"But how did the soup get in there?"

"You know, this is where we had dinner right before you got onto your first flight to London"

It was more for old times than anything else that we decided on Dragon-i for my last Malaysian meal for a year. It was the easy choice back then - we were staying at the Royale Bintang Damansara, had no desire to battle the city traffic and I was quite certain that my last meal had to be Asian. This time around, a lot calmer and without the excitement and anticipation of moving to a new country, it was all about settling down to soak in one of life's simple pleasures - enjoying a meal with the family.

Lot 136 & 137,
First Floor,
The Curve, Mutiara Damansara

Xiao Long Bao or Shanghainese steamed meat dumplings, what Dragon-i is perhaps most well-known for. Filled with minced ham, pork, ginger and clear broth, the dumplings were a source of much amazement when I was first introduced to them. My eight or nine year old self simply could not comprehend how they managed to get the soup into the delicate dumplings. Best enjoyed with some black vinegar and slivers of ginger, the dumplings are still a delight now and Dragon-i serve up a good version.

Steamed rice with pork chop. While Dragon-i may be better known for its noodle dishes, we thought we should give some of their rice dishes a shot as well. Mix well and you get delicious mouthfuls of tender, well-marinated pork chop strips, steaming hot rice and gravy. If noodles are more your cup of tea, the variety of fried la mien dishes is a good place to start.

Stir fried string beans with minced meat - nicely seasoned, simple and flavourful.

Chicken soup. Beautifully clear and with the wonderful flavours of fresh chicken taking centre stage, this is my kind of comfort food.

Pan-stickers - perhaps my least favourite of all the dishes that night. In my book, pan-stickers should have nice, brown bottoms and these didn't look like they were stuck on any pan (pardon the pun) at any point of time. I've always loved how the brown, slightly crispy bottoms added texture and flavour to the dumplings so these just didn't hit the right spot.

Food is generally quite good though Dragon-i is on the more expensive side. Still, it's worth a visit, especially if you're craving those delicious little "Dragon" dumplings.

Sweet and sour roast pork ribs

This space has become, for me, not just a spot to share my favourite food stories but also to serve as a recipe book of sorts. Where our grandmothers had recipes flowing through their veins, our mothers newspaper clippings and recipes scrawled on little pieces of paper, I'm building a collection of a slightly different medium.

I suppose it's all about moving with the times, isn't it?

This is probably one of my favourite dishes growing up - a simple recipe with remarkable results.


Pork ribs
Tomato sauce
Chilli sauce
Oyster sauce
Soy sauce

Putting all the ingredients together, marinate the pork ribs for 2-4 hours. This is one of those recipes that requires a little bit of discretion (which is why I have not specified quantities) but roughly equal parts of sauces and seasoning would be a good way to go.
Pop into a pre-heated oven and allow to roast for 1 and a half hours at 200 degrees celsius, flipping the ribs after 1 hour.

I love recipes where most of the cooking can be done without much supervision - and when a recipe like that turns out moist, slightly tangy, very flavourful ribs, what's not to love?

But aren't they simply adorable?

We pulled over by a row of shophouses in the little town of Bidor on the way home from our extensive eating holiday and I couldn't help but marvel at the rows of beautifully made Chinese "biscuits". Ranging from simple flowers to intricate dragons and filled with red bean or lotus paste, I couldn't resist taking a few home with me.

It did take us awhile to finally get round to eating them (because really, aren't they just too pretty to eat?) but we were definitely glad we took them home with us. Soft pastry and a generous amount of filling - they were not too sweet and moist, even after a few days.

This is probably one of my favourite reasons to take trip up the west coast - Chinese biscuits and pastries that tempt the kid in all of us.

Holiday Foodsteps: Grandview Cafe, Kijal

If you ever find yourself in Kijal, Terengganu, there's a good chance you'd be staying at the Awana Kijal Resort. There's also a good chance that despite the variety of food outlets available at the resort, you'd want a change of scene at some point during your holiday.

Grandview Cafe, situated within walking distance of the resort serves up the good old Chinese staples, the sort of food you know you can always count on.

Deep fried squid - dipped in a spice-laden batter and fried till a delightful golden brown, I loved how they had put a new spin to this dish. With the crunchy outer layer giving off hints of curry spices, their version of deep fried squid is definitely one that stands out.

Chicken chop, oriental style. It may be that just because I'm Hainanese, my favourite version of this classic dish is the Hainanese one. There's just something about the crunchy chicken thigh in that quirky tomato based, mixed vegetable-filled gravy. Unfortunately, while Grandview Cafe is a Hainanese-run restaurant, they decided to go down the more popular path of serving their chicken chop with a choice of black pepper or mushroom sauce. With that said, they do a really good oriental style chicken chop just by keeping everything simple.

They say that one of the most basic performance measures for a Chinese restaurant is their Cantonese fried (insert noodle preference here). Coated in thick, egg-y gravy, the nicely browned kuey teow and crispy noodles were just what we needed after a morning spent cycling in the sun.

Fish head curry - a little more sour than your typical fish head curry and highly reminiscent of the Nyonya gulai tumis. While slightly on the oily side, it was still rather satisfying.

Like quite a few other Chinese restaurants in Terengganu, baked crab is a feature on the menu. Filled with a good amount of crab meat, the baked crab rivals some of the more famous ones in Kemaman.

Another dish worth mentioning is the egg Fu Yong (omelette) - cooked to a lovely, fluffy texture and with slightly browned edges, it just goes to show that sometimes, you really don't need fancy. That's really thing to remember about Grandview Cafe - it's best to keep things simple - you'll definitely come away from the meal hugely satisfied and with your wallet intact.

It's the little things: Tea by the sea

Living on the eastcoast, I grew up on a healthy dose of salty sea air, keropok (fish crackers and sausages) and the typical Malaysian fare of fried bananas and sweet potatoes for tea. No fancy cakes, or tea in dainty cups - it was the outdoors, watching the mak cik expertly fry the tasty treats.

Keropok lekor (fish sausages) - usually judged by the amount of fish to flour in each keropok, this is a family favourite. The best ones have a high proportion of fish, naturally, are fried till crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside and are carefully made to exclude any bones. Served fresh out of the wok and with some sweet-sour chilli dip, this is what living in a seaside town is all about.

Fried bananas - my favourite of the Malaysian all-things-fried series. For me, the ultimate fried banana is the smaller, soft and sweet variety encased in a light, crispy, flaky outer layer. As a child, I'd used to request scoops of the crunchy flakes to be added on to my order of fried bananas.

Deep fried fish - best eaten fresh and again, dipped in the sweet-sour chilli sauce.

Whether it's fried bananas, fish, crackers, curry puffs or just an ice-cold glass of teh tarik, there's something about the beach that makes everything taste a little better and with landscapes like this, I'm not surprised.