cooking unagi

This is my attempt to cook the classic unagi Japanese eel dish – with a decidedly Western influence. I managed to get my hands on some really fresh belut (freshwater eel) from the wet market. The lady also sells frogs and venison meat, the latter of which I made into a venison steak tartare.

belut eel

The large eels go for RM 10 while the smaller ones go for RM 5 each. I decided to get two of the smaller freshwater eels. It has been nicely dressed by the exotic meat (that’s what I like to call her) vendor to reveal the flesh with the head and bone hanging out.

You will need:

  • 2 freshwater eels
  • Kansas City BBQ sauce (sweeter than Texas style, and thicker)
  • Single malt Scotch whisky
  • Sugar and salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil

freshwater eel

I sliced the freshwater eel into something resembling unagi as usually seen in the various Japanese restaurants around town. smirk They all seem to have a similar size and serving style, most of the commercial ones anyway.

scotch bbq sauce

I also added in a healthy slug of Jura 16 year old single malt Scotch whisky into the mix of KC BBQ sauce, sugar and salt. I am particularly fond of this one as it goes well with coffee i.e. Irish Coffee. I’ve been known to enjoy a cuppa on days starting with an S with a shot of good Scotch and nothing beats the 16 year old Diurach’s Own from the Isle of Jura.

basting unagi

I’ve tried lightly peated Islay malts like Bowmore Enigma, common tipples like Glenfiddich’s 14 year old Rick Oak, and even *Irish* single malt whiskey – the Bushmill 10 Year Old but nothing beats the barely legal Jura. It just goes well with coffee. I digress. I went off on this tangent coz I was hoping it’ll go well with eel too!

caramelized unagi

I grilled/sauteed the eel with EVOO over a very low heat fire and kept on basting it with the BBQ sauce and Scotch mixture. I must have flipped, added more sauce, and flipped the small pieces of freshwater eel again at least 30 times. I kid you not. I think that was the secret to the taste. It got a thumbs up from my better half at least! :)

scotch unagi

The basting process caramelized the BBQ sauce and Scotch mixture around the eel and with the constant flips, the reduction stuck to the unagi and it tasted really, really delicious! I wouldn’t call it a traditional Japanese unagi but I made my own sauce and it tastes like how a rather inept American home cook would render it, I imagine.

Not the correct technique, but very tasty!

meng curry fish head

I was in Penang a couple of days ago and met up with Cheryl and Kah Wheng for dinner. They brought me to Sin Kim San at Macalister Road for a really good curry fish head meal.

sin kim san

Sin Kim San Cafe is this sprawling coffee shop with a wide range of stalls offering everything from monitor lizard soup to peh pah duck. There’s another coffee shop beside it which you can order from too.

curry fish head penang

The curry fish head stall is rather well known among the locals. You can opt for fish slices instead of a fish head and there several other seafood items like squid, prawns and catfish on offer. It’s cooked Chinese style with a really spicy kick ass gravy.

bbq chicken wings sin kim san

We also had an order of the BBQ chicken wings. Cheryl mentioned that this stall used to be manned by a dude with Goku hair but that night, an elderly man took his place. No idea whether it’s the same owner – I put forth the theory that it could be the dad but then again I’m not from Penang so I wouldn’t know for sure. Heh.

bbq chicken wings

The BBQ chicken wings is pretty good too – it’s glazed with honey and the BBQ process doesn’t toughen the meat. In fact, it’s quite tender and juicy.

curry fish head

However, the curry fish head is the highlight of the meal. The prawns we added on came partially de-shelled and there’s also tomatoes and pieces of okra inside. It’s topped with mint leaves and what I really like about it is the fact that it doesn’t have tofu products or other nonsense like that. smirk

sin kim san curry fish head

It’s served in a plastic bowl and our combination costs RM 33 for two. I would prefer using a claypot so it retains the heat but other than that I have no complains. The gravy is superb – thick, sweet and flavorful to the point that you can eat an entire plate of rice with just that.

sin kim san dinner

Penang is wonderful – it’s really a place where good food can be found in every corner. I’ve been there a lot of times and I still haven’t eaten all it has to offer. Hell, I’m half tempted to move there. :)

200 chicken wings

There is an old man that sets up his humble grill in the afternoons at a coffee shop called Chatterbox Dessert and Cafe. It doesn’t even have a name. I first thought he was a customer, since he was just sitting at a table chilling there with a cold beer. Joanna ordered some chicken wings and the person told us it’s going to take 30 minutes.

joanna me

I finally met up with Joanna just now for a very late lunch. It turns out that she lives just one street across from where I’m staying in Miri. We’re practically neighbours and never realized it. Heh! She brought me to this legendary place which is supposed to have excellent chicken wings.

bbq chicken wings

I hear he only prepares 200 chicken wings every day. He doesn’t do more even though the demand is there. I’ve only seen ONE (1) customer in addition to us who managed to order his acclaimed chicken wings. The next one that came along was turned away coz he told them that he’s out of chicken wings.

Now, this is quite puzzling since we’ve only been there an hour and to the best of my knowledge, only two people ordered the chicken wings. It turns out that the rest were “reserved” – it has been pre-booked by another customer so he’s not even selling a single chicken wing to anyone else.

chicken wings

This is one of the rare instances where a stall successfully manipulates the supply and demand of his wares well. I think manipulate might be the wrong word to use here since the man doesn’t seem to be interested in mass producing inferior quality BBQ chicken wings. He displays passion – watching over the BBQ grill with a determined and almost ferocious intensity.

joanna ask

He’s a man that won’t be rushed too. He refuses to serve the chicken wings until it’s properly done according to his standards. Joanna went over after a while and said it’s okay, we’ll just take it as it is. However, the man politely declined with a smile and said it’s not done yet. It looks done and it smells done but he won’t serve it until HE DECREES THAT IT’S DONE.

You just gotta admire that. Heh!

The chicken wings costs RM 2 each. Joanna paid so I can’t be sure but 5 chicken wings at RM 10 comes up to RM 2 each, unless my math is way off the mark.

We also had chicken rice while waiting for the BBQ chicken wings to be done. I remember the last time I met up with Joanna in Sibu during Chinese New Year, we had chicken rice too. Or at least, I had chicken rice…she didn’t eat.

famous chicken wings

Back to the BBQ chicken wings, it’s every bit as good as I expected. It goes very well with the chilli sauce that came with it but I suggest you eat it au natural. It’s juicy and tender and the marinade he uses is sweet, producing a set of chicken wings that transcends into sublime culinary bliss. :)

bbq

Sekeping Serendah offers just about the ideal place for a barbecue at night – there’s the sound of nature seeping through the peace and quiet of the forest, a cool breeze blowing into the patio, and the sound of running water from the brook. It’s just so chill. The caretaker has already…er, taken care of the BBQ when we finished our extended swim and soak session in the private pool.

fire

The BBQ pit is an old fashioned receptacle with a mesh grill over it and good old fashioned charcoal covering the bottom. I helped to man the BBQ pit for a while, ensuring all the charcoal is evenly burned before Joyce and Windy took over. I’m not good in gauging food readiness, since I can eat raw food so I left it to better hands. ;)

flame

There are no restaurants or anything of that sort in Sekeping Serendah so you’ll have to either bring your own food or cater from the caretaker (RM 20 per pax) for dinner. We had the foresight (?) to bring our own food. A trip to the local Giant for supplies ensured we had enough food and drinks to last the night. The grocery shopping bill came close to a whopping RM 400 but a large part of that was due to ethanol based beverages.

food

We got lamb chops, fish, chicken wings, corn on the cob and eggs for the barbecue. I got eggs coz no one believed me when I said eggs can be cooked on a BBQ by just putting it right on the grill. It really works – I’ve done it numerous times before. We also got a lot of bottled water and fruit juices for hydration. For the dehydration part, a bottle of Absolut Vodka was procured.

warming

I would have thought that would be enough but apparently not – I’m in the company of veterans here, much to my surprise. It was decided that we’re getting another bottle of liqueur – Kwai Feh Lychee Liqueur which Windy swears is the best thing she ever had. The bottle describes the history of the liqueur very poetically – “Emperor Ming of the Tang dynasty supplied his charming consort with a specialty for which she craved and was richly rewarded with her delightful smiles and appreciative heart.” Okay.

grilling

We also got a bottle of Merlot for good measure. I was a bit apprehensive about the amount at first – a bottle of vodka, a bottle of liqueur and a bottle of red wine for three people, two of whom I didn’t think could drink much.

bbq sauce

…and guess what, we were drinking the Absolut Vodka neat from the bottle without any mixers and nearly finished it before we even got to Sekeping Serendah Retreat! OMG! I knew we wouldn’t have enough alcohol at that point. Thus, I managed to persuade the caretaker to drive out to town at about 10 pm and get us some cheap, locally distilled vodka (RM 45).

plate

This is our dinner. I had the black corn, lamb, fish, and an egg. Everything was grilled to perfection! Kudos to the girls for manning the BBQ.

fish

I didn’t even know fish had to be disemboweled before slapping it on the grill. We used real butter to cook the food and had a bottle of BBQ sauce to go with it. It was great eating under the moonlight with a Styrofoam cup of red wine. The food somehow tasted better under the stars.

girls

We started playing Blackjack after that with the bottle of Kwai Feh Lychee Liqueur and finished it in less than 10 minutes. (!) That leaves the dodgy vodka which left everyone (including me – and I’ve drank a lot of shitty alcohol) apprehensive as soon as it was opened. The smell of the vodka is…revolting. I don’t have a better adjective to describe it.

bbq food

I think everyone puked that night courtesy of the dodgy vodka with a distinctive methanol odor. It probably had a legion of other unidentified non-ethanol spirits inside. I puked straight after drinking it but was still sober and slept only at around 4 am. I made sure that the caretaker would bring us breakfast (RM 5 per pax) which is a choice of either roti canai or nasi lemak before sleeping for about four hours.

food done

It was a great trip despite all three of us throwing up before the night was over. ;)

drinking

Regurgitation Register:
Joyce: 7
Windy: 2
Huai Bin: 1

It was technically twice for me too, but the first time was not directly ethanol related. I forced myself to puke coz I was full and wanted more space in my stomach to…er, fit more alcohol in. :p

dog

I have much respect for Windy, she drank almost as much as me and managed to hold her liquor. :)

lays stax product range

Lay’s crisps are some of the best potato chips in
the category. I’ve never really cared for crisps – I don’t like
Pringles or other potato chips…perhaps its due to the fact that I was
raised in Malaysia and Malaysian snacks have always been very
salty, compared to the low sodium and minimal (relatively) food
flavoring offerings in other countries – a point I’ve stressed numerous
times while I was in Australia.

lays stax container

Lays crisps is big in the United States – it’s the #1 snack in that
market. Frito-Lay has partnered up with another food condiment company
to produce potato chips flavored with KC Masterpiece Barbeque sauce [kcmasterpiece.com]. It seems to be a trend in the snack industry as I’ve seen Smith’s crisps in Australia [sixthseal.com] partnering up with big names in the food condiment industry like Heinz tomato sauce while I was in Melbourne.

lays stax kc masterpiece

Lay’s came out with a new container called STAX that looks very much
like a standard Pringles can but it’s made of pliable plastic and has
an ergonomic easy grip (the top and bottom is extended out, leaving a
thinner middle portion). It’s a resealable crush-resistant blue
container and it retails for RM 7.65 per can. The range of Lay’s crisps
STAX is filled with a healthy repertoire of flavors – original and
other food condiment partnership flavors.

lays stax bbq crisps

The product is actually made in Mexico instead of the United States
- just a little bit of (useless) trivia. Lays KC Masterpiece BBQ STAX
potato crisps “slides” out from the middle and each crisp is curved
perfectly with a healthy sprinkling of KC Masterpiece Barbecue sauce
seasoning in the middle.

Lay’s KC Masterpiece BBQ STAX crisp tastes great!
It’s salty and it has that mouth watering smoky BBQ sauce flavor – the
barbecue sauce is replicated perfectly!

happy valley home bbq

Happy Valley Home BBQ is an eating establishment located just behind
the Happy Valley pub…and just like the name suggests – it’s a
residential house (!).

happy valley home bbq gate

There’s small gate and bridge that leads into Happy Valley Home BBQ.
There’s a sign on the gate that goes “No Outsiders Allowed!”. I’m just
kidding with ya – the sign goes “No outside food allowed”. ;)

happy valley home bbq home

The interesting thing about Happy Valley Home BBQ is just
that…it’s a home that’s been converted into an eatery, with all the
coziness that the ambience allows for.

happy valley home bbq special

I started with Happy Valley Special – a drink that comes with all
sorts of Oriental Healthy Stuff (TM) that I can’t identify. It was very
“cooling” though. Jesus, what conformist words I’m using…seriously
though, it’s good. The interesting mix of ingredients makes the drink
sweet and piques the palate’s interest at the same time.

happy valley home bbq curry

This is their Curry Fried Rice, which one of my friends ordered. It
came with savory rice and crackers, in addition to a bowl of curry
chicken with prime cuts inside. It’s good!

happy valley home bbq chicken

Here’s Happy Valley’s implementation of Chicken Chop. I forgot what this one tastes like, my bad.

happy valley home bbq spagetti

I ordered some Spaghetti Bolognese…

happy valley home bbq chef

…and the Chef’s Recommendation of the Day – some mixed grill that
tasted sweet (probably coz of the glazed honey and sesame seed sauce).
It’s good.

happy valley home oxtail

There’s also a complimentary Soup of the Day (Oxtail Soup). Happy Valley BBQ makes a good bowl of Oxtail soup…hearty.

happy_valley_home_bbq_table.jpg

Having a meal at Happy Valley Home BBQ feels like eating at
home…with all the messiness and ambience of home cooking. The bill
came up for RM 60+ for three people, which isn’t too bad, considering
the fare.

chinese barbecue specialist

Chinese Barbecue Specialist. It’s a big name to live up to. This
outlet is located at the end of Jalan Padungan and it’s quite famous
for it’s barbecue offerings. I went there for lunch today. This is what
the stall looks like:

chinse barbeque specialist

Apparently, the “e” has fallen off the sign, showing “Chin Se
Barbecue Specialist”, which puzzled me for a while since the shop sign
is Chinese Barbecue Specialist. This is the flagship of the coffee
shop, don’t go asking for steamed chicken or anything like that – this
outlet offers BBQ meat only.

chinese bbq offerings

As you can see, there are several BBQ stuff on offer. You can order
BBQ chicken rice, but to fully appreciate the wonders of barbecue meat,
you have to try the “mixed plate”. There are other BBQ staples like
char siew rice, pork ribs rice, etc. Basically just about anything you
see in the picture above is available in whatever combination you can
think of.

chinese bbq chopping

Your choice (in this case “mixed plate”) is prepared by the proprietor…and it’s delivered to your table:

chinese bbq mixed

There’s the fork and spoon with a napkin, sorry, i mean tissue,
broth, apologies, i mean soup (this joke is getting old, isn’t it? ;)),
sauces and a plate of mixed bbq stuff rice.

chinese bbq closeup

Here’s a closer look at the plate. There’s barbecue chicken (the
white stuff), crispy pork (the brown crispy stuff) and char siew (pork
cuts of an unknown origin). This is all lying on a bed of chicken rice.
It tastes really good, despite the simple appearance.

chinese bbq sauce

These are the two sauces – the BBQ sauce and the chilli sauce. You
want the barbecue sauce (the brown one). This is the secret to a good
BBQ meat meal…the sauce makes the dish (or something). Just liberally
apply the barbecue sauce and you’ll definately enjoy your meal. I like
this place, there’s a homely sort of feel to it, and they serve good
barbecue meat. Do they deserve the “specialist” title? Personally, I
think they do. :)

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