Cafe Koel, Kota Damansara

Melon Bingsu

Cafe Koel is a Korean owned and operated restaurant in Kota Damansara. It just opened a few weeks ago and I’ve eaten there twice already. My better half wanted to eat bingsu last weekend and we came here for the icy treat. She noticed that they serve Korean food too and we brought her parents with us for lunch Sunday afternoon.

Cafe Koel

The owner of Cafe Koel is a friendly South Korean lady. She’s always cheerful and bubbly and that really makes her service stand out in the F&B industry. There are no reviews or buzz yet for this place (except for the one my dear wrote) coz it’s just so new so I thought I’ll write one coz we really enjoyed the food. Her parents did too!

Kimbap (RM 7.90)

Kimbap

My better half ordered a stuffed rice roll coz she wanted to save space for bingsu. We had something similar a few weeks ago from the Korean grocery near Chicken House in Solaris Mont Kiara and we liked it very much. This is a similar product – the rice is rolled in seaweed and stuffed with pickles, vegetables, egg etc. I love the takuan (pickled radish which the Koreans call danmuji) and the ends are the best part of the kimbap coz it has extra long pickle sticking out! smirk

Japchae (RM 18.90)

Japchae

My dear’s mom had this. It’s stir fried sweet potato noodle mixed with vegetables and sliced chicken. I’ve seen mung beans noodles before but never sweet potato noodles. It seems quite common in Korea though. The slippery texture of the sweet potato noodle is very pleasing and I like the savoriness of the dish. I ate so much from her plate that I felt a little guilty. Haha.

Bulgogi Deopbap (RM 16.90)

Bulgogi Deopbap

Her dad and I ordered the beef bulgogi with rice. I have eaten bulgogi in Korea before (and even had bulgogi burgers in both Lotteria and McDonald’s Korea in Busan) and I like the slightly sweet nature of the dish. This is the pan cooked version instead of the grilled version which I’ve seen in mukbang videos. The sweetness of the meat is perfectly balanced by the salty freshness of the kimchi served as a side.

Melon Milk Snow Flake Bingsu (RM 49.90)

Bingsu

This is made from a whole honeydew melon. I saw the melons in the fridge and the flesh was scooped out to use as the topping/side. The cavity is filled with their delicious milk bingsu and served with red bean paste and more melon milk on the side. It was really good but a bit too large for 2 pax. It was a bit of a challenge to finish it coz the kind owner also gave us her new coffee bingsu to try that day.

Milk Snow Flake Patbingsu (RM 17.90)

Patbingsu

I ordered this yesterday as part of my meal. It’s RM 24.90 together with the bulgogi rice bowl or RM 17.90 separately. We were craving for the bingsu since our trip the week before and we had planned to order more once we finished our meal. However, the owner surprised us with 4 servings! She added on 3 more on the house so we could each have our own bingsu. That’s a really nice gesture. I loved the kinako (toasted soy bean flour) that goes on top of this.

Bingsu Us

I have been craving for their bingsu ever since Sunday and wanted to drop in this afternoon but they were closed. Cafe Koel is just opposite my condo. It’s an undiscovered gem located at Dataran Sunway beside Sunway Giza Mall. We got a small gift each time from the Korean owner and her friendly touch makes us always feel welcome. There are a lot of Korean owned restaurants in the Klang Valley nowadays and this is one of the better ones. We’ll definitely be back for more!

Kai’s Plato, Kota Damansara

Kai Plato

My better half’s parents wanted to have dinner together last night so I thought of Kai’s Plato. Kai’s Plato is a restaurant specializing in seafood that subscribes to a no utensils and plates policy. The lobster, prawns, crabs etc comes in a platter and you use the table and your fingers to eat everything. It’s a pretty cool experience.

Kais Plato

I had wanted to come when it first opened but the queues were prohibitive. It’s still quite packed but you’ll be able to get in with a reservation. I booked a table for 4 pax at Kai’s Plato for 6:30 pm.

Kais

There is only 1 menu item here. The meal is standardized and goes according to the number of people. 2 diners will be served with a 3-tier platter while 4 pax has a 4-tier platter.

Writing Shell

You get shells to draw with from the server. These will be mounted on the walls with your customized message – the walls of Kai’s Plato is filled with these.

Watermelon Lychee

I ordered a Virgin Mojito (RM 8.90) while my dear had the Watermelon Lychee (RM 8.90). These two drinks are the house specials. I liked the Watermelon Lychee, it’s very refreshing. The mojito was decent too, they don’t skip on the mint leaves here. It takes up a full half of the glass!

Scallop Oyster

Our 4-layer platter came and was mounted on the jelly flame source. This is the first tier in the platter. There are 11 types of seafood in total here. I particularly liked the sea snails. It’s musky and sandy. Yum! The scallops are served with chopped ginger and spring onions. The oysters are topped with cheese and it’s pretty awesome.

Prawn Octopus

The second tier is filled with prawns, clams, mussels, bamboo clams and octopus. There is another type of clam called arc shell so there’s actually 3 types of clams in this layer. The bottom is lined with cabbage and the vegetables are edible. I preferred the broccoli from the first layer though.

Crab Lobster

The third tier is the best one! It contains the most premium ingredients – slipper lobsters, crabs, huge big head prawns, and grouper fish slices. I love the monster big head prawns. The brains are bigger than the size of my thumb when extracted! The mud crabs are super delicious too. I enjoyed eating the grouper and the small serving of vermicelli is infused with the flavors of the shellfish and seafood. It’s so bomb!

Seafood Soup

The fourth tier contains the seafood soup. You’ll notice that each layer has holes at the bottom to allow stray juices to drip downwards though each tier. This means the scallops, snails, oysters from the first layer drips down to the clams, octupus, mussels in the second layer which in turn goes into the huge prawns, crabs and lobster in the third layer and everything finally drains into this sweet, sweet broth.

Pasta

Kai’s Plato will give you a serving of pasta to eat with the soup. This is meant to fill you up but we were all very full from the seafood already. The soup was really nice though.

Seafood Pasta

I kept a little bit of the crab meat to put into my pasta and seafood soup. The soup is soooo delicious from the 11 types of seafood juices dripping down. It’s such a treat to finish the meal with piping hot soup. I like how the flame is kept going so the soup is boiling. The soup also serves as as steam source to keep the rest of the platter warm.

Kais Us

Kai’s Plato works out to around RM 86 per pax. I ordered the Captain’s Platter for RM 270++, which is what they call the set for 4 people. It’s RM 138++ for 2 pax or RM 390++ for a group of 6. We all enjoyed eating with our hands and using the table as a plate. I also learned that my dear’s dad is a collector of snail shells last night. The meal came up to RM 343.60 for the 4 of us which is reasonable for a meal with lobster, crabs, prawns and grouper. I’ll be back again but not for a long while since you can get sick of eating so much seafood. Haha!

Chicken House @ Solaris Mont Kiara, KL

Chicken House

My better half told me she wanted to eat Korean fried chicken today. It seems that her consumption of Korean dramas has resulted in a craving for Korean food. I’ve been watching a lot of mukbang (eating videos) lately and have felt the same longing for Korean chicken so we drove down to Mont Kiara to eat some yangnyeom tongdak. I’ve been to Korea twice (and ate dog meat in Busan) but I seldom yearn for their food.

Korean Grape Drink

Chicken House is owned and operated by a Korean expat living in Malaysia. The Korean owner greeted us when we went in and took our order. The restaurant does take away and delivery (much like in South Korea) but they have a nice air-conditioned area for dine-in customers too. Chicken House uses whole chickens and you can order 1/2 or whole chicken.

Soy Sauce with Garlic Chicken (RM 55 per chicken/RM 35 for half)

Soy Sauce Chicken

This is their flagship seasoning and the best one we had. It came swimming in soy sauce and garlic and the seasoning is spot on! It’s deliciously umami. My dear said the chicken is fresh and not frozen too – she can tell from the color of the bones. We got a half chicken and it comes with a neck (!) too. The twice fried chicken is really crispy but still tender and juicy in the middle.

Sweet Chilli Sauce Chicken (RM 50 per chicken/RM 32 for half)

Korean Fried Chicken

I originally wanted their hot chilli sauce chicken but the owner warned us that it’s very spicy. My better half can’t eat spicy food so I changed it to the sweet chilli sauce instead. The drum is delicious! I like the breast and thigh meat that has been chopped into smaller pieces too. You can eat it by itself but since it was lunchtime, we ordered rice to go with it.

Pickled Radish

I really enjoyed the pickled radish they serve with the fried chicken too. It’s sour and sweet and reminds me of takuan in Japan. It makes eating the mildly greasy chicken easier since the cold pickles cleanses your palate. I’ve seen mukbang BJs eating this when consuming loads of ramen coz it neutralises heavy flavors. Awesome stuff.

Chicken House Us

The meal came up to RM 82.95 for the two of us, inclusive of drinks. I had an iced coffee and my dear had the interestingly named Bong Bong (some kind of grape drink with real grapes inside) for RM 7 each. I thought the steamed rice was a little expensive at RM 10 though (RM 5 per pax) but the meal itself was wonderful and the overall price is about the same we’ll pay for breakfast at a cafe. I love the Korean fried chicken at Chicken House, we’ll definitely be back for more dak!

Ice Cream Factory Hokkaido, Japan

Eating Ice Cream

The thing I like about Japan is that most of their shops, regardless of whether they sell ramen or omurice, have a running popularity board. This allows the shops to display which item is #1 selling on their menu and the customers to know what the place is known for. We saw this Ice Cream Factory in Sapporo after buying toys for the kids and since my better half loves the ice cream in Hokkaido, we got a couple of cones to eat.

Ice Cream Factory

Ice Cream Factory is one of those cold plate/stone places e.g. your ice cream and condiments is mixed in sub zero temperatures before being served to you, in this case -30 Celsius. My dear wanted to get a simple swirl ice cream and I did pause to wonder why she’s ordering something that’s not their specialty but I know she just wants to save money. I did order their #1 bestseller though. Haha. I thought it’ll be nice to order an ice cream that’s mixed on the cold slab instead of just served.

Ice Cream Mix

Come to think of it, the wait staff have to put up with a lot nowadays. There are a lot of people taking photos of them working, and expecting them to serve up a picture perfect dish to boot. I can’t imagine being a waiter nowadays, although fun fact, I was one for a few months when I first went to Melbourne for my college.

Sapporo Ice Cream

My order is their Sweet Berries which came with an assorted local cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries mixed together with strawberry and vanilla ice cream. I love the use of winter berries and the cold stone places do it well coz the ice cream doesn’t melt on the super chilled slab, but incorporate tighter instead. It’s as if a machine made it in factory with the berries intact.

Sweet Berries

Sweet Berries is 750 yen (about RM 30) which is what you’ll expect to pay locally for an ice cream of this size and magnitude too. I love the creamy ice cream and the best part is that it’s not very sweet. The berries contrast nicely by giving off an acidic burst too. The crunchy cone is also fresh and nice and there’s a spoon to eat everything with.

Mix Ice Cream

My dear got the more pedestrian Mix Ice Cream (chocolate and vanilla swirl) for 230 JPY (about RM 10) which came out of a machine instead of being mixed like mine. Good stuff! We also bought a lot of random stuff in addition to toys for the kids. I went to the gachapon machines a few times and devoured the Love Live merchandise they had at Japan Post and my dear got some Doreamon stuff too since the movie came out at the time we were in Hokkaido.

Mee Ketam KL @ Seksyen 7, Shah Alam

Mee Ketam KL

Mee Ketam KL is one of the most popular crab noodle places in town. The original outlet is located in Seksyen 7, Shah Alam but they have one in Jalan Dato Keramat, KL too. I had a phase where I was really into crab noodles – I had crab noodles in Sibu, Maggi Ketam and crab beehoon in Sunway Giza and crab kueh teow in Wangsa Maju. It was beautiful. I got my better half and drove down to Mee Ketam KL to check it out.

Mee Ketam Kuala Lumpur

Unfortunately, this place doesn’t open until quite late. I believe they start at 11 pm or 12 pm which is quite unusual, but on the other hand, they stay open until midnight too. There were heaps of university students around since the campus is right beside. Mee Ketam KL is quite popular with the student crowd due to their very affordable prices for flower crabs.

Mee Ketam

The signature Mee Ketam KL is served with flower crabs for RM 9.50. You can swap in mud crabs for a base price of RM 5 (for the noodles) and RM 6.50/100 gram (for the mud crabs). Udang galah (big head prawn) is priced at RM 9/100 g. They also serve cooked crabs with rice for the same price. You can choose from various methods of cooking including curry, buttermilk, red sauce etc.

Mud Crabs

My dear wanted to try their ketam nipah masak cili (mud crabs cooked with chilli) which was recommended. The owner came out with a selection of fresh mud crabs on ice cubes and you’re supposed to select the one you like to be weighed on the spot with a portable machine. I got the second largest one for 600 grams, which cost RM 39. I saw a lot of people eating this same dish with rice, even though they’re known for noodles.

Mee Kari Ketam (RM 9.50)

Mee Kari Ketam

This is their flagship dish. It’s a whole flower crab on top of their curry noodles. Mee Ketam KL uses thick yellow egg noodles and it goes quite well with the crab. The curry broth is very mild and more like a soup. I could detect lots of roe and random crab bits inside the curry though which is a huge plus point – it made the noodles all the more awesome. It was decent but not very strong flavored, to my disappointment.

Ketam Nipah Masak Cili (RM 39)

Ketam Masak Cili

My dear had this one and it comes with rice. OMG! If my dish was bland, this would be the polar opposite. The chilli sauce is fiery! The thick, starchy sauce is translucent, which makes you think it’s mild, but it’s filled with Thai bird eye chillis. It was salty, spicy and sweet at the same time. I couldn’t stop eating my better half’s sauce. It was the best crab I’ve had in my entire life!

Crab Picks

We had brought along our own crab pick for this visit. I first saw them when I was eating King crab and snow crab in Busan, Korea. It was really good for picking at the flesh and when we saw them in Hokkaido during our Japan trip earlier this year, we got a whole bunch of them to use. I gave a set to her parents too and this was the first time we had the chance to use these magnificent crab picks. Haha.

Mee Ketam KL Us

Mee Ketam KL serves decent curry noodles but I feel that the true standout dish is their ketam masak cili. If you like spicy and flavorful food, you’ll love this dish. It may be somewhat too spicy for people who can’t take peppers though, my dear had a bit of trouble with the dish. The stall is actually quite small, but they have an outdoors seating area of wooden tables. The entire meal, including drinks, was just slightly over RM 50 but if you don’t order mud crabs, this place is actually very affordable.

Mr. & Ms. Cafe @ Oasis Ara Damansara

Mr Mrs Oasis Ara Damansara

I was craving for Vietnamese pho over the weekend. I’ve been craving for pho for a very long time and thought I’ll finally scratch my itch when my better half said she’ll rather go somewhere nearer instead. Thus, we headed into Oasis Ara Damansara for our weekend brunch and saw Mr & Ms Cafe. It was packed to the rafters!

Mr and Mrs

There was another cafe called Crave Cafe beside it which in contrast was totally empty. Naturally, we went to the popular one. You can’t ignore 20 pax, especially if you haven’t been to either before. Mr and Ms is a Melbourne style breakfast place with surprisingly competent wait staff. The visitors are overwhelmingly Chinese, although I believe the place is pork free.

Yummy Duck & Eggs (RM 24)

Yummy Duck Eggs

This is ultra flavorful shredded duck with baby spinach on a baguette, topped with two poached eggs. The sauce they use is reminiscent of braised duck and it’s very good. I love the addition of raw spinach too, the earthy notes complement the dish well. The orange segment on top was gold! It actually adds a lot to the dish. The portion was slightly small but it turned out to be enough.

Fried Chicken, Portobello & Eggs (RM 22)

Fried Chicken Portobello

My better half had this. It came later than mine and she had eaten my duck first, which was a huge mistake. The chicken tasted positively bland in comparison. They use a breaded chicken breast and it’s cooked to order, which explains why it took 20 minutes to get out. To be fair, the waitress apologized for the delay, but usually restaurants will write down the wait time for longer dishes on the menu. It was decent though, just don’t eat the duck first.

Hot Chocolate Nutella

I also had a latte (RM 9) while my dear went for the Hot Chocolate Nutella (RM 12). Mine was decent while hers was slightly diluted with hot milk. Mr and Mrs also serves freshly squeezed orange juice with no added sugar or water for RM 10. It was mind-numbingly sour but I was glad I had it. It’s packed full of nutrients. I presume anyway, I refuse to believe I drank something this acidic for no good reason.

Mr Mrs

Mr & Mrs Cafe is a great destination for breakfast. The bill came up to RM 81.60 for the two of us. We didn’t order any desserts coz they only had one left. The cafe distinguishes itself with two (2) selfie props on their table in lieu of the usual fresh flowers. There is a moustache on a straw and a lipstick red pair of lips on the same. I guess you’re supposed to pose with them. I did, anyway, my better half was not as willing to embarrass herself in public.

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.

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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