Sunday, October 26, 2008

To The Land Of The Rising Sun

Takayama, Japan
By the time you read this, we should be on our way to Narita, Japan. No, I am not blogging from the airplane (is it possible??), I am using the scheduled mode in Blogger, such a handy tool.
Oh yes, we are off again from the Land Below the Wind to the Land of the Rising Sun. Already feeling giddy with the anticipation of seeing the glorious colors of autumn. This is one place we never seem to get enough of. 
My sisters, Chiew, Mui and Pit and Pit's daughter are in Japan already (they left yesterday) but unfortunately our itinerary is different and we might not get to meet. I am so proud of them as they are traveling by themselves without a tour guide. They had been burning a lot of midnight oil on the internet, more hardworking than preparing for a major exam... JR pass, midnight bus, shinkanzen, ryokan...ask them anything concerning Japan and they'd pass with flying colors. Mui thinks she can organize a Japan tour group now and the next planned destination is Hokkaido and I signed up already :-). The excitement mounted day by day ever since they bought a very reasonable MAS fare (KK- Narita, Kansai- KK for RM2200 inclusive of all taxes!) at the recent Matta fair. The best part is that it is direct from KK without the tiresome stopover in KLIA.  

Meanwhile, I leave you to savor this beautifully bundled delicacy I encountered on our last trip to Japan. 

Azuki bean paste enclosed within a very soft, thin layer of mochi. See the golden speck on top? That, I was told, is edible gold flake! 

Sayonara, till we meet again

Friday, October 24, 2008

Muesli And Fruits

Muesli with mangoes 

Muesli with banana

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I agreed in theory as logically that totally make sense. Do the math... we are most active in the day time. I know some (especially my brood) will certainly disagree but lets say generally, we have to be active even if we don't feel like it and for that we need energy, right?
But that is only in theory, for me this is the hardest meal to prepare. My family find it difficult to pry open the eyes, least of all, our mouths early in the morning. I used to pack sandwiches for the children to bring to school but after a few encounters with the sandwiches still untouched but squashed in their school bags at the end of the day, I wised up and spent the time in a more conducive manner...zzz. 
So for a long time, I have always felt guilty for not preparing the most important meal of the day for them. Motherhood is so saddled with guilt, don't you think? Let's not start that again...
Then I found these... and I have been so so good ;D

Muesli with mix nuts and dried fruits
I got these muesli from Zoelife, a health shop at Heritage, Lintas. We were on our way to BTC, an Indian shop to have some tosai when we came upon this shop. It sells all kinds of health food like Manuka honey, nuts of every kinds, cereals and grains. 
This muesli comes in a 500g or 1 kg packing (~RM15/kg). It is pre-packed with rolled oats, raisins, dried apricot, dates, sunflower seeds, melon seeds, sesame seeds and nuts like almond and cashew.
The best thing about this muesli, beside being so healthy and packed with so much goodness, is that it is so easy and fast to prepare. 
Soak in hot or cold milk, juices or just plain water for about 10 - 25 minutes. I have tried adding hot milo (just soak for 10 minutes) and Leanne loved it as it is still crunchy. I like it soaked up to about 15 minutes but not longer than that as it tends to get too mashy. I don't add any sugar or honey as I find the dried fruits and the fresh fruits added are sweet enough.
But I better warn you before you go get yourself a 1 kg pack, this is nothing like a tosaikon lou mein or Kuching laksa. I didn't quite take to it at first when I soaked it for too long and it turned gooey. It also takes a lot of jaw power to chew all the seeds and nuts.
Whenever I have this for breakfast, I could skip lunch and not feel hungry. That suits me just fine as I have vowed to eat healthier and lesser when at home so that I'd feel freer and less guilty to indulge on food binges when on holidays. 
I figured I have to make some compromise or I'd only get into trouble but not into my jeans! What with so many tempting delectable but decadent food out there :-p. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Life's Irony

They bicker non-stop, fight over TV programs, computer time and tease each other endlessly. Forever disagreeing on any issue (except the dog issue) and yet... they can be so close to one another. It was heartbreaking to see them say goodbye.
Bryan left today to start a brand new chapter in his life.
I thought with practice this letting-go part of motherhood would get easier. So very wrong...there is no getting use to as far as this part of the job is concerned. 
Remember when he was a baby in my arms and I was thinking how nice to see him all grown up and independent...and now when he is ready to fly, all I want is that moment when he was in my arms...We teach them to reach for the stars but want them to stay grounded at the same time... Life is one big ironical equation, isn't it?

Another irony, it takes distance to bring me closer to my older children. I love them to bits, I know, but I have this incessant urge to nag (all in the name of 'it is for their own good') and pick on them when they were living at home. Now, with them so far away and the nagging out of the way, we can chat for hours (thanks to the internet and phone card or we would all be broke) like good old friends.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nishiki @ Kota Kinabalu (II)

Hey, do you know that Nishiki is also a very famous 400 year-old market in Kyoto? I was surfing the net looking up places of interest in Kyoto, hopefully if all goes well, we'd be walking along this market come November. Keeping my fingers crossed!
Anyway, back to KK's Nishiki, we had dinner here with KT and KH the last night of their stay in KK. They already had Sabah seafood for the past few days so let them have Japanese seafood for a change.

The only reason for coming to Nishiki....

Leanne's sole reason for going into any Japanese restaurant...

Something to go with the sake...

more for the sake...

Lucky us the wagyu promotion was on...yumzz..

The most disappointing dish of the goreng pisang has crispier batter :p

This was like homemade, coarse texture but very rich with a strong green tea flavor and not overly sweet. I like it.
KT picked up the tab but he said Citibank paid for this lovely meal, thank you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

With Friends

While KT and KH were here we brought them around our very scenic beaches and resorts. These were the few places we managed within the short time...
Rasa Ria Shangri-la Resort, Pantai Dalit, Tuaran

Nexus Resort, Karambunai

Shangri-la Tanjung Aru

Had a drink at the Borneo Lounge in Shangri-la Tanjung Aru after dinner. It is undoubtably one of the most beautiful hotel in Sabah.

Introduced them to this fruit unique to Borneo only, the tarap and they love it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Day With Nature

After the rain...

Visited the National Park with a good friend, KT and his son, KH who came over from KL for a few days. KH recently graduated and the dad wanted to spend some quality time with him before KH starts work in January. This is KH's first trip to the Island of Borneo. We thought our park is a must. I was apprehensive about staying in the National Park itself because the last time when we were there, nothing worked, bathroom's taps leaking, cabin was filthy and whole park looked like it was falling apart. Then recently Sutera Resorts took over the park management.
So what awaited us this trip at the park was a very pleasant surprise.
The cabin was very clean, the beds were 5 starred and bathroom fully renovated but I suspect the taps and bathwares were retained from the old which was rather puzzling considering the availability of very cheap and modern wares from China. Anyhow, the place was still 100% better than before. A very substantial breakfast spread (comprised of nasi lemak, two choices of porridge, fried noodles, sausages, an egg station, bread station, beverages...) was provided at the Balsam, the oldest restaurant at the park. We could see a lot of maintenance work going on at the park. Keep up the good work, Sutera Resorts.
Didn't encounter any blog worthy food on the trip but had a feast of the eyes with nature, my next favorite things to shoot. KH was also armed with a D40x Nikon and we went trigger happy...

Hope you had as much fun going through the pictures as I had taking them. Don't ask me to name them as I don't know most of them except the golden needles and the chrysanthemum which are both edible.

I love fire places and the scent of burning firewood. The cabin we stayed in came with this...

And KH was a master at 'fire-starting' (?). 
Thank you, KH, for your 'chi kung' but most of all, your thoughtfulness. It was the highlight of the trip for me, sitting in front of the roaring flame, talking about everything and nothing at all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pumpkin Chelsea Buns

The title might differ but this recipe is inspired by the blog, Ganache-ganache, of a young lady who makes amazing cakes and pastry and best of all, takes order for them.
This is her pumpkin buns recipe which I adapted and had a blast with.
I like the look of this recipe because it seems easy. Another reason is also I love playing with yeast dough. I know I can save time and energy using the dough mixer but most times I still prefer using my hands (easier to gauge the moisture of the dough too). It is like playing with my daughter's Play-Doh but better as it comes alive and double in size. And that yeasty scent when the dough comes alive can be very intoxicating not to mention the heavenly aroma when the goodies are in the oven baking...
As usual I tend to improvise whenever I am lacking in some ingredients and always tweak the recipe to accommodate some fussy palates but basically it follows pretty closely to the original recipe except for the sugar part. 
Her is sugar free but mine here is definitely not. 
I didn't have any honey so I used sugar and I like the idea of filling and a glaze. I was actually toying with the idea of a pumpkin cum gaya jam for a filling but the chelsea buns won . So I went crazy with butter, sugar, raisins and nuts for the filling, didn't I tell you I had fun? Definitely not for people on diet... 

My sister, Mui gave me this big pumpkin which had been sitting in the kitchen for weeks. Not wanting to cut it open as I know I had to have enough ways to cook it up fast. 

I still have half left even after using some to cook in Terri's style (see how red the pumpkin flesh is) and my usual balsamic glazed.
Following ganache's advice I peeled, steamed and freeze the remainder for future use. 

Click here for Ganache-ganache's original sugar-free pumpkin buns.
I halved the recipe as half the household is not in town.

Pumpkin Chelsea Buns
300g bread flour
150g pumpkin puree (peeled, steamed, mashed or blended)
40g castor sugar
75 - 80 ml milk (depends on the moisture content of the pumpkin puree)
1 t salt
1 t instant yeast
40g butter, softened

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, rub in the butter and stir in the sugar and yeast.
Add in the milk and mix well into a firm dough.
Turn the dough out on a flour surface and knead (my favorite part) for 10 minutes or so until smooth and elastic. 
When that is achieved, return it to a floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave it in a warm corner for 30 minutes or until the dough doubled in size.

Like this... when the yeasty fragrance is most pronounced and it looks like it is alive.

At this stage, turn out the dough on to a floured surface and knock or punch it down.

Roll out the dough into a square of about 30 cm.

1T melted butter
1T brown sugar mix with 1t ground cinnamon
40g raisins (or chocolate chips as Bryan requested)
40g walnuts (coarsely chopped)

Brush with the melted butter.

Sprinkle with the brown sugar and as can be seen from the picture above, half of the dough was sprinkle with raisin while the other half, chocolate chips as requested by Bryan. 

After the nuts are sprinkled on, roll the dough up, Swiss roll style.
Cut the roll into 12 slices.

And place them in an oiled 23cm cookie pan. Cover and leave for another 30 minutes until they double in size again.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200c.
Bake the buns for 15 minutes or until they are golden.
Leave to cool on a rack.

2T sugar
1 T water 
Gently heat the sugar and water until sugar dissolve.

Brush the glaze over the warm buns. 

The pumpkin in the buns turned a beautiful golden yellow when baked. 

Best serve warm with black coffee without sugar (kopi 'o' kosong). 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hana @ City Mall

Keshia wanted to celebrate her birthday with a Japanese dinner at Nishiki. I remember seeing a Japanese restaurant in City Mall a while back. I convinced her to try this new Japanese venue and she was happy as long as it is Japanese. So here we are in Hana at City Mall. Very easy to find as it is right across from Big Apple Donuts and Old Town Kopitiam.
We ordered a dish of sushi first before everything else and decided we were better off in Nishiki as far as raw seafood was concerned.  So we went for the sets and cooked dishes and was pleasantly surprised as we found the food to be pretty good. Service was fast and efficient even with a near full house.
Ebi (prawn) tempura @RM18. Very fresh prawns with a thin, light and crisp batter. A winner.

I enjoyed the Yasai (veggie) tempura @RM1o very much.

Especially this fresh shiitaki tempura.

The birthday girl's choice. Chicken teriyaki set @RM16.

Unagi set @Rm 28.

This Amiyaki Gyu Don@RM18 is voted the set of the night. There were about 5 pieces of reasonably sized slivers of beef. Grilled lightly with a most inviting smoky scent and according to Bryan, the owner of this winning dish, very tender and tasty but he never offer to share...*sigh* 

He just held them up to show us...*sigh*.

We had a beef teriyaki @RM20 and saba steak @RM19 too. And some side dishes from the 'Train', yes, they have the self service tram too. I don't remember why I didn't take any pictures of these dishes...most probably distracted by the Gyu Don and also the speed the food was devoured didn't leave any room for focusing. 

All the sets came with the usual pickles, chawan mushi and miso soup.
The dinner ended on a sweet note with this complimentary dessert.
I wouldn't mind coming back here again when we want some simple Japanese dishes. Will try their noodle dishes the next time.
If you are not a sashimi fan, this would be a great Japanese joint.