Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pasta Tossed with Asparagus, Cheese and Olive Oil

This was a winner with me and hubs. I bought a bunch of really beautiful asparagus at Cameron Highlands. Vegetables are so fresh and cheap there! Went thru a few recipes on ways to cook the asparagus and this caught my eye.

Asparagus goes well with lemon, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Actually the recipe I was looking at was to make a simple side dish but I added pasta as a more substantial meal for our dinner.

Clean and cut the asparagus into 1 1/2 inch sections. (remember to remove the tough lower ends). Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the aspragus and reduce heat. Cook for 2 mins and drain. Make sure you do not overboil as you want the asparagus to be crunchy, not mushy.

While the asparagus is still hot, quickly toss it with some lemon zest, olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. (I never use pre-grated parmesan sold in packs as I find they lack the strength and flavour of freshly grated block cheese). Season with salt and pepper.
mmmMmm I never knew asparagus would go so well with lemon!

For the uninformed (like me) I never knew lemon zest was actually the grated yellow outer skin of a lemon. I always thought i could buy it like any McCormick's bottle of herbs. Haha no wonder I never could find it. Have fun with it, the oils in the lemon skin are so much more powerful and aromatic that the juice. And take care not to grate the inner white membrane as that part is bitter.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chocolate Strawberry Cake

Combine fresh, juicy strawberries from Cameron Highlands with a huge craving for chocolate cake and what do you get?

Baking choc, cocoa powder? Check.

Flour, sugar? Check

Patience and determination? Check

Now its time to get the crusty oven working. Sometimes, only home baked cakes will satisfy my sweet tooth. :)

As usual, Simply Recipes is my go to website. For the chocolate cake recipe I used, please click here. I made only half of the recipe. It came out good - very moist, rich and dense. (I used Van Houten baking chocolate instead of cocoa for the frosting)

For the strawberry topping, cut strawberries to about 2mm thick slices. Add a little sugar (depends on how sweet/sour your strawberries are) and mix it well. Set aside to macerate for about 20 mins. Macerating is the process of softening the strawberries and in here, it will also sweeten any rebelliously sour strawberries.

Once you've frosted your cake, spread the strawberries on top as you like. I went for free style haha, just dump as much as possible on the cake.

I also chose a loaf tin rather than the 9" round tin recommended because I always feel loaf shaped cakes have a very 'homebaked' look about them, don't you? And the free style arrangement of strawberries are more honest looking ( read: unprofessional :P) .

Anyway, I loved the cake very much! Yum Yum. And it was ages before I could take a bite as getting a good pix was tougher than I thought. My camera has a problem adjusting to the bright red colour of the strawberries...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cameron Highlands

What a trip! There are things to gripe about and there are things which made the visit worthwhile (mostly food). Let's be positive and talk about the good stuff first. But some negative stuff may creep in between. Prepare for a lenthy post, I'm off work tomorrow, its raining now and I have a cup of coffee right beside me (sue me, its instant coffee).

Of course every trip along the North South highway needs a pit stop at Bidor. I thought I blogged about Pun Chun Restaurant before in my trip to Pangkor Laut last year but apparently not. I think everyone knows what this place is famous for - Yam puff (Wu Kok), wan tan noodles and the variety of biscuits and pastries sold. This time, I tried the herbal duck noodles and Hubs had the pork rib noodles. The herbal duck soup was absolutely delicious but the duck meat was pretty dry. Hubs pork ribs were dry and tough too. However, the noodles were as good as always - springy! Not cheap, almost Kay El prices in this small town...

Yam puff RM1.50 each

Herbal duck mee RM6.40

Pork ribs noodles RM6.20

Moving on, we stopped by the Cameron Bharat Tea Plantation. There's a tea house here too but prices are higher than they should be so we didnt grab anything here except a few good shots of the tea plantation - beautiful view :)

Combed hills of the Bharat Tea Plantation

Arriving at Century Pines Resort, urgh, sorry but I was quite put off from first sight. It had horrible exterior colour scheme, the lobby was one of those with dark green marble and just had a feel of trying too hard to look grand. Sigh. Check in was also sloppy. We didnt get a non-smoking room as I requested and upon checking, there were apparently no non-smoking rooms in this hotel! Good grief! Are all kids, grannies and fussy women doomed to the allergy inducing smell of rooms with carpets and furnishing that have absorbed 3-rd hand cigarette smoke? Paying RM215/night, I expected better service and quality. Hmph. Woe to all the families driving up to the hotel.

Not one to let anything put a damper on my holiday, I went tramping into the town. Everything was not what I remember. The old gas station has turned into a taxi station with paint peeling all over the place, becoming everything of an eyesore. So much development has taken place. A large bus station loomed over shophouses just across the narrow road. And what's this? The weather was hot in the afternoon! I came here for cool weather!

Boo. Anyway, we came here to enjoy nature so off we went for a walk to Robinson Waterfall. (If anything, Century Pines is at a strategic location, walking distance to town as well as to some of the jungle walks.) There are altogether 13 paths - some easy, leisurely walks, others tough, steep and unclear which may require a guide. Robinson is an easy walk. Don't expect impressive views, but seeing as I've been complaining pretty much, let's just say this was a nice excursion from city life :)

Dilapidated signage :(

Robinson Waterfall

For dinner, we headed over to Rose Lane. Recommended by my dad and I'd say not bad.

Rose Lane, Tanah Rata (located along the 2 main rows of shophouses in town)

They operate the shop next door called Rosedale too. Set dinners are priced at RM13.90 & RM15.90 inclusive of a soup, main and drink. Not bad again. I had a lamb chop, Hubs had the honey grilled chicken. The buns were warm and really soft, we loved it. Soup of the day was mushroom and this was pretty dilute, you could count the mushroom bits. Its like they added a litre of water to a can of Campbell soup. Anyway, it served to warm our tummies.

Mains were pretty good - tasty and portions were adequate.

Honey grilled chicken

Juicy black pepper lamb chop

The next day, we woke up early to head over to Sg Palas Boh Tea estate. Its located further up from Brinchang (coming from Tanah Rata), past Kea Farm and Equatorial Resort. Look out for the turning to your left, the Boh signboard wasnt prominent.We missed the turning and realised it only when we found ourselves in Tringkap. Anyway, there are great views of the vegetable farms along the road here. Stop by and take some pics. Don't mind the flies zooming past.

Scenic views of vegetable farms

Once you've turned in, the inner road to the Sg. Palas Boh estate is very narrow and winding. Be careful when driving and always honk when you are nearing a blind corner. We had many heart attacks when jeeps zoomed down at corners. However, the view up here is worth it. Breathtaking! And at 2000 meters above sea level, this is the highest road in Peninsular Malaysia! (this beats climbing mount KK. To a certain extent heh)

Green, rolling hills with clear blue skies

Next, we headed to Raaju Strawberry Farm where they serve all things strawberry - strawberry cake, ice-cream, milk shake, float, jam, waffles with strawberries and of course tea and scones with strawberries. I had a strawberry ice-cream.

Strawberry ice-cream - RM6.00

Oh, did I mention we changed accomodation? Yes! We decided to check out of Century Pines and into Bala's Holiday Chalet ! Heh Heh. The grounds are beautiful... a charming English garden where you can read a book and have their famous tea and scones, cosy rooms and cheaper rates! We opted for a Deluxe with sunrise view at RM180/night. Rooms are basic though (no dvd player) and kettle to make hot drinks. Never mind - I love the setting!

Dreamy walkway

Sunlit English garden

Sunrise view from our room

Bala's 'famous' tea & scones. Overpriced at RM18.50. IMO, not worth the money.

Before I get carried away, several things you need to know. Deluxe rooms either face the sunrise/sunset. Those facing sunrise is also facing the main road. So you'll hear the lorries and cars with their roaring engines. Those facing the sunset view are above the English garden. Outsiders can sit here and have their tea so their voices can carry all the way up to your room so.... you can go for the superior rooms which are smaller and cheaper too (RM120) but I don't know what's the catch here.... And they have other suites and family rooms which I think are much nicer and further uphill where its quieter - check them out.


A gem we found in Tanah Rata. The T-cafe, located above Marybrowns.

Going up the little staircase, you'll see lots of notes pinned to the notice board. Messages from travellers all over the world adourn it with their praises.

This cosy little cafe was set up in Oct 2001. It has been recommended in the Lonely Planet, as well as NST and many other magazines and blogs. Just google it and you'll find plenty of reviews. You'll love the simple decor and home cooked meals. Here's what Hubs and I had.

Decadent banana chocolate cake RM3.00

Cream scones RM2.50 served with butter, cream and homemade jam.

Now THIS is the BEST scone in Cameron Highlands. Unlike Bala's which claims that, this scone has a rich buttery taste with a crumbly cake-like texture. Bala's was dry and had an odd bread-like texture. T-cafe's goes well with the jam and cream. Wash it down with a cup of Cameron Valley tea and life is certainly blissful.

Apple pie RM3.60

All these deserts are their home specialty. Check out their strawberry cheesecake as well as their new Fruity Scone. Now aren't you glad I'm such a responsible blogger, putting my waistline at risk just to evaluate the food out there for you.

Next, their mains. We had their beef lasagne which was excellent. Not your usual type with minced beef and slatherings of tomato puree but a unique version with slices of beef (you get the real deal), carrots, onions and some green veg. It won't leave you with the stuffed feeling you get from the usual cheese laden lasagnes. This leaves you satisfied without the guilt. Even the garden salad by the side was delicious with a simple vinegar/apple cider dressing.

Beef Lasagne - RM9.90

Cantonese Fried Rice RM4.90

Yummy with lots of liao (hub's description - so articulate). I had a spoonful - delicious and very addictive! Maybe they cook the rice in chicken stock hmmm...

On the way back, we stopped by the Habu Boh Tea estate. Also beautiful. If you're up to it, go up to the viewpoint (its a pretty steep climb). The view there is excellent.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Nong & Jimmy's, Ampang

I've been to this place several times before I started blogging. My colleagues and I would come here for their special grilled crabs but at RM40/kg (the last time I had it, not sure if prices have gone up) it does make a dent in your wallet.
Always start with this - fried yau char kuai with a plate of kaya to dip in. Yummy but pricey. RM6 for a plate.

Apart from the crabs, some of their other dishes are good too. Check out their ikan bakar - the sauce is flavourful, slightly spicy, flesh is grilled just right with all the juices sealed in.

Kai lan ikan masin

Nong & Jimmy's specialty - fried rice. I think this is the only style they serve. Something very suspicious about it - at first glance, you expect it to be just like any normal fried rice as all you see are just bits of eggs, prawns and veg. UNTIL you get a whiff of that steaming plate of rice, THEN your mouth starts to water and you dig in for dear life. I'm dying to find out what seasoning they use.

p/s: If you are sitting in a table with frens like mine, its literally a war zone. Grab all you can, there's no time to be pai seh (polite).

Oh and then there's lala... Sauce was pretty good.

We also ordered tom yam just to satisfy my hubby's craving. I would say its average, wasnt tangy enough for my liking. No pics here though coz it came out blurred.

Head over to Boolicious here for a review on their steam fish too. Apparently its one of the star items too.

I'm off to Camerons for a long awaited break. I think its been almost 10 years since my last visit good grief. I hope it has not turned into a typical commercialised tourist spot....*crossing my fingers.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Steak Hut at Suzi's Corner, Ampang

Important: Closed on Tuesdays
Everyone I know who stays around this area is gonna scoff at me.. What??!! Are you nuts? Eat at a tourist spot in Ampang? Cut throat prices lah!

For sure, forking out RM30 for steak in a non-air conditioned, mamak stall seems incredulous. The big question is - have YOU tasted their steaks?

Your mouth is so gonna water up. First, they serve a small lil bun with butter. Someone told me its to get your salivary glands workin so when the steak arrives, it will seem even tastier. Is that true? I guess probly, most things taste extremely good when you're well salivated.

They have 3 choices of gravy - garlic, brown or black pepper. I took the garlic. Delicious. Every bite of this tender juicy morsel is oozing with flavour. I'd say it can even give Angus Steakhouse a run for its money. Fries and veg at the sides to make it a well balanced meal. I always choose healthy meals.

This is my 2nd time here. Many tourists frequent this place. I could hear them singing praises about the steaks across the table. Its amazing the information you can get from eavesdropping. I highly recommend it.

Actually, the reason why Hubs and I decided to give this this place a shot was becoz of his colleagues (from Dallas, Land of Steaks) who actually said the steaks here were really good. Now that coming from them is good enough to warrant a visit.

So, go sink your teeth into one of these big juicy steaks and I rest my case.

Other food sold here: Satay, typical mamak food, other western food like chicken chop etc.
For a more detailed review of the other food sold at Suzi's corner, check out Boolicious here.