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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

Oodles of noodles goodness in a bowl

What is it about a bowl of noodles and hot soup that sets one at ease.  For me a good bowl of noodles is one of my favourite comfort foods.  During a family vacation last December, I as introduced to a restaurant in Johor Bahru, Malaysia known for their fishballs and yong tau foo.  Yong tau foo is chinese stuffed bean curd.  Traditionally served in a clear broth with some vegetables, yong tao foo is served with noodles or rice.  Ah Koong restaurant to local Malaysians and Singaporeans alike known for yong tao foo.

With the open kitchen located in front of the restaurant, my eyes were tantalized with trays of fresh fish balls, tofu and stuffed vegetable such as green/red chilli, lady fingers/okra with fresh fish paste sitting on a bed of ice.  Beside the colourful platter, there is a buffet of different noodles from yellow egg noodles, rice vermicelli to big fat rice noodles.  Time to tickle the taste buds.

You can’t help not too look at one side of the restaurant wall where a montage of pictures of local and Singaporean celebrities pictures who has patronized at the restaurant giving their thumbs up.  No doubt this boost their popularity a little more. One of the things I love about eating yong tao foo is that you can eat the traditional way served in a soup or you eat “dry”.  When it is served dry, it means some sauce poured over the individual ingredients.  Trying Ah Koong yong tao foo for the first time, I opted to have mine the traditional way in a soup with some rice noodles.

When the bowl of steaming hot clear broth was placed in front of me, there was some fish balls, deep-fried wanton, some marinated pork balls, crispy bean curd skin stuffed with fish paste, some lettuce leaves and a piece of seaweed.  The broth was full of flavour and I love that each scoop is filled with either one of the ingredients swimming in the bowl.  The fish ball is not too chewy and there is still a crunch left from the crispy skin of deep friend wanton and bean curd skin. We couldn’t help to try some side dishes.  A serving of ngoh hiang and a basket of deep-fried yong tao foo.  Ngoh hiang is pork mince with water chestnut wrapped with bean curd skin which is deep-fried and served with some chilli sauce.  It is very sinful but rather delicious not only from the crispy skin and the crunchy water chestnut inside the mince.  As for the deep-fried yong tao foo, it was a mixture of crispy bean curd skin only, wanton, and bean curd skin stuffed with fish paste. Well what can one say about anything deep-fried, it sure tasted good.

In a recent day trip to Johor, my family couldn’t driving to Ah Koong for lunch.  This time, I wanted to be bold and try something different.  I ordered my yong tao foo noodles served dry .  The rice noodles are tossed in dark soya sauce topped with some spring onions with a small bowl of the clear broth and some pieces of mixed yong tao foo.  It is a nice balance to have the clear broth to wash down the soya sauce noodles.  If I had to choose between soup or dry yong tao foo, I would order the soup version.  I just like the comfort of sipping hot soup.  We also ordered a serving of steamed yong tao foo.  The dish came with several pieces of stuffed bean curd, red/green chillies and bitter gourd drizzled with some garlicky brown gravy.  Bitter gourd is my least favourite vegetable and happily offered to anyone who is willing to eat it.

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I do enjoy the food at Ah Koong. I love their quality of the home-made fish balls and serving consistently good wholesome food. If we were to drive to Johor again, I wouldn’t hesitate to make a detour to Ah Koong for a bowl of good fishball noodles.

Contact details:

Ah Koong Restaurant – Skudai, Johor Branch

Located at:  No.42 & 44, Jalan Jati 1

Taman Nusa Bestari Jaya

81300 Johor Bahru, Johor

Malaysia

Tel: +607-511 2200

Business hours: 11am to 11pm

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Culinary delight in Tel Aviv (Part 2) – Cooking Class

I am continuing my series of Culinary delight in Tel Aviv , it was time to take all of our ingredients from Souk Carmel and begin to learn our cooking lesson. We head north of Tel Aviv  towards Orly’s  home.  Greeted by her husband, Ben each of us were issued a bright yellow apron and a recipe book cum menu.  It was a degustation menu:

  • Challah Bread
  • Hummus
  • Eggplan Baladi
  • Multi Color Peppers Antipasti
  • Fatoush Salad
  • Kitchry – Rice with Red Lentils Iraqi style
  • Chriime – Moroccan Style Fish in Red Sauce
  • Dates, Figs and Nuts cake

From my basic knowledge of Israeli foods, most of the dishes are influenced by Middle Eastern, Arab and Mediterranean. Thanks to the  Jewish immigrants who brought these flavours into Israeli. Working backwards, we started our cooking class with chopping and cutting the ingredients for our dessert.  Meanwhile, I volunteered to start making the Challah bread, a traditional bread served during Sabbath.  I enjoyed mixing and kneading the dough.  While the dough is left to rest and rise, we moved ont to making the hummus.  It is so easy to make that I have tried replicating myself recently.  It is versatile recipe that allows you to play around with the flavour  by adding fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley or basil to give a different taste. Orly even shared that the type of tahini used can make a difference in the final taste of the hummus. There was a demonstration how to eat hummus Israeli way thanks to Ben.

With all the cake ingredients mixed together and placed in the oven for baking, it was time to knead the Challah bread dough.  Kneading the dough is very therapeutic. We rolled the dough into long strips before cutting and shaping into a plait. After sprinkling poppy and sesame seeds, the bread was ready  for baking.  There was a such a buzz in the kitchen with eggplants and multi colored peppers being roasted under the grill and preparing the salad leaves for Fatoush salad.  We all chipped in to peel the blistered skins of the peppers and slicing them into thin strips for the anti pasti.

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I watched and helped Orly prepare the rice with lentils.  While the rice is being cooked, it was time to prepare the red spicy sauce for our fish.  The tomato paste, paprika, garlic, cumin and caraway blended  was not to spicy and tasty without overpowering the taste of the fish.  It is so easy to prepare that it can be whipped up within 30 minutes served with fresh baguette or on a bed of couscous makes it a perfect meal.

After cooking for at least 2.5 hours, our feast was ready.  The table had an array of colours and food that I couldn’t wait to stick my fork and tase the food.  We had the pleasure of  Orly’s youngest daughter and husband to join us for the scrumptious lunch. It is so satisfying to see the ingredients and flavours coming together.  My taste buds was enjoying every morsel.  Learning to cook Israeli cuisine with Orly was a great experience.  I recommend to spend the day with Orly if you want to truly understand Israeli cuisine.  Visit her Cook in Israel website for more details.

Now I am craving some hummus and pita bread!

Culinary delight in Tel Aviv (Part 1) – Souk Carmel

As a foodie, I am always on a hunt for good food.  My palate is heightened when I travel eager to try the local culinary.  In March of this year, I decided to take a trip to Israel. This would be my third visit and first trip where I was able to spend more time soaking in the culture.  You may ask why Israel and I would say “Why not, Israel!”  Beautifully situated by the Mediterranean Sea, the white sandy beaches, the museums and the history.  So much to do, many places and lots of eating. Tel Aviv is my first stop and where I spend most of my time.

A holiday without learning how to cook some local dishes would be incomplete for me.  So, I make it a point to include a cooking class into my itinerary. I came across Cooking in Israel who specializes in cooking tours in Israel. I signed up for a one-day culinary tour of Tel Aviv. Greeted by Orly Ziv early Friday morning, we started our day with a visit to souk Carmel (souk is market). I had the company of an American living in Be’er Sheva and a Londoner in this tour.  I love going to markets to see what fresh produce are available.  My eyes were treated with so man colours and smells. Patronized by locals and tourists, souk Carmel is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables vendors to bakeries, butchery and you may even pick up a souvenir or two.  Our first pit stop is a bakery specializing in bourekas, a lightfilo pastry filled with salty cheese, typically feta cheese.  The smell of freshly baked pastries is intoxicating. Orly bought a few for us to sample.  The fluffy pastry was so light and flaky that it almost melts in your mouth.  The warm cheesy filling is mildly salted that it complements the buttery pastry.  It was rather delicious!

With our mouth still full of boureka, we continued our walking tour into the small lanes of the Yemenite quarter.  Orly led us through a door that took us into a family kitchen where they were making pita bread and salouf, a Yemenite flatbread.  As we watched the men flipping the bread in their stovetop ovens, we sampled the breads.  The warm bread tasted so good that it gives a comforting feeling.  I could eat a few pitas quite easily.  But I wanted to leave some space to try other yummy food.  I wonder what is next.

Still within vicinity of Yemenite quarter, we visited a local hummuseria, Shlomo and Doron to complete our Israeli breakfast experience. A bowl of plain hummus topped with chickpeas and another bowl of hummus with a fava bean mixture and boiled egg in the middle was placed in front of us.  The dish is best served with pita and salouf bread to scoop up the thick hummus along with wedges of lemon and condiment of spicy sauces.  To round up the wholesome breakfast is a good cup of brew.  The hummuseria serves a wonderful Turkish black coffee and kawaitch, a blend of grounded cinnamon and cardamom. The coffee was I needed.

Feeling very satisfied I was ready to move on to the next activity.  Orly wanted to give us a flavour of Israeli street food. Falafel is a common snack made out of chickpeas that can be eaten on its own or in a pita with some hummus anytime of the day.  By now I was starting to feel full but our sampling didn’t stop here.  As we walked into the main street of the market, we stopped by a stand where Druze women were flipping what looks like a huge piece of crepe over a large roundhotstone.  The flatbread is often dressed with condiments such as jam, honey, chocolate spread or savoury vegan spread.  We tried tabouleh and labne slabbed on the bread and wrapped in a roll.  With the flatbread still warm in my hands, I took a bite and it was scrumptious. The thin flatbread was soft and the labne  (yogurt cheese) gave the tabouleh a lift to the snack.  My taste buds was satisfied and it is only mid morning.

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We continued to stroll in the market picking up ingredients for our cooking class later.  Stay tuned for my next post where I will write about cooking class

B’tayavon! (That’s Bon Appétit in Hebrew)