Monday, October 31, 2011

Mark McEwan, Heat It Up

When Oliver Ellerton of Ritz Carlton asked me if I would like to come watch this AFC Celebrity Chef chappie, I thought why not, afterall, it is my dream to be a celebrity chef, so I might as well watch and learn. Unfortunately, I have been watching more CSIs and Miniseries, rather than AFC, so like a wayward student, I am digressing from my mission, and therefore in the process, I have to sheepishly admit that I'd never really heard of Mark McEwan.

He appears on the program called HEAT IT UP.

A room full of press people, watched intently as he explained the dishes. He hails from Toronto, and has a number of restaurants there.



Risotto with Sweet Corn and Shrimp
Serves 4
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 ¼ cup carnaroli rice
½ cup white wine
1litre chicken stock at a simmer
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp butter
1 cup blanched sweet peas
3 tbsp sweet pea purée
Salt and pepper to taste
15 pieces of shrimp sliced in half lengthwise

Creamed Corn
10 ears of corn, cleaned and steamed until tender
1 cup milk
1 cup cream (25%)

1. To make the risotto, heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions,
salt lightly and sweat, stirring frequently so that the onions do not brown.
2. After 5 or 6 minutes when the onions begin to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Then add
the rice and stir well to coat with the oil, add more oil if necessary.
3. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the grains of rice becomes translucent then deglaze with
4. When the wine has been reduced to syrup, add ½ cup of the hot stock and stir it. Once thickened,
add another ¼ cup stock, stir, and then season lightly. Continue until the rice is nearly cooked and the
stock is nearly finished.
5. To make the cream corn, after steaming the corn until tender, cool and remove kernels from cobs. Set
aside 1¼ cups of kernels. Cook the rest of the corn and the cobs in milk and cream for an hour on low
6. Remove the cobs from the corn cream mixture and purée, adding cream as needed. Then season to
taste with salt and pepper.
7. To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil, simmer
for 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, then whisk in butter, piece
by piece.
8. Purée the mixture with a hand blender and then pass through a strainer into a double boiler or a clean
pot, then add salt to taste and froth with frothing wand if desired.
9. To serve the dish: Add the shrimp to the risotto three minutes before plating. When the shrimp is
cooked, add the reserved kernels and corn puree as needed. Then fold in your cheese and butter.

Note: Due to religious sensitivities, no grapes were hurt during the preparation of this dish, nor was any wine used.

The risotto was actually rather delicious, and it really did not seem very difficult to make. The important thing to do is not to stir the mixture too much, and continuously add the stock to the rice.

Recipe 2
Orata alla Griglia con Capperie Menta
Grilled Sea Bream with Capers and Mint
Serves 4
4 whole sea bream (each about 1lb/500g), cleaned, scaled and heads removed
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp combined minced oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley
2/3 olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ loaf focaccia
3 tbsp salt-packed capers, soaked, rinsed and drained
½ cup torn mint leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 lemon, cut into eighths

1. Fillet the sea bream with the tail still attached, as if it were on a hinge. Then make 3 parallel
slashes about ¼-inch deep in the skin of both sides of the fillet.
2. Rub a generous pinch of salt into each incision, then open the fish and season the inside
with salt and pepper.
3. Mix the minced herbs with 4 tsp of the olive oil and massage the inside of each fish with it.
Reassemble the fish and set aside in the refrigerator.
4. In a skillet over low heat, gently sweat the garlic in ½ cup of the olive oil until it wilts.
Meanwhile, with your fingers, pull crouton-sized morsels of focaccia from between the
crusts until you have about ½ cup.
5. Remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon and discard it. Raise heat to mediumlow,
add the focaccia, and cook for five minutes or until the croutons are crisp on all sides.
With a slotted spoon, remove the croutons to a plate, salt lightly and set aside. Allow oil to
cool to room temperature.
6. Pre-heat the grill on medium heat. Oil the grill with the remaining olive oil, place the fish on
the grill at an angle, rotating them after 2 to 3 minutes to cross-hatch them. After another 2
to 3 minutes, carefully flip them over.
7. Cook the second side, without rotating for about 4 minutes. Arrange the fish cross-hatched
side up on 4 warm plates to rest and set aside.
8. In a bowl, combine the reserved garlic-crouton oil with the capers, mint, parsley, and
chives, toss well. Spoon the mixture over the fish. Top each fish with a few croutons and 2
wedges of lemon.

If you noticed, this dish had all the ingredients from Scarborough Fair. Parsley sage, rosemary and thyme.

Cooking fish to me is an insurmountable task. In addition to the requirement that the fish needs to be utterly fresh, and free of that fishy smell, and mercury, I suppose, there's the risk of overcooking, undercooking, etc. So yeah, I dare say I am afraid to cook fish.

Mark making Gnocchi, which he makes look so effortless and easy.

Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsa al Pomodoro
Ricotta Gnocchi with Heirloom Tomato Sauce
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course
2lb (1kg) ricotta (preferably buffalo)
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2/3 cup (150ml) all-purpose flour, plus
additional for dusting
½ tbsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 batch heirloom tomato sauce
2 tbsp butter, preferably whipped
1 top-quality burrata (about 8 oz/250g)
2 tbsp fine olive oil
12 basil leaves, torn

1. To make the gnocchi, rinse a cheesecloth under cold running water, then squeeze it dry and line
a large strainer with it. Place the strainer over a bowl and add the ricotta. Then cover and
refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, discard the drained liquid, wipe the bowl dry and tip in the thickened ricotta. Press
down on the centre of the mound to form a well.
3. Add the egg and egg yolk and gently mix it into the ricotta with your hands, lifting the mixture then
letting it tumble between your fingers.
4. Sift the flour over the mixture, then add the salt, pepper, and lemon zest; gently mix together, if it
feels wet and sticky, add more flour.
5. Flour a work surface then roll the dough into a log about 2.5cm wide, working in batches. Flour a
knife and trim the end of the log at an angle. Maintaining that angle cut the roll into equal pieces
about 2.5cm long. Then transfer the gnocchi to a lightly floured baking sheet.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil. Add the gnocchi and stir very gently to
prevent them from sticking. After about 2 minutes, when the gnocchi floats to the surface, remove
them with a slotted spoon to a lightly oiled baking sheet to cool.
7. To make the tomato sauce, blanch the tomatoes for 60 seconds then shock them in ice water
and peel. Quarter them and remove their cores and seeds. Set the tomatoes aside.
8. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sweat the onion in the olive oil until it becomes translucent.
Add the garlic, stir for one minute, then deglaze with the white wine.
9. When the wine is reduced, add the tomatoes and simmer for no more than 7 minutes, breaking
their flesh apart with a wooden spoon as they cook.
10. Add the basil and season lightly.
11. To assemble, use either a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat, bring the tomato sauce
to a simmer. Add the cooled gnocchi and stir very gently to cover them with the sauce.
12. Once heated, gently stir in the butter and divide the gnocchi and sauce among warm plates or
pasta bowls. Tear the burrata into bite-sized pieces and then divide equally them among the
13. Garnish each plate with a drizzle of olive oil and scatter with basil.
Substitution: If you are unable to get burrata, then substitute it with 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-
Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

I asked if there was a substitute for ricotta, which is an expensive ingredient here. If I am not mistaken, a 250gm tub in the supermarket is around RM15, so 1kg worth would be RM60. That's mighty a lot to pay for carbs. Not to mention the OTHER cheeses that go in as well, like Buffalo, or Pecorino Romano. Not a dish for the austere, I can tell you.




Although he seemed a bit on the serious side, he is actually quite accommodating and friendly.

Oh, how was the gnocchi? Gnocchi gnocchi? Who's there?

It was good and not stodgy.

Do tune in to AFC to catch Mark McEwan.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goku Raku Ramen, Mid Valley

Kids these days have it good, because there is such a wide variety of foods available, everywhere. When I was growing up, the idea of eating in a Japanese restaurant was about as strange as the thought of coloured TV. I remember my FIRST ever japanese restaurant, I think it was Daikuku or something like that, in bangunan antarabangsa, for my dad's birthday. (He paid, obviously). We were spell bound, by the teppenyaki chef doing his culinary acrobatics.

So yeah, kids these days have it good. They even know what and how to order in a Japanese restaurant. But even luckier still, is the fact that prices are so competitive these days, and you can get (arguably, I know, esp if John Ishii is reading this), rather good chow for reasonable prices. I remember circa 1993, when I watched this Japanese arty ...almost porny, flick, called Tampopo, about this man's quest for the perfect ramen. Interspersed with some rather kinky (by the standard of the day) love scenes, (which till today I am unsure how it ties into the story as a whole), one was left drooling at the end of the movie, with an unquenchable desire for RAMEN. And hey, back in 1993, Kuala Lumpur wasn't exactly Little Tokyo. In fact, it was only about 10 years earlier that MacDonald's opened their first outlet in Yow Chuan Plaza. (where, I hear the young ones ask)

I digress. So till today, I have a penchant for Ramen, and always scour the menu for its availability. Recently, many Ramen places, Halal and Ha-Ramen have sprouted. It is no longer uncommon to get ramen with pieces of pork. One such place where this is available is Goku Raku Ramen in Mid Valley Megamall, on the 2nd floor, in front of the Jusco Entrance, next to Factory Outlet Store. You can't miss it even if you have half an eye.

With celebrity bloggers like BABEINTHECITY KL as our point of contact, we were given the "tour", of the very high tech kitchen, (no photos), and the ramen processing plant. (actually the public can view this as well).

With all the canggih machinery, it looks almost as simple as chucking in the noodle dough. The dough is rolled, like reams of paper.

How here comes the part I did not know. Two rolls of rolled dough are rolled into one, kinda like puff pastry, for this makes a lighter springier noodle. It is then run through the noodle slicer, to produce the ramen. (oh, the dough is actually left to sit a couple of days before this second process). And here I thought ramen was as simple as Maggi Mee. Far from it.

The soups are boiled with tender loving care, taking up to 18 hours for some of the stock.

The resident head chef, Shinichi Kanai, is a jovial, handsome fellow, and is very animated in his narrations.

The lovely Tomoko Nakano, who is the Business Admin Exec for Sushi Kin Sdn Bhd. Yes, GRR is part of that chain.

A comprehensive list of alcoholic beverages are also made available.

Ramen up close and personal.

The three main ramen stocks, with various permutations. Prices start from around RM16.90 per bowl and there's a variety of side dishes you can add as well.

With a big sign like this, how can you miss the place.

Their specialityPirikara Negi char siu, which was moist and tender, and oooh, so flavourful. Almost melt in the mouth.

They have a special gyoza making machine too, which pan fries the thing while steaming, so you get a crispy bottom, but lovely moist gyozas. Because of that complicated process, you might end up waiting a while for your gyozas. So do check if there is a long queue for the machines, or your gyoza might arrive after dessert. They come with two types of sauces, wafu sauce or original gyoza sauce.


Buta Bara Kushi, deep fried pork cutlets, with a hint of fat, (in the cutlet), breaded. A sure hit with the children, and a perfect snack with beer.

Oh, my favourite, tomato maki. Thinly sliced belly pork, not unlike bacon, wrapped around a cherry tomato. This dish screams out for an alcohol accompaniment, which our hosts and hostesses heard, so we had the Shozu with a tonic and lemon combination,

..and another orange juice with 7 up. It really packs a punch, this shozu drink, and I suspect one too many can render you quite inebriated, without you even realising.

Ishiyaki (Stone Pot) garlic rice...not your normal garlic fried rice from the teppenyaki, but a wholesome pot with a raw-ish egg, which you toss together, (like lou shee fun), and the best part is the crispy bits of "kerak" at the bottom.

Chef tells us the secret of his virility is in the STAMINA SAUCE.....(which they serve here)

Gokuraku Ramen...actually there was a tonkutsu ramen as well, but my picture was horrible. The soups have a wonderful fragrance and aroma about them, some contain leek oil, burnt garlic, that impart a really gorgeous flavour. It does not taste like you average msg laden soup, for sure. One can almost feel the passion that goes into the soup.


Gokuraku Miso Ramen, slightly lighter than the original Gokuraku Ramen soup, which really, you can stand a spoon in. Of the three we sampled, my favourite was actually the tonkutsu, without the picture. It was so good that I went back there a few days again with the brood, for a quick dinner before watching JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN...that's another story altogether, but yeah, suffice to say, the food was consistent.

I lovee lovee loveee those eggs with the soft yolks, which are only RM1 as a side dish if you order the ramen. Yummy!

Finally, assorted dessert, annin tofu, rare cheese cake and banana fritter with vanilla ice cream. The annin tofu is like the chinese almond jelly, but very aromatic, not made from fake essence that imparts that cockroachy taste. You can taste the almond here.

I am not sure what they mean by RARE cheese cake, but like the Japanese cotton cheesecakes, this one is also ethereally light, though I think its the equivalent of a chilled cheesecake. I wonder how they got it so light.

Well, I don't know what ramen in Japan tastes like, but I'd say, for my palate, this is pretty good stuff. Ah, just writing about it makes me want some again.

Remember, mid valley, 2nd floor, infront of Jusco entrance on the FOS side.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Zealand Natural Ice Cream Revisited

Surprisingly, the older I get, the easier I am to please. Give me the simple things in life, like ice cream, and lots of it, and I am as happy if not happier than say if I were dining at a 5 Michelin Star restaurant. (yes yes, I know, 3 is the max).

When I got the invite to attend New Zealand Natural Ice Cream's baking workshop, (a bit of an cream, baking?) at my 2nd favourite culinary school, (RJ, I hope you're reading this, coz you know which is my favourite), I gladly jettisoned my saturday afternoon gym plans, and headed for some palate pleasuring rather than body torturing.

The celebrity bloggers were in tow, KgBoy & City Gal, and Babe in the City KL, as well as self proclaimed Chocolate Snob, Ee Ling. Heading the class was Chin Pei Ling, one of THE COOKING HOUSE's regular chefs. I suspect she's a shareholder there.

The first dessert was Chocolate Delirious Cupcake with Stuffed Ice Cream; using White Chocolate & Raspberry Ice Cream. The cuppy cakes are premade, it's basically a pedestrian chocolate cupcake, whereby you scoop out a hole, much like when you use a melon baller to scoop out pieces of melon, insert the hard ball into the hole, and cover it with more cream. We were then dispersed to our various workstations to try our own hand at making this delirious cupcake. The white chocolate raspberry ice cream itself is lovely, with the tang of the raspberries complementing the cloyiness of the white chocolate.

It doesn't require posters like these to convince me of NZNIC's goodness. I've always been a fan.

Next up was a Tiramisu using sponge fingers and their cookies and cream ice cream.

It's a lot easier than having to whip up mascarpone and egg yolks, and run the risk of overwhipping. Dip the sponge into espresso, layer it with ice cream. Even the most unaccomplished of kitchen kutus can pull this one off.

The final touch of sprinkling of cocoa powder might be a bit challenging and daunting for the uninitiated. But take the leap of faith, I urge you. Sift that cocoa!

Pre made almond brittle.


White Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Esctasy Ice Cream. Truth be told, not being a white chocolate fan at all, I would rather eat this ice cream on it's own, undressed and naked.

Look at that rich dark chocolate ice cream.

Actually these celebrity bloggers were featured in the Star writeup on this workshop as well.

Thanks to Salina & Co PR for the invite, and NZ Natural Ice Cream for the yummy treats, oh, and for the voucher which I've yet to redeem. Choices choices. Choc esctasy it is for me!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Chalet, Equatorial, The Chef's Table

There's something about the Equatorial KL. It is probably the last of the golden oldies, so to speak, with perhaps the Federal being the other one, but Equatorial is the "grander" one so to speak. Say Equatorial, and Blue Moon, L'Etoile, Golden Phoenix, and of course, the Chalet spring to mind. Who doesn't remember slow dancing to the golden oldies music of Blue Moon? I am sure the youth of today, that means 99% of the food blogging community, wouldn't remember. Thamby would.

The Makan Fairy Godmother, our dear Hooi Khaw, invited me a few weekends back to dine at the Chef's Table, in the Chalet. I've always had fond memories of the Chalet, our family used to go there for special occasions, and always enjoyed the song and dance that is thrown in as part of the entertainment. But years have gone by, with the advent of all the various hotel discount cards, and the newer spankier hotels, the Chalet was shelved into the recesses of our minds. So I was delighted at the opportunity to revisit this old haunt. Rumour has it that the hotel will undergo a massive refurbishment soon, so the Chalet as we know it, may have it s days numbered. All the more reason to quickly visit.

Even the cutlery screams "CLASSIC", those heavy types that contain so much metal, if you melt one, you can make a proton.

Personalized butter with chef's table inscribed.

They also let us sample the normal herbed butter that the chalet serves. Which was yummy.

Smoked Beef With Rock Melon.... Chef Hafizzul has certainly done justice to the beef and managed to make it almost resemble Proscuitto With rock melon. Except the beef did not have the streaks of fat their pig cousins have. Oh, obviously, Chalet is pork free.

Creamy Saffron soup, Spanish Black Mussels with Chorizo, leek and potatoes, and crunchy garlic croutons…A lovely smooth soup, rich, bursting with flavour. The spanish mussels were small but juicy and sweet, not like some gigantic ones that taste like a goodyear tyre. Paired with the buns and that glorious butter, I would have actually been satisfied to end the meal here.

Slow-braised Angus Beef Cheek and Pacific Oysters cepes, herbs and Cabernet Sauvignon sauce. The plump oysters enhanced with the lovely jus from the beef cheek, a lovely marriage of surf and turf, which was the chef's objective.

A lovely passionfruit sorbet to clean the palate.

Few places still serve dinner with these silver lids, with the waiters lifting them in unison and going bon appetit.


Grilled Barramundi & Calamari with Cannellini Bean Puree, Clams & Parsley Veloute. Actually all of us guests ordered the OTHER mains, which was Pan Roasted Duck and Foie Gras, so Carol (our hostess and Director of Marketing Communications) had to order the fish for us to have a look.

The foie gras (look at the generous portion! They assured us that that IS the normal sized portion at the Chalet) is to die for. Melt in the mouth, seared to perfection, it really is the epitome of decadence. The duck was also very good, complemented by various caramelized fruit, like cherries and apple. This was not your ordinary quacking duck from the nearby Chinese roast duck farm, but flown all the way from France and is of the Muscovy family. I love the gamey but yet tender flavour of the duck. Ah, just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

Our glamourous hostess, Carol Chin, was very hospitable, as was the handsome Chef Hafizzul Hashim.

Now one of the highlights of dining in Chalet is the making of the Sabayon for dessert. Ever since time immemorial, the waitering crew will perform a little dance, usually accompanied by the 4 piece band that serenades the diners.

That gorgeous copper bowl must have many stories to tell....after all, the place has been around for 37 years. Ooh, I must have been in standard 3.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice cream & Strawberry Compote. To be honest, after all the previous dishes, this was rather pedestrian. It was good, but anticlimactic, if you know what I mean. Actually, the Sabayon with Ice cream and fruits which was made specially for us, was the dessert highlight.

The Chalet does serve a fine selection of beef steaks.


Gotta love the quaint receptacles in which the sabayon is served. Despite the sabayon having passed through so many hands, it was a case of too many cooks did not spoil the broth, but somehow, must have channelled at that positive energy. I loved the taste of it, though arguably, the ingredients are simple enough. Yolks, various spirits, (boozey ones).

Awww, and like establishments of yore, chivalry is not dead, and each lady diner gets a single rose. The accompanying box are not diamonds, but certainly close enough, and definitely more tasty. Chocolates.


Iced Pralines. Ah, I remember the Grill at Parkroyal used to serve this...a reminder of my courting days.

The Chalet is also participating in this year's MIGF. Do checkout the website here for menu details.

Check out fellow diner Pure Glutton's post here.

For reservations, call 03-21617777

Thanks so much, Carol for hosting us, Chef Hafizzul for the lovely dinner, and to our dear Hooi Khaw for the invitation.

Note: Apologies, my flash was on the blink, and the dark lighting didn't help,