Saturday, May 12, 2018

Teochew Food in Malacca - Teo Soon Loong

When you have a group of two, it's harder to have a good variety of food when eating at Chinese restaurants.  So with our group of four, it was a good time to go try out the food at Teo Soon Loong, a well-known Teochew restaurant in Malacca.  It used to be in a tiny coffee shop on Jalan Hang Kasturi, just round the corner from Jalan Hang Jebat, but has shifted out of the Old Town to a newer, much larger restaurant in a newer part of the city (on the reclaimed land area).

Our hotel got us a car via Grab - a modest RM6 only.  We drove well out of the old town, through undeveloped plots to a small cluster of buildings.  I was not really expecting a large crowd but when we got there, the restaurant was packed!  Good thing that we had a reservation (via our kaki in the jewellery shop).  We had to wait for our table to be ready (we were a little early) and so had ample time to review the menu.

We chose a mixture of recommended dishes (off the internet) - the pork ribs with bittergourd (really tender, highly recommend), the braised Teochew duck (it was good but not as good as the pork), cai por hor fun (good wok hei but not enough cai por for me), braised noodles with oysters (I know, two carbs but we couldn't resist) and sweet potato leaves cooked with ginger (to be honest this was a revelation - I really enjoyed the freshness of the vegetables and somehow the gingery flavour complemented it well).  Indeed a suitable dinner for our last night in Malaccca.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Buying Manek Potong Shoes

Every time we visit Malacca, we end up visiting this little Kasut Manek (Nonya beaded shoes) shop down Temple Street called Lim's Trading.
Down Temple Street
But it was always an exercise in window shopping.  For myself, I was determined not to buy another pair until I had finished making my own.  And that took years!  As for my dear friend, she makes her own shoes most of the time!

But this year I was determined that I would buy a pair of "Manek Potong" shoes.  For the uninitiated, "Manek Potong" represents the utmost pinnacle of beaded shoe craftsmanship.  The beads are smaller than the standard machine made beads, and even the better quality Japanese Beads.  Apparently they are made somewhere in the former Czechoslovakia, cut by hand such that the facets of the beads are less regular and reflect the light differently as a result.  Because the beads are smaller, the patterns on the shoes are more intricate as a result.  The beads are also difficult to get, because the Czech factory which made them has discontinued the line... ... at least that's what we are told but somehow there are rumours that there is a new source ...

Anyway, Mr Lim is well known in Malacca/Malaysia for his beaded shoes, as this New Straits Times article can testify.  (The article also gives a little more background on beaded shoes, which I'm not going into here as I've done so on a number of times on this blog already).  In 2012, he received the Unesco Seals of Excellence for Handicrafts in recognition of his work.  What is so unique is that rather than just use the "traditional" patterns, he designs his own beautiful designs, of goldfish swimming with water and seaweed rippling around them, of birds and flowers amidst the foliage.  You can choose yourself a pattern, and he will sew it up for you, get the cobbler to make up the shoe and post it to you.  I have to say that I was tempted to do that but fortunately I found the perfect shoe in terms of fit, design and style so I bought it on the spot (for a pretty penny, I should add). Here it is:

Birds and flowers - my Manek Potong shoes

In my humble opinion, they go nicely with my new turquoise kebaya and orange sarong :-)

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Malacca Bunga Raya

It's the Year of the Dog!
For someone who goes so often to Malacca, is there anything left to write about?  Indeed, I am quite embarrassed sometimes that I seem to be going to the same old places year in, year out.  But this year was slightly different.  First, we were going with a group of four instead of a small little group of two, with their own added set of interests and priorities.  It was nice taking them to our favourite spots but equally, it was great to find new areas we had not been to.  Before this, we were getting into a "Malacca-shaped rut".  Second, it was just before the Chinese New Year and so the shopping opportunities opened up were quite different!  New Year goodies galore (as though Malacca wasn't filled with foodstuffs for greedy Singaporeans to buy already)!

So this year, our new discovery was Jalan Bunga Raya, just north of the Malacca river and near all the Kampong Jawa cooking equipment shops we discovered on a previous trip.  Bunga Raya was the old shopping street of Malacca, but the tourists deserted it for Jonker Street's charms and the locals were drawn to the newer malls with all the supermarkets and chain stores.  So today there is a sort of quietness about the place, where the shops seem to hark back to yesterday and their proprietors slowly greying together with it.  There is some rejuvenation, however, with new businesses starting up even as the main Jonker area gets more crowded and the benefits from the UNESCO status spill over out of the old town into the surrounding areas.  So there are newer restaurants and hotels starting up here.  We will see how it goes.  
Lanterns along Jalan Bunga Raya
We were, however, here in search of New Year lanterns and other decorations, which my friend wanted to deck her home with for CNY.  A local (I think it was either our hotel concierge, or our jeweller) recommended Jln Bunga Raya and so we walked over.  It was evening, the street was dark and many shops were closed or closing. But as we proceeded, suddenly a few brightly lit shops appeared, all the better to show off the beautiful lanterns, of silk, paper or a felt-like material (made out of recycled cloth).  

We wandered in and out of a few shops.  Most sold fabric and other haberdashery or craft items, but during the CNY period, pushed all these day-to-day goods to the back of the shop and instead stocked up on the decor for CNY.  Not just lanterns, but banners, tassels, paper cut pictures, and (since it is the year of the dog) lots of little stuffed dogs too.  Business was reasonably good for the few shops which remained open; I suppose either locals or well-informed tourists made their way here to get their CNY decor.
Down the Malacca River

Bunga Raya isn't exactly a short walk from our hotel in Heeren Street, so I didn't really expect to walk back the next day in the hot sun for lunch.  But that is what we did.  We were going to Manis J, the restaurant owned by the proprietor of the shoe shop, J Manik (of course at her suggestion).  It was a pleasant stroll by the river, lined by the old buildings (and some new extensions), which were decorated to catch the eye - some with brightly coloured murals, and others with fun/gimmicky items such as this one which featured old cars - Minis and Beetles.

Lunch itself was really quite good.  We had all our old nyonya favourites - Ngoh Hiang, Ayam Buah Keluak, Chap Chye, Hee Peow soup etc.  And for the hypercritical Singaporeans we are, there were no complaints.  Everyone ate happily.  And I don't think it was the long walk.

Lunch at J Manis

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sinpopo at Joo Chiat Road

In Singapore's highly competitive restaurant scene, it is quite difficult to write about food because somehow they get outdated quite fast!

Fortunately, unlike some other establishments I've written about, Sinpopo is still going strong.  Although, it looks as though they expanded the menu since I went...

Sinpopo is run by the folks behind Awfully Chocolate but this is completely different in concept, serving "old style" Singaporean food with a twist.  I came here with two lady friends and we had a good gossip, over luncheon meat crisps (terribly unhealthy), deep fried wantons  (scarcely less so), the crab meat bee hoon (my fave) and for dessert, gula melaka cake and brown butter sugee cake.  Washed down with Katong Jelly drink (red agar agar jelly in a 7-Up and soda mix).

Whilst I did feel that the gula melaka cake really brought out that gula melaka flavour, I was not sure that the brown butter flavour was really that prominent in the sugee cake.  Rather, the brown butter flavour was more obvious in the thin layer of butter cream icing the cake.  I was intrigued however by the whole idea of "updating" sugee cake using brown butter and so I was inspired to make my own version of brown butter sugee cake!

First of all, I had to learn how to brown butter.  Fortunately there's a pretty good guide here on Serious Eats.  Briefly, butter is melted and then boiled over the stove till the water evaporates.  As the melted butter continues to boil, tiny little particles of milk solids emerge and as these brown, they impart a nutty, caramel flavour to the butter.  However, you need to watch it carefully to make sure that the little flecks of milk solids don't burn!

My Brown Butter Sugee Cake
Having browned the butter, I then went on to make my sugee cake, which I've written about here.  I soaked my semolina in the browned butter and then made my sugee cake as per normal.  As usual, I did not put any icing or butter cream on the cake which enabled me to taste the "natural" flavours of the cake.

The verdict?  The colour of my sugee cake was a little darker than in the past - not so much a bright sunny yellow but a slightly browner shade.  As for flavour - well, I enjoyed the buttery flavour of the cake, but again the brown butter flavour did't really emerge.  I suspect that with the traditional marzipan and royal icing, the buttery flavour would be overpowered by the strong almond flavour.  It's probably better to take it to a different flavour profile altogether, add brown sugar in place of some of the white, and top with buttercream made with browned butter.. hmmm, seems to be what Sinpopo has done :-)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Peacocking around in blue

How I love a new kebaya!

When I visited Penang last year, I paid a visit to the lady who made me my first kebaya all those years ago.  I didn't order anything then - my cousin was theoretically the one buying the kebaya and  we were in a hurry so I didn't have much time to shop on my own account.  But after leaving Penang, and a number of WhatsApps later, I had asked the proprietor to bring over a few blue kebayas when she next came to Singapore.

It was a tough choice, with dragonflies, floral patterns and ducks all fighting for my attention.  But my interest was first piqued by a turquoise blue kebaya with a brilliantly coloured pair of peacocks on the front in golden yellow and orange.  I wore it around Christmas, over pants.  And to the Peranakan mass on Chinese New Year eve over my most favourite green sarong skirt.  But somehow they didn't quite go...

My blue and red combination
 So this latest visit to Penang, I made another visit to the shop and came away with an order for a sarong to match my kebaya.  It's most CNY appropriate, all reds and oranges.  It is also very different from my rather staid and boring sarongs of the past, which were green or purple.

And fortunately enough, my aunt gave me a pair of shoes which her Mother-in-law gave her and which she didn't really feel went with her own clothing.  But it went very nicely with my peacocks and sarong skirt!

As many people have admired my kebaya, what has also been happening is that I have been giving the name of my kebaya contact to various friends and relatives, and even a few colleagues.  And because she comes down to Singapore quite frequently to "deliver" to her customers, you don't even need to visit Penang!  As such, a lot of them have ended up making purchases and so now I have now indeed acquired "most favoured customer" status.  Indeed she is quite well reputed, as her designs are quite unusual and different from the rather standard designs you get in the mass manufactured kebaya shops.  Of course, you pay a little more but I think it is well worth it.  You can find out more about County Fair Boutique on its Facebook page and also on Time Out.

I have to admit that my last visit, I didn't just buy a kebaya but also a chili hot cheongsam with beautiful embroidery below.  So maybe come Chinese New Year, there will be another photo update of my embroidered purchases.


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