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.
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Earlier in March, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Needless to say, the crowds were massive, with people queueing for hours just to get into the shop.
It’s been a month and the hype has died down a little – so I thought it would be a good time to check out what they have in store.
I went on a weekday afternoon, and thankfully there was no queue. The entrance is on the second floor, so you’ll have to go up a couple of escalators. I suggest parking at Fahrenheit 88 nearby and walking over. It’s also advisable to go to the toilet beforehand, as there is no toilet inside the store and the toilets at Lot 10 have a 50-cent charge.
For the uninitiated, Don Don Donki (or Don Quijote as it is known in Japan) is a popular Japanese discount chain store with over 160 shops nationwide, and a strong presence in Asian Pacific markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and now Malaysia. They are known for being open till late (some shops are open 24 hours), and for having a distinctive retail concept which features aisles packed from floor to ceiling with goods.
I have been to a Donki store in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer – what with the explosion of colours, loud posters and merchandise everywhere. The Malaysian outlet has a similar design, with narrow aisles filled with all sorts of products imaginable, from toys and clothing, to cosmetics and snacks, most of which are imported from Japan. Unlike hypermarkets where there are clear signages indicating the sections, Don Don Donki’s layout is a jumble: everything here seems to vie for your attention.
If you’re lazy to scroll, here’s a video! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe. 🙂
Entering the store, you will come to the household goods and kitchenware section, and an area selling gym equipment and Donki merchandise such as plushies, toys and bags. The kitchen is located on this floor as well, and you can watch the staff preparing the food through glass windows.
The aisles here are very narrow, so even when there aren’t too many people, the place can feel cramped and claustrophobic. I don’t think SOPs were followed strictly (or should I say, it can’t be enforced due to the tight space?). At the snack aisles, for example, there was only room for 2 people to walk through, and I had to back-peddle out of the aisles several times whenever I saw people coming from the other end – there was simply no room for me to squeeze through.
Cosmetics section with vanity mirrors.
The second floor wasn’t really my thing – I was more interested in the first floor, which is where they sell fresh produce and food items. When going down the staircase, the Don Don Donki staff will ask if they can help with your basket or trolley, which is a nice gesture.
There is a wide selection of produce to choose from, including meat and vegetables, and of course, seafood. Following the design theme, every inch of this floor is packed with products – even the ceilings are filled with decorations. They also have these giant monitors playing interviews with farm owners / fishermen, which may tell you more about how the seafood was caught, or how crops were cultivated before they ended up in store.
The ready-to-eat section is an island counter laden with items such as chicken karaage, kaki furai (fried oyster), tori nanban, donburi bowls, fried squid, and more. The food is kept under heated lamps to keep them warm, but you can also reheat them upon checkout. Some of the food contains alcohol (such as the unagi don), so remember to check the labels if you’re unable to consume alcohol.
Moving on to the ground floor, there are more food items including a section for fruits and dried goods.
The aisles before checkout are also packed with easy-to-grab goods, to get customers to get a couple more items before payment. There are a lot of checkout counters, so payment is fast. They also bag up your items for you. If you’ve purchased food, you can proceed back up to the first floor, where there is a dining area outside the shop.
Coming here is an exercise in self control. There are so many interesting things to buy, but if you’re not careful, it can blow a big hole in your wallet. I wanted to keep my budget below RM50, so I only got the above: the most expensive item was the tonkotsu instant noodles (RM12+), followed by the baked cheese cake snacks (RM9.90), the caramel corn snacks (RM8.50) and two cream puffs (RM5.90 each).
So how was my experience at Don Don Donki Malaysia?
While the selection of products is not as extensive as their outlets in Japan, I think there is still plenty to see and buy here, especially food items. Prices are premium, but that is to be expected, given that most of the goods are brought in from Japan, and you do get some unique things that you won’t be able to find in local grocery stores or hypermarkets. The displays are very colourful and attractive, but it can get tiring after awhile due to the visual and sensory overload.
That being said, there are a few things that the shop can improve on. The aisles are narrow, so getting people to follow SOPS is a challenge. It’s also not comfortable to take your time and shop, as it can get crowded and stuffy. I would suggest coming on a weekday, if possible. If not, then maybe come earlier on the weekend. Store opening hours are from 8AM – 12PM.
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Back when I worked in PJ, I used to frequent Sushi Zanmai at Jaya Shopping Centre, which was just a 10-minute-drive from my office. I went there so often the server could anticipate my order even before I placed it (one plate of fried mushrooms, one bowl of rice and one portion of chuuka idako. Lol.) Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since transitioning to a fully WFH setup, which means that I haven’t had Sushi Zanmai for… well over a year.
I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed it until I walked past the Sushi Zanmai outlet at Main Place Mall in USJ recently. Of course, memories of my favourite mushroom-rice-octopus combo came flooding back, and I had to stop by for lunch. It was a weekday afternoon so the place was empty and service was fast.
I’m a creature of habit, so of course…
For some reason, the chuuka idako (baby octopus) came in a bigger portion than I remembered. Not that I’m complaining. The seafood was well marinated in a savoury sauce that brought out its natural sweetness, enhanced with a sprinkling of sesame and served atop a bed of salad.
One great thing about Sushi Zanmai is the consistent quality between outlets; so you get pretty much the same taste from one outlet as you do at any other.
Not forgetting my favourite fried shimeji mushrooms, served with a small dollop of Japanese-style mayonnaise. The batter was perfectly crispy and salty, but the mushrooms retained their moistness on the inside.
There’s something about eating fluffy white rice with fried items, be they mushrooms or fried chicken wings; perhaps not the healthiest option, but oh-so-satisfying nonetheless.
To switch things up beyond my usual trinity of orders (also because I haven’t had Japanese food for some time), I ordered kaki furai (fried oysters) and soft shell crab inari. They did not disappoint; the oysters were fresh, nicely battered and not greasy, while the inari and soft shell crab offered a great blend of textures and sweet and savoury flavours. Solid sushi!
Main Place Mall is much closer to where I live, so I guess I’ll be coming here now whenever I crave my Japanese food fix.
Service is friendly and efficient, prices are above average. If you come on weekends there might be a wait.
SUSHI ZANMAI (MAIN PLACE MALL USJ BRANCH)
Lot No.21, Second Floor, The Main Place, Jalan USJ 21/10, Persiaran Kewajipan, 47630 Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan.
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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).
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.
The interior is bright and cheerful, and you’ll find cute touches like these Japanese daruma dolls all around the premises.
Honey Coffee (RM9) for a caffeine boost.
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.
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.
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!
72A-G, Jalan Puteri 5/5, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
As much as I love food, I’ve never been much of a cook.
When I was younger, the kitchen was my mom’s domain (still is), and now that I’m older I just don’t have much interest in it. Since I live with family, making meals that I actually like (usually Western – pastas, pizza, steaks) is also difficult because I have to consider what my fam would eat (dad and bro have super Asian palates so every meal must have rice, dad doesn’t like cheese, mom dislikes fried food and can’t eat raw veggies, etc.).
Since I’m no longer dining out as much due to the pandemic, I haven’t had Japanese food in ages – so I thought of making some chicken karaage. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not much of a cook and I wasn’t expecting it to be anything wow, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much they tasted like the ones you can get from actual Japanese restos.
I adapted the original recipe from Rasa Malaysia, with a couple of tweaks. If a noob like me with little to no cooking experience can whip them up, I’m sure this will be a breeze for everyone else!
2 chicken thighs, deboned
3 inches ginger – grate and squeeze to get 2 tbsp ginger juice
4 tbsp soy sauce
a teaspoon of sugar (substitute for cooking sake)
cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
combine ginger juice, soy sauce and sugar. Allow chicken to marinate overnight.
coat chicken with cornflour. (I used a ziploc bag so it would coat evenly)
Shake off excess cornflour.
Heat oil to boil in a pot / wok. Fry chicken at medium heat until they float. Remove and allow to rest for a few minutes.
Adjust to high heat. Fry chicken again until crispy and golden brown.
Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve.
And that’s it! It’s super simple; and I was so happy the chicken turned out juicy and well-flavoured – didn’t need extra seasoning or anything. Is this what they call ‘the joys of cooking’? Or maybe I’m just excited because it’s fried chicken ha
The original recipe says to use four chicken thighs (about a lb), but because the thighs I bought were humongous (wtf are they feeding the chickens?), I only used two. You can use breast meat, but thigh meat tends to be more tender and juicier. Cooking sake helps to break down the meat, but if you’re going for a halal recipe / don’t have cooking sake, sugar works as well. The portion was enough for our fam of four (mom doesn’t like fried food and only had a bit) but I think I could have polished off this entire plate by myself lol. I think judging by regular portions, it’s good for 2-3 people.
If you’re trying this recipe, let me know how it turned out. Happy cooking! 🙂
My favourite udon joints seem to be closing one by one. First it was Marufuku Udon in Jaya One, then recently, Hanamaru Udon in Sunway Pyramid. Thankfully, I’ve found a new place to satisfy my chewy noodle cravings – and it’s close to my new workplace.
Miyatake Sanuki Udon has roots in Kagawa, Japan, where they have restaurants and their own noodle factory. They opened their first outlet in Malaysia at ISETAN 1Utama in 2019. The resto looks like your typical Japanese casual dining joint: lots of wood, attractive photos of the food, and Japanese-style buntings you usually see at sushi spots and robatayakis. Orders are made for at the counter, and you can also pick your side dishes like chicken karaage, enoki mushrooms, crab sticks, chikuwa, and more.
It goes without saying that their specialty is udon, and there are several varieties, such as plain, with curry, with thin slices of beef, and with onsen tamago (soft boiled egg). Went for the latter, which featured a full, yellow yolk that sat atop a bed of silky, chewy noodles.
Miyatake Sanuki Udon’s noodles are well known for their quality, and it is also sold in supermarkets around the world. The noodles are made from wheat that has been carefully selected and milled at their factory in Sanuki, giving them a sumptuous, strong-bodied flavour. You can taste the fragrant aroma of wheat, and it is by far one of the chewiest udon noodles that I’ve tasted. If you like chewy noodles, this will be right up your alley.
Ordered sides of chicken karaage and fried enoki mushrooms.
Enjoying the different textures – crunchy and crispy, soft and chewy – is the ultimate satisfaction! Dip your fried snacks in tempura sauce for extra flavour.
The onsen tamago was literally perfect: tried lifting it up and the membrane didn’t even tear.
An average bowl of udon here ranges from RM11 – RM20. My meal with two sides and a drink came up to RM25. Green tea is refillable, but the price is steep at RM4.
MIYATAKA SANUKI UDON (non-halal)
Food Paradise, 2F, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, Central Park Avenue, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
In Japan, izakayas are popular after-work haunts that serve alcoholic drinks and snacks, such as grilled items on skewers and small appetiser plates, finished off with a more filling portion of rice or noodles. Unlike traditional restaurants that serve course-meals, you order as you eat and the chefs prepare it a la minute – so expect to spend a substantial amount of time when dining in.
Japanese restos are a dime a dozen in the Klang Valley, but izakaya-style eateries that serve food on skewers are rare. In Puchong, there’s Minato Yakitori, a cosy establishment located above a steamboat restaurant. I’ve only been to an authentic izakaya once (in Nagoya), and Minato recreates the atmosphere well – the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs in action, the smoke, smells and sounds coming from the grill – even the bustle of diners chatting and enjoying their meals.
Technically, though, Minato Yakitori is not a pure izakaya – as it also serves dishes like Ebi Tempura Don,Curry Rice, katsu and even sashimi. This is good news for big eaters, as the yakitori items aren’t really filling, and you can rack up a hefty bill if you’re only eating skewers.
For starters, we got a bowl of thinly sliced, cold marinated jellyfish. It was marinated well and had a salty, sour tang, with a crunchy texture.
Pops had the Ebi Tempura(fried shrimp) set, which came with rice, miso soup and salad. Portions were generous for the price, as he had a good five pieces of largish shrimp, fried in a crispy batter with moist and springy insides. The Bro had a Chicken Katsu Don.
Moo and I ordered skewers and steamed rice. They took a pretty long time to come since everything is grilled to order. The skewers average about RM3 – RM10, depending on what you’re ordering.
I was actually kinda disappointed with the size. I know they’re meant to be snacks, but the squid, for example, looked small and shriveled. Even the dollop of mayo that was served on the side was super tiny. Although, I can’t fault the flavour and the quality of the food – the squid tasted fresh, and I liked that it had a slight char on the edges.
Moo’s Pork with Spring Onions. The meat had a nice sweet taste, like glazed soy sauce and sugar, which complemented the natural sweetness of the spring onions.
I also ordered: bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, scallops and chicken liver. The latter two were the best of the lot: the scallops were plump and juicy, while the chicken liver was intense and gamey – not for those who don’t like the taste of offal. The bacon-wrapped mushrooms were good too, just the portion was small and the bacon slice was so thin I could have used it as a ring around my finger lol.
Our bill for 4 came up to just under RM100. If you’re looking for a tasty, filling meal, go for the sets. If you want the izakaya experience, order the skewers. Expect a wait as they grill the items to order. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
First Floor, No. 49, 1, Jalan Puteri 2/3, Bandar Puteri Puchong, 47100 Puchong, Selangor (Above Harbour Steamboat)
I was going through some old posts from my Japan trip last year and realised that I missed out writing on this.
It was our last night in Tokyo, and as appreciation for our work filming from 3AM – 1PM lol (we were doing a story on the Toyosu Fish Market), our POC / guide Ken-san picked out a place for dinner. It turned out to be Saganobori in Ginza, which is very famous for their chanko nabe, aka sumo hotpot. Reservations are required, so we were really grateful to Ken-san for making all the arrangements – we just showed up for the food!
Sumo wrestling is a big sport and an age-old tradition in Japan. If you thought they are just fat dudes wrestling around in a ring, you are sorely mistaken. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into maintaining their physique, and sumo wrestlers adhere to a rigorous diet and training regime, and follow a strict set of rules.
One of the most recognisable dishes associated with sumo wrestling is chanko nabe, which literally translates to “a meal of hotpot”. There are no specific recipes, but typical ingredients include meat or fish/seafood, and vegetables. One thing they all have in common is the large serving, as chanko nabe is eaten as part of a weight gain diet.
Cute sumo-themed chopstick holders !
A couple of pickled appetisers to get things started. The fig with cream sauce (top right) was divine.
Japanese cuisine is always a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach.
Tamagoyaki (Sweet omelette) with herbs – fluffy, bouncy and absolutely perfect.
Small fried shrimp – more snacks to keep us going while they prepared the hotpot.
It. Was. Massive.
It was the first time I had ever seen such a gigantic hotpot, and it was filled to the brim with beautiful slices of fatty pork belly, humongous squares of tofu, meatballs, mushrooms, vegetables and spring onions in a light dashi broth. This thing could feed a village. Needless to say, we had problems finishing it among the six of us and were basically lying sideways in our chairs by the end of the meal. It was quite wasted, so I don’t recommend getting this unless you’re travelling in a big group or you are a big eater with a bottomless pit for a stomach.
This was like the third bowl and I was already slowing down considerably lol. Of course, everything was fresh and tasty, especially the pork belly slices. The dashi got more and more flavourful as the night wore on, having soaked up the full flavours of the ingredients.
The meat and veggies in itself were already very filling – but of course Ken-san had to go and order noodles lol. I’m not sure what they are but they were a little chewy, like udon, but less thick.
Despite saying we were all full, we somehow found space in our stomach for ice cream (because everyone has a separate dessert stomach, no?). It was an interesting flavour – sea salt – hence the bluish tinge.
We actually sat around eating and drinking green tea (thankfully, I travelled with a group of non-alcoholics!) until closing time. It was actually autumn during our visit and the weather was just starting to get chilly – so it was nice to have something warm and hearty before bedtime.
If you’ve never had sumo hotpot, and are travelling with friends/family in Tokyo, I recommend trying it out at Saganobori. The shop can be a little hard to find because it’s tucked in a quiet side alley (I notice that this is a trend with many famous restos in Tokyo – they often look super unassuming / are hidden in some back alley or other), but with a little determination and a GPS, you’ll be rewarded with a giant bowl of hearty hotpot!
Address: 7-18-15, Ginza, Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture