Thursday, January 29, 2009

Social House at Harvey Nichols Jakarta - It's Hot to be Hip

Several light years ago, when I was living in Jakarta, I remembered what it was like being young and hip.

Wearing whatever's hot from Esprit and Benetton (oh yeah, those two were the "it" brands back then) or Mangga Dua Grocer (I might've been trendy, but I was as cheap as I am now. Haha), trying out McDonald's just when they opened the first branch at Sarinah, dining out and watching movies at Planet Hollywood (HAHAHA!) being told by our server "Choose your meal carefully, this is not the cheap McDonald's value meal
you guys are used to" (Oh my, if he told us that now, we'd probably complain the crap outta him). Oh boy, those were the times when we felt dining at Sizzler was a major gastronomic experience.

Although I am no longer hip nor happening, every time I visit Jakarta, my sis would bring me to Jakarta's hottest dining spots. This trip, she brought me to this fabulous restaurant/bar/winepost, Social House at Harvey Nichols.

We went there for an afternoon tea, right after a day of intense shopping. We needed comfy sofas to give our sore feet a break, fabulously packaged caffein and sugar to replenish ourselves, and a breathtaking view for our foreign visitor (and me, lil' miss photo opportunist). Social House has it all.

The iced and hot cappucino came gorgeous, the iced lemon tea is no ordinary fair. It's served with fresh mint leaves and lemon sorbet. It was even more fantastic than mojito. Perfect for those who are allergic to alcohol (i.e. me)

Nothing made us order more drinks than a once-you-pop-you-can't-stop, thirst-inducing, delicious snack. The kacang telor (Indonesian snack of peanuts covered in spiced flour) were fantastic. Crispy and tasty.

The chocolate cake was baked to perfection. Rich, moist, gooey, chocolatey, with a touch of cream and berries.

It was every bit as amazing as it looks.

The mixed berries creme brulee converted this berry hater. It was a beautiful combination of the creaminess of the base, crackling sugary sweetness of the top, and the tartness of the berries.

We were lucky to have a corner spot overlooking bundaran Thamrin. The view even had the locals like me impressed, I was snapping away like a mad woman. Thus the intense backache that followed. Bah!

Bootylicious? Not!!!

A word of wisdom after a meal? long as it encourages more eating :)

The view gets even more amazing at the magic hour.

It's worth all the backaches and sore shoulders.

Yummy treats from Soho and jewelries from Forever 21. A great day for me and my girls.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Flavors Stacked High: A Taste of Padang in Jakarta

It's late at night, we just landed in Jakarta, totally starved. We want loads of local tasty food and we want 'em NOW. There are plenty of places which open late, meeting the demands of the-always-hungry, Jakarta's nocturnal community. Should we go for noodles? Sate? Fried rice? Ahhh, decisions...decisions...

College days nostalgia made me crave Nasi Padang. Back then, my bad habit of going to small Nasi Padang joints, ordered loads of rice, almost no meat, shamelessly requested for an obnoxious amount of the free extras such as curry sauce, green chilli sauce, and fried shallots, ignoring the shop owner's obvious angry looks, sailed me through college with minimum food expenditure, and maximum amount of shoes. Hah!

Our local companions, your average young Jakartaners who don't really call themselves foodies, although I know they do loveeee their food and won't blink an eye seeing the huge amount of food I was about to consume (as they can pretty much eat as much as me), brought us to one of Jakarta's popular nasi Padang joints at Gajah Mada Street, Restoran Garuda. It is not exactly the same dingy Nasi Padang joint I frequented in my college days, but the food is great, the people are friendly, the place is clean (so it wouldn't scare our foreign guest, sous chef) and it opens 24 hours. Yay!

Nasi Padang, a West Sumatran cuisine, is a part of Minangkabau culture. The dishes are normally tasty and spicy (that's why we could eat a lot of rice with just a few spoonfuls of sauce. haha!), flavored with loads of ingredients and spices, such as coconut milk, chilli, turmeric, and galangal. The tasty green chilli and cassava leaves are two of my favorites, a must have for every visit.

The service staff at the restaurant were super friendly. Upon the sight of my camera, they immediately gave me really cool poses with huge smiles plastered on their happy faces. This shocked the heck outta sous chef. This kind of friendliness is really rarely found in Hong Kong.

At nasi padang joints, dishes are stacked by the window display, and they are stacked on the server's arm to be carried to your table, where they will be...well, stacked. :)

Carrying a huge stack of dishes and still manage to smile? Mas (this is how we address a young gentleman in Indonesia), you're a star!

These dishes of deliciousness are stacked on your table, and you could get whichever dish you fancy, and you will only have to pay for the dishes you ate. My eyes were on that gloriously golden pieces of fish, braised in coconut milk and spices, the spicy beef jerky, the spicy fried anchovies, and the...yes. I have no self control.

We heard many horror stories where guests of honor drank straight from the bowl of water intended for hand washing. We didn't intend to brief our foreign guest (sous chef). In fact, we told him that the bowl of water was for drinking, setting him up for a night of embarrassment. Unfortunately, sous chef was no fool. He kinda smelt something fishy when he saw the people at the next table dipping their dirty hands into the bowl. Bah!

The chickens they used in local places like this are different from the ones we find in global fast food joints such as KFC. They are significantly smaller. Small enough to evoke pity from our sous chef, who felt so sorry about eating this chicken braised in spicy coconut milk. Boy, never saw him feeling sorry gnawing at some huge breasts from KFC before!

These are ayam pop. This is a relatively new dish, which I hadn't seen in my college days. I was really skeptic when I first saw those skinless, pale chicken. How could they be any good? They look kinda sad to me. But after my first try, I was hooked. The meat was absolutely tender, juicy, and very flavorful. They are cooked in coconut juice. Wow! No wonder! The spicy red chilli sauce served on the side perfected the dish.

Here comes the tiny fried chicken. Don't be fooled by the chicken' dry, overcooked appearance. They are absolutely delicious!..and those crispy bits? Heavenly!

Nothing made nasi padang tastier than eating the food with your hands. Just the way we do it. It's an art! Always using the right hand, grab a bit of rice and any dish, with your four fingers, and use your thumb to fold and shape everything in.....

...and enjoy! We don't gnaw and bite meat off our chickens. Chicken meat is supposed to be daintily ripped of their bones gently, before being savagely shoved into our mouths. Bones and fingers are to be licked clean (...or is it just my another bad habit? Perhaps! Hehe).

Peep into all the juicy goodness inside this jumbo prawn (udang galah). The sight of this made me weak. It's every bit as tasty as it looks, and the prawn's meat was gorgeously springy, simply succulent.

There was one particular dish, which I've missed as they were sold out by the time we got there. Cow's brain cooked in coconut milk and spices! Man, I miss that creamy goodness!

I ended my tasty meal with something sweet, a tall glass of broken coconut dessert. The meat of this coconut is different from others. Deliciously smashed and delightfully broken. This kind of coconut is harder to find than the normal coconuts. I was told that there are generally just one of two of them out of a whole coconut tree.

At the end of the meal, the servers would clear the dishes which were untouched, and then he will calculate what you've consumed from the remnants of the dishes you had. As we licked some of the dishes clean, our server had difficulties concluding his crime scene investigation (thanks to Mang Hemat, who gave me this brilliant CSI idea) and had to rely on us to tell what those dishes were.

I was tempted to post the aftermath pictures, but decided otherwise as the scene might scare you.

What happens to the other dishes on our table, which weren't consumed? Will they serve those to other patrons? Had the chickens we ate been touched by others?...

...let's just say...what you don't know won't hurt you. :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ham and Cream Cheese Muffins

You guys know me. The savoury girl who is trapped in a sweet-named food blog.

In case you don't know how the sweet name came about, you can read it here. It's super lame. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;)

I have been going on and on and on about how I prefer savoury over sweet like a broken record (or these days, like a hit party song, remixed by a famous DJ, played in a hot club and everywhere else, over and over again). So don't be surprised to hear this when you go clubbing..."Yo! S-S-S-Savoury is HOT!" (Hmmm. I should pitch/brainwash this idea to a DJ friend).

Because of my love for savoury treats, the phrase "Life is short, eat dessert first" doesn't really work for me. "Life is short, eat lotsa bacon" is probably more appropriate. It doesn't mean that I don't love sweet nothings. I did lotsa lotsa sweet muffins. But every time I had them for breakfast. I secretly wish that I was biting into something savoury, cheesy and creamy instead.

*Ms. No Action Talk Only, please stop complaining and start doing*

Sir. Yes, Sir! Finally, I had enough ingredients in my fridge to bake something savoury for breakfast.

Ham and Cream Cheese Muffins

- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chicken stock powder (optional)
- a bit of dried italian herb mix (oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup yoghurt (or 1/2 cup milk)
- 2 slices of ham, cut into small strips/cubes (you can sooo replace this with bacon)
- 1/4 pack cream cheese, cut into approximately 1 x 1 x 1 cm cubes

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. In a mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix all wet ingredients. Leave the ham and cream cheese for last. Whisk dry and wet ingredients until just combined. Add ham and cheese. Line muffin tray with paper cups, pour batter 3/4 full and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I can't resist to share with you how amazing these babies look, smell and taste, fresh out of the oven.

Rich. Savoury. Creamy. My kind of breakfast.

By the way, guys...I know you love challenges! You got it!
My foodie fellow, Rurie is inviting us to join her event. It's not just foodie event, it is a contest with fantastic prizes too!

Join "know your Indonesian culinary heritage" contest and share your knowledge on Indonesian cuisine as well as fabulous pictures, if not for the prizes. Hehe! The food has to be Indonesian, which is rarely found these days. For Indonesian bloggers out there, the food might be something you noticed and always had when you were a kid, but you hardly see them anymore. Savoury dishes, snack, dessert and drinks. Anything goes! For more information, please click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fusion Opor: Minced Meat and Kidney Beans in Creamy Coconut Milk

This is what happens when one craves Mexican and Indonesian food at the same time. I wanted some hearty bites of beans and meat, but I felt that I should not do any more spicy tomato or sweet soy sauce, or sous chef might think that I am just a two-tricks monkey.

Not that I care...."take it or leave it" is the "today's special" at Mochachocolata-Rita's. Haha! (Oppps. SC, if you are reading. I'll cook whatever you want tomorrow, ok?)

Hmm...what could be good with minced meat and beans? Something easy, and quick, and tasty?
- Sour cream, onion, tomato, cheese? Nah. I love. SC hates. Damn!
- Spicy sambal (chilli sauce)? Nah. Done that yesterday.
- Shrimp paste? Nah. Done that the day before.
- Teriyaki? Nah. That's for tomorrow.

AHA! Why not something like Indonesian Opor (cooked with coconut milk and spices)?

Fusion Opor: Mince Meat & Kidney Beans in Creamy Coconut Milk

- 1 lb minced meat (chicken, beef or pork)
- 1 can of kidney beans, drained (chick peas or butter beans should work well too)
- 4 cloves shallot, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 red chillies, chopped
- a bunch of fresh corriander, roughly chopped
- 200ml coconut milk
- 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
- 2 cm ginger, bruised
- 1 tsp ground corriander seed
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric

- salt, pepper, sugar

Saute garlic, shallot, ginger, chillies and lemongrass, add minced meat. Cook until the meat changed color, add beans, add coconut milk, season with spices, bring to boil, sprinkle chopped corriander. Serve with steamed rice.

Hmm, I bet minced meat and beans will work well with oyster sauce too. Ok, for next time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Spicy Steamed & Grilled Pomfret

Have you looked at your dinner, straight in the eye, and said "So, sorry, but we're gonna eat you" ? Well, I did. It's creepy thinking about how a moment ago they were still flippin' & floppin' in their little tank, waiting to be taken home and transformed into a beautiful dish by a skillful cook (not me, I could sense that they struggled a lotttt when they know I was gonna buy them, they tried to jump and throw themselves towards a bunch of convincingly "veteran cook" looking aunties). I can't blame them. At that point, I had no idea how was I gonna handle them.

Hong Kong is big on buying live fish, many of my friends' folks won't purchase a dead fish, it's gotta be swimming upon purchase, still jumping inside the plastic bag, and probably still trying to jump off the chopping board. That's how fresh they like their fish to be. If it ain't swimmin', it ain't no good.

I am not them. I love fresh fish, but I don't want my fish trying to jump off the chopping board, or refusing to leave the fridge. They might be swimming in their tank in the market, but they gotta be dead by the time I need to work 'em. Fortunately, I could tell the fish shop guy how I wanted to do my fish, and he would fix my fish accordingly. This time, we're doing the fish two ways. Sous chef is steaming his fish ala mama, and I am grilling mine ala me.

Spicy Steamed Pomfret

- 1 pomfret (or you can use other fish. I like fleshy fish with minimum amount of bones)
- a bit of ginger, sliced into matchstick pieces
- 3 red chilli, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- a handful of fermented black beans
- olive oil
- sugar, tiny bit of soy sauce

Clean the fish thoroughly. Place fish in a plate, arrange chopped ginger, garlic, chilli and fermented black bean on top and bottom of the fish. Drizzle some olive oil over. Steam for about 13 minutes (or longer/shorter depending on the size of the fish). Mix a bit of soy sauce and a bit of sugar. Once it is done (try picking the flesh with chopsticks/fork, the flesh should be white and relatively easy to pick), pour the soy sauce and sugar mix. Serve.

Spicy Grilled Pomfret

- 1 pomfret
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cloves shallot
- ground ginger
- ground cumin
- ground corriander seeds
- ground nutmeg
- ground chilli
- palm sugar
- salt
- terasi (shrimp paste), roasted
- salt
- white pepper
- lemon (zest and juice)
- olive oil

Ground everything (except the fish) in a food processor until it forms a paste. You can also use pestle and mortar to get a nice bicep going). Preheat oven to 250C. Score both sides of the fish, rub the spice paste all over the fish. Wrap fish in aluminium foil and grill for 10 minutes. Unwrap fish and grill until the skin's beautifully browned.

Both cooking methods yielded smooth and silky flesh texture. The steamed version gives you a tasty and flavorful juice, which was perfect to pour over a humble bowl of steamed rice, and the grilled version gives you a super spicy and crispy skin, each bite was a crackling delight.

I, again, failed to dress up the fishies before devouring them (I literally stripped the meat off every piece of the fishies' bone). So, please excuse the ugly pictures, folks!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hong Kong All Day Breakfast - Hoi On Cafe, Sheung Wan

There are so many things which I love about weekends...
- Waking up early (NOT late), and actually feeling eager to wake up, so that I can start enjoying my weekend ASAP
- Working. (Whhhatttt???)...on something I love doing, such as cooking more intricate things, hand making goodies, and taking pictures with natural sunlight
- The ability to look outside my apartment window (the multimillion dollar view = a parking lot. Haha!)
- Wearing no make up at all or spending extra time (which I normally don't have) dolling myself up
...and so on, and so forth...but one of my all time favorite thing to enjoy on weekends is a pleasant and leisurely...

Hong Kong All Day Breakfast

Last weekend, I accidentally found this charming old cafe just beside the hideously renovated Western Market in Hong Kong's Sheung Wan district.

If you love anything old, this place will charm the heck outta you. It serves classic Hong Kong baked goods, such as cocktail buns (sweet buns with sugar and coconut filling), pineapple buns (sweet buns with crispy crumble-like topping), swiss rolls, and sponge cakes...

Hong Kong's classic beverages...such as bottled Kowloon Dairy milk, boxed vita soy milk and lemon tea.

The metal doors are marked with the shop's name...full of chips and rust

The original floor tiles, warped and faded. The "car seats" are painted red, in a shape I've never seen before. It's like a blast from the past in the midst of Hong Kong's hustle and bustle.

The Good ol' Food

Sliced Beef Noodles topped with fried egg, plus a cup of milk tea.
I might say, why having this outside if you can easily do this at home? Nononono. It's just not the same, I don't know why...but I bet the antique culteries made all the difference!

How charming! I was sooo tempted to steal (nono), ehm, ask to buy these babies off them. But, I don't want to be the person who turned this old place into one of those joints who serve plastic disposable cutleries.

...and for me the sugar tasted sweeter scooped by this lovely old tea spoon. Those are all feasts for my eyes!

Spicy pork noodles topped with fried egg.
The perfect combo of MSG laden noodle with canned spicy pork. My weekly junk food treat!

Hong Kong style French Toast with butter, topped with gloriously golden syrup
The new versions included peanut butter in between two slices of bread. This one consisted of just one thick slice of bread which was so fragrant and creamy from the milk marinate. Heaven! This must have like a gadzillion billion calories. (Did you see the way we pour the golden syrup from the top picture?)

I bet such an old place should have a regular crowd of customers... where everybody know each other's names, chit chat about the golden olden days of Hong Kong, the brits, the economic crisis, their biggest mah jong win, the flat chested girls/skinny boys they went after/who went after them...

I bet this uncle was the loner, seated separately from the other groups of uncles, fiercely concentrating on enjoying his food...and talk about enjoying....check out this uncle below...

His expression defined the word "orgasmic" to describe how good his pineapple bun + cup of hot milk were.