Our annual poon choy dinner with whole baby abalone @ Hakka Siu Poon Choy

Poon Choy

I always look forward to our poon choy dinner as the proper start of the pre Chinese New Year celebrations. We got our poon choy from the famous Restaurant Lee Hong Kee (used to be known as Restaurant LYJ) last year and I decided to try a new place this year. I had passed by this small and unassuming shop and called them to ask about their Hakka Pun Choi.

Poon Choy is actually a Hakka tradition that has been adopted and popularized over the years here. It basically involves a pot filled with all manner of premium ingredients by layer – stacked from the bottom to the top so each layer seeps down to the next, providing a new ingredient as you eat “down” and having the gravy/juice absorbing stuff underneath so it gets all the wonderful flavors from the smorgasbord of meat and seafood.

Hakka Siu Poon Choy

Hakka Siu Poon Choy is helmed by Cheong Sifu (Master, can also mean Chef) and I called the proprietor to ask about their prices. Poon Choy is now streamlined into two (2) sizes – 5 pax and 10 pax. I wanted the Premium Abalone Poon Choy, their best offering, for 5 pax and it cost RM 280 for the basic set. You can also add whole baby abalone for RM 20 each and I had six pieces coz there are six of us eating and I wanted everyone to have one.

I wanted to try this small restaurant instead of the huge commercial multi-restaurant F&B enterprises e.g. Dragon-i, Unique Seafood etc even though they’re cheaper (probably coz they buy in bulk) coz a smaller operation would have a more homely feel. I had it to go since me and my better half had her parents over so it’s easier to eat at home, especially with the two kids.

Poon Choy 2015

I also got two craft beers from Oregon for my dear’s dad and myself from Betty’s Midwest Kitchen. I’ve always liked Rogue’s brews and I thought their Mocha Porter and Dry Hopped St Rogue Red Ale would be perfect for the meal. The first is a stout like beverage, dark and high in alcohol content, with a nice coffee aftertaste. The St Rogue Red Ale is a sweet affair that’s light and refreshing and tasty from the dry hop process.

Rogue Red Ale Mocha Porter

The poon choy from Hakka Siu Poon Choy did not disappoint – it was even better than last year! I called over the phone and told them to prepare a good one for me with premium ingredients and they did just that. The optional 6 pieces of whole abalone for RM 20 each was well worth it too! The good stuff is in the middle – there’s whole baby abalone, sliced abalone (the lighter colored stuff), sliced conch (the darker colored pieces), Pacific clams, sea asparagus (razor clams), top shell, dried mussels, dried scallops, fresh scallops, dried oyster and black moss (fatt choy).

Hakka Poon Choy

I’m quite impressed by that selection, although most of it probably came out of cans like New Moon, they’re not cheap either. The whole baby abalone and one type of scallop is fresh though. The dried scallops are large and flavorful too.

There’s also ½ chicken and ½ duck flanking the poon choy pot with huge prawns, spare ribs and fu chuk (whole beancurd sheets/tofu skin) interspaced between. I particularly liked how they had ½ fish maw with ½ dried and rehydrated pig skin at the second layer. There’s also a wonderful array of sliced pork belly and sea cucumber hidden below. The Shiitake mushrooms, straw mushrooms, broccoli and turnips at the bottom soaks up the wonderful juices from everything slowly soaking down very well.

I’m sure I have missed some ingredients coz there’s supposed to be 28 in total!

Whole Baby Abalone

My favorite has gotta be the prawns cooked in sweet and sour sauce though – the juices from that flavored everything beneath really well and I’m glad I paid extra RM 20 / whole baby abalone for a more festive treat! Everyone loved it and even the kids had extra rice! My dear even had to cook an extra pot of rice for a second helping for everyone.

It was a great poon choy dinner that has become an annual treat, much like our Christmas turkey dinners! I can really feel the Chinese New Year “mood” now. :)

Yee Sang @ Xia Mian Guan, Sunway Pyramid

Toss Yee Sang

Xia Mian Guan is a Chinese restaurant located outside Sunway Pyramid. I went with my better half for lunch (and our first yee sang together). The food here is surprisingly good, and we’ve never even heard of Xia Mian Guan before – this is our first time eating here! :)

Prosperity Salmon Yee Sang
Made with 7 colorful prosperity ingredients and fresh salmon, topped with special plum sauce

Salmon Yee Sang

I’ve had my first yee sang of the year last month but this is my first with my dear. I like how they’re very generous with the salmon – there’s none of that “thin slivers of salmon” thing going on here. You have thick slabs of salmon with the yee sang and that’s always a good thing.

However, I felt the yee sang at Celestial Court is much better, but these are two very different places – one is a high-end hotel restaurant and the other is a more affordable mall dining experience. It’s still decent but the best dishes are yet to come!

Tea Leaf Smoked Village Farmed Chicken
Healthy fresh village farmed chicken smoked with Pu Er tea leaves

Pu Er Tea Smoked Duck

I thought someone had lit a cigarette or at least popped out for a quick smoke before coming back into the room. That’s how strong and intense the smoke was! Of course, on second whiff, it doesn’t smell like tobacco at all, but your mind just automatically makes that connection. I have to stress that the plate was very far from me when it was brought it, which makes it all the more amazing!

My better half really liked this. The smoky flavor of Pu Er tea leaves can be smelled on the whole organic free range chicken and it’s really something different.

Pork Ribs infused with Red Wine
Succulent pork ribs cooked with Xia Mian Guan’s signature red wine sauce

Signature Red Braised Pork

Mmm…there are lean pieces, fatty bits and pork ribs mixed into this dish. I quite liked the house signature red wine sauce. This is Chinese style red wine meant for cooking, not the red wine you see in French cuisine. The common name for this dish is “Red Braised Pork” or 红烧肉.

Prawns in Curry Sauce
Made with chilli sauce, milk and fresh prawns. Best served with fried Man Tou for dipping.

Prawn Curry

My favorite dish! I was raving about this for days! This is easily the best thing that has come out of the Xia Mian Guan kitchen by a long shot. The prawn curry is so intensely infused with prawn flavor (perhaps they blended up the prawn heads) that it’s pleasantly shocking! The prawns are big and juicy and the fried bread is crispy on the outside and warm on the inside.

Man Tou

I can dip the fried bread into the delightful sweet and spicy curry sauce all day long!

Hong Kong Kai Lan
Specially selected Hong Kong Kai Lan, made with a pinch of salt to enhance its flavor

Hong Kong Kai Lan

The interesting thing about this dish is the contrasting texture – the stalks of the kai lan is steamed while the leaves are shredded and deep fried! There’s not a lot of oil so I suspect it might have been done in an air fryer. We’ve had a different twist on this dish before in banquets and dinners before – it’s also part of the “4 Heavenly Kings” way of preparing vegetables – this makes for crunchy, crispy vegetables combined with the soft juicy stalks.

Red Bean Kuih
Freshly prepared daily, the red bean kuih is soft, tasty and complements the sweetness of red bean

Red Bean Kuih

My dear was waiting for the final course to come out coz it sounded quite promising. The dish is portioned individually, with each person having one Chinese soup spoon. The red bean kueh is very nice – it’s not sweet at all, in fact there’s barely a hint of sweetness, all there is comes from the red beans so it’s a nice finish for people who don’t like overtly sweet desserts. I love the mochi-like texture of the chewy kueh too!

Xia Mien Guan

Xia Mian Guan (no English name) is a gem of a restaurant that we’ll be sure to go back too. Conventional wisdom suggests that hotels and malls don’t have really good restaurants but there are of course exceptions to this (there’s a couple of Michelin-starred establishments attached to hotels). This is one of them – a very nice restaurant that’s located at a very popular mall – Sunway Pyramid!

Xia Mian Guan
Outside Oasis Boulevard
Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall
Jalan PJS 11/15 Sunway
Tel: 03 5611 7949

Lemongrass Chicken Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) @ quick bites, Publika

Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

We were out really early this morning to do some Chinese New Year shopping in Publika and decided to have a quick breakfast before we hit the aisles. My better half wanted to try this shop on the same level as Ben’s Independent Grocer, right beside the food court – it serves bánh mì!

Quick Bites Publika

I was quite intrigued by the different sandwiches they have, especially the unusual combinations. I have been to Vietnam before and eaten a lot of interesting things in Hanoi, the most popular notorious being dog meat. This is far from that though, the Asian themed Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) sounds really good.

Banh Mi

We decided to share a Lemongrass Chicken Egg Combo on a regular baguette. I found out during my travels that Vietnam was once colonized by France, which leads to the introduction of the baguette into their diet. I went for the set, which comes with gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese spring rolls).

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

You get an option of shrimp or chicken Vietnamese spring rolls and we went for the former. It’s pretty good, the dipping sauce has crushed toasted peanuts inside and a fiery hot sauce that will sear your tongue, but it’s wonderful. It’s better than the Vietnamese spring rolls I made anyway. The set of a sandwich with a starter of spring rolls and a drink will set you back RM 16.50.

Banh Mi Sandwich

We both loved the Lemongrass Chicken Egg Banh Mi! The chicken pieces are nicely seasoned and you can taste the lemongrass in the sauce. There’s also an egg and lots of vegetables in the baguette, and there’s just something very satisfying about biting into a baguette stuffed with ingredients and tasting fish sauce as an end note.

Vietnamese Sandwich

The baguettes are baked daily and it’s crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. It’s really delicious! quick bites claim to be from San Francisco and I couldn’t verify that but they certainly make the best and most authentic banh mi I’ve had in Malaysia!

I lost (and found) my groceries at Ben’s Independent Grocer!

Missing Groceries

I’ve been shopping at Ben’s Independent Grocer (BIG) in Publika for a few years. It carries a lot of imported fruits, vegetables and dry goods like candy which appeals to me. I remember a lot of my wacky cooking adventures are based on products bought here, like Gordon Ramsay’s duck breast with Madeira jus, tomatillo apple cranberry chutney and parsnip purée, How to Make Stuffed Artichokes and Buttered King Grouper with White Wine Reduction in Bouchees Poissons. I also got our turkey from them two years running – for both our 2013 Christmas dinner and 2014 Christmas dinner.

No, this is not a sponsored post or an “invited review”. I’ve never met the people from BIG – I’m just a customer, like everyone else. I just wanted to highlight a rather interesting experience that happened over the weekend.

BIG Lost Found Maxim

It’s very easy for people (including myself) to slam a brand/store/restaurant when something goes wrong. However, I don’t think enough thanks go to them when something goes right – it’s like the toast falling buttered side down theory, it seems like we’re less inclined to remember the good but never fail to recall the bad.

Maxim Egg Rolls

Anyway, I was at BIG in Publika to check out their Chinese New Year stuff and bought some items made by Maxim (the famous Hong Kong bakery). I love their stuff and the Mahjong pineapple tarts I got last year was a huge hit. I got a metal tin of Mei-Xin Egg Rolls (Classic) and Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille to try out with my better half.

I thought if they were good, I can buy more to bring back to Sibu and stock up over here. The point is that, we wanted to try them first.

CNY Goodies

However, I noticed that the Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille was *missing* when I got home 3 hours later. I think the cashier might have packed it in two different bags and I only brought one back.

I called the number on the receipt and spoke to a guy who identified himself as Fikri, and he said my Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille is there and I could pick it up anytime. I’ve done this before at other hypermarkets (having atrocious short term memory) but never had any success getting it back before – either someone else took it, or worse, apparently the cashier did (at a memorable instance in a local hypermarket chain which I won’t name).

It goes to show how good BIG is and the clientèle they attract that none of these things happened.

BIG Receipt

My missing Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille (RM 49.90) was logged in their log book and they were waiting for me to call. I was unable to pick it up the next day so I sent a photo of the receipt to my better half for her to get it on my behalf.

She didn’t need it at all – the lady at the counter just picked up another Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille from the large display they have there and she signed off the log book and I got it back at night.

BIG at Publika is my favorite place to shop, not just coz of good incidents like these but due to the overall customer experience. It’s the reason why I only shop at Coles when I was studying in Australia – they have a great policy where if the cashier scanned a wrong item, the entire bill will be free (not advertised anymore) and you can open a drink in there for a long shop and just scan the empty can at the end.

BIG used to have the same policy about drinking in their store too, but there are signs prohibiting that now. I think the trust system doesn’t work very well when it’s open to everyone so that’s understandable in Malaysia.

Found Groceries

Still, it’s a great place to get groceries and small positive experiences like this makes it all the better. :)

Chee Keong & Mei Sze’s wedding @ Summer Palace

Chee Keong Mei Sze Wedding Banquet

This is the first wedding we attended this year! I had missed a friend (and co-worker) wedding in December 2014 due to prior commitments, so this is the first wedding of 2015. It’s a bit unusual as the traditional Chinese wedding banquet dinner was held on a Sunday night and the restaurant was quite far in Putrajaya Marriott Hotel so we got home quite late yesterday.

Summer Palace Putrajaya Marriott

The bride and groom had a ceremony earlier in the day which culminated in this wedding dinner. I knew the couple from a previous trip to Bangkok and the 9-course banquet was held at Summer Palace – the Chinese restaurant at Marriott in Putrajaya.

HB Ling Wedding

It’s a very nice place for a wedding – I’ve eaten here before at a company dinner and the food wasn’t too bad but the scenery and service is the main selling points. The servers are very conscientious about changing your plates after every course and I had a glass of The Macallan 12 year old for my drink.

Deluxe Five Happiness Combination Platter

Deluxe Five Happiness Combination Platter

This is the first course and instead of the traditional “Four Seasons” plate with four food items this has five different hot and cold elements. There’s also the increasingly common theatre that goes with the first course, with the servers getting in line and doing a performance before grandly putting the first plate on your table.

Deep Fried Salted Egg

I first saw this at my sister’s wedding in Sibu but it wasn’t present at her wedding in KL. We thought the cold pork belly/duck breast slices were the best part of the dish – it was lying on a bed of pickled jellyfish which provided a wonderful acidic element. We also loved the boiled and deep fried salted egg.

Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Baby Abalone, Top Shell & Chinese Herbs

Double boiled Chicken Soup with Baby Abalone

Shark’s Fin Soup has gone out of vogue since the environmentalist types and the wannabes/sheep started a crusade against it. I’m personally ambivalent about the issue, as most people who really understand the issue, with the entire hypocrisy (and racism) of Sea Shepard and other militant environmental organizations on one side and the heritage of Icelandic culture (hákarl – fermented Greenland shark), Canadian legal seal meat and Japanese/French proudly unapologetic cuisine on the other.

However, I think the substitution of shark’s fin soup with a clear soup with premium ingredients like abalone, fish maw, top shell (magpie shell) and such is a good thing too and it tastes better and there was been a spate of fake shark’s fin going around in the few years before it became the “S-word”.

This is a good example of a nice clear soup which highlights the abalone, top shell, chicken and fish maw and it’s individually portioned beforehand.

Roasted Sesame Chicken & Roasted Chicken

Roasted Sesame Chicken

The chicken done two ways is a nice twist on the traditional roasted chicken. However, I’m not a huge fan of chicken done this way – there’s no sea salt or plum sauce for the slightly overcooked and dry roasted chicken and the roasted sesame chicken wasn’t much better.

Steamed Mandarin Fish “Unicorn” Style

Steamed Unicorn Fish

This seems to be the latest trend in serving fish at Chinese banquets! The fish is totally de-boned and filleted. The fillets of fish is then wrapped around a long, tubular “fish ball” and presented on the carcass of the fish so it looks like rolled up fish flesh.

Unicorn Fish

I’m a purist so I still prefer steamed fish served whole but I have to admit, this “unicorn style” platters of fish is very easy to eat, and the fish ball inside makes it taste artificially good with lots of MSG!

Chilled ‘Ming’ Prawns with Mayo & Stir-fried Prawn Balls with Butter Cream

Chilled Ming Prawns with Butter Cream

This is the best dish that we had the entire night! There’s huge prawns done two ways, and they’re all de-shelled and de-veined. One is cooked in a sweet and wet butter/mayo sauce and the other is deep fried in butter. It’s very creamy and I love the huge, juicy prawns – I had three and my better half had two.

Braised Assorted Dried Seafood with Broccoli

Braised Assorted Dried Seafood with Broccoli

I love the texture of sea cucumber! I’ll actually order this if I see it around. There was a RM 60 PNG (Papua New Guinea) sea cucumber promotion at Glory Cafe in Sarikei when we went but I was too full to order it. The sea cucumber here is done well, thickly sliced and full of slippery and chewy collagen. I also liked the mushrooms – very flavorful, especially with the bits of dried and rehydrated scallops in the reduced sauce.

Special Three Layered Fried Rice

Special Three Layered Fried Rice

There’s nothing special about this dish – it’s just rice done three ways. There’s plain fried rice on top, rice fried with light soy sauce in the middle and cooking caramel (dark soy sauce) fried rice at the bottom. That’s what causes the layered coloration and it was very oily – this is a dish for people who’re still hungry to fill up before dessert is served.

I know people who eat this way – main dishes only (fish, chicken, pork etc) with no accompanying rice in a multiple course banquet where they fill up on fried noodles or rice as the last course, it’s a different style of eating but we were too full at this point to eat more than a spoonful of the rice to taste it.

Special Dessert Combination

Special Dessert Combination

This is actually pretty decent! They made the crushed peanut covered mochi to be flavorless (except for the smoky and nutty accents from the peanuts) so the sweet component comes from the mung bean shaped and moulded into a cartoonish ear of corn.

It’s meant to be eaten together and it’s a good pairing.

The Chinese characters makes a lot more sense than the English translation though. Haha.

Chilled Mixed Fruits with Avocado Cream

Chilled Mixed Fruits with Avocado Cream

This is the highlight of the dish and it was what we had saved up space for. We both thought an avocado based dessert sounded delicious and we’re glad we waited for this even though a lot of people were leaving at this point to beat the traffic and try to get home before a work day. It has a wonderfully rich mouthfeel and a nutty flavor that’s very morish. Delectable!

Chee Keong Mei Sze Wedding Photo

Congrats and all the best to the newly-weds! :)

Our traditional fish pie for New Year’s Eve dinner

Fish Pie

I wanted to have a traditional British fish pie for New Year’s Eve dinner so I used ½ fresh salmon and ½ smoked salmon with snow crab meat for a pie. I actually modified Jamie Oliver’s fish pie recipe which used half smoked haddock and half fresh salmon for a “smokier” dish than all fresh fish.

Salmon Fillet Steak

The salmon I got were nice fillets meant for pan-frying that costs RM 79.90 per kg. There was another batch of salmon steaks going for half the price but I didn’t like the look of the sad pieces of fish lying about so I paid premium for the fresher salmon.

You will need:

Fish Pie Recipe

  • 300 grams salmon fillets
  • 150 grams smoked salmon
  • 250 grams snow crab claw legs
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 bunches of spinach
  • 3-4 Brussels sprouts
  • 800 grams of red potatoes
  • 200 grams freshly grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 lemon

Curly Parsley Flat Leaf Parsley

I bought a packet of parsley and you can see the difference between flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley. There are equal amounts of each in the pack, I just used the flat-leaf ones, also known as Italian parsley.

Fish Pie Cheese

I chopped up all the vegetables into small pieces and lined the bottom of the baking trays with it before adding the grated Cheddar cheese on top. I used two, and that was a mistake, you can’t split a recipe in half like that, will show you why later.

Red Pontiac Potato

Meanwhile, I peeled the Red Pontiac potatoes for chopping into 2 cm chunks. Red potatoes are perfect for baking but due to it’s starch content, is not so suitable for frying. These aren’t the potatoes for French fries, but it’s good as mash.

Dicing Red Tomatoes

The red potatoes are then dumped into a pot of salted water and boiled for 15 minutes until soft.

Skinning Salmon

I started on the fresh salmon fillet after that – you need to skin it since the recipe calls for the fish to be skinned so the easiest way is to de-skin it is to run a sharp knife under it.

Cutting Fish

I chopped up the fresh salmon fillet into bite sized pieces and did the same for the smoked salmon and snow crab claw legs…

Fish Crab Pie

…before dumping everything into the baking trays.

Mixed Fish Pie

You just need to give it a good dousing of extra virgin olive oil and add some salt and black pepper before mixing *everything* thoroughly.

Fish Pie Topping

The red potatoes are mashed and then put on top of the fish pie as a topping. This is where I went wrong coz I used two baking trays and the potatoes were barely enough to cover both!

Potato Topping

I actually needed a deeper baking tray which would provide the same surface area for the potatoes but I really had to stretch the potatoes to cover both trays.

Baked Salmon Pie

I put both of the fish pies into the oven for 40 minutes and they came out perfect!

Fish Pie Baked

The kids both tried it but declared it to be too salty as I had forgotten smoked salmon is already seasoned and added too much salt to the recipe.

Baked Fish Pie

My better half also thought the same, and I had a huge thirst after eating all that due to the sodium.

Fish Pie Cooked

I think I’ll use cod next time instead of salmon, and hold back on the liberal handfuls pinches of salt. smirk

New Year Eve Dinner

Nevertheless, it was a great New Year’s Eve dinner together with the family. :)

Our Pandoro Party!

Kid Eating Pandoro

We’ve been eating a lot of panettone this year so I got a large pandoro this time. I love eating panettone and pandoro but I’m usually the only one who ends up finishing it. I can snack on it all night long – that’s how much I love the stuff.

Pandoro Verona

However, I opened a 1 kg pandoro last night and the kids loved it! smirk

Pandoro Mountain

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a pandoro and a panettone – even Jamie Oliver got it wrong. He referred to a pandoro as a panettone in his program “Jamie’s Cracking Christmas” and no one in the production crew thought to correct it. Panettone is from Milan and it’s a brioche like bread filled with pieces of fruit while pandoro is from Verona (popular in Venice too) and very distinctively shaped. There are six different types of Christmas cakes in Italy!

Pandoro Sugar

A pandoro is very different from a panettone – it’s a frustum shaped soft sponge like cake, very light, with a heaping of powdered icing sugar on top. There’s a packet of icing sugar included in the box for you to dust the top. You can either dump it right on top or roll the pandoro around it and I chose the former. The 8 pointed star of pandoro makes it look like a snow covered mountain!

Slicing Pandoro

The kids loved pulling pieces of the pandoro and eating it with the powdered vanilla icing sugar! :)

Pandoro Icing Sugar

It was a lot of fun and it’s delicious too! Some people don’t like the bits of fruit in panettone and I’ve seen pandoro grow in popularity this year – it’s plain, but that doesn’t mean it tastes simple. The texture of pandoro is softer than panettone and it’s great when you eat it with ice cream or gelato! It has a different texture altogether and it’s perfect for a Christmas centrepiece.

Pandoro Party

I think we ate 1/3 of the 1 kg pandoro within 30 minutes! It’s supposed to look like the Italian Alps during Christmas and it sure is a wonderful sight to behold! We’ll be getting another one next year, in addition to a pandolce (a Genova classic) or a panforte from Sienna.

8 fun things we did for our Christmas Eve celebrations!

Christmas Photo 2014

It’s Christmas Eve today! We actually celebrated this year’s Christmas dinner earlier since the kids have tuition and other Christmas party commitments later in the week. Here’s 8 things we did this festive season:

1. Christmas crackers

Pulling Christmas Cracker

This was the first order of the night! We each had a Christmas cracker (the kids had two) and everyone pulled theirs with a partner.

Christmas Cracker Toys

I got a mini basketball game but the bigger one was looking at it with more than a little bit of envy. Haha. I could see it in her eyes but she was too polite to ask me for it so I exchanged mine with hers (a small deck of Mystery Calculator cards – the least popular one).

Christmas Crackers Kids

The smallest one got a purple hairband and a really cute pair of badminton rackets (complete with shuttlecock) which you can actually play with. The party favor my better half got was a pirate eyepiece. The biggest one also got a deck of cards – tiny ones but a complete 52 card deck. There were also selfie props in the box, which we used for our family Christmas photo.

2. Turkey dinner

Christmas Eve Turkey

I had roasted a turkey with cornbread stuffing and demi-glace earlier in the day and we all ate till we were fit to burst. It’s such a huge bird that I think I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week!

Turkey Demi Glace

It’s all good though and the demi-glace was delicious!

3. Chocolate Monopoly

Chocolate Monopoly Kids

Dinner done, the kids couldn’t wait to break open the Chocolate Monopoly set so we all played a complete round. You’re actually supposed to eat the chocolates in the middle if you land on a particular color which is already taken but the kids unanimously decided to “keep the chocolate Monopoly pieces forever” so they can play with them next time.

Playing Chocolate Monopoly

I thought that was funny and adorable so that’s the way we played it. No one has ate even a single piece of the Chocolate Monopoly up to now. smirk

4. Eggnog

Borden Eggnog

I bought a quart of Borden Eggnog and doled it out while we were finishing the Chocolate Monopoly game. The bigger one liked it but no one else did except me – I *loved* it. Borden makes a really good eggnog – if you like *ultra thick* custard-like consistency. It’s like drinking crème caramel without the caramel.

It’s so thick you can hear the “glug glug glug” as it attempts to pour out:

The eggnog is more custard than liquid and spiced nicely with cinnamon too and it’s delicious when mixed with a little cognac (none for the kids, of course). Lovely stuff that you see on the shelves once a year.

5. Pandoro

Pandoro

We ate a lot of panettone last year and this year and we decided to get a 1 kg pandoro for Christmas Eve dinner instead. Pandoro is the speciality Christmas cake for Verona (it’s also popular in Venice) and tastes completely different from panettone (which is from Milan). There are actually six (!!!) different regional Christmas cakes in Italy.

Pandoro Classico

I thought I wanted to expose the kids to different foods and since we already ate panettone, it was pandoro for the after-dinner dessert. Pandoro is also a sweet leavened product that’s dusted with sugar and shaped like a frustum. I love pandoro, you can scoop out the middle and add gelato inside and it’s meant to look like an 8-sided snow mountain.

6. Christmas tree

Christmas Tree

I wanted to get a large real Christmas tree (it’s about RM 600) but my better half forbade it. The trees actually shed a lot of needles every day so it can be a chore to clean up after it. We settled for a fake miniature Christmas tree instead.

7. LEGO time

LEGO City

This was the part which the kids were most looking forward to. They have been huge fans of LEGO since the LEGO movie came out and we encouraged their creativity – it’s good for them. The collection that we’re getting for the kids is the LEGO CITY range and I bought them a large set with a large police set-up with boats.

Building LEGO

It basically involves a generic LEGO bad guy escaping with pilfered cash and jewels in a boat while the police goes after him. The amazing thing is that the boats actually float in water! We each assembled a section and I finished up the most difficult part where a thread had to be tied into a hook to attach to the LEGO police boat – it actually has working parts that moves to winch the boat up!

LEGO Floating Boats

We had a lot of quality time together with the kids on this one – various scenarios were enacted and played out. I role-played the lazy LEGO police who would not move out with the truck containing the boat until the kids got the police lingo right. Haha.

LEGO Working Winch

We actually have a new site dedicated to LEGO minis now, it’s primarily done by my awesome better half, who takes amazing posed photos with our growing collection of LEGO minifigures – the site is called tumblingminis.com

8. Family photo

Christmas Photo

This is our Christmas 2014 family photo! It was taken with the selfie props from the Christmas crackers and I thought it made for a nice photo. It serves as a digital Christmas card too – I sent it to my dad and my sister and they both loved it to bits.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us! May the festive season bring you joy, peace and love. :)

Roasting our Christmas turkey with corn bread stuffing and demi-glace

Christmas Turkey

I got a beast of a bird this year for the annual Christmas roast turkey dinner!

Huge Frozen Turkey

It’s a huge 6.5 kg (14 pound) young turkey for RM 192.71. This is over twice as big as the turkey we roasted last year. I was actually torn between getting this and a capon (castrated rooster) so I asked the kids what they wanted.

Turkey Breast

It was a resounding vote for turkey coz they liked the turkey that I roasted last year for Christmas. smirk

Turkey Cuts

There’s no shortages for non-halal turkey this year so that’s a good thing for us. I have no idea what makes a turkey halal or non-halal (probably due to the way it’s slaughtered) but this was a different brand called Norbest from the US and there were large signs warning of it’s haram (forbidden) status to Muslims which I always found a little strange since Christmas is a Christian (or at least secular) holiday.

Defrosting Turkey

I’ve actually cooked with this particular brand of turkey before and since I had just 24 hours to get it right, I used the Fast Defrost method by dunking the entire turkey into water and changing the water every 4 hours.

Trussed Turkey

It was what I did last year too but on a more urgent time scale since this was a heavier bird. Haha.

Cornbread Turkey Stuffing

We also got a pack of demi-glace and corn bread stuffing for a more expedient roast (plus, these two taste really good).

Chopping Vegetables

I chopped up a cup of yellow onions and celery

Onion Celery

…and sautéed them in butter,

Turkey Stuffing

…before adding it to the corn bread stuffing and gravy.

Giblets Bag

Next it was time to clean the bird, take out the bag of giblets (this is arguably where the old school gamer term gibs originated from for those of us who played shooters like Doom, Quake and Unreal back in the days) and pat it dry.

Stuffing Turkey

I stuffed the cavity of the turkey with my newly made corn bread stuffing mix and (with some difficulty) got it into the preheated oven at 200 Celsius.

Turkey Stuffed

I covered the turkey with aluminium foil and took it off after 3 ½ hours to brown the top and here’s what my turkey looks like after 4 hours!

Turkey Oven

This turkey has a built-in meat thermometer that pops out when it’s done, although we used our own to check too:

Turkey Pop Out Device

I started the demi-glace while the turkey was resting and it was lovely – this is restaurant quality demi-glace, RM 14.95 for ½ cup but it’s awesome! It has reduced white wine inside and you can add your own wine in lieu of water for a tastier demi-glace (make sure to cook off the raw alcohol).

Demi Glace

My better half and the kids loved it!

Carving Turkey

The young but large turkey was carved up according to everyone’s preference – the smallest one wanted a drum while I had an entire leg, the biggest one wanted the huge wing and my better half got a slice of prime breast meat.

Little Kid Eating Huge Turkey

Christmas dinner is always my responsibility and I’m glad we had so much fun with our celebrations – it took me quite a bit of planning and shopping to get enough activities to keep the kids entertained. There’s Christmas crackers, eggnog, presents, and more – Christmas is definitely not over yet!

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Our biannual staycation in KL!

Hotel Royal

We have made a tradition of taking time out to do a staycation (which refers to staying at a local hotel, not staying at home) twice a year in addition to our yearly overseas trips (Melbourne last year and Frankfurt and Paris this year) and our shorter trips like to Hat Yai about a month ago.

Pavilion KL

You could say that travelling is our passion in life. :)

Timelapse Hotel

It’s actually a lot of fun and you get to experience the city where you live from a visitor’s perspective!

Hotel Royal KL

This time around, we stayed at Hotel Royal in Kuala Lumpur and basically:

Staycation Food

1. Ate a lot of food

Mamma Mia Musical KL

2. Caught a musical

Blurry Photo

3. Enjoyed each other’s company.

Staycation 2014

I’ll write more tomorrow, part of the purpose of having a staycation is to get away from the daily things you do and not do anything remotely work related. smirk

Posted: 10:38 pm Kuala Lumpur time

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