Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eating in Kuching - Breakfast at Sin Chong Choon Cafe

Sin Chong Choon Cafe is a very popular kopitiam at Green Height Commercial Centre that has been around for a few years. They moved to a different corner shophouse a couple of years ago, and is still just as popular. If you go during the peak breakfast hour (9.00 a.m. to 10.30 a.m.) you may not get a table.

What is good here is the laksa - and for me the Foochow Noodles. I normally order the standard Kam Pua Mee, and a bowl of Pork Soup. What makes the noodles great is the generous lashing of rendered pork fat, and the bits of crunchy deep fried pork rind hidden inside that is so decadent !

The soup is also very tasty. You can order it with all the pork innards, or just minced pork and pork slices and veggie. They add a bit of Chinese wine to round out the taste, and it is no doubt augmented with plenty of MSG.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eating in Kuching 2011 - Dinner at Hoi Ting Lau Restaurant

Hoi Ting Lau Chinese Restaurant used to be located in Continental Hotel. It was doing reasonable business - but never quite made an impact in the local food scene. They moved to a new venue about 2 years back - started serving pork and voila - now they are one of the hottest Chinese Restaurants in town. I think the reason is the food is quite good and prices reasonable. Lately they are also getting a bit more creatively with their menu.

We had dinner there recently and this was what we had. Special Appetizer Platter. Mostly made with fish paste - taste-wise not bad and each item has a distinctive taste and texture.

Roast Suckling Pig. They do it differently here. The pig has been deboned - marinated, roasted and served whole. You eat the skin together with the meat attached. I must say it was very good - you can taste the crunchiness of the skin and the porkie goodness of the meat at the same time.

Grilled Fish - this is an unusual dish for a Chinese restaurant. Served with a spicy dipping sauce - this was quite good as the oiliness of the fish lends itself very well to the preparation.

Mixed Veggie - again slightly different from the normal - here they have included pumpkin and celery to the mix.

Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk. A different take on the buttered prawn - the prawns are deep fried and coated with powdery salted egg. It looks dry, but actually the prawns have retained their natural sweetness and succulence.

Rice with Chinese Sausage and Char Siew. This simple looking dish was surprisingly tasty.

Hoi Ting Lau has now cemented itself as one of the top Chinese restaurants in town. Definitely worth a try.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eating in Kuching 2011 - Dinner at Bangkok Thai Restaurant

Bangkok Thai Restaurant was one of the earliest Thai restaurants to open in Kuching. It is still one of the best Thai restaurants in town. This restaurant is part of the Lok Thian Restaurant Group which runs several restaurants in town, and they definitely know what they are doing.

The menu is quite a long one, but they mix up their dishes here and about half of the items are not actually Thai but Chinese. In any case - the popular Thai dishes are all quite well represented.

We ordered our long time favourite - Scallop Rice. This is steamed rice served with braised scallops in a light brown sauce. Very tasty - a bit like a risotto really.

If you like a bit of everything - the Thai Appetizer Sampler is good. It comes with Pandan Chicken, Spicy Fish Cakes, Egg Net Rolls and Crystal Ball Dumplings.

The Tom Yam Soup is always reliable and you can ask them to turn down the heat.

Green Curry Chicken is another long time staple.

The Beef Salad is a bit of a hit or miss. This night the beef was a bit tough - but otherwise the taste is good.

Braised Tofu = more for the kids and definitely not a Thai dish.

If you have a sudden craving for Thai food in Kuching, Bangkok Thai Restaurant is one of the few places that can satisfy that urge. Pricing is moderate.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kuching 2011 - Visit to Logos Hope

As a kid in Kuching, a visit from one of the Logos ships was a huge event. They are basically floating bookshops run by a German charitable organization - but for a kid it the excitement was more the rare chance of getting physically close to a ship then anything else. Logos Hope's sister ship MV Doulos had visited Kuching in 2008. I took the kids for a visit and they were thrilled ! When they heard about Logos Hope, they starting bugging me everyday to take them. We finally went on 7th November which was a holiday.

I had heard about the long wait to get onto the ship and was a bit weary. The organizers had smartly put up some tents to provide much needed shade from the hot sun. The wait was about 20 min, not too bad.

Logos Hope is a much bigger and more modern ship compared to Doulos. The bookshop area is inside the ship and fully air-conditioned. You basically enter directly into the bookshop, walk through the whole shop and end up at the check-out counters before a cafe area. And that was it. Compared to Doulos where you could explore the upper decks of the ship, this was a bit of a disappointment. It didn't seem to dampen the kids enthusiasm one bit though. After we left, they started asking me when is the next visit.

The cafe just before just before the exit. There was a long queue so we decided to skip it.

Logos Hope has departed from Kuching last weekend.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bangkok 2011 - Thai Airways Food

Having travelled so often on Malaysia Airlines cattle class and being desensitized with the usual mediocre food, it was a pleasant change on a recent trip to Bangkok - as we were flying on Thai Airways. Its nice to be able to eat with real cutlery, and a real glass as well !

The food - though not fantastic, was miles ahead of our national carrier. It was food that you can actually enjoy - not something that you endure because you are hungry. I don't know what happened to our once mighty MAS, but things need to get much better to compete in this cut-throat world.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bangkok 2011 - MBK Foodcourt

Whats great about Bangkok is that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get good food. The road side stalls provide cheap and often delicious meals, but if you are after a place with slightly better comfort and ambiance - head to the foodcourts. One of the best ones is at Ma Bung Krung (MBK) Shopping Centre.

MBK Center has 2 foodcourts. The one on 5th floor is more posh and sort of like a hotel cafe, and offers lots of International selections. Head to the one on 6th floor - MBK Food Center which is much cheaper and has more local selections. Most of the stalls here are very good - and seldom disappoint.

We ordered the beef noodles, which was very good and had a strong beefy taste.

The rice with stirfried squid and vegies was also very tasty.

The MBK Food Centre is a great place for cheap and good food. Expect to pay about double of that at a roadside stall. Still a bargain !

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is


A day that only happens once every 100 years. Some think it is the end of the World. I like to think of it as a very special day worth celebrating. It is my son's birthday, who was born on 11th November 2004.

Happy Birthday Max !

Bangkok 2011 - Dinner at Soul Food at Mahanakorn

Soul Food at Mahanakorn is a new restaurant in Bangkok that has been making waves since it opened in August 2010. It is located along Soi Thonglor (Soi 55), not far from the junction with Soi Sukhumvit. You need to keep your eyes open as the street is a bit dark at night, and it can be difficult to see the signages. I had to make a couple of turns to locate the place.

The place is opened by an ex-journalist who decided to create a casual place for great Thai food that is slightly above the normal. The decor is modern and a bit raw - with lots of timber, bare cement walls. It is hip without being pretentious, and quite pleasant.

Judging from the crowd, a lot of people were there for the drinks rather then the food. The medium sized bar counter was fully occupied, and so was the smallish dining area. We had to wait for a table to be cleared - it is certainly popular.

The menu is not overly long. There were the usual Thai dishes, with promises of authenticity and taste. Rather then focus on one region - the dishes come from all over Thailand - which is great for a taste of what other parts of Thailand has to offer.

Our appetizer is a Mien Kam - a popular Thai snack where you wrap different ingredients in a leave and season with a sauce - usually spicy. A nice crunchy snack that is also healthy.

Another appetizer we had was Nam Prik 2 Ways. Nam Prik is a general term in Thailand for a paste made usually made from herbs and spices - most commonly chili. It can be very chili hot, and is usually eaten as a condiment with other ingredients like meat and vegetables. Here it is served with cucumber, egg plants, eggs and crispy pork scratching. Delicious !

The popular Tamarind Ribs - tasty, tender grilled pork ribs in a sticky sweet and sour tamarind post. Very nice.

Pomelo Salad with Prawns.

Khao Soi - the famous Chiang Mai noodles. I was really happy to see this on the menu and couldn't resist ordering it. A very good version.

Eating at Soul Food is a very pleasant experience - if not for a farang on the next table who got a bit drunk and noisy. The food is very good , the atmosphere casual and relaxed. Prices are also reasonable for a place catering to mainly farangs. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bangkok 2011 - S31 Hotel

S31 is a new hotel on Sukhumvit Road, at the junction of Soi 31. It belongs to the new generation of hotels that tries to provided 5 star amenities and service - but with a style and attitude that is above the run-of-the-mill 5 star hotel.In fact the Bangkok Post calls it "Better then 5 Star, more then a Boutique". Based on the glowing reviews on the Net, I decided to check in at this hotel on the last visit. Design-wise I wasn't disappointed - everything has been given a tasteful designer's touch - from the interiors to the furniture and decor. The service however still lacks polish and warmth, which is a pity.

What really sets S31 apart are the rooms. If you get the duplex suite - it is a 2-storey design with a large lounge area on the lower floor - and the sleeping quarters on the upper floor. There are flat screen TVs on both floors, and here is a lux feel and spaciousness that you don't get at many 5 star hotels.

Location wise, S31 is at the quieter end of Sukhumvit Road. There are no night bazaars on the street side at night - which is a bane for some and a blessing for others. If you are after the convenience of being close to the night life - then this is probably not for you. As for me, I enjoyed the nice escape from the usual street-side chaos on Sukhumvit Road - and everything is just a couple of MRT stops away anyway.

The S Cafe on the 6th floor is a great place for breakfast, which is included in the room rate and very good.

S 31 is a hotel that I wanted to like very much - it is very stylish and the rooms are incredible. It is only let down by its lukewarm service - whihc I am sure they can improve on with a little effort.