My Top 3 cakes of 2014

So uh… happy new year?

I can’t believe how fast the year was gone. I intended to blog more, but seems this is going to be an annual occurrence!

But I’m still baking when I can, and for special occasions.

First up, and I still can’t believe I did that was this:

YingWedCake2 Yup, it was a humungous cake… for Sugamama’s garden wedding. It was a chocolate cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream icing, decorated with some of the flowers that were for displays at the wedding table hahaha!

YingWedCakeHere’s the piece on the final display. Sugamama’s husband just took up a chainsaw and cut a piece of log to go with the rustic back garden wedding look!

Thanks to a bunch of people who lent a help in making this cake in less than 24 hours (yeah last minute decision to make a wedding cake), especially Serena who stayed up till 3am with me to make this cake. I’d say a pretty crazy but good job given that we didn’t have much tools to use and we started at about 4 pm eve of the wedding.

The wedding was awesome. On a lovely Canada summer’s day… but bad for the cake as it started to melt a little by the time it was served hehe.

Second cake I loved was this birthday cake I made for Papa Salvatore:
PaCakeA red wine chocolate cake with mascarpone cream and greek yoghurt icing, topped with sour cherries… almost a (boozy) take of a black forest, someone said.

I love the taste and I think Papa Salvatore does too.

Third cake that really made my 2014:

ShaCakeA birthday cake for a very close friend. This was my first chocolate and orange (and heck a lot of grand marnier) cake. I used cadbury’s chocolate fingers as part of the deco too and upped the chocolate dose haha! Icing a a lovely orange swiss meringue buttercream.

That’s all for now. Hope 2015 I’ll have more cakes to come. For now, I’m all caked out especially after that 3 tier wedding cake.

-M

Inderasabah

“Stay safe, Sabah.”

That was actually what one of my colleagues said, as the news of the skirmishes reached us at the office in KL. A lot of us travel to Tawau for work, so naturally we were worried for those posted in the East of Malaysia. Troops were deployed, fatalities reported.

I’ve been having such a hard time to write a blog post lately, partly due to work schedule, but I can’t help but to show these pictures now in light of what is happening.

This was taken last year while I was visiting Sabah. Before then, I’ve never been to Borneo.

A Sabahan colleague took me and some others to a village near Tawau called Inderasabah: a small fishing village on silts occupied primarily by the Bugis people.

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They said that the best salted fish are from Inderasabah. Many foreigners and locals come here to get the best dried fish (especially “ikan bilis”).

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Somewhat fragile looking houses, yet the whole community lives up here in a seemingly peaceful seaside.

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With the current situation, all fishing along this region would have been grounded to a stop I would imagine.

Phonecalls from those we know near Lahad Datu and Tawau reported that fishing ports and many shops were closed and advised us those from the Peninsula to not travel here for the time being.

ImageFresh catch would be hand picked and processed.

ImageThese nets were laid out in the “courtyards” between houses. Below in the water, I could see other fishes waiting for the dried bits to fall through the netting and into the water for them to eat.Image

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The sun-dried and salted fish were packed up in plastic bags according to the weight you want. The background here is the said “courtyard” for fish sun-drying. Brought back a kilo for my mum and she said it was one of the best dried fish she ever got.

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Inderasabah village kids just hanging out at the doorstep of their home.

I just can’t stop wondering how a village like this would be right now.

Stay safe, Sabah.

-M.

Sarawakian fruits

I was back in Sibu again recently. Though it is end of the year, I’ve learnt that the fruiting season is almost the opposite from that on the Peninsula.

SibumarketGone to Sibu market in the early morning to see what I can find. I found that the local durian was in season. My, some of the kampung varieties are so small and looked like a green sea urchin!

Duriansibu

Oh yes, when there is durian, there is also duku/langsat/dokong. The tangy and sweet flesh of that small round yellow-skinned fruit is just so contrasting to the creamy durian. Perfect, right?

Oh, there is of course the all year round banana, but take a look at the price.

pisang

During my trip, I’ve been introduced to a very particular fruit seasonal around November/December.

dabais

Apparently this fruit ripens at the same time on one tree. Dabai, as it is called, is also known as “Black Olive” here.

DabaicookedDabai doesn’t keep well so you will need to eat it within a few days of purchasing. I am told not to buy any wrinkly ones. I’m not sure if you can have it raw, as I was also instructed to “cook” it – buy exposing them to hot sun for a while or soaking them in warm (not boiling) water for about 30 mins or until soften. Then, douse the dabai with soya sauce and sprinkle some sugar to taste.

DabaiSeed

I really don’t know how to describe the taste… a little bit sweet, and… oily? Anyway, it is definitely an acquired taste. The large seed in the centre is like an American football. How odd.

Matakuching

I’ve also spotted some Sarawakian variant of the mata kuching (longan). It’s got green skin with sharp bumps, something like a lychee but tougher. The inside is very much like a longan, though the seed is a paler brown and the flesh more clear. The flavour was intense and so sweet. Much better than any of the commercial longan I have tried.

-M.

Ramadhan Special: Ayam Perchik Wakaf Bharu

The fasting month means the abundance of food and never seen before coloured drinks around the country for breaking fast. One special stall in Wakaf Bharu will be opened during this month: The Best Ayam Perchik Stall. Yes, I gave it a name since I have no idea what’s the real name (if any).

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My mother just refer this as the “Ayam Perchik Stall near the Wakaf Bharu Train Station”. Well, that’ll give you some idea as to where to find it.

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MMMMmmmm, ayam perchik being freshly grilled and sold. You get to pick your stick. It sells out really fast. It is so well spiced and balanced out with the coconut.

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You may find ayam perchik in a few places in Kelantan and they are sold all year round. But not this special stall.

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Don’t like chicken? There is also fish. But my favourite is the chicken, really.

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Nearby stalls will also sell other foods such as soups and traditional sweets. I found the smallest onde-onde there!

Happy Raya/Eid to those celebrating!

-M.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Hi, it’s been a while. Work life is pretty hectic for all of us Teambudu…

Anyway, here’s a post to mark the 1st year after that tragic day in Japan…

One of Tokyo’s popular destination for tourists is the Tsukiji Fish Market. My chef friend told me when I get there, I MUST visit this market.

I work up pretty late having worn myself out with all the walking from the day before and jet lag. Here’s my breakfast of green tea, melon pan (my first!) from Seven Eleven and some weird cookie they gave out for free near the subway (it was horrible). My hotel was lovely, but as the city is a little short of power, the hotel has some sort of power cut during the wee hours of the morning which cuts off the air conditioning so I was stickily hot by 6 am.

I made my way to the fish market by subway easily at 9 am.

This is the only market I’ve been to that doesn’t really stink of fish. It’s a bit wet, but not dirty at all. Impressed!

Although I did not witness that famous auctioning, I still saw plenty of tuna. Here’s some blocks deep frozen.

I walked around for quite a while, then it was time to look for some sushi… now I have no idea what shops are good, so I decided to go for one that had both Japanese and tourists queueing for.

It’s funny how the lady at the Sushi Daiwa thought I was with this couple of gyaru girls in front me in the queue. “San nin?” she said. Hahaha. I had to tell her no and I’m only looking for a seat in what pieces of Japanese I knew. I was so happy to finally sit down after some 1.5 hour wait! Started off with some tai and maguro nigiri. Wow, very red looking tuna… I suppose you can’t get fresher tuna than Tsukiji, can you?

 The other sushis I had. I don’t remember the names, but the top left one was really good. Meal also came with complimentary miso clam soup (super good). The bill that I had to pay for 6 pieces of sushi was not so good. Well, it is in the world famous fish market with super fresh ingredients so…

But honestly, I don’t know if I can wait for that long again… it may be good, but I felt that it wasn’t like to die for.

The experience at this sushi-ya was great. The chef was friendly and happy to recommend me stuff. I tried my best to speak in Japanese, to his amusement.

I will definitely be back at this fish market the next time I’m in Tokyo.

 

-M.

Yee sang for the year of the dragon

It’s the second day of Chinese New Year. How has the Dragon year been so far?

It’s becoming a custom now in Malaysia and Singapore to “Lo Sang” for the new year. Having been so many years abroad, I realised that this Yee Sang business is quite unique to these two countries. Yep, we kinda invented this tradition… or rather, re-invented it.

The ingredients of a yee sang is basically that of a colourful salad. Each ingredient signifies something. For example, the pepper is put into the red packets and sprinkled onto the salad, to attract luck and wealth. Green for youth, carrot for (more) luck.

Here’s the yee sang ready to be tossed. Raw fish added to signify abundance in the new year. The fried crackers signify gold.

Then, we toss. The higher, the better. It was a noisy occasion as each of us would say out the wishes that we want for the new year. Us nerdy ones would go “lolololol” as in lo sang (toss), but really we just wanted to make a pun.

Lo sang aftermath. Yes, so messy, but so yums.

Wishing everyone a happy Chinese new year. May you get to spend it with your loved ones. Have a good year ahead.

-M.

An afternoon in Vancouver

This is a continuation of my Canadian travels (obviously)…

So after Toronto, I flew down to Vancouver to meet several cousins and to visit my aunt and uncle who lives in Victoria Island. Some facebooking meant that I was able to coordinate one of my friend whom I met in Oxford, who works in Vancouver. MW invited me to lunch and offered to show me around Vancouver for an afternoon. I was so grateful, for her to make some time to meet me and be a guide for one Friday afternoon.

I was in Vancouver some 15 years ago, and so I have few memories of the place. MW met me near the harbour and we had a quick look around the harbour front before walking down to sandwich shop.

I know, like wtf a sandwich shop? Ah, but MW promised that it would be a pretty good place for lunch. So we walked to the old part of the city. We even came across an old steam clock.

The shop was aptly called Meat and Bread. Talk about selling what it says. It was already very busy when we arrived for lunch. Most people were there for a quick bite so the wait was not long.

I love the interior design of the place. It’s something of a fifties store/boxing gym. Even the toilet was interesting, it has a large printout of text on the wall describing arsenic…

Anyway, I had the recommeded porchetta sandwich and some chickpea salad. I have bad reaction to things with chickpeas usually, but this salad was good and didn’t give me any rumbly-tummy. Mmm, wash it all down with a cold Canadian beer.

MW had a spicy meatball sandwich which she thought was too spicy for her.

All in all, definitely a nice place for a sandwich. I love that they serve it on a wooden board, with a big dollop of mustard. The porchetta could do with more seasoning of herbs in my opinion, but hey is still pretty good. Coupled with the ambience, no wonder this place is popular.

Meat and Bread: 370 Cambie Street at Victory Square, Vancouver, BC, V6B 2N3.

After that, MW showed me around other parts of the town. The day ended with us driving along English Bay and then a cup of tea on the beach on a beautiful cool October day. Ah, bliss.

Here’s a short video of us driving along the bay.

Thanks, MW. Till we meet again one of these days. You made my Canadian trip even more memorable.

-M.

Niagara winery: Inniskillin

Can you believe this view???

When in Canada, you should visit this wonderful place at least once. The scenery is breathtaking!

Since this is a food blog, I’m obviously ain’t gonna stop at showing you this natural wonder. Nearby, in a place called Niagara-on-the-lake, you will find lots of winery dotted around. We went to one of the most famous Canadian winery, called Inniskillin.

Inniskillin is most famous for its icewine. Apparently, they beat many of the European winery when competing in this category.

The tour of the winery costs only $5. Cheap if you compare that with wine tours in Europe. Here’s our guide showing us the grapes for icewine.

Apart from icewine, they also grow other grapes such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I was surprised that Pinot Noir was able to survive Canadian climate.

They let us try the Pinot Noir grape. Yums.

After the tour of the winery (this included the usual tour of cellar, where you see all the vats and barrels of wine being stored.) it was time for the wine tasting. Unfortunately, we found that with the exception of the icewine, the wine given were a real let down. So what was all the fuss about Inniskillin? (apart from the icewine).

Well of course we went on to try their other wines on offer inside their shop, for a small fee.

Here’s the pretty cosy interior of the shop.

The wine list on offer.

My, what a difference they were from the wine that was served.  I’m sorry, but old world wine still trumps new world when it comes to blending good reds in general. We all agreed that their whites were pretty good though. Here are the ones we think were worth buying:

1. Pinot Noir Rose. They may not have made the best red Pinot Noir, but their Rose was pretty smooth and fruity. Perfect for those who   are just starting on wines or those who like the sweeter, fruitier wines.

2. Three Vineyards Chardonnay. Crisp white that is blended just fine. A little oaky yet subtle sweetness. I’m not the biggest fan of chardonnay but this one is very drinkable.

3. The best of the whites I think is this 2010 Legacy Riesling. Dry yet mineral wine but easy on the acidity. I love this one. Of course, this had to be more expensive than the other two! LOL.

By the end of the day, a crate of rose and half a dozen of the Riesling were bought (Sugamama’s bf is the major buyer here, since we can’t be bringing so much wine with us.) A very good and tipsy day out. I have to say that the tour was only so-so, very basic talk on wine so is good for beginner wine buffs. Well, for a fiver I don’t think you get much better deal than this, though. If you are a big wine fan like Papa Salvatore, then go there, skip the tour, and give the wines a taste at their bar. Five bucks can get you several tasters!

-M.

 

UPDATE: I meant to put this up but I forgot. Here is a short and dizzy video of me on the boat going into the Horseshoe Fall in Niagara.

Oktoberfest, Kitchener-Waterloo

I know I know, it is December already. I would like to mention about the Oktoberfest I experienced while I was in Waterloo/Kitchener since it was my first ever going to an Oktoberfest. Man, why didn’t I go to Germany when I was in the UK? I could have gone to the Oktoberfest there.

Anyway, in the former town of Berlin (that’s the old name for Kitchener-Waterloo I was told), the first wave of immigrants were from Germany, hence the name of the town. The name of the place was changed, but some of the culture was retained, hence the Oktoberfest.

I was told the Oktoberfest here is the second biggest in the world, and so we could not miss the opportunity to go. Unfortunately, the night that we went was a STUDENT’S NIGHT.

The festhallen were full of young people (many drunks came in later). The music was so loud I wondered if this makeshift tent hall was a night club. There was one or two “traditional” Oktoberfest songs played, but after that the clubbing music started.

Here’s Sugamama pouring beer into our complimentary plastic mug for a more Oktoberfest feel. Looks like an advert for Bingeman’s. For the record, Canadian ale is more like an IPA than the typical British ale. The lager type beer is ok, but I prefer German beer still. Too bad didn’t have any here.

After witnessing police arresting a few drunks, girls waving mugs of beer around (and then drenching themselves with it) and had one of the worst sauerkraut in history, we quit the festival early. So glad too as we left the tent, Back Street Boys was being played inside. Oh dear.

Maybe if we had gone on another night (like for seniors…?) we would have enjoyed this festival season. But I think we out grew the teenage/early 20’s drunk party mayhem of our time. So next time, Kitchener-Waterloo. I’ll be back again to experience the real Oktoberfest…

…or maybe I should just go to Munich.

-M.

St. Jacob’s Market, Waterloo

So on with my journey in the East of Canada. Waterloo is a small town possibly most famous for the makers of Blackberry, RIM. There is a farmer’s market every Thursday nearby, and so Sugamama brought me and the parents to have a look at the produce mainly from this group of people called the Mennonites.

The entrance of the market was aptly decorated with corn stalks since it was autumn. Signs were proudly shown to have several countries I think to signify the influence of culture in this market.

More autumn themed decorations around the market.

To be honest, I did not know Mennonites exist until I came here. I only thought there were Quaker and Amish colonies. Look at the fresh sweet corn. Going for real cheap too. There were so much to see here. Lots of fresh produce from the Mennonites, including honey and maple. There was also cooked food and other non-grocery items like flowers, pots and clothes being sold.

For lunch, we had pork and chips (uh, fries) from this shop. I saw the sign for pigtails and I wanted to try it since I haven’t had anything like that before.

Here’s our lunch. Sugamama tried the ribs (picture above), while I had that pigtail (below). It was good! Two old men sat opposite us on the bench enjoying their pigtails (away from their wives they said, as they were not allowed to eat pigtails) and were like “I’ve never seen anyone eat a pigtail with such manners before. You gotta get in there!” Yeah yeah, I just feel self-conscious about using my hands in public.

And for dessert: Apple Fritters! The shop is in the covered part of the market.

The sourness of the apples were balanced out by some simple vanilla ice cream. Sugamama just loved this combo.

We went back happy with a large bag of corn and some fruits from the market.

-M. (and Sugamama)