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Vlog: Is This The Best Halal Ramen in Malaysia?

A couple of months ago, I wrote about Ramen Seirock-Ya, an up-and-coming halal ramen chain that specialises in toripaitan (chicken ramen) – and how it might just be the best halal ramen that I’ve tasted. Well, my opinion hasn’t changed – but this time, I’ve made a vlog about it. And in Malay, no less!

The video clips have been in my folder for some time now, but I just couldn’t find the time/energy to edit them. But better late than never, right? PS: This was filmed before the Movement Control Order 3.0 came into effect, when dine-in was still allowed. Fret not, though – you can order from them online here.

BTW, this is the first time that I’ve vlogged in Malay. Language gets rusty if you don’t use it often, which is the case with my Malay, and that’s why I wanted to at least practice it a bit in my vlog.

“But aren’t you Malaysian?” my non-Malaysian readers might ask. “You should be fluent in Malay, since you live there.”

Well, technically, I am fluent. I learned it for 10 years in school. I even got a “Best in BM” award in high school, which is a pretty good achievement if I say so myself, seeing that I’m Malaysian Chinese.

Here’s the thing though. It’s complicated. Malaysia is a pretty odd country. You have all these different races living together in relative harmony, but racial (and religious) polarisation has been on the rise in recent years, and it’s no longer surprising to find people who aren’t that fluent in Malay, even though they are citizens. My parents, for example, can speak in Malay relatively well. But they tend to mix English words into their conversations, and if you asked them to speak purely in Malay, they would find it difficult. Would that be considered ‘fluent’?

As for myself, well, being stuck at home means I only speak Cantonese and English (my first language) most of the time. And to be honest, my Malay has been on a downward spiral ever since I graduated from high school, because I don’t have that many Malay friends (or friends in general *cough cough*) who speak to me in Malay. The only occasions where I have to dig up my long-lost BM vocab are when I have to visit a government office.

Anyway, I hope to make more vlogs in Malay. I’m already an outcast when it comes to Chinese (I can’t read Chinese characters and I’m not fluent in Mandarin. Third culture kid problems), so I don’t want mastery of my second best language to go down the drain.

If you liked the video, please consider subscribing! Or you could buy me a cup of coffee on Patreon.

Til the next one!

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I Finally Tried Hai Di Lao: Was It Worth The Hype?

Would you line up for THREE hours just to eat hotpot?

Well, that’s what a lot of people do on a regular basis at Hai Di Lao, the popular Chinese hotpot chain famed for its spicy malatang soup. Founded in 1994, the restaurant has over 935 outlets all across the world, including in Malaysia.

When the chain opened its first shop in Sunway Pyramid back in 2019, the hype was insane. Reservations were fully booked for months, and if you wanted to try the queue, you had to go early to get a number. People recounted how they had to queue in the morning just to get a slot for the afternoon, or if that wasn’t possible, for the evening session. If they ran out of numbers for the day… well, tough luck.

Photo via Hai Di Lao Malaysia Facebook.

While you don’t have to remain in queue the entire time (they give you a sheet with a QR code where you can check your status), it’s still pretty mind-boggling that you have to wait that long just for a seat. That’s why they have things like a popcorn machine and snacks at the waiting area to keep you entertained while you wait. Yep, you read that right – they give you food to eat while you’re waiting to eat food lol.

Now, I like good food as much as the next person – but the longest I’ve ever waited for a table was 40 minutes. No way I was going to waste three hours of my life for a bite, which is why I’ve never tried it no matter how many glowing reviews I read about it on the internet.

Recently, however, foot traffic has fallen in a lot of malls due to the pandemic – and I was finally able to try the Hai Di Lao at Sunway Velocity Kuala Lumpur. There wasn’t even a line, so we breezed in and were served within 10 minutes! If you’re like me and hate queueing, but have always been curious about what makes this hotpot chain so popular, now is a good time to try it.

Video here:

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The restaurant is massive, airy and well ventilated. I think it can easily seat 200 people or more, but only half of the floor space was open for diners during our visit. It was pretty quiet too for a Saturday, and there were loads of empty tables.

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Hai Di Lao is famed for its impeccable service, which starts from the moment you step through the door. Some places even offer complimentary manicures and massages!

We were led to our table, where H was given a hair band to tie up her long hair, and I was given lens wipes for my glasses. Each section has a few dedicated wait staff. Our server was friendly and helpful; she first asked if this was our first time, then proceeded to explain how to order food from the tablet menu.

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Before anything else, you have to choose a soup base. Unlike conventional hotpot places which offer a maximum of two flavours, Hai Di Lao has a unique four-compartment pot which allows you to pick up to four different soups. You can, of course, go for the traditional one or two compartments, but take note that the larger the compartment, the pricier the soup is.

H and I were discussing on how best to save on the soup when the server recommended we get the four-compartment one, but pick two soups. “I can fill the other two with plain water.” she said. That way, each soup base would only cost us RM10. If you change your mind later, they can fill in the ’empty’ slots with a soup of your choice for RM8.

HDL’s signature is the malatang (a spicy, numbing chilli-based soup popular in the Szechuan region), but since I’m not a big fan, we opted for tomyum as well as the local exclusive, pepper with pork stomach.

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Sauces are not complimentary; you’ll have to pay RM8 if you want them. There’s a good variety, though. Aside from the usual vinegar and soy sauce, they also offer unique sauces like mushroom, seafood, sesame, shacha (peanut and spices), oyster and more.

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All items on the menu are available in half or full portions. Half portions are recommended for 2 people. We ordered pork belly, cheese tofu, bursting pork balls, octopus, cabbage and radish.

The main highlight at HDL is the soup, and the ones we ordered delivered. I especially liked the pepper pork stomach soup: it was chock full of ingredients, had just the right amount of peppery kick, and was creamy and flavourful. All of the items we ordered were fresh, although I think the pork belly could have been slightly thicker. The bursting pork balls were springy and juicy as well. We also ordered a plate of pork neck (not pictured), which I recommend if you like fatty cuts.

HDL has a wide variety of ingredients to choose from: aside from pork, you can also go for lamb, chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables. You will also find some unusual items like sea urchin, duck feet and liver, which are not conventional hotpot ingredients.

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HDL offers complimentary fruits as dessert, but we decided to get another one from the menu: deep fried sesame cakes with melted brown sugar. They’re crispy on the outside, while the inside has a chewy texture similar to mochi.

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Washed everything down with a refreshing bowl of aiyubing (jelly)!

Our total bill came up to RM157, or about RM78.50 per pax. It is rather pricey by hotpot standards, since you can get a buffet for around RM60 – but I enjoyed the food and the experience, and wouldn’t mind splurging on it once in awhile. Provided there’s no queue, that is.

HAI DI LAO (Sunway Velocity)

 F3-16,Lingkaran SV, Jln Cheras, Maluri, 55100 Kuala Lumpur

Open daily: 11AM – 9PM

Reservations: 03-9770 0070

Hello!

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Brunch & Japanese Fare @ Buranchi, Bandar Puteri Puchong

I’ve driven past Buranchi a couple of times before, but never tried it until recently. Suprisingly, it was the Moo who suggested we grab lunch there (she isn’t keen on dining out because of the high number of coronavirus cases here in Selangor).

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Buranchi is Japanese for brunch, a fitting name for a cafe that specialises in all-day breakfasts and Japanese and Western fusion cuisine. Expect items such as sausage puffs, omu curry rice, yakiniku don, potato salad, ramen and udon. They also offer a selection of coffee and cakes.

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The interior is bright and cheerful, and you’ll find cute touches like these Japanese daruma dolls all around the premises.

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Honey Coffee (RM9) for a caffeine boost.

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Moo’s Chazuke (RM13) had exquisite presentation.

Chazuke comes from the Japanese ocha (tea) and zuke (to submerge), and usually comprises rice topped with various condiments such as pickled vegetables and wasabi, and a dashi/tea/broth that is poured over the rice. The one at Buranchi is served with a side of grilled saba (mackerel). It’s a simple meal that is not too heavy, which is probably why it’s popular with the ladies.

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I prefer robust flavours, so I got the Tonkatsu Ramen (RM17), which is one of the cafe’s specialties.

I was very impressed with the quality of the ramen. The noodles were al dente, and it was served with slices of crunchy bamboo shoots, ajitsuke tamago (half-boiled egg) and nori (seaweed). The star was definitely the pork bone soup, which was rich, savoury and full of porky goodness (I emptied the bowl, lol). While I remain devoted to Menya Shishi Do, I think Buranchi’s version is not bad at all for its price, especially if you’re stuck in Puchong and can’t drive all the way to PJ to have your ramen fix.

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To round off the meal, the Moo and I shared a Sea salt Chocolate Mousse (RM10). It was smooth, creamy and luscious; the chocolate was not too sweet and still had a hint of the astringency you get from dark cocoa, while the slight amount of sea salt helped to balance out everything – sort of like the principle of salted caramel.

Buranchi certainly impressed me with its service, quality and price, which is reasonable for the setting. Will be making a return visit to try out other dishes!

BURANCHI

72A-G, Jalan Puteri 5/5, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 830AM – 4PM (closed Mondays)

non-halal

Review: Fusion Food + Coffee @ Garage 51 Bandar Sunway

I had originally intended to grab some beef noodles for dinner at Bandar Sunway… only to realise that the Soong Kee Beef Noodle outlet near Sunway University had closed. 😦

Most of the other restaurants were crowded, so I popped into Garage 51, a cosy place serving fusion food and coffee. They’re also one of the pioneer Australian-style cafe/restos in the area, known for their gigantic milkshakes.

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The decor hasn’t changed much from my last visit; ie still sporting the ‘industrial chic’ look with lots of wood, steel and ambient yellow light.

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For drinks, the Mochatella (RM16) comes with a small pitcher of milk, which you can pour into a glass filled with coffee cubes and hazelnut chocolate. Since the cubes are made from coffee, you get an ice cold drink that isn’t diluted – and you can adjust how ‘milky’ you want it to be. Hazelnut chocolate on the bottom gives the beverage a good level of sweetness. I’d suggest not ordering this for dinner though, or you’d end up hyper until 5AM like I was lol.

Video: 

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Garage 51 serves a good selection of fusion dishes, from pastas to grilled proteins, salads and rice bowls. I went for the Hoisin Smoked Duck Rice Roll (RM16), which came in a generous portion with Japanese rice, tempura mushroom and onsen egg. Considering the price vs portion, it was pretty value for money! The duck had a sweet flavour which was closer to a teriyaki glaze, and the meat was tender but not gamey. Loved nibbling on the flavourful extra layer of duck fat on the top ! The tempura mushrooms weren’t greasy and gave the dish a crispy element. Egg was perfectly poached. All in all, a solid rice bowl.

Look at that egg: 

GARAGE 51 

51, Jalan PJS 11/9, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Business hours: 11AM – 11PM (closed Mondays)

Phone: 03-5612 5618

Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (daily)

Review: Chee Cheong Fun @ King Restaurant Batu 14 Puchong

Chee cheong fun – aka steamed rice rolls – is a Cantonese Chinese dish originating from Guangdong province. In Malaysia, it’s a pretty common sight at breakfast; either prepared in the traditional Hong Kong-style (with filling in a soy sauce), or served with various fried and boiled goodies such as fishballs, beancurd sheets, chillies stuffed with fish paste, and more.

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On the recommendation of a Facebook post, Moo and I decided to try out the chee cheong fun at a place called King Restaurant in Batu 14 Puchong. Apparently the place has been around for a while now, and it just goes to show how long I haven’t been in the neighbourhood, lol. The shop prides itself in serving flat rice noodles prepared the traditional way; ie the rice flour is ground in a large stone grinder.

Video here:

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Most HK-style chee cheong fun typically uses shrimp and pork as fillings, but the version at King also features ingredients such as egg, veggies, onion and dried shrimp. Prices are reasonable, and portions are generous.

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Making good chee cheong fun is a test of skill and speed. The rice flour mixture solidifies almost immediately upon contact with heat, so the chef has to spread it out quickly, let it steam, fill it with ingredients and then roll them up quickly.

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Orders come in one size only. I had the shrimp (RM6), which was sprinkled over with fried onions and came swimming in a whole lake of soy sauce. The star of the dish was definitely the rice rolls – I could really taste the difference in texture between this and the factory-produced versions. Thin and silky smooth, with a slight chewiness to it, the sheets enveloped the shrimp within like a sheer shawl. The filling itself was nothing to shout about, as the shrimps were small and lacked that fresh, bouncy bite.

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Moo’s Egg and Pork (RM5). Again, filling was nothing great but the rice rolls were good.

 

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While you’re here, don’t forget to order the insanely addictive prawn fritters (har beng) – deep fried savoury discs of crunchy goodness with tiny bits of shrimp, potato and onion. The chilli sauce gives it that extra oomph. Order quickly as soon as they come out of the kitchen as they run out pretty quickly.

Food was decent overall, but service is rather inefficient. They don’t seem to have a good system of relaying orders, despite orders being made via chit. Several tables had their orders mixed up, and the workers were confused as to which table ordered which dish. Service was slow as well, even when collecting payment. Expect to wait if the place is crowded.

KING RESTAURANT 

Lorong Jejawi, Kampung Baru Batu 14 Puchong, 47100 Puchong, Selangor.

Open daily: 7.30AM – 1.30PM (Closed Mondays)