Hainan Chicken Rice Shop, Kuantan

Chicken rice is serious business in my family - comes with being Hainanese, I think. It surprises people sometimes, when I tell them how much of a staple feature chicken rice is in our celebratory menu. Chinese New Year - check, Chap Goh Meh - check, mooncake festival - check, dumpling festival - check, birthdays - check; well, you get the point. It goes without saying that we're pretty hard to please when it comes to chicken rice, especially when it comes to the condiments and we're always on the lookout for a good, authentic chicken rice spot. (For the days in between festivals, you know)

Hainan Chicken Rice Shop
52-62 Loring Tun Ismail 8,
25000, Kuantan, Pahang

The descriptive name can be quite difficult to uphold - but this outlet has gotten the nod of approval from the generation above mine. While not exactly like our home-cooked fare, it passes the test, and with accompanying roast pork, one cannot complain.


Chicken prep is a delicate affair when it comes to chicken rice - getting the cooking time right is key as one doesn't want to end up with raw chicken, but there's also that fine, fine line between perfection and over-cooking. We've had many a debate over methods in my family - everything from cooking times, to amount of garlic needed, to whether or not to use an ice bath as the final step. They've managed to get their cooking time just right here, resulting in succulent, smooth chicken, doused in delicious salty-sweet soy sauce. Our version of the chicken employs far, far more garlic than anything you get outside and that still holds in this case. There are times when I wonder if all that garlic that we so liberally stuff our chicken with is accepted practice only in my family.

And of course, the special little bonus - a serving of crispy-skinned roast pork, which come to think of it, is one of those dishes that transcends all dialects, doesn't it? 

To balance out the meat, fresh, crunchy, just-cooked beansprouts.

A (refillable) bowl of soup, some fragrant rice, or white rice, if you prefer and lots of pounded ginger and chilly - and you've got yourself a hearty meal.

With that said, I'm still on the lookout for garlicky chicken - any recommendations, anyone?

Holiday Foodsteps: Donald and Lily, Malacca

We did a bit of asking around before a recent trip to Malacca and were told that Donald and Lily Restaurant would be worth a visit for some Nyonya fare. There was a bit of confusion though, as a quick Google search of the place on the smartphone revealed conflicting addresses for the outlet - it's a good thing that the restaurant proprietors maintain a Facebook page, with up-to-date information. Really, I do wonder sometimes - what would we ever do without social media? 

Donald and Lily Restaurant 
No 16 (Ground Floor), 
Jalan  KSB 1,
Taman Kota Shahbandar, 
75200, Malacca 

The laksa, which came highly recommended, and for good reason. Punchy and flavourful, with gravy that was drinkable by the spoonfuls. 

Nasi lemak, with chicken curry (pictured below) - the brother's choice (I think you're probably beginning to see a trend here). I'm all for greens, and this nasi lemak came with a side of kangkung.  

The curry was of the thicker sort and quite different from the usual nasi lemak-accompanying curry. 

Mee siam, which like the laksa, seemed to be a popular choice. I always expect mee siam to have an appetising tangy-ness and this one didn't disappoint, with its addictive sambal-gravy.

Comforting ayam pongteh. Malacca and ayam pongteh have become synonymous in my mind so the meal would have felt incomplete without the dish. While their rendition probably wouldn't top my list of ayam pongtehs, it still provided a fix. 

I can never say no to rojak, of any sort. This was interesting, and again, a bit different from anything I've ever had before. While perhaps not the star of the menu, the rojak provides a nice foil to the richer dishes. A sort of palate cleanser. 

I remember this being the start of the holiday cendol spree - because the gula Melaka in Malacca is exquisite and cendol provides a really, really good excuse to have as much gula Melaka as you want.

Hai Peng Kopitiam, Kuantan

The original Hai Peng Kopitam in Kemaman is quite the icon, one of those must-stop tourist spots that is almost always has a crowd. Its spin-off (I wouldn't really call it a branch) in Kuantan is, however, more of a local spot for a coffee and comfort food rather than a hustly-bustly tourist attraction - which I actually very much prefer.

Hai Peng Kopitiam 
Jalan Haji Abdul Aziz
Kuantan, Pahang 25300

I love a good roti bakar - its something so beautifully simple, something that really hinges on how good the individual components are (and there aren't that many!) and getting the proportions right. The roti bakar in Hai Peng is perhaps one of my favourites - the home-made bread is thicker (and deliciously fluffy) than most versions and toasted just right, the kaya is lovely and the butter is the bridesmaid, as it should be (I'm not a fan of butter-overpowered renditions). For an added flavour dimension, I like to dunk corners of the roti bakar into the chicken curry.

Another must-have - the punchy, satisfying laksa. You'd be hard-pressed to find a table in the kopitiam that doesn't have a bowl of this. 

Nasi lemak with chicken curry, which is the brother's go-to (and yes, that's the chicken curry that the roti bakar gets dunked in).

And of course, what's a trip to the kopitiam without a good cup of white coffee? Hai Peng started out being about the coffee - and it doesn't disappoint. 

As far as kopitiams go, Hai Peng is probably always going to be somewhere at the top of my list and it you were to make me vote - the one in Kuantan would win, hands down.  

The Hummingbird Trail: Mini black forest cakes and a peanut buttery twist

I received the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book for my birthday from some incredibly thoughtful friends, and it wasn't until I started flipping through the gorgeous, glossy pages of the book that I realised that I'd never actually owned a cookbook until now. In honour of this little "first" of mine, I've decided to start the Hummingbird Trail - to capture those moments inspired by the book.

You know how you find a recipe you like, that works every single time, and you know that you're comfortable enough to use it as a starting point for more interesting things. The recipes in the book are very much like that - great base recipes that leave you free to experiment with.

I did just that, with the recipe for chocolate cupcakes - turning them into mini black forest cakes and using them as a vessel for those delicious peanut butter chips.

Mini Black Forest Cakes

Ingredients for the cherry filling:
1 can black cherries, pitted 
Lemon juice 

Combine cherries and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a saucepan and heat gently.
Stir constantly under low heat until mixture starts to thicken. Add syrup and lemon juice to taste.
Add cornstarch (dissolved in cold water first), bit by bit, until desired consistency is achieved

Assembly of the mini cakes involves a simple process of slicing each cupcake into half and sandwiching a generous dose of cherry filling between the two halves. Sweet, tart, chocolatey and incredibly simple.

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cupcakes

I've always had a bit of a problem with sinking chips so this time, instead of mixing them into the batter, I sprinkled them on top of the batter once they had been spooned into the cases - not pressing down on them and hoping that the batter would be dense enough to hold them up. The trick worked - the chips didn't end up at the bottom of the cupcake (or worse yet, at the bottom of the cupcake AND stuck to the case). Also, I think they make for some interesting aesthetics.

Happy experimenting! 

Previous stop on the Hummingbird Trail: Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

A Chap Goh Meh salute: Peanut Butter Cookies

Happy Chap Goh Meh! To mark the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, I thought I'd give peanuts a salute. We're being on symbolism, and peanuts are easily one of the most popular exchanges over Chinese New Year, a packet often placed alongside a few mandarins in our little gift bags. They're suppose to mean all sorts of good things - health, prosperity and all things leading to positive growth. So, this year, I thought I'd make sure that we had plenty of peanuts, in all forms, including cookies.

Adapted from the Classic Peanut Butter Cookies recipe

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda  
1 tsp vanilla essence

Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla essence.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into batter. Refrigerate batter overnight.
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on baking trays lined with baking paper. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. Do not over-bake.

Crunchy and crumbly, with a lovely peanut buttery flavour.

Here's to a peanut-y new year! (And one that's also filled with lots and lots of "gold")

Cornflake Cookies

Cornflake cookies - festivals - they just fit, you know? Chinese New Year is no exception, so whether you are partial to the sticky-crunch sort of cornflake treats that come in tiny paper cups or actual cookies, there's always some way of presenting cornflakes at the cookie table. The cookie type is a childhood favourite so I thought it would be nice to relive some of those childhood cookie-times this year.

Adapted from Bee's Cornflake Cookie Recipe (Rasa Malaysia)


200 g butter
100g sugar
2 eggs
300g all-purpose flour
about 80g cornflakes, crushed roughly (more cornflakes may be required)
1 tsp vanilla essence
30g corn flour/corn starch

Beat butter and sugar till pale and creamy.
Add vanilla essence and stir in the lightly beaten eggs.
Fold in the flour mixture including corn flour.
Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 177 degree's Celsius
Using a teaspoon, scoop dough and shape into balls before rolling them in the crushed cornflakes.
Place onto baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes or till golden brown.

I found that refraining from crushing the cornflakes too finely made working with them easier - the larger cornflake bits were able to adhere to the cookie dough a lot better than the finer ones.

The end result - a crisp outer shell and a mellow, buttery cookie underneath. Oh, and a piece of the Chinese New Year cookie table puzzle complete.

Holiday Foodsteps: The Little Things in Sydney

These are the last little bits of Sydney (I realise that it's been three months since I was there, so it really is about time) - just some random pieces of the puzzle to complete the picture.

Macarons and pretty slices of cake

La Renaissance Café Pâtisserie
47 Argyle Street The Rocks

 Sydney NSW 2000

Perhaps the most gorgeous macarons I've ever had - those lovely little flecks of colour on the shell, the clever use of colours, and yes, they taste good as well. 

Passion de Pierre - passion fruit-inspired, as the name suggests. To be completely honest, we picked this out of the rows of pretty slices on display just so that we could giggle at the fact that we were tucking into a giraffe-looking dessert - we made the right choice, no matter what the initial intention was. 

A berry flan - almost too precise to stick our forks into. 

Sunshine and salty sea air on Bondi Beach

There were far too many fish and chip shops to choose from along the Bondi Beach stretch so we walked into the one with the biggest crowd. Family, bench, sun, sea, hot crispy fish - now, that's what it's all about.

The little brother finally got around to trying deep fried Mars bars - all gooey in the centre, crisp on the outside, and with an extra dose of icing sugar on top. Not quite my cup of tea - but you have to give it to these people for being able to deep fry almost anything (I hear that they go as far as deep frying pizzas in other parts of the world)

All Aboard the Dessert Train! 

Call it curiosity, call it unleashing your inner child - whatever it is, one doesn't say no to a visit to the dessert train.

Zumbo's Dessert Train
Shop 1, Cafe Court
The Star
80 Pyrmont St
Pyrmont, NSW 2009

It's a cute concept, the train, and the best part of it all is the fact that, quite like being in a well stocked sushi bar, one doesn't have to wait for food. Tiny portions of desserts go round and round, tempting, teasing, until you give in and pick up the plate. It's a remarkably small outlet, though, so there was a bit of a wait to get a seat and there's a good chance that groups larger than two wouldn't be able to sit together. 

The much talked-about Zumbarons, which unfortunately didn't come close to the Baroque macarons we'd had earlier in the holiday.

Pear and chocolate - cream crunch gel.

I have to admit, I was a tad disappointed by the dessert train - I expected a little more "wow" from an outlet bearing Zumbo's name. Desserts are rather unusual, and there's definitely some novelty in the colourful plates choo-chooing past - perhaps good for a one-time visit, just to satisfy the inner child.