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.

Holiday Foodsteps: Pancakes on the Rocks, Sydney

I thought I'd take a little break from all the Chinese New Year festivities and give Pancake Tuesday a belated nod, because well, pancakes really do deserve a day dedicated to them. I love pancakes of all kinds - I think it's just the whole concept of having a empty, open slate, ready to be topped with anything your heart fancies. I remember celebrating Pancake Days with quite a flourish (no pun intended!) in university - we'd line up our selection of toppings, everything from Nutella to pesto and shrimp sambal, and churn out pancake after pancake.

I love how versatile pancakes are - and how well they hold up against both sweet and savoury (as well as a combination of the both) toppings. We were told about Pancakes On The Rocks before leaving for Sydney and it immediately made it onto our list of must-eats.

Pancakes On The Rocks (Darling Harbour)
227 & 229-230 Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour


We were greeted by rain as we stepped out of our hotel that morning - trudging across the bridge, clutching out umbrellas, we were really, really looking forward to a hearty pancake breakfast. 

Ice cream for breakfast? Over here, it's perfectly acceptable. 

An Aussie Sunrise, to brighten up a gloomy morning - fluffy pancakes, a grilled banana and pineapple ring, bacon, scrambled eggs, whipped butter and syrup. Everything you need to get you going for a day of sight-seeing. (Also, I simply cannot stress how much I love having the best of both sweet and savoury breakfast worlds on one plate. How is it that syrup just goes with everything?)

Mexican Potato - potato and onion pancakes, Mexican-inspired beef, guacamole, sour cream and tomato salsa, for a slightly different start to the day. 

Pesto and pinenut pizza crusts - for those of us (me included) who think that the best part of a pizza is its crunchy ends. 

And of course, a foam-capped cup of coffee to wash it all down. 

So here's to you, pancakes, you delightful little things.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy new year everyone! Here's to a a joy-love-prosperity-laughter-good eats-filled year of the snake. 

The 200th Post, Holiday Foodsteps: Reuben Hills, Sydney

And it's the 200th! I've always been amazed by how big a part food plays in our lives and this blog has really just become a log of memories, all packaged in the form of food stories. That's 200 food stories shared, 200 memories captured, and all of them equally special to me. So here's to more food adventures and the good times that always come hand in hand.

I like the idea of cafes and coffee shops - they always imply long conversations and leisurely sipping coffee (or tea, whichever your preference is). The great thing about it is that it doesn't even matter what sort coffee shop it is - the same concept of slowing things down applies whether you're in a kopitiam having roti bakar and white coffee or a cappuccino at a cafe. I know I'm not alone when it comes to having a soft spot for these places - for one, the queue in front of Reuben Hills on a Sunday morning definitely confirms this suspicion.


Reuben Hills
61 Albion St 
Surry Hills 2010

Having heard so much about the quaint little cafes (and their notoriously long queues) in Surry Hills, we knew that we simply couldn't leave Sydney without being part of what I think inspired the coffee/cafe scene in Malaysia. We picked Reuben Hills based on a recommendation by a local and arrived to join the queue mentally prepared for the wait. And yes, we did wait - and for 45 minutes, no less.

The cafe is the type that envelopes you as soon as you step in - the amount of activity that goes on in such a small space is quite impressive.

Despite all the hustle and bustle, they seemed to be able to calmly churn out pretty cups of coffee - something which we really quite appreciated. Smiles and happy faces in spite of the rushing around. 

  Chorizo grits with baked corn tortilla chips, queso fresco, beans and avocado

The Dirty Bird - spiced grilled chicken, tomatillo salsa, cheese, pickles, chipotle aioli on brioche. Yes, I have to admit, we ordered it because of its name.

Berkshire ham, manchego, rocket, tomato & red pepper chutney on rye

A cup of long black, dad's go-to. 

A cappuccino that tastes as good as it looks - to add a spring to your step. 

A "let's have dessert for breakfast!" type thick, creamy espresso and white chocolate shake for the young, and young at heart. 

The coffee made you want to sip and savour it slowly and the food, with dashes of Mexican flavours here and there, made for an interesting brunch. Sure, the wait for a table was rather long - but I think it just goes to emphasising how Sundays are really just not meant for rushing at all, especially if you're standing in queue catching up with a friend. What I thought was most interesting as a tourist, though, was how different "cafes" are in different parts of the world despite all centering around the same idea of coffee, bites and enjoying the feeling of having time on your hands and no, I've never seen an interpretation of the idea that I haven't liked yet (although, I think I would prefer there not be a queue ;)).

Holiday foodsteps: Misschu Tuckshop CBD, Sydney

Since we were on a bit of a roll (pun intended!) already, we thought that it would only be right to pay homage to Miss Chu, Queen of Rice Paper Rolls.


Misschu CBD Tuckshop 
501 George St/ corner Bathurst
Sydney NSW 2000

It took a bit of walking around and going up and down elevators to find the tuckshop - and it really is a tuckshop, with tall stools around the counter and a few kindergarten-student-high tables and stools for patrons. We were hungry, having spent a bit more time than we thought hunting down the place, and were ready for some hearty Vietnamese fare.

Tiger prawn and green mango rice paper rolls - a light, refreshing start to the meal, with none of that raw texture and flavour that one sometimes encounters in rice paper rolls.

Wagyu beef pho, which was the reason we went hunting for the tuckshop in the first place, despite Miss Chu's Rice Paper Roll Queen status. Generous amounts of beef and a mellow, flavourful broth made the hunt worth it. 

Hanoi chicken curry, which reminded me of home.

Free range pork belly stew - tender chunks of pork belly, delicious gravy, greens and a fried hard boiled egg. This could have come right out of grandma's kitchen (and a Chinese one at that!) - I definitely wouldn't mind comfort food like that for a work-day lunch.

Vietnamese iced coffee, and a big grin. 

Misschu is perhaps on the slightly pricier end of things, considering its a tuckshop, but food is honest and wholesome - enough to make a bunch of hungry travelers really quite happy.