Uncle Chow Kopitiam – Cameron Highlands

I find Cameron Highlands awfully chilly during my last trip. It is a wonderful feeling to be up there in the highlands, breathing out ‘smoke’ as my little boy called it.

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We were feeling a little peckish mid morning and went hunting for Uncle Chow Kopitiam. We have seen the sign several times but haven’t seen the kopitiam before. Since we were staying at Tanah Rata, we followed the signboard and stumbled upon the tiny kopitiam nestled amongst some residential flats.

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Uncle Chow himself greeted us and suggested we sat inside the Grade ‘A’ (for cleanliness) kopitiam. But no….these town folks want to enjoy the breezy cold air. Two minutes later, we have to admit it is too cold to be outside.

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(scones and jam)

I immediately love the place because it is so homely and serves homecooked foods. Mrs. Chow chatted with my hubby and we learned that they have grown up children and they were from KL. Mrs Chow said they enjoy the weather in Cameron Highlands and she loves to cook, hence, opening the kopitiam.

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I saw rows of mouthwatering nyonya kuehs, bubur cha cha, gandum and wish we were hungrier to enjoy them. However, we only manage to eat the few items from the menu.

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The special item for the day is the ‘Dan Dan’ or steamed egg. I wasn’t sure what dan dan is and when I saw the green thing on the egg, I thought it is some salty chawan mushi. It turns out to be sweet egg custard and the green leaves are actually very fragrant pandan. Delicious.

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The Hokkien Prawn Mee my hubby ordered is huge and all of us enjoyed the steaming hot prawn stock noodle. I must say it is certainly nicer than those from Old Town or George Town and other kopikat kopitiam.

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Meanwhile, my other sons ordered the butter kaya toast. The bread is fresh and traditional. The kaya is homemade by Mrs Chow herself.

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The little boy ordered a plate of baked beans and eggs.

So, if you are in Cameron Highlands and want some scones, tea but at the same time, wish to have some local foods, visit Uncle Chow. It is somewhere near the Convent School, behind the Tourist Information Centre. There is a block of shophouse and you should be able to see the Uncle Chow signboard but you need to drive a bit further into the residential area to find the kopitiam.

Uncle Chow Kopitiam
Unit C2-G-01, Block C2, Taman Royal Lily,
39000, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands.
Tel: 012- 205 2778 (Uncle Chow)

The lure of Pangkor and its seafood

Being an islander, it is hard to impress me. I like islands in Thailand because they are rustic. However, there isn’t much to see here because Langkawi is basically booze and chocolates. Perhentian and Redang getting too expensive to pay for the kampung feel. Tioman is too far away for Penangites.

So, there is only Pangkor left for me. However, it doesn’t impress me much. So much so that we have not been to Pangkor for over a decade. Sadly, the rustic feel is lost. There are no tiny lanes and attap houses to give the fishing village scene.

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This is what is left of it. Now, the island has been developed with tacky structures including several storey high 1Malaysia structure.

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I love this sort of houses, not brick, cold, uninspiring budget hotels and shophouses that filled the roads.

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I googled for seafood in Pangkor and was delighted to find this place which was mentioned by the Lonely Planet.

Sin Nam Huat Seafood Restaurant is located at 51 Jln Besar Pangkor Town. Anyway, it is not difficult to locate any shop in Pangkor because it is basically a tiny island.

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Foursquare tips said the fried noodle is good. So, we ordered a plate and I must say it is not bad as there is no yellow noodle smell of ammonia. It doesn’t reek of lard too.

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The other dish we ordered is the ching tong lala or clear soup lala. The lalas are awfully tiny so it is quite a chore to pick the flesh from the shells. So, kinda disappointing.

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My children loves mantis prawns so we have this dish. I ordered butter prawns for the adults but unfortunately, the boss mistook our order and I ended up with no prawns.

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The orh chien was recommended to us but being a Penangite, I am not used to eating it this way. I like my Penang orh chien better. I feel there is too much egg and not enough sticky chewy tapioca flour part. However, the oysters are fresh.

The other dish we ordered was the koo-lou yoke. This place serves pork, btw. We also asked for deep fried fishes (suah chooi) but they don’t have them either.

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After the above meal, I didn’t feel full. So, this kueh seller by the roadside caught our eyes and we made a reverse and got down to buy some kuehs.

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The pink colour teochew chai kuey which is filled with chives is nice. I love it!

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However, this green abok-abok sago is nothing like our Penang one. We also bought some kueh talam but that turned out rather bland.

So, if you ask me, maybe I will return to Pangkor in another 10 years. :)

The foods on my table

Durian season is here and our family traditional way of enjoying these king of fruits is to eat them with hot white rice, granulated sugar and a splash of fresh coconut milk.

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Hubby said the durians are not that expensive this year. He bought several brands like Khun Poh, Hor lor, lipan and cheh-kark (green shell), if I am not mistaken.

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The granulated sugar crystal, can you see them? We like granulated sugar as there is the ‘krak, krak’ sound when we savour the hot white rice, with creamy coconut milk (which has been added with a pinch of salt) and the heavenly durians.

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When we were in Cameron Highlands last weekend, we bought a habanero chilli plant. It is like one of the hottest chillies around, hotter than our cili padi, so it seems.

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I have an extra ear of corn and made cucur jagung, Malay style. My son added in one tiny habanero and now, eating the cucur is a torture.

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Fortunately, we have panna cotta which my son made with fresh vanilla beans I bought from Bali. The creamy panna cotta soothes the burning tongue.

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When we were in Cameron Highlands, we didn’t manage to buy any strawberry because the fruits were plucked and delivered to the stalls at 9 am. We left early. So, today we got to make do with strawberries bought from Mount Erskine market.

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The strawberries sauce on top of the panna cotta.

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And here’s a bunch of gummy sweets which is on the dinner table so I take a photo too. I am pretty free, you see. All I do is to take pictures and eat, no work required, except for the mixing of the cucur jagung.

Delicious Cafe, Straits Quay Penang

I have written two bad reviews of Bella Marino and Charlie Brown cafes in Straits Quay. So, I was a little apprehensive of going to another cafe again because I do not look forward to rant about bad foods again. I had been to Delicious Cafe in KL and am glad when I heard it is coming to Penang.

However, I never find time to drop by until today. I was there for lunch with my two sons. The place is rather crowded and I have only an hour of lunch. So, stress is maximum as I have an appointment at 2 pm and I have to finish before that.

In this circumstances, I am extra edgy, demanding and critical. However, Delicious Cafe pleased me and phew…there is no bad review this time.

Service was prompt, pleasant and efficient. They offered water which many food outlets are charging. For example, Secret Recipe charges plain water which I think is cut-throat. After all, how is one going to swallow a slice of cake without some water to wash it down?

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I ordered the duck confit spaghettini while my little boy ordered the Mac & Cheese from the kid’s menu. My eldest son had the beef waghyu pie.

My boy who is a big eater cannot finish the mac & cheese because it is really creamy. One doesn’t find good ole mac & cheese like Delicious anymore because many outlets tend to scrimp on the cheese and cream to make a decent mac & cheese. If you are a small eater, do try it. It comes with a tiny bowl of cucumber and carrot sticks too.

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I have no complaint about my pasta because I love duck. I like the simplicity and the flavourful sun dried tomatoes. They are generous with the sun dried tomatoes unlike other outlets which put what looks like tomatoes skin only.

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As for the pie, I think a reduction of the pickled shallots or whatever that is will be good as the flavour is too strong and sort of kills the beef natural gamey taste. My eldest son picked out all the carrots and I think there are way too many carrots in there too. The menu is Beef and Mushroom pies but I do not see many mushrooms in there, which is a pity as the mushroom will go well with beef.

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Now the desserts…

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My eyes were attracted to the Red Velvet Cake simply because it is red. Taste wise, I do not have much to say as I have never eaten a red velvet cake before. It is rather dry and doesn’t have much flavours, except for the creamy cheese on top.

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As for the cupcakes, it looks pretty and is buttery. There are plenty of cakes at the counter and I will try them another time. Is there any recommended cake from Delicious Cafe?

Bali, Indonesia – One of top ten islands to visit before you die

Penang and Bali are two islands mentioned in Yahoo Travel as the top ten islands to visit before you die. I have read so much about Bali. I had been to several islands in Thailand like Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Phi Phi and more. I had read and heard so much about Bali.

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So, in my imagination, Bali has to be a class above those islands in Thailand. Maybe it is my own fault for weaving such magical feel about the island that I was expecting paradise on earth. That’s why I insisted to fly to Bali though my hubby was suggesting Vietnam.

I booked tickets through AirAsia and it wasn’t that cheap either as the ticket per person is about RM700 plus as I booked about a week ahead only. It is low season in Bali so the hotels were rather cheap. I booked the hotels through Agoda because AirAsia is actually rather expensive.

We landed in Bali and immediately, the grumpy and stuck up immigration gave me a bad impression of the island. There were no clear signs or personnels to direct us. So, most of us from the flight were actually queuing at the counter where the foreigners were applying for longer stay visa.

Then, the stuffy immigration officer insisted my 8 years old son to approach the counter ‘one by one’. My poor kid is too short to show his face so he had to leap and jump. I wasn’t allowed to go beyond the yellow line to accompany him. Like doh…what can a mom and a child do at that immigration counter?

TAXI

The airport is at Ngurah Rai and it is just minutes away from Kuta where my hotel is. Taxi fares are cheap in Bali. Take only the dark blue or light blue taxis, coupons which you can buy from the airport counter. They use the meter so you do not have to worry of being fleeced. That night, we also took a taxi around Kuta and beyond and it doesn’t cost us much either.

RENT A DRIVER AND CAR

Do not attempt to drive in Kuta or anywhere in Bali. The roads are horrible with narrow roads, bad roadsigns, nightmare motorbikes and even kids barely 10 years old riding bikes without helmets with pillion riders, huge potholes and bad, bad, chaotic jam. Then, there seems to be no traffic law when you get to a junction because everyone is rushing to cross to the other side. Motorbikers are fearless and will not slow down for your car.

Bali traffic is so different from Thailand. We had driven in Thailand up to Phuket and we never encounter such nailbiting rides before. So, the safest is to hire a driver who will drive you around in 7-seaters SUV. We hired one for only Rupiah450,000 or about RM170 only. He drove us around, take us wherever we want for 12 hours. Petrol and parking on him. However, we paid for his meals.

BALI MAIN ATTRACTIONS

Without doubt, the temples are the main attractions. The temples are beautiful but frankly, there is only so much you can see. The altars where the Balinese Hindus pray are out of bound from tourists. After the first day, I have enough of black, hairy roof pagodas.

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I asked the driver what are those black hairy roofing. He said these are some grass.

The scene in Bali is totally unique. There are family temples build from bricks and these are like little forbidden cities. So, these clusters of houses and one temple are all over Bali.

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When you talk about Bali, you think of white sandy beaches. Yes, the beaches are kilometres long, as far as the eyes can see. However, the beaches along Kuta is not for swimming as the waves are very high. I do not know about Nusa Dua as we didn’t go there since I read that it is for the rich mat sallehs (Europeans, Australians, Americans) so I suppose we couldn’t afford it.
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Spices sold at Bedegul. Vanilla beans are cheap.

Bali is actually not very big but travelling time is long because of the bad roads and the horrific jam. We headed for Ubud where the paddy fields are. Before that, we visited the Bedegul area where it is much more cooling and there are a couple of nice lakes and temples.

There is another lake where the volcano is but my children protested about another day of travelling. They do not fancy a 12-hour tour of lakes, car, temples and more cars. So, we stay put in Ubud for two days.

BALINESE FOODS

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Bakso is beef balls in soup with glass noodles

Our driver and even one taxi driver warned us about eating at the small stalls. Our driver, Henry said he watched on TV about ‘bad meats used by these roadside stalls’. So, we were fearful of eating any warong meals. In a way, it sort of robbed off our adventure of travelling as we dare not sample local foods too much.

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If I remember, this is some ayam bertutu or whatever

The staple meals in Bali is chicken dishes served with sambal, vege and tempe. They have ayam bertutu, ayam taliwang and etc which is like ayam penyet sold here. They are delicious. So are the sate kambeng and nasi padang.

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Nasi Padang which we can find locally in Malaysia

Talking about nasi padang, we were probably fleeced because we went to this Nasi Padang place where they brought out so many cold dishes. We had them returned and picked only what we want. The stall owner said, ‘Tak apa, makan dulu, kalau tak habis, tak kira’. Hmmm…I wonder how clean is their foods then?

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There are other good foods but they are a bit over-rated in my opinion. It is not cheap either as each meals cost us about RM120 and above. And we are talking about regular pork and duck only, not some fancy seafoods.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT BALI

Dogs. They have some banner about preventing rabies and they had probably shot many dogs dead. However, there are still dogs around. One night, as I was walking back to my hotel alone, I was freaked out by the number of dogs hanging around.

Monkeys. I was told that in Uluwatu which is at another part of Bali, they have a place with huge, fierce and fearsome monkeys. I didn’t want to go. I myself am afraid of being attack by them, how to protect my kids? My friend who went there before told me their tour guide told them one cannot even wear spectacles or the monkeys will snatch that away.

Then, there is the monkey forest. I didn’t go in as well though it was within walking distance from my hotel. My hubby told me the monkeys are sacred so they are probably tame. I told my hubby maybe the monkeys know I am not a Hindu so they will attack me. LOL.

And this is one thing I like about Bali

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The 3-legged Rhino drink in orange flavour. The Balinese call it the Jeruk flavour. I drank a few cans and my piss smells funny. Really funny. Like chemicals smell. I wonder what they put in there? Hmm…

In summary, if you are a Muslim, I will have to caution you about haram-halal foods because you just never know what is what. I dare not buy any food stuffs back for my colleagues because you never know what is what. I came back from Bali empty handed, with only 3 bars of Balinese natural soaps. This is like the most economical trip because I am always crazy for souvenirs and local handicrafts.