Archive for the ‘Food Trips’ Category

Roselle Cordial

July 2, 2010


There were lots of roselle for sale at the Satok weekend market in Kuching, Sarawak. I haven’t seen these fruits in years, and certainly never thought I’d one day have to buy them. We used to have roselle bushes in our garden, and they grew everywhere in the neighbourhood.

The roselle belongs to the hibiscus family. If there is such a thing as trend in gardening, then there was a time when it was fashionable to plant roselle. They were real pretty too, with their vivid red berries.

The roselle plants grew well, yielding generous harvests….not that I ever tended to the garden then. I only remember that we love roselle because it was like the poor man’s substitute to Ribena (blackcurrant drink). It was sweet, and had a more tangy edge… but it had a pleasant berry-ish taste and it was real refreshing with lots of ice.

We must have made bottles and bottles of cordial from the roselle in our garden. I don’t remember when the roselle bushes disappeared from our garden and the neighbourhood, and I never gave it much thought.

I bought a basket of roselle at Satok because I had a sudden craving for the drink. Besides, a basket only costs RM1. And so I stuffed it in my suitcase, and brought it back to KL.

It’s easy to make roselle cordial. Just peel off the calyx (your fingers will be stained red) and discard the seedpod. Wash and rinse well, and then boil in water with loads of sugar. I had started out taking careful measurements, but lost track of how much sugar I used as I added the sugar twice more while making the cordial. The roselle is sour-ish, so you need a bit more sugar. It’s also nice to make the cordial thick.


My RM1 of roselle yielded a small bottle of cordial, and it’s as good as I remembered it to be – sweet with a pleasing sourish tinge – exactly the drink for hot afternoons.


And the kids like it too, and at least we know that there is no preservatives or artificial colouring in ths cordial ….. just copious amounts of sugar!


Satok Market, Kuching, Sarawak

June 29, 2010

The narrow lanes in the Satok weekend market in Kuching, Sarawak (a state in East Malaysia in Borneo) are crowded, and it gets really hot under the colourful canopies. But I’d not miss going to the market, which opens every Saturday and Sunday, as it’s the best place to find Sarawak’s food produce, handicrafts and knick knacks.

The sweetest pineapples are of course found in Sarawak

At the livestock section, you can buy everything from these cute ducklings to puppies to Siamese cats

The market is divided into different sections – wet market, dry market, plants and pets section, clothes and shoes section etc. It’s not that big, so it’s easy enough to meander from lane to lane.

For locals, the weekend market is where they come for ingredients from other parts of Sarawak. There are jungle produce like ferns, bamboo shoots, yam shoots, roselle, herbal roots and honey. There are also dried and preserved food like shrimp paste, cincaluk and smoked fish.

Smoked fish
Smoked fish is a local specialty, and not many know how to make this

Paku pakis
Fern shoots – delicious simply stir-fried with garlic or with sambal belacan

I love the market because so many of the produce sold are foreign to me. I didn’t buy much because we didn’t have access to a kitchen in Kuching, but I tried what I could there. I bought ikan terubuk asin (which I’ll blog about later), roselle (next blog) and Sarawak laksa paste.

Keranji Madu
Keranji madu, tamarind fruits which are encased in a hard shell. The thin flesh is sweet, and are hardly found outside of Sarawak.

Fresh bamboo shoots at Satok

Gula apong
Sarawak’s version of palm sugar, gula apong

Cincaluk is delicious with a squeeze of lime and chilli padi

Living Dangerously – Stir-fried Roast Pork

March 18, 2010

I am a Penangite, but I only recently found out about Kedai Makanan Teik Seng (on Jalan Carnavon, next to the old Hup Loong provision shop). It’s a popular `chu char’ place where you can order rice and dishes. We’ve never eaten here simply because they serve dishes that we eat at home all the time. After all, eating out used to be an indulgence and we’d only order food that my mother couldn’t make.

At Teik Seng, they serve good ol’ fashioned simple fares like leek stir fried with tofu, steamed eggs, lala stir-fried with ginger and yellow bean paste, bittergourd with salted duck’s eggs. They also do a delicious sting ray asam curry, and double-boiled soup, and claypot dishes. We also spied butter prawns on another table.

Stir fried roast pork with soya sauce

But it seems that the star dish at Teik Seng is roast pork stir-fried with soya sauce. Eating Asia was raving about it, and they call it bacon candy. We ordered that too, and my colleagues (from Kuala Lumpur) Niki Cheong, Ian Yee and Sharmila Nair voted that the best dish on the table.

We actually ate at Teik Seng two days in a row, and tried the stir-fried roast pork with cili padi. It was good too, with the cili padi adding a subtle kick.

I was a little less fascinated…mostly because we have this dish at home quite often although I must admit that the version here is really good because they use a lot of oil. So, it’s almost like they shallow fry the roast pork in soya sauce.

One of the must-have prayer offerings on occassions such as death anniversaries are roast pork and chicken. And this is what many people do with leftover roast pork, especially during prayer days when there is too much food.

Stir fried roast pork with soya sauce

We love roast pork, but it’s quite impossible to finish eating it especially when there will usually be six to eight other dishes. So, my mother would stir-fry the roast pork with garlic, thick soya sauce and a dash of sugar. It becomes quite a different dish, as the roast pork would be coated with caramelised soya sauce, and stir-frying retains the crispiness of the crackling. I like it with plain hot porridge, and it’s also good for picking on (yeah, like a snack).

Then again, when it comes to roast pork, living dangerously is the way to go. After all, it’s the ultimate indulgent breakfast food – on Sunday mornings, I know of people (some of whom live in my house) who would order roast pork to munch on or to add on to their noodles.

Stir fried roast pork with soya sauce


1 tablespoon cooking oil
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
600g roast pork, sliced thinly
2 tablespoon thick soya sauce
salt and sugar, according to taste
(I like about 2 tablespoons of sugar because I like it a little sweet)

Heat cooking oil, and saute garlic.
Increase the heat, and throw in the roast pork. Add the thick soya sauce, and fry quickly so that the roast pork are coated evenly.
Then, add salt and sugar.
Stir quickly over high heat, less than a minute.

Note: Add more oil if you want the roast pork to be more caramelised.
It’s an aromatic dish, and experienced cooks can tell just from the smell if there is enough soya sauce or sugar.

Masala Tomato Pachadi

December 22, 2009


A long, long time ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I went on a 10-day trip to India, and had an absolute blast. We went from Madras to Kerala, then to Goa and Bangalore, and back to Madras.

At that time, there was no digital camera yet (yup, that long ago)… and so I have no pixs to post here because I don’t have a scanner.

The temples are a haze now; even in India I had lost track of which temple is which. The shopping was good, although I remember feeling guilty of my packages as we walked past entire families living on the sidewalks.

And even with all the stories about upset tummies and food poisoning, I went to India expecting to eat well. And we did, and our stomachs were just fine.

In Madras, restaurants serve vegetarian food, unless there is a sign outside that says “non-vegetarian restaurant”. We started each morning with breakfast – thosai, puri, idli – with potatoes and chutneys, and dhal. The food was not fiery hot like the Indian food we have in Malaysia, and that was my first surprising discovery.

My friend’s family friend in Madras Uncle Tom and Aunty Thangam have a shop that sells handicraft from all over India, Cane and Bamboo, and I bought the nicest things there. They also treated us to two good meals – we had mutton briyani in their home which was delicious, and yummy kulfi at a restaurant.

Aunty Thangam also introduced us to dried mangoes; similar to the Filipino ones but much sweeter and more intense.

At the Madras museum compound, I had coffee with fresh milk – it was steaming hot and rich and creamy; the best Indian latte ever.


The food is different from state to state. On the road, we ate well – at resthouse, restaurants and hotels – they must have been mid-range outlets, although I can’t remember now. Strangely, I recall small stuff like a tomato salad during a lunch stop in a small town, eating the sweetest grapes and apples from a roadside stall and the sand between my toes during dinner in Goa.

The bookshops in India were also another experience. Giggles in Madras is a small narrow bookshop in a hotel crammed with books from floor to ceiling. And the books were literally stacked one atop another. But the proprietor knew exactly where each book was; you just had to mention the title you were looking for.

In Cochin’s Jew Town, we found a small book shop in the midst of the antique shops, just outside the synagogue. I bought a thin cookbook there; at that time I haven’t started started collecting cookbooks yet, and it was a random pick. It was a plain book on South Indian cooking, with no glossy pages or pictures – A Cook’s Tour of South India by Vimla Patil, editor of Femina magazine.

The recipes in the book were unfamiliar to me – they were different from what I was used to in Malaysian shops – dishes such as curd rice, green gram curry, vegatables in buttermilk, lentil balls in curd.

I have only tried a few recipes from this book, but one has become a firm favourite – Masala Tomato Pachadi – essentially tomatoes, with coriander and yoghurt. I have since substituted the coriander with mint, which I more. I have also made this without the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and curry leaves, and they were fine – just less aromatic.

This pachadi is good with rice, and capati.

I cooked chicken briyani just so I can make this… yeah, that’s the other way round – I’m supposed to plan my side dishes around the main course, I know.





5 tomatoes
2 onions, chopped
1 cup coriander leaves (I substitute with mint leaves)
6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3 cups fresh yoghurt
oil, as needed
salt and sugar, to taste

Boil the tomatoes in water. Cool and remove skins. Mash and reserve
Heat 4 tbsp oil, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves and onions. Fry till brown.
Add turmeric and chilli powders, garam masala and mashed tomatoes.
Add salt, sugar and half the coriander leaves and blend well.
Cool completely and mix with beaten curd. Decorate with the remaining coriander leaves.

Raining Durians In Raub, Pahang

October 16, 2009

There were durians everywhere in Raub, Pahang last weekend. In Sg Klau – a one-street town on the outskirts of Raub – it was practically raining durians. We saw durians dangling from trees by the roadside, and heaps of them at makeshift wholesale markets.

The biggest wholesale durian markets was at the town centre, but there were also those set up by the roadside and under trees.

Farmers from the orchards in the surrounding areas come to these markets with trucks and lorries full of their harvest. At the market, workers quickly and deftly separate them into different grades as they unload the durian, fruit by fruit. According to the worker, he judges the quality of the durian by its appearance and more importantly, by holding it and ‘feeling’ it …. it’s intuitive, he said. But it’s intuitions honed for over 15 years as he has been working with durians since his teens.


Fruit Supermarket in Sg Klau, Raub, Pahang

October 14, 2009

Pahang has never seemed the most obvious food destination, but my trip to Raub turned out to be an eating trip. We went to Sg Klau (a one-street town) and it was teeming with durians; there were wholesale durian markets by the roadside as it’s now durian season.

Trees heavy with rambutans line the streets; it’s hard to miss the clusters of red and yellow fruits.

There is nothing like eating rambutan straight from the tree

There is nothing like eating rambutan straight from the tree

A local orchard owner took us to his farm. He calls it a “supermarket” because he has all kinds of fruit trees there. It was almost like a hobby orchard for he experiments with different plants – there were passionfruits, the biggest limes, and Japanese mangosteen (firmer flesh).

mangosteen flowers

Beautiful mangosteen flowers

fallen mangosteen

Mangosteens on the ground for the picking

The flesh was firm and sweet

The flesh was firm and sweet

There were durians dangling from the trees

durian tree

The limes in this orchard is the biggest I have seen. The farmer said that he’ll graft the tree for us, so that we can plant a tree in our backyard. But he warned that not all of us will be successful


It was a hot afternoon, and the best way to cool down at a fruit orchard is by hecking down some kelapa pandan for coconut water.


When we come back next in December, there won’t be durian and rambutan in the orchard. But there’ll be duku langsat, my favourite fruits. And the owner said he’ll make lime juice with his gigantic limes for us.