/hour behind this. You can exit from the lifts right to the back of this BKT restaurant so it’s very convenient. I hear they’re originally from Klang.

Yip Yong

There aren’t a lot of people who come here for lunch, mostly due to the fact that it’s flanked by two chap fan places, both of which are cheaper options. Interestingly, the chap fan places are *packed* from 12 pm – 1 pm. However, if you’re in the mood for a little more protein in your diet, you’ll do no wrong in popping in here for some nourishing herbal pork soup.

Bak Kut Teh

This is the regular bak kut teh. It’s RM 12 for a single portion and you can opt for a variety of meats of a single type. I choose a bit of everything, including innards. There is usually a large pork bone, a few slices of prime pork belly and miscellaneous organ meat like intestines and stomach.

BKT

There is also generous amounts of different soy byproducts like fu chuk, tofu etc. You can also add yau char kueh/youtiao (Chinese crullers) for RM 2. It comes in a bowl and you’ll be charged according to whether you eat it or not. I usually do if I’m hungry. The soup here is quite nice and refills are free.

Dry Bak Kut Teh

The dry bak kut teh here is actually A LOT better than the regular one. The caramelized sauce is fortified with dried sotong and okra and other delicious bits. It’s RM 13 for one portion, slightly more expensive than the soup version. You also get a tiny bowl of BKT soup on the side for you to wash down the meal with. I’m not sure if you can refill this normally but since I’m a regular they don’t charge me.

Yip Yong Sunway Giza

A meal here usually sets me back RM 18.50 inclusive of drinks. They only have different kinds of herbal tea , there are no brewed drinks. I like the dry bak kut teh more than the soup bak kut teh. The dry BKT here is phenomenal while the soup version is kinda meh compared to Klang. Restaurant Yip Yong Klang Bak Kut Teh is the best BKT in Sunway Giza, but only coz there’s not much competition. :)

Wasabi Kit Kat from Japan (Shizuoka Kanto Edition)

Wasabi Kit Kat

These remarkable Japanese Kit Kats are made with wasabi! It’s not fake wasabi or the imitation horseradish that’s often passed off as cheap “wasabi” either. Nestle Japan teamed up with the huge Tamaruya-Honten Co Ltd (who has been manufacturing wasabi since 1875) to make these delicious snacks. I couldn’t resist trying this weird flavor so I snapped up the Wasabi Kit Kat as soon as I saw them.

Tamaruya Wasabi

There are 12 pieces of Kit Kats in the box, all individually wrapped. A regular pack in Japan holds 3 wrapped pieces of 2 Kit Kat mini bars so this is four times the amount. It’s presented in a nice box meant as omiyage (souvenirs). It opens up from the front to reveal two rows of Wasabi Flavored Kit Kats. There is writing on the flip side of the cover which explains the provenance of the product.

Wasabi

No, I didn’t inexplicably start reading Japanese from a single trip to Hokkaido. I took a photo of the text with Google Translate and it showed me the English translation. That’s actually how we got around in Japan when we were there earlier this year. Haha. These are special edition Kit Kat from the Shizuoka-Kanto area.

Kit Kat Wasabi Flavor

Tamaruya-Honten uses only wasabi from the Shizuoka Prefecture with no coloring and horseradish added. The latter two is basically what makes up virtually 100% of wasabi locally. No such shenanigans here, the stuff Nestle Japan puts in these Kit Kats is real wasabi made by a reputable wasabi manufacturer. There is a blurb at the back introducing Tamaruya and a link to their website. I believe “honten” means original shop.

I took a bite and was startled to find out that the wasabi flavor was really strong. It cleared up my sinuses and I could taste/feel the pungent wasabi notes through my nose. It was not unpleasant but the taste combination was strange. My better half didn’t like it though, she found the strong wasabi kick rather off-putting. I didn’t mind, I’m quite fond of wasabi but honestly it doesn’t go very well with chocolate.

Kit Kat Wasabi

These Wasabi Kit Kat are more of a novelty item. I was glad I got the chance to taste them but I probably won’t buy them again. I love how Nestle Japan hooked up with an established wasabi producer to make these Kit Kats. The Nestle x Tamaruya partnership for this makes for a great story. It’s the perfect souvenir due to its exclusivity and a regional specialty to boot, but they’re really not that great to eat. I’m definitely keeping the box though.

Oden + Snow Miku 2016 drink

Oden Shop

Oden at the airport? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. We arrived at New Chitose Airport very early and was hoping to get something to eat before we boarded our flight. Unfortunately, all the shops are still closed. We’re too used to 24 hour service in our (relatively) large, bustling airports but a lot of the airports around the world aren’t open all the time. This one at Hokkaido only had a stall open but they serve oden, which I was keen to try.

Oden

Oden (おでん) is a winter food in Japan. It’s made with a whole bunch of stuff in a flavored clear dashi broth. The usual ingredients are daikon, boiled eggs, konjac, and processed fishcakes. I love the texture of the shirataki (白滝) which is a noodle made from konjac – the transparent bunch you see in the photo. There’s also a nice chunk of konjac and despite not containing regular sources of carbohydrates, the konjac elements tricks you into thinking you’re consuming starch.

Snow Miku 2016

I also got a Snow Miku 2016 (translated from Hatsune Miku) drink made in partnership with Pokka Sapporo. The oden was 600 JPY (about RM 25). My better half got herself a box of noodles with some karaage to go with it. The oden was surprisingly decent. I would have thought it’ll taste pretty bad since it’s airport food but it’s actually rather good. I’ve seen oden being sold in konbini like 7-Eleven but there are so many things to eat that I’ve put it quite low on the priority list.

Biryani @ House of Pakeeza Restaurant

House of Pakeeza

House of Pakeeza is a rather strange restaurant. It looks like it had gotten lost in the 1970’s and popped up almost 50 years later. This eating establishment is located at a block of shops called The Right Angle in Section 14, Petaling Jaya. It’s a stone’s throw away from Jaya Shopping Centre. If you work around here, you’ll know that this area is horrifically congested. The narrow streets are often double, sometimes triple parked.

Pakeeza Restaurant

I was craving for some nasi biryani and decided to pop over for lunch. The dimly lit interior is manned by waiters in white starched uniforms. The dated chequered tablecloth is topped with old school wine glasses and adorned with a plastic rose in a glass bottle. It doesn’t look nostalgic as much as lost in time, with the disco era wall panelling reinforcing the illusion. It was also empty. I was the only customer there and it sounded like I was the only one who’s come in for a while.

Beef Biryani

House of Pakeeza used to serve good nasi biryani, or at least that’s how old timers remember it. This might be true decades ago, but it certainly isn’t now. I ordered a Beef Biryani (RM 15) and was disappointed to see that the sad biryani rice is barely spiced and the beef isn’t cooked together ala Hyderabadi style. It’s just a very plain mound of biryani rice with chopped spring onions scattered on top (something I’ve never seen before) and a few slices of beef on the side. The beef was tough and barely edible.

Salted Lassi

However, the eggplant curry served on the side was quite delicious. It had tons of flavor and was actually hot, compared to the room temperature rice and meat. I also ordered a Salted Lassi (RM 5.40) which also turned out to be good. The salty and acidic yoghurt drink was excellent.

Kulfi

Pakeeza specializes in Moghul cuisine and they also carry a Northern Indian ice cream called Kulfi (RM 5.20). I had kulfi when I was in Sri Lanka and I loved the saffron flavored creamy frozen dairy treat. Kulfi is technically not “ice cream” per se but a type of frozen dessert from the Indian subcontinent. I was served a grainy cardamom and pistachio flavored scoop full of ice crystals. It tasted sandy and gritty, like it’s been melted and refrozen many times and way past its use by date. It’s the antithesis of a smooth kulfi.

Pakeeza

I would give House of Pakeeza a pass if you’re also tempted to try them out. The bill for lunch cost me RM 28.16 which is slightly below average for a similar Indian themed meal at the nearby Anjappar. However, it doesn’t taste very good and left my craving for good biryani unfulfilled. There is a good reason this place is deserted while another Indian restaurant down the street is doing a roaring business. I should have gone around the corner to Anjappar instead coz they have really delicious biryani but I wanted to try Pakeeza. Oh well, I know where to go next time.

Ekiben from Otaru, Hokkaido

Ekiben

Ekiben (駅弁) is a special type of bento which is only available at long-distance train stations like the famous Shinkansen (bullet train). It’s a bento that’s meant to be eaten on the train while traveling and it features local delicacies in the area you’re at. It’s not just a bento, but a really cool Japanese boxed lunch with different local specialties. I really wanted to eat one during our trip to Otaru so I told my better half to save some stomach space for it.

Featured Ekiben

This is the selection we saw at JR Otaru station. You’ll usually find the ekiben at a specialty shop only selling ekiben or a konbini/department store closest to the train entrance. There will always be one “featured” ekiben – this is the bento that is most representative of the region you’re currently in. Otaru is well known for its fresh seafood (especially uni) and the flagship ekiben is a beautiful uni and ikura ekiben.

Otaru Train

The ekiben boxes are really nice lacquer boxes too. Some of them can even be reheated instantly using the same technology in military MREs (Meal, Ready-to-eat). There were a wide variety in a refrigerated corner of the shop and my dear wondered if anyone actually bought them. Well, her question was answered when we were about to go back to Sapporo – there were only a few ekiben left! I picked up the featured ekiben while she chose one that caught her eye to eat on the train.

Otaru Ekiben

This is my ekiben. It’s the signature ekiben of Otaru, grandly named 海 の 輝き or “Sparkle of the Sea“. This 1,580 JPY (about RM 65) bento totally deserved the hyperbolic designation though. It was the most delicious bento I’ve ever had in my life! I’m a little embarrassed to say that it was actually one of the best things I’ve eaten in Hokkaido. Haha!

Uni Ikura Ekiben

It’s filled to the brim with uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe), Shiitake mushrooms, flying fish roe and Japanese rolled egg. I used chopsticks to grab a mouthful and was surprised to taste just how well the creamy uni goes with the popping, salty ikura. The savory umami mushroom slices and crunchy flying fish roe is offset by the sweet Japanese egg and blends the multitude textures and flavors together into one orgasmic experience.

Uni Ekiben

I hesitantly said “Dear, do you want some?” hoping she’ll say no. I’m kidding (or am I? smirk). I’m always happy to share with my better half. I cleaned every single morsel from the wappameshi (わっぱ飯 – thin, bent wooden box) and regretted not getting two.

Oyster Ekiben

My dear went for the 1,080 JPY (around RM 45) Otaru oyster ekiben. I had just eaten Otaru oysters at the 1 Michelin Isezushi and I loved the freshness of their local oysters. This was a full complement of five (5) pieces of oysters on top of a bed of rice with some tsukemono (pickles) on the side. The juicy oysters were really flavorful – all the braising liquid seeped into the oysters so they pack a flavorful punch!

Otaru Oysters

The best part about her ekiben is the rice. The rice has been cooked with Shiitake mushrooms, scallops and oysters and resulted in a beautiful golden brown that tasted wonderful! It’s really very good.

Japan Ekiben

You won’t find ekiben at train stations with only regional commuter lines or subway lines. Ekiben are only sold at stations with long-distance trains going in and out. I really enjoy this cultural quirk of Japan and I hope to try more ekiben when we go back next year. There are so many special ones like Yamagata domannaka featuring local beef to Ibaraki raised Rose Pork ekibens. I’m really looking forward to eating one while traveling by Shinkansen in Japan again.

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