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.

Sarawak Laksa

Hi all,

Been to Sarawak for work recently.

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Such a beautiful place.

I got to meet up with a cousin of mine that I haven’t seen for many years. He took me to lunch of Sarawak Laksa.

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So good. The noodles look like vermicelli but it is slightly thicker and chewier. Love it.

– M.

 

p.s.: btw, what’s with the new wordpress drop down box to add a new post thing??? don’t like it at all.

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.

Crabbing in Victoria

First of all, a happy belated new year! How has 2012 been treating you so far? I’ve started a new job, and thus the lack of updates. Sorry!

Pinkydoodles, Egg-tart and I had a good Christmas and New Year. Just lots of yummy food and drinks. We watched the fireworks from our apartment in KL. Wonderful.

Well, we are almost up to speed as to where I should be blogging soon. This will be the last post about Canada (for now).

Man, I’m longing for a quiet boating experience like how I did on Vancouver Island in Canada.

So, in the East of Canada, we stayed with my uncle and aunt on Victoria Island. This is the view from my uncle’s canoe. It was peaceful and not too cold for an autumn’s day. Super sunny means a great time to go crabbing!

Just plonk a crab cage with some chicken meat as bait into the ocean. Then canoe back to the shore and enjoy a cup of tea (yes, my aunt and uncle’s house is just by the seaside!). An hour later, my uncle and I took the boat out again to collect the cage. Voila! Dungeness crabs for dinner.

By the way, you need a license to fish crabs, and only of a certain size can you take them. Small ones we threw back.

So our first try was good. However, our luck ran out after that. The rest of the afternoon we got something else and it scared the crabs away.

Damn you, starfish! We caught so many of these big echinoderms.

No matter, the canoeing was so fun and the water was so clear I could see the bottom of the sea.

So come dinner time, we cooked up a crab feast. Well when I say we, I mean my uncle.

Man I wished I wrote down what was the recipe. All I know is it’s got a bit of curry powder, and things you’d put in for chilli crab. Hey uncle, if you are reading this, maybe you can tell me the recipe? 🙂

The crabs were served in the wok. It was so yums!

To drink, Papa Salvatore selected:

Inniskillin Okanagan Chardonnay 2009. Yep, Inniskillin is also found in British Columbia. This chardonnay was good. Smooth, bit of oakyness and goes so well with the crab.

Since my aunt likes a more sweet wine, this was selected: Niersteiner Spatlese, late harvest. It was indeed sweet, but not sickeningly so and mildly floral. I really don’t like sweet wine, but this was quite drinkable.

We sat down and ate in silence for a while, savouring the juicy crabs. It was that good. Pair it with some lovely chilled wine, it became fantastic!

Crab fishing was so much fun. I wish I could go back there soon and do it again.

OK. Until next post. Adios!

-M.

Gok Kapor Fish Market

I’m back in Malaysia just in time for the ending of Ramadan. A family friend in Kuala Lumpur asked if we could get them some fresh large prawns for Hari Raya because KL prawns are really expensive and often not very fresh. We were driving up to KL in a few days time so Papa Salvatore said no problem.

20 to 25 kg? That’s like a large suitcase full of prawns! The Mumakil (mum) was anxious on how in the world we going to buy that much and have it transported to KL from our hometown, Kota Bharu.

By the way, why is it that The Star Newspaper in Malaysia always can not get the spelling of our hometown right? It is fricking Kota Bharu! Not Kota Baru, not Kota Baharu either!

Anyway, off I went with The Mumakil to Gok Kapor, a fish market near Kampung Cina in Kota Bharu. This place is probably the freshest fish to be bought in town.

The entrance to the fish market

Gok Kapor means “Chalk Shed” literally. This place used to be where chalk for sirih consumption was being produced. I’m not sure how it then became a fish market.

Just after the entrance, you will find lots of stalls selling fruits and cooked snacks such as kuihs.

Inside the market, lots of fishes were on display. Only The Mumakil would dare wear white trousers in a wet market like this one.

The fishes are so fresh, the horse mackerels looked like they were still alive.

Here’s mum selecting some ‘white prawns’ from the prawn monger. There were no tiger prawns on the first day we were there due to the festive season. So mum told the lady to ‘book’ some large tiger prawns tomorrow.

And that’s how we got giant tiger prawns fresh from the sea. The prawn lady had the tiger prawns stashed at the back of her stall. She was actually glad that we wanted the big ones, because restaurants that buys from her didn’t want such big ones. it’s about 3 prawns per kilo!

So we bought a total of 14.5 kilos of prawns. The prawn lady gave us some free white prawns because we made her a small fortune that day. Another prawn lady was curious as to why we bought so many.

“Mek, mek buak gapo nok banyok ude nih? Mek rayo jugok ko?” She said (translation: Madam, why do you need so many prawns? Are you celebrating [Eid] too?) .

Mum just said “Buak barbeque.” Um yeah, we so barbequed our way thru’ 14 kilos of prawn. Not us la!

Here’s The Mumakil holding up the largest prawn we bought that day. Talk about monster prawns! We couldn’t resist but to cook a few of these big ones!

Surf and turf dinner! Grilled prawn and steak (rare) on a bed of mashed potatoes and salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. yums!

After halving the prawns, Papa Salvatore seasoned it with some salt, pepper and chopped coriander, then popped them in the mini-oven to grill. Cooked a piece of steak on a grill pan to make a surf and turf combination. Delicious! To top it off, Papa Salvatore’s wine selection of Chateau De La Tour’s Clos Vougeot 2004 Grand Cru. Excellent.

Wait, we were still short of prawns. The request was 20 to 25 kilos of prawns and already we kind of bought all the large prawns in Gok Kapor. So Papa Salvatore called some Siamese connection and tadah a delivery of 10 kgs of prawn came that night. The prawns were not as monstrously big, but larger than what you normally find in KL still.

Oh and the fun we had (not) to pack 24 kilos of prawns into 3 styrofoam boxes with ice. Then put them all in the car boot and drove to KL for 7 hours for delivery.

And what I understood is, the family friend did barbequed their way thru’ 24 kilos of prawns on Hari Raya.

-M.

UPDATE: Gah! I can’t believe I forgot to mention… If you walk all the way to the end of the market, you will find behind it lies the river (Sungai Kelantan) and a little landing. It’s a beautiful view!

Running Around London pt. 1: Lunch at Hampton Court Palace

Been down in London to see my aunt and cousins. They were here for a holiday for a a couple of weeks. It’s amazing that while over in Canada my sister had salmon, I too had salmon for dinner. Salmon was SKINLESS though. Argh, Sainsbury’s, how can you rob us of our salmon skin? This was prepared by my cousin, Sharon. Skinless salmon with roasted vegetables, boiled vivaldi potatoes and peas. It’s a simple fair but tasty. Thanks, Sharon.

Salmon was just lightly salted, seasoned with freshly milled black pepper and pan fried in a bit of Jersey butter.

Anyway, while I was in London, I decided to tag along and be a tourist in Hampton Court Palace. It was home to King Henry VIII, and we all know how he loves to eat. Since it was a whole day fair, we had to have lunch in the palace.

King Henry’s dining hall where he had many of his banquets. No, we didn’t get to have lunch here. We had it here instead.

Yes, it’s one of their servant kitchens. They now called this a ‘cafe’ to cater the hungry tourists. Less glamorous, I know.


I had their so called castle stew. Hmm, I like that they served it on a wooden board, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have tomatoes in medieval times. This is just some tudor sausage (really?) and pork chunks in a tomato based sauce. Well, it is tender and well seasoned… yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say about it. At £4.50, don’t expect it to be some delectable dish.

All in all, I thought the day out in Hampton Court was enjoyable.

– M.

Simple Recipe for Crispy Salmon

There was a time when I would stoop as low as to buy microwaveable fish. A frozen puck, probably once resembling a fillet, stuffed in a cardboard box and set in stasis over the ages. Cooking directions? Just unwrap and cook in microwave for 8-10 minutes. Does not even require thawing! The result? An off-white piece of shriveled sponge-like object swimming in melted ice water with bits of floating white debris. Bon appetite. This I had been willing to put up with. The reason being that I’d always thought fish was just a generally mediocre tasting protein- a food we only resort to when we’re sick of eating chicken or beef. A food reserved to be cooked(successfully) by culinary wizards. We all know someone in our lives who don’t like fish. When ill prepared, fish can scar a man for life.

Well, advice #1: NEVER BUY FROZEN FISH! Yes, they may keep well and they may be cheaper but they will always end up tasting like soggy sponge no matter how much lemon juice and whatever spice you smother them with. It’s also very difficult to dry frozen fish, and this can be a real problem when trying to achieve a crispy shell.

Advice #2: Stay calm and don’t panic.

Browsing through the weekly flyers, I came across a 50% off sale on fresh Atlantic Salmon fillets. I can spot a good deal when I see one, and a good deal I cannot resist. It was the first time I’d bought fish over the counter, instead of picking frozen vacuum packs off the cooling shelf. But what beautiful cuts of fillet – glistening and rosy red with freshness!

So, my first salmon dish- Crispy Skin Salmon Fillet (thanks to Chef Ramsay). My side dishes are an apple and leek slaw salad paired with creamy dill potatoes.

Salmon:

  • salmon fillet with skin on
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
1. Cut incisions into salmon skin
Use a sharp knife. The skin can be tough but the flesh is soft like butter so be really careful not to butcher the salmon. The thinner the strips, the crispier the skin will be.

Also, it prevents the skin from curling and deforming the fillet during cooking.

2. Sprinkle salt into each incision
You may want to use your fingers and gently pry open each incision to insert the salt. Feel free to add on any spices you think will go well with the salmon.
3. Cook it skin side down first
Heat olive oil in a pan. When the oil is just starting to smoke, lay the salmon fillet skin side down.
This is when you want to leave the fillet alone. Before, I’ve always had the urge to nudge the protein around as it sizzles, but please don’t. FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD, LEAVE THE FILLET ALONE! Just keep an eye on it, and enjoy the irresistibly mouth watering sound of the salmon sizzling away.

                                You can see the translucent colour of the flesh gradually turn a solid pink, travelling upwards.
Keep at medium heat, the salmon skin should be gently sizzling, not spewing greasy projectiles at you.

When the color has traveled 2/3 of the way up, flip the salmon. Be careful not to break the fillet apart. Use a thin spatula. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

Then flip the salmon over one last time (just for a minute), to reheat the skin and get it nice and crispy again. Plate it and voila! Does the skin give off a crisp thud when knocked with a spoon? YES? Then mission accomplished! If not, well there’s always next time but be consoled that the fish will still be delicious.

Apple and Leek Slaw:

  • green apple
  • leek
  • lemon
  • sour cream
  • maple syrup (or sugar)
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh parsley
1. Julienne the apple and chop the leek

2. Toss apple and leek with lemon juice
The lemon juice will prevent the apple from browning, so should probably put that in early on. I find it reduces the sharpness of the leek as well.
3. Add sour cream, a dash of maple syrup and salt/pepper
I use maple syrup to give it a Canadian flare. Nah, it’s really because I don’t want to have to dissolve sugar. Mayonnaise is good too if you don’t have sour cream. Toss them all together and you’re done. I serve the slaw on a bed of mixed leafy greens and top it with some fresh parsley from me garden. 🙂
Creamy Dill Potatoes:
  • potatoes
  • sour cream
  • dill
  • lemon vinaigrette
1. Boil potatoes, cut into cubes
Until they are practically falling apart. Cut into inch long cubes.
2. Dress potatoes
Coat with sour cream, dill and lemon vinaigrette(lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt&pepper)
I find most restaurants tend to over cook their salmon fillets, and that’s why I’ve never really been a fan of salmon until now. When done right, it’s moist and rich and melts in your mouth and just absolutely glorious!
Beautiful. Still pink in the middle. Every bite offers a rich crunch followed by velvety moist salmon that just melts in your mouth.
I may have been wandering soullessly in a fishy dark age, but I have reached a Fish Renaissance and am basking in its aromatic glory.
  -Sugamama.