Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nature getaway - Star

Aug 10, 2008 By SYLVIA LOOI

The Belum-Temenggor Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests in the world, is the ideal area to commune with nature.

FOR those looking for to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest in Hulu Perak is the place to head to.

The 130-million-year-old forest, which has been divided into Upper Belum (to the north) and the Temenggor Forest Reserve (to the south), following the construction of the East-West Highway linking Ipoh to the East Coast, is home to more than 100 species of exotic mammals.

A view of the refurbished Belum Rainforest Resort located at Pulau Banding.

Among them are the Asian elephant, Malayan tiger, leopard, sun bear, Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tapir. Ten hornbill species can also be found within the forest complex, including the endangered plain-pouched hornbill.

For those who are enticed by exotic plants, there are also places to catch glimpses of flora such as the rafflesia.

Nature lovers can also opt to put up in the newly refurbished Belum Rainforest Resort. The resort, located on Pulau Banding, was recently opened by the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah. The resort can help organise trips into the jungle as well as sightseeing opportunities.

The Belum Rainforest Resort offers visitors a means to a step back into nature. The resort is located next to the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest in Hulu Perak.

To get there from Kuala Lumpur, take the North-South Expressway heading north towards Ipoh.

Take the Kuala Kangsar exit and head towards Grik, bypassing the town of Lenggong. This will lead you to Pulau Banding.

The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Pulau Banding can take five hours or more, depending on the number of stopovers.

The bridge linking to the Belum Rainforest Resort on Pulau Banding in Hulu Perak.

For trips to Upper Belum, permits are required from the state’s park, police and army. No photos are allowed at the camp. A copy of the MyKad is required for Malaysians while foreigners need to submit a copy of their passport with full details. It takes at least a week to get these permits through the resort.

For details, call the resort at 05-791 6800 or log on to

Cheap eats in Cheras - Star

Aug 10, 2008 Compiled by RENITA CHE WAN

BLOGGER Ipohwav3 thought he’d round up all his friends, including avid food blogger J2Kfm, for dinner in Cheras. Earlier, his boss had brought food from a restaurant for lunch and everyone at the office seemed so impressed that Ipohwav3 decided to head to that outlet with his friends.

“At first, we all thought that Eiffel Restaurant & Dessert House served only Western dishes, but that’s not the case.

Thai Style Fish Fillet

“It serves mostly simple Chinese and Teochew dishes with a twist (although we never really get the Teochew feel, but nevermind that).

“We definitely liked the Thai Style Fish Fillet which was lightly battered, deep fried and tossed with tangy spicy Thai sauce, onion and cucumber.

“My boss and I had eaten the Salted Egg Fried Rice before and so I ordered it again. But this time, it failed to impress us,” wrote the blogger.

“The salted egg yolk (flavour) was mild and by the time we dug in, it was a little cold.

“Luckily, the Money Bags dish was still as good as I remembered it to be.

“They used seasoned minced fish paste with some chopped spring onions and wolfberries; all wrapped with thin wantan skin, deep fried and served on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce and wolfberries.

“There were several new dishes on the menu so we decided to give some of them a try.

“First on the list was the Lemongrass Chicken Pan Mee and it made me want to have Vietnamese-style pan mee.”

Money Bags

The blogger wrote the pan mee served was the dry version, the “hand-torn type” with delicious chunks of tender chicken infused with lemon grass, onion, spring onion and crushed peanuts in a dark, sticky dark sauce.

“The Crabmeat Pan Mee was also the ‘hand-torn type’ style, cooked in a chicken broth with cornflour (resembling shark’s fin soup consistency), egg, prawns, fish fillets, crabmeat sticks, spring onions, parsley and fish roe but somehow, it wasn’t that good.

“It was quite bland and the broth was a little too thick for my liking.

“As the name of the restaurant implies, crushed ice desserts are available so I settled for my old favourite Ais Kacang with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

“My friends had the Ice Mango Milk, Ice Blended Soursop and Mint Chocolate Milk Shake.

“The best part of the whole dinner was when the bill came! It didn’t even reach RM100 for the five of us – reasonable!

Eiffel Restaurant & Dessert House is located at 159, Jalan Lanchang, Taman Seri Bahtera, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. Blog address:
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Bak kut teh central - Star

Aug 10, 2008 Story and photos by GRACE CHEN

There is one street in the Klang Valley along which as many as eight bak kut teh vendors congregate to ply their trade.

AHH! There is just no mistaking the heady aroma of bak kut teh (pork rib soup).

This rejuvenating herbaceous brew is an all time classic.

One area which is famed for bak kut teh is Jalan Kelang Lama in Kuala Lumpur where there are eight stalls along the road. The set up is often in a coffee shop or a five foot way, and often, the stall is always surrounded by giant stainless steel pots, all boiling away, with the aromatic whiffs of this traditional pork meat soup escaping in the steam.

So, what goes into the bak kut teh soup?

According to Wong Khon Chong, 56, who runs Ah Wang Bak Kut Teh at 4½ mile, the stock for his bak kut teh is made up of no less than 13 types of Chinese herbs.

Bak kut teh vendor Wong Khon Chong uses 13 Chinese herbs for his concoction.

These herbs are then blended in different proportions. And in upholding tradition, Wong credits another bak kut teh ‘sifu’ Teh Kim Loong, 56, for teaching him how to prepare the herbal concoction. Teh, is the bak kut teh chef for Yan Yan Restaurant.

But bear in mind that this is not the standard recipe as every bak kut teh stall has its own variation.

Kong Tuck Hung Hong, 63, who has been operating for 30 years from a stall at the five foot way of the Kee Hin tyre shop in Jalan Teluk Gadong, which is off Jalan Kelang Lama.

“I only have star anise, cinnamon, Kum Chou and garlic in my soup. I don’t put in things like Dong Quai and Suk Tei because it will blacken the soup and make it very ‘heaty’.

“I prefer serving a clear, ‘cooling’ stock,” said Kong, who runs the stall with his 31-year-old son.

And though there may be personal preferences with regards to the herb issue, all agree that about five hours of boiling time is needed for the herbs to impart their flavour to the soup.

Next, come the pork cuts and another one hour of cooking is needed to ensure that the herbs are given time to seep into the meat.

And the variation of dishes that can come from a presumably simple bak kut teh meal is all up to a cook’s imagination.

Wong, for example, offers a full range of all the prime pork cuts, plus the perennial favourites like intestines, stomach and other offal. He also offers side dishes of steamed vegetables and chicken in a ginger wine soup, plus steamed Song fish head, which is also popular with his customers.

And not to be outdone, Foong Kin Fatt, 49, the owner of Yan Yan Restaurant, has a bak kut teh dish called ‘Sang Kuat Poh’ which are fresh pork cuts cooked to order.

“This is made fresh and the soup is not unlike that of a superior stock which is clearer and sweeter. It takes one hour to make and you have to call in advance for this dish,” said Foong.

Interestingly, Tee of Yan Yan’s, who has worked in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong would point out that the bak kut teh recipe may well be a Malaysian invention which originated from Klang about 50 years ago.

“I believe that it was the fishermen who invented this dish because they were always exposed to wet conditions.

“Hence, they looked for a way to invigo­rate themselves by drinking a combination of herbs and that must have been how they stumbled upon this concoction,” surmised Tee.

And though he agrees that the popularity of bak kut teh has spread to as far as Thailand, Singapore and China, he strongly believes that they are but generics of the Malaysian version.

For enquiries, call Ah Wong Bak Kut Teh at 014-3344334 and Yan Yan Restaurant at 03-79845972. To locate Kong’s bak kut teh stall, look out for Kee Hin tyre shop on your left as you enter Jalan Kelang Lama as you’re coming in from the Mid Valley Mega Mall direction.


>Mo Sang Koh BKT in Klang: 1) Jln Chan Ah Choo Pandamaran, 2) Per Raja Muda Musa 3) Berkeley Gdn (near the famous pan mee) KA

>Tian sang bak kut teh, jalan rasah, seremban

>Best Bak kut teh must be Teow Chew Bak Kut Teh in Taman Merdeka, Melaka, just in front of caltex. U can see lotsa japanese expats here. Full house every noon. ~babadaniel

>Green house penang bak kut teh, hoo liao.... T.Montana

>Yeo’s bakuteh no:106-108, jalan sultan, segamat, johor

>Hong Bee Bak Kut Teh, No. 613, Bt. 3 3/4 Off Jln. Ipoh, 51200 Kuala Lumpur. (near Mutiara Complex)

Sweet temptations - Star

Aug 10, 2008 By RENITA CHE WAN
Photos by UU BAN

Accepting a challenge from her spouse, Jesslyn Goh has set up dessert outlets and is determined to expand within the Klang Valley.

IN a bid to bring her husband back to Malaysia, Jesslyn Goh vowed that by the end of next year, she would open up several dessert outlets in the Klang Valley.

One of the popular dessert dishes at Snowy Healthy Dessert Home is the Hasmar with Coconut Juice in Papaya.

Her husband, who is Hong Kong national told her that the only way to get him to reside in Malaysia was if she could set up five outlets of her Snowy Healthy Dessert Home within two years.

Married for six years, the 27-year-old is determined to win the challenge and has since opened up two outlets: one in Mid Valley Mega Mall and the other in Sunway Pyramid within the course of only a year.

“I understand why he wants me to go through all this.

“But I appreciate the fact that he would still consider moving here if I successfully set up another three more outlets,” said Goh. She met her husband while studying Mass Communications at what was then Limkokwing college. After dating for about a year, she decided to move to Hong Kong with him and a few months after that, they were married.

“I stayed there for close to four years, working with California Fitness in the Human Resource Depart­ment,” she said.

“One day, I was supposed to meet my husband but he was too caught up with work, so I thought I’d wait for him at one of the dessert parlours.

“It was then that I realised that in Hong Kong, desserts play a really big role in their lives. Over there, a plate of dessert is free after every meal in every restaurant.

“You can see about 100 ­dessert shops if you walk along the long stretch of shop lots at the popular places.”

Inspired by this, Goh had the idea to one day open such a business back in Malaysia. Opportunity knocked when she was offered the post of country manager of California Fitness in Malaysia.

“I immediately took the job offer because I missed Kuala Lumpur so much and couldn’t wait to move back to Malaysia.

The Kiwi Cup Sago.

“However, my husband refused to move back with me, saying that he was already too comfortable in Hong Kong.

“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity and told him I’d move anyway and hoped that he would come after me soon and that’s when he came up with the challenge,” explains Goh.

Snowy Healthy Dessert Home offers a wide variety of snowy drinks which combine mixed fresh fruits, aloe jelly and bird’s nest. The desserts have no artificial flavours, and are made without the use of powders or purées, according to Goh.

There is the Honey, Aloe Vera, Kiwi, Water Melon, Coconut, Hasma, Ginseng, Mango, Papaya and Apple snowy drinks. There’s also the cup sago, fresh juices, special stewed drinks and fresh mixed fruit platters.

Apart from the desserts, the outlet also serves local and Western-style food but the highlight is obviously the scrumptious desserts.

You might think that the bird’s nest drinks are going to put a dent in your wallet but that is not the case here at Snowy Healthy Dessert Home.

“My family owns a bird’s nest business in several towns in the country like in Ipoh and Johor.

“So I am able to sell the drinks at a much cheaper price compared to my competitors,” she said.

Mango Sherbet and Black Glutinous Rice with Coconut Milk.

There are 60 items on the menu, including the main meal dishes and most of them are creatively crafted by Goh herself.

“My intention was to target the younger generation aged between 16 and 23, but surprisingly, I get a lot of the older generation who are more health conscious.

“The drinks are 100% without artificial flavouring substances and without white sugar. I use only brown sugar in my drinks and dishes.”

Goh mentioned that she is hoping to open outlets in Sungai Wang Plaza, Kuala Lumpur, as well as Cineleisure and The Curve in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to sample her tasty desserts, check out her shop at Sunway Pyramid, located on the First Floor in the Asian Avenue section. Goh can be contacted at 03-5632 8831.

Bountiful harvest

Aug 10, 2008 By CLARA CHOOI
Photos by LEW YONG KAN

During durian season, the sleepy towns of Lenggong and Gerik spring to life as fruit vendors line the streets with their haul of the season’s tropical fruits.

IT is that time of the year again when scores of makeshift stalls crowd the roadsides, all packed with mountains of South-East Asia’s King of Fruits – durians.

Recognisable both by sight and smell, these spiky, dark-green goodies need no introduction to Malaysians.

In fact, those who wait in anticipation every season would know that this year’s harvest bears fruit that tastes even better, thanks to favourable weather conditions during cultivation.

Farmer Chin Chan, 59, showing the thick, yellow pulp of the durians at his home in Lenggong.

And of course, often going hand-in-hand with these succulent delights are some of the other famous tropical fruits like the dukong, mangosteens and rambutans.

In the usually quiet towns of Lenggong and Gerik in northern Perak, the fruit season is the one time in the year when the pace picks up as fruit vendors flock to the open streets to set up shop.

At Osman Baba’s 4.6ha orchard in Gerik, the output of his over-80 durian trees fill up almost five lorries of durians daily, with each lorry carrying over 1,500 fruits.

At cost price, his durians are often sold at RM4 per kilo to dealers, who would in turn mark the price up further when selling to vendors or customers.

“This is really a great season for the durians. Here in Gerik especially, the durians are well sought after as they are grown on hilly terrain,” he said.

Osman added that the durians from Gerik were often supplied to vendors and dealers from as far as Penang, Ipoh and even Kuala Lumpur.

“Many people do not know about how good the durians in Lenggong and Gerik are. We are often forgotten because these towns are small and obscure.

“But if you really come out here and try for yourself, you’ll realise that some of the best durians can be found in any orchard in our towns,” he said.

True enough, almost every single fruit Osman opened during our tasting session was heavenly.

His best fruits were mostly thick-pulped, as creamy as ice cream and left a sweet aftertaste.

In fact, the pulp is so rich and creamy that it is near impossible to finish one whole fruit in one sitting.

“I have a few types of durian grades. But the most common ones that I grow are the D24 and the D88 durians,” he said.

Such clones, and ones like the D26, are the thicker-pulped types of durians, much unlike the smaller, sweeter kampung durians.

“It depends on your taste buds of course, but in general, people like the fleshy durians.

“With those, one fruit is good enough for two or three persons!” said Osman.

Many others, he added, love the Raja Kunyit variety of durians, which are also thick-fleshed and are usually a brilliant shade of yellow, as its name suggests.

“The Raja Kunyit breed is a favourite, of course. The pulp has a very strong, power-packed taste that hits all your taste buds at once,” said Osman.

Unfortunately, the Raja Kunyit durians from Osman’s orchard were still on the trees during our binge session.

Farmer Chan Ong @ Chan Onn, 61, inspecting the ripeness of dukong grown in his home compound in Lenggong.

Besides durians, Osman also has a fair number of mangosteen and dukong trees at his orchard.

“Usually, during the durian season in the months of June and July, the mangosteens and dukongs are also ready for harvest.

“This is why these fruits are often sold at the same time, along with rambutans.

“Of course, many people like to eat mangosteens after eating durians because it cools one’s body down,” he said.

Like his durians, Osman’s mangosteens and dukongs are equally good.

“I believe the one reason why my fruits are often good is because of the maintenance of my orchard.

“I make sure that I pamper my fruit trees with the right kind of soil and I keep the place spick and span. I think this helps,” he said.

In fact, Osman is so proud of his orchard that throughout the season, he brings in large groups of his buddies from all over to feast beneath a man-made tree house located amidst his fruit trees.

During a certain time of day, the orchard becomes almost postcard-perfect; the afternoon sunlight filters through the trees, bathing everything in a golden sheen.

The air there is often cool due to the high altitude and at every interval, one would hear the distinct “thump” of a durian falling from a distant tree.

Just be careful where you tread – a durian on the head could definitely prove fatal indeed!

In Lenggong, those who know of brothers Chan Ong @ Chan Onn, 61, and Chin Chan, 59, and their “special” varieties of durians, often flock to their orchard during the harvest season. This is because the brothers are known to grow only the best varieties – those which they have sampled from all over and brought home to plant. This also applies to their dukongs, rambutans and cempedaks.

Even the dukong and rambutan trees grown at their single-storey home in town produce good fruits.

But do not ask them the names of those varieties for the duo would not be able to answer you.

The sweet and sour taste of the mangosteens are also a firm Malaysian favourite.

“All I can say is that our dukongs are juicier than other types.

“As for our durians, I don’t know what names they have. All I know is that they are the best and those who buy from us know it too,” says Ong.

Any doubts can be removed with a just one bite of any one of their durians.

Ong’s durians are a myriad of different varieties – one fruit has a thick and yellow pulp, another is so pale it is almost off-white while the others are the common pale yellow with tiny whitish seeds.

However, the one thing they all have in common is this; they are all succulent and juicy, with an abundance of soft flesh that wrinkles when their surfaces are pressed and they all taste even creamier than ice cream.

In fact, Ong’s durians are so good that they could fetch a high price of up to RM25 or RM30 per fruit at the stalls.

Buying it directly from him at the town centre however would cost about RM15 or so, depending on the size of the fruit.

Of course, if you’re too lazy to drive out that far just to buy durians and don’t want stink up your car interior when you transport the fruits back, you could settle for the closest roadside stall in your neighbourhood.

And if the vendor tells you his fruits are from Lenggong or Gerik, then brace yourself for an unforgettable durian experience!

At Osman Baba’s orchard in Gerik, a day’s harvest of durians can fill up to five lorries daily, with each carrying about 1,500 fruits.

Here are a few helpful tips on how to choose durians:

1. Make sure the fruits are unopened before taking a close whiff . The good ones usually emanate an extremely strong, pungent scent.

2. Shake the fruit gently. If you hear the sound of something soft thudding against something soft that sounds like “gloog, gloog gloog”, chances are, the durians are ripe.

3. Sweep your nails against the surface of the durian skin and listen for a hollow sound.

4. Durians do not necessarily have to be heavy to be tasty. The smaller, lighter ones could be equally as good as those with thick pulp .

5. If the vendor makes the effort to prise the durians open for you, select the ones that have a wrinkled layer of skin on the pulp

6 . To prise open a durian, look for its opening point that resembles a pathway or a visible line amongst the durian’s thorns that will begin from the bottom of the fruit. The line is usually visible when you see two rows of thorns growing towards one another.

7 . Make a small incision in the centremost point at the bottom of the fruit with a knife. Twisting the knife around will help you find that opening point.

8. To get rid of the pungent durian scent in your car or house, simply place charcoal or slices of bread at selected locations. Within a day or two, the smell should be gone.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wine blogger shares tips on getting the best - Star


CREATING symphonies with spirits is what Ron Khoo does best. No, he’s not a medium, instead he is involved in wine, and lots of it.

Being a wine importer, distributor and retailer, the 34-year-old entrepreneur not only owns two IT companies and a recording studio, but is also the proud owner of several Wine Cellar and Tasting Room outlets.

Khoo is also an avid blogger.

When I was invited to sample some of his wines and the exquisite dishes whipped up by his chef, I got to know him and we became friends.

According to him, his first foray into the blogging world was about five months ago when he set up, a place for him to share his experiences with wine, food and travel.

The expert: Ron Khoo holding a glass of Soave in a winery in Valpolicella, Italy.

One of the most distinctive features of his blog is an introduction to matching wine and Asian cuisines, a rather extraordinary and refreshing concept.

There’s even a section on his blog called Your Matching Experiences where readers are invited to share their views on interesting food and wine pairings.

“Eventually, I want my blog to become a virtual database of my wine knowledge. It will have a listing of the thousands of wines I’ve tasted, my wine tasting ideas, my wine education series, my food and wine matching recommendations and stories of my overseas wine travels.

“This will also act as my own resource centre where I can log in from anywhere in the world to access information about a certain wine I’ve tasted and want to recall at that moment,” he said.

Khoo admitted that blogging had made it easier to update friends, colleagues and associates on what he was doing.

“I used to e-mail the same stuff to many people when they asked me. Now, I just point them to the URL. I’ve also learnt to become more observant when I travel and when I experience new things.

“I’ve also met new people from the blogging community and it’s interesting to have cross discussions on each other’s blog,” he said.

An evening out with Khoo is intriguing — dining at roadside food stalls with two tall glasses and a bottle of Nivole Moscato d’Asti (which, by the way, is my favourite wine) is definitely an experience to savour. It is also almost guaranteed to attract stares from those sitting at tables around you.

Like most wine lovers, Khoo’s affair with wine began when he was in his early twenties.

“The first time I had wine was in university — one of those living skills you pick up other than the academic ones. Of course, it started with the cheap 99 pence stuff at the local supermarket as we just could not afford to buy good quality wines.

“Eventually, we graduated to £2.99 wines,” he said.

It was not long before Khoo met a few people with similar interests and he began a business venture into the wine industry, setting up shop and bringing in a first shipment of wines. So far, Khoo has tasted thousands of wines from different parts of the world. His two favourite wines are the Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Trocken­bee­re­nauslese 2001 and the Domaine Dujac Morey St. Denis 1976.

I asked him to share an interesting fact about wine that not many people would know and he said he could share the story of an obscure grape called the Saperavi used by Georgian winemakers to make a sweet red but he felt it was only meaningless trivie.

“One thing important to remember is that each wine has its own ageing capability bell curve. It doesn’t always mean the older the wine, the better so don’t age a wine unless you know it’s worth it. Always ask the person you bought it from. They should know,” Khoo said.

Apart from wine, Khoo is also into fast cars, golf and photography and he also enjoys spending time with his wife and two dogs whenever he can. As a parting note, Khoo said the best wines to go with a lighter style of Bak Kut Teh would be the Cava from Spain or a light-medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.

Taste Secrets: French Crêpe - Star

Culinary trainer Jean-Michel Fraisse from The French Culinary School in Asia demonstrates how to prepare the classic French crêpe.