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How To Gain Weight: CNY Edition

Happy Chinese New Year!

This year’s festivities are much more subdued due to the pandemic, but I still had an enjoyable time bonding (and eating!) with the family over the weekend. To save on the hassle of preparing an elaborate meal for our reunion dinner night, we decided to have hotpot/barbecue out on the porch. We bought most of the ingredients in advance so we wouldn’t have to rush to the market on the few days leading up to CNY.

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Aside from the quintessential pork belly slices (you can get these from the local butcher nicely packed), our hotpot ‘buffet’ also had all the other essentials: chicken and fish slices, pork balls and fish balls, needle mushrooms, squid, seafood cheese tofu, fried beancurd sheets, and for carbs, udon noodles. Moomins opened a celebratory can of mini abalones – they’re especially cheap this year due to a dip in demand.

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We bought a 2-in-1 BBQ/hotpot stove from Lazada, just for this.

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The soup base we used was from Hai Di Lao. We bought the shrimp flavour thinking it would be mild, but it was actually quite spicy. It also had preserved vegetables, which gave it a sour tang. Personally, I prefer something milkier and sweeter, so I will probably go for another flavour the next time around.

I know processed foods aren’t the healthiest, but seafood cheese tofu and bursting pork balls (above) are my favourites whenever I have hotpot. Seafood cheese tofu is usually made from surimi, so the texture is bouncy, and it has bits of creamy cheese within; while bursting pork balls are so called because there is hot soup in the centre, so caution should be taken whenever you bite into them so the juices within don’t spill everywhere and burn your tongue.

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My parents weren’t keen on the pork belly slices, so my brother and I ate most of them. I can safely say that I ate my fill lol. I prefer mine cooked in the hotpot, because they tend to get crispy and hard on the grill (I like mine to be soft so you can taste the texture of the fat and lean meat). Dip them in some soy sauce and chilli, and voila! Magic. We rarely have hotpot at home, so this was a very satisfying experience.

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By the time we finished dinner and the washing up it was nearly 10pm. We had initially planned to have our yee sang right after, but everyone was too full, so we watched Bad Genius on Netflix and waited for midnight.

Instead of the usual salmon yee sang, we got a fruits version this year. My cousin and his girlfriend are doing it as a part-time business, so it was our way of showing support (I also sent two sets to friends). It was basically a fruit salad consisting of green and red grapes, strawberries, mandarin oranges, carrots, pomegranates and dragonfruit (we didn’t add this in because it was too soft and watery), plus toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds. In place of plum sauce was honey.

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All in all, good, albeit on the sour side despite the addition of honey.

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After all that feasting on reunion dinner night, our first day of CNY was tamer affair. Traditionally, many families will observe a vegetarian meal after the extravagance of the previous night – we had a simple meal of udon and mock meat with fried egg for lunch. Also spent the afternoon playing mahjong. Everyone was rusty, because we only do this once a year lol.

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I received a nice surprise on the morning of Day 2: my friend H sent me a CNY package!

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Went out in the afternoon with Pops to Moon Palace Restaurant, to pick up our order of poon choi. For my non-Chinese readers, it’s basically a Cantonese dish comprised of a pot filled with luxurious seafood and meat items, which are then poured over with a rich sauce. Due to the large portions, it is meant to be shared, and you’ll often see it at festive occasions like Chinese New Year and weddings. I’ve only had poon choi once or twice during food reviews, never with the fam, so it was a first for all of us.

Our poon choi came with abalone, dried oysters stuffed with fat choi (a type of cyanobacteria with the appearance of human hair – it sounds gross lol but tastes like seaweed), roast duck, poached chicken, brocolli, huge shiitake mushrooms, abalone mushrooms, prawns, yam, scallops and roast pork. The oyster sauce that was to be poured over coagulated slightly from the cold, but otherwise everything was excellent. I especially liked the abalone mushrooms: they were thick and juicy. It’s no wonder people use them in making imitation meat – the texture is very similar.

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And finally, to round up our 2nd day, another round of yee sang; this time vegetarian.

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Bonus: Air-dried clay Mandarin Oranges my brother made for fun.

While this CNY lacks the cheer and pomp of yesteryears, I think I actually enjoyed it more. The weekend was spent bonding with the fam, playing Divinity 2: Original Sin, embroidering (new hobby!), and just eating. Like a lot. I think between Pops, the brother and I, we finished five cans of snacks and a dozen canned drinks. Also, I got no exercise in at all, so it’s not surprising that I gained 2kg.

It’s back to the grind tomorrow, and I’ll be getting back into my workout routine as well.

Hope you all had a good celebration!

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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

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Review: Ho Kee Seafood Steamboat Restaurant, Bandar Puchong Jaya

It’s been raining a lot lately – and what better way to warm up than with a nice. bubbling hotpot dinner? Braving the downpour, we drove to Ho Kee Seafood Steamboat Restaurant in Bandar Puchong Jaya, on the recommendation of a friend of Moo’s. The place is pretty popular, judging from the Saturday night crowd. The ground level is air conditioned, but we didn’t want to wait so we opted for a table upstairs.

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Pretty stuffy, but at least the windows were open.

Unlike many modern hotpot restos which use portable gas stoves / canisters, Ho Kee has old school stoves hooked up to gas cylinders; one at each table. The resto seemed quite understaffed during our visit, with only one or two staff attending to the entire floor. It took awhile (and several attempts calling the waiters over) before they brought the menu.

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We ordered a set for three pax, which was more than enough for the four of us. It had the usual suspects: tofu pok, bean curd sheets,  sui gao (pork dumplings), pork balls, fish balls and fish slices on a bed of vegetables. There was also yee mee, bihun and eggs.

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Waiting for the soup to boil. You can choose to get the clear soup base, or the tomyum one at an additional cost.

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Some extras that weren’t included in the set: squid and seafood cheese tofu. You can order other items ala carte.

PS: I do not recommend getting the squid. It costs RM13 per plate and they shrivel up after cooking. Was literally combing the bottom of the pot trying to look for the tiny pieces. 

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The ingredients were fresh. The seafood cheese tofu was my favourite, and the fish items like the fishballs were good too; had a nice bouncy bite to them. Soup base was decent – I think they taste pretty standard at most hotpot places.

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A nice add-on to get is the fried chicken wings (RM2.90 per piece). Marinated well with a robust flavour, crispy skin and tender juicy insides.

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I like century egg with porridge, so I ordered a plate. It was quite pricey at RM8 (you can get one for about RM2 at the market). They were served cold so it felt a little geli, but tasted way better after dunking them in the soup.

For those of you who have never tried century egg, they’re basically duck eggs that have been preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quick lime and rice hulls for several weeks to months, until the egg develops a jelly-like consistency with a creamy black center. It has a strong flavour of ammonia, which those unused to it might find unpleasant. Been eating this since I was a kid though, and I love it – I guess it’s one of those love or hate things, like durian. lol

Our total bill with drinks (2 glasses of carrot milk, one pot of Chinese tea and a 100 Plus) came up to about RM120++.

The set is pretty value for money at RM20++ per pax, but it can rack up when you order side dishes. Service is slow; our drinks were sitting on the counter for the longest time – in the end we got up and got it ourselves. If you’re coming on a weekend, expect a wait.

HO KEE SEAFOOD STEAMBOAT RESTAURANT 

 01-01, Jalan Kenari 18b, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Business hours: 5PM – 12AM (Daily)

 

 

 

Review: Hong Kong-Style Hotpot @ Bone & Pot, Bandar Puteri Puchong

Update 8/2/2021: This restaurant is permanently closed.

Puchong-ites seem to have a love affair with hotpots – just drop by Bandar Puteri Puchong or Bandar Puchong Jaya, and you will be spoilt for choice with the number of establishments serving the specialty. One of these places is Bone and Pot.

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Even among hotpots, there are a variety of different styles, from Ma La (Sichuan) to Sukiyaki (Japanese). Bone & Pot touts itself as a Hong-Kong style hotpot, specialising in pork bone soup which is rich in collagen – good for the joints, bones and complexion!

S and I were early so the place was empty – they get quite busy during peak hours on weekends.

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All-you-can-eat hotpot is the in-thing now, but we didn’t want to gorge ourselves – which is why we went to Bone & Pot, where you can order individual dishes. S and I are both meat eaters, so we only got the needle shrooms as our ‘greens’ (technically they’re not even vegetables, lol) + pork slices, bursting beef balls, shrimp and pork dumplings, cheese-stuffed tofu and pork stomach.

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Everything was fresh and tasty, but the soup was awesome (though S said Genting’s Beauty and the Pot is better). Bone & Pot’s version was rich, milky and full of lip-smacking goodness, especially after it had absorbed the flavours of the ingredients. The meat on the large pork bone was so tender after having been cooked for so long, it literally flaked off.

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Just dip the slices into the boiling broth for a couple of seconds and voila! Tender, juicy meat. Best with plain soy sauce and a bit of chilli for that spicy kick.

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For snacks, I recommend the fried salt and pepper squid which was seriously crunchy and addictive; although it was more batter than actual squid.

Our bill for two came up to RM90, which was quite pricey considering that some hotpot buffets are cheaper, but the quality of the food was above average, especially the pork bone broth.

BONE & POT 

No.47, Jalan Puteri 2/3, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 5PM – 1AM (Daily)

Review: Two Pesos Hotpot @ Bandar Puchong Jaya, Puchong

It was a scorching hot day but that didn’t stop C and I from having hotpot for lunch at Two Pesos, a hotpot specialist restaurant in Bandar Puchong Jaya, Puchong. While the brand was founded by a Taiwanese couple, the story goes that they met and got married in Boracay, hence the resto’s Filipino-sounding name.

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The resto’s interior is cheerful and decked out in bright orange, with a fuss-free design that resembles a canteen. The interior was air conditioned, so we could enjoy our food in comfort.

While most hotpot restos adopt an ‘all-you-can-eat’ concept, orders at Two Pesos are by set – which is good in a way because you won’t over-indulge. Their signature is the milky seafood pot, and they also offer hotpot/BBQ sets where the meat is grilled over a stone plate, which gives you that beautiful sear and flavour. There are plenty of different sets to choose from, such as Japanese Sukiyaki, Hua Diao Chicken, Basu Spicy Pot, Mongolian Herbs Pot, Supreme Tajine Seafood Hotpot, and more.

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Felt like something salty and sour, so we went for the Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae) instead. For those not familiar with this dish, it’s a relatively ‘new’ invention created after the Korean war,  when food was scarce and people used any surplus food they could get from US army bases, chucking them together to make a stew. Primary ingredients include ham, sausages and spam, mixed with Korean ingredients such as kimchi and gochujang (bean paste).

The version at Two Pesos had sausages and the usual hotpot items such as crab meat sticks, fish balls, tofu, beancurd sheets, enoki mushrooms, corn and vegetables like cabbage and carrots. Of course, you can’t run away from the kimchi and gochujang mix, which gives the soup it’s intense red colouring and spicy, sour taste, as well as chewy teokbokki (rice cakes). It was also topped with a block of instant noodles.

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The set came with a choice of meat – either pork, Australian beef or fish. We went for the pork slices which were just the right thickness and fresh. Only had to cook it for awhile in the bubbling soup to achieve the perfect tenderness.  Also included was a choice of  carb – ie rice, instant noodles or yee mee (fried dried noodles).

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Overall the flavour was pretty good, although I still prefer the one from Gangnam 88. For RM20.90 per set, the price was reasonable but I wished they had more ingredients instead of just a few pieces of fishballs/crabsticks, and less cabbage.

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Ordered boneless fried chicken as a side. Again, portion was not very large and it costs RM8.90 – but the flavour was good with a crunchy exterior and moist insides.

TWO PESOS 

16, Jalan Kenari 8, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 11PM (Daily)

2pesos.com.my

 

Review: Mo-Mo Paradise @ J’s Gate Dining, Lot 10 Kuala Lumpur

One of my favourite things to have is shabu-shabu and sukiyaki – so I was thrilled to try out Mo-Mo Paradise, a famous Japanese chain that specialises in the cuisine. Recently opened at J’s Gate Dining in Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur, this is the first Mo-Mo Paradise outlet in Malaysia, focusing on an all-you-can-eat concept with fresh, high quality ingredients.

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The modern dining space features lots of wood finish for a cosy ambience. Spanning 2,485 sq ft, it seats up to 80 diners, and has a private dining room that fits 15, available for intimate gatherings and small functions.

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Diners can choose from two types of soup bases.

The shabu-shabu, which is the original light broth that can be enjoyed with ponzu and gomadare (sesame) sauce, is specially formulated by Mo-Mo Paradise and directly imported from Japan. Those who prefer a sweet-salty, richer flavour can go for the sukiyaki, the traditional broth from Shoudo island. For the best of both worlds, go for a mixed course.

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How to eat Shabu-Shabu the Japanese way

It’s pretty common in Chinese hotpot to just dump everything in the pot (like above) but the Japanese eat it by taking a piece of meat, swishing it around quickly and dipping it into raw egg before eating with a bit of sauce. The name ‘shabu-shabu’ actually translates to ‘swish swish’ in Japanese!

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Shabu Shabu course

The resto offers a mouthwatering selection of different types of meat, such as locally sourced sakura pork, chicken, and air-flown beef from Australia. The meats are carefully sliced and kept under strictly controlled temperatures before serving.

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I’ve been to my fair share of shabu-shabu places in Malaysia – and I have to say that Mo-Mo Paradise’s beef slices are among the most best ones I’ve ever seen. The thickness was just right (some places serve you paper thin sheets which practically fall apart) and there was a nice amount of lean and fat in each slice.

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If you’re the type that MUST have carbs, the resto offers ramen and udon bowls as well.

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The vegetable bar has over 20 types of vegetables, which are sourced locally.

Mix Soup

Meals are priced from RM68++ for a single pot and RM76++ for a mixed pot, per pax. All meats and veggies are refillable within the 100-minute time limit. Non-alcoholic beverages such as sodas and coffee are refillable at RM4.50 whilst water and tea are free of charge.

This might seem pricey given its limited menu, but considering the setting /ambience and quality of the ingredients, it’s pretty reasonable.

MO-MO PARADISE (Non-Halal) 

P1-10/11, Level 4, Lot 10 Shopping Center, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250, Kuala Lumpur

For reservations, call 03-2110 3588.

facebook.com/momoparadisemy 

Opening hours : 11AM – 11PM

Food Review: Chiang Mai Mookata & Thai Street Food@ Skypod Square Puchong

UPDATE: This outlet is permanently closed.

Moo-kata, or Thai style barbecue, is all the rage these days: judging by the increasing number of outlets popping up in and around the Klang Valley. What I like about it is that you can barbecue AND boil your food on the unique stove at the same time! My first experience with it was in Phuket in 2015. I. Was. Hooked. Even today, I can still recall the taste and experience (read on my Phuket Mookata experience: here)

Local foodshow HoChak recently featured this place in Puchong called Chiang Mai Mookata & Thai Street Food, so the fam and I went to try it last weekend. We expected it to be crowded since that’s usually how it is after a foodshow introduces a resto, but it was relatively quiet during our visit. SkyPod/IOI Business Park itself is usually deserted anyway lel. 

Moo and Pops decided to skip on the Mookata (??? why?) and opted to have single portions of green curry chicken and braised pork with rice. The bro and I shared a set, which is good for two.

Sorry I don’t have better pictures – we sat outdoors (which was dark) because the ventilation inside wasn’t so good. The platter consisted of thin slices of marinated pork and chicken, sizable shrimps, pork balls and fake crab meat sticks and bacon, as well as veggies, vermicelli and an egg. The meat tasted decent after grilling, albeit a little salty/peppery. Thick chunks of lard (the white stuff on the plate) are used to oil the grill.

I’d recommend adding on the bacon wrapped enoki mushroom 🙂

Washed everything down with a glass of Thai milk tea.

The food was decent but it took forever to cook because the burner was really small and it was windy outside. But then again, meals like these are best enjoyed at a slow pace.

Damage for two rice meals + the mookata set + drinks = RM100.

CHIANG MAI MOOKATA PUCHONG

G-13, Skypod Square, Persiaran Puchong Jaya Selatan, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor.

Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (Daily)

Phone: +60386014505

facebook.com/pg/chiangmaimookataa

Steamboat Buffet Below RM40 in KL @ Shasa Shabu Restaurant, Cheras

It’s been awhile since our last Powerpuff Girls meetup (my ex-colleagues and I called ourselves that, haha!), and since it was inconvenient for H to drive, P and I braved an hour of horrendous Saturday night traffic (why don’t you stay at home, other people!?) to Shasa Shabu Restaurant, all the way in Cheras – which, according to H, serves pretty decent steamboat buffet fare at an affordable price.

We arrived at 8pm and the place was quite packed, but we got seats immediately. By then my stomach was growling so I didn’t manage to take too many photos. Here’s how the shop looks like though:

The way food is served is similar to a kaiten sushi concept, except with steamboat ingredients rather than sushi. Food is constantly replenished. There’s a counter on the side for meat (chicken, pork, beef and lamb – they ran out of lamb that night though), and the rest you can get from the conveyor belt. There are many different kinds of balls (ha!) like fishballs, pork balls, crab and squid balls, fish slices, squid, whole pieces of bawal, mushroom platters, fried beancurd, and more.

They had a little corner with fried items. The fried chicken wings were delicious (or maybe I was just too hungry!) – Crispy and crunchy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside without being overly greasy. Polished off a few before I actually got down to the steamboat. They also have basic sushi rolls like tuna, salmon, egg, crab meat, etc.

Patrons can choose to have a choice of miso, chicken or tomyam soup (above). I had the chicken. Honestly, the soup was quite bland for me but then again, the items were all quite salty so it was balanced out.

 

Meat was fresh enough. I liked the pork which had a good balance of meat and fat, and since they were sliced thinly, cooked really quickly.

End the meal on a sweet note with some dessert! Aside from fresh fruits, they also have ice-cream in six flavours. All in all I felt it was a value for money meal. It’s hard to find a price point like this for a steamboat buffet in KL these days!

More photos / info on their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/shasashabu.my/

PS: they have two outlets, one in Kuchai Lama and the other in Pandan Indah, Cheras.

 

SHASA SHABU BUFFET

16 & 17, Jalan Perubatan 2, Pandan Indah, 55100, Kuala Lumpur.

55100 Ampang, Kuala Lumpur

Phone:  03-4288 4883