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Last weekend I had the good fortune of attending a pretty special food event, the Flavours of Hanami live presentation and tasting at Isetan the KL Store. For those who aren’t familiar with Isetan the KL Store, it is the re-branded up class retail at the exact location previously occupied by regular Isetan at Lot 10.

The place is tastefully decorated and packed with premium Japanese wear, everything from fashion items, watches, gadgets, grocery and food.

chefs from Tsuruse, Chikurin, & Kinobu restaurants
chefs from Tsuruse, Chikurin, & Kinobu restaurants

The Flavors of Hanami features four chefs each from Izuu, Tsuruse, Chikurin, and Kinobu restaurants of Kyoto in live presentation and tasting format at the following schedule:

  • Shogo Sasaki of Izuu – 21, 22 Jan 2017
  • Nobyuki Tanaka of Tsuruse – 18, 19 Feb 2017
  • Hideki Shimoguchi of Chikurin – 4, 5 March 2017
  • Takuji Takahashi of Kinobu – 18, 19 March 2017

dishes from which chef fancies you? the mock-ups sure look interesting
dishes from which chef fancies you? the mock-ups sure look interesting

Each day features 3 separate sessions at 12 pm to 1:30 pm, 3 pm to 4:30 pm, and 6 pm to 7:30 pm and priced at RM 100 per person including GST. The venue is at 3F THE CUBE/CUBE_1 Isetan The Japan Store KL.

One thing to note, each session is limited to 25 pax only so get your tickets as soon as possible at CUBE_1 ticket counter, Isetan.

The Hanami theme is an ancient tradition of welcoming spring, and this event is a chance for Malaysians to experience the cultural aspects as well as the delicacies associated with the Hanami season.

chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu with his signature dishes
chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu with his signature dishes

We were fortunate to participate in the first session with Chef Shogo Sasaki, the 7th generation owner of IZUU, a Kyoto sushi restaurant established in 1781, a restaurant that has its history 176 years before we yelled Merdeka and formed this country, talk about tradition.

chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu preparing the famous saba-sugatazushi
chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu preparing the famous saba-sugatazushi 

Chef started out with the live demonstration in preparing the most famous dish of IZUU – their saba-sugatazushi, or whole mackeral lightly matured sushi. The fish is expertly prepared and then wrapped in vinegar-ed kelp to draw out  a stronger umami flavor to the sushi.

We then got to try two versions of it, one freshly prepared and the other matured for a day. It was well balanced with a pretty complex taste unlike normal “fresh” sushi. Best thing is, you can actually buy this wrapped up to bring back to home country from his restaurant in Kyoto as the sushi would last for about 2 days.

and here's Izuu's signature chirashi sushi
and here’s Izuu’s signature chirashi sushi

Next up was their signature Chirashi sushi. Chirashi sushi is often my go-to dish in any Japanese restaurant, and the version prepared by chef Sasaki is as good as any. While it is slightly lighter on seafood, the seasoning of rice and other ingredients were right on point, making it quite a delightful dish.

we ended the day with green tea and mochi
we ended the day with green tea and mochi, notice the bunny?

The chef also showed us how the saba-sugatazushi cross section resembled a bunny, which is how IZUU got it’s logo all the way from 200+ years ago.

We then ended the session with a piece of traditional mochi and a cup of green tea so good we had to go downstairs to get the packet to enjoy at home.

If you love authentic Japanese cuisine with a cultural twist to the whole experience, don’t miss out on this event.

map to Lot 10, KL

Address:
3F THE CUBE / CUBE_1
ISETAN The Japan Store KL
Lot 10 Shopping Mall
Jalan Bukit Bintang

GPS: 3.146462, 101.711758

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Next on Vietnamese Street food introduction is Chao Vit, or Vietnamese duck porridge. A classic dish that I had for the very first time during this trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnamese Duck Porridge stall by Chu Manh Trinh road
Vietnamese Duck Porridge stall by Chu Manh Trinh road 

We actually stumbled  upon this little road side stalls by Chu Manh Trinh road in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City while walking from the touristy areas towards our Airbnb room slightly further North East. The stall was well stocked with plenty of duck, and with a crowd seated around it enjoying porridge & slices of duck meat.

We just couldn’t miss the opportunity.

the porridge also comes with coagulated blood
the porridge also comes with coagulated blood

We ordered a portion of duck for two person to go with porridge, as well as a portion of innards. This was done with a combination of Google translate via the phone, and a bit of finger pointing to the other tables. Technology sure helps in making all these authentic food so much more accessible to those who can’t speak the language, we were the only non-natives at the stall.

simple eat by the road side - chao vit
simple eat by the road side – chao vit

Chao Vit is excellent, the boiled duck meat is served with green onions, cilantro, pepper, fish sauce and more. The condiment that goes with it compliment the meat perfectly, and can be made spicy if that’s your preference. As for the porridge, they’re made from broken rice and  even comes with chunks of coagulated blood, one of my favorite ingredients!

It was really one of the best dishes we had in Saigon, if you’re ever at District 1 and don’t mind dining with the locals, this is a place that you need to check out.

safe to say we both loved this dish a lot
safe to say we both loved this dish a lot

The meal cost us just over 100,000 VND if I’m not mistaken, totally worth it.

chao vit stall at Ho Chi Minh City

Address:
Chao Vit road side stall
Chu Mạnh Trinh
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.782813, 106.703568

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Got bored with the Vietnamese Street Food series yet? Well, there’s more!

In this installment we’re checking out Gỏi cuốn, or Vietnamese Spring Roll.

Che Minh Khai, one of the many eateries near our Airbnb
Che Minh Khai, one of the many eateries near our Airbnb 

Contrary to popular belief, spring roll isn’t served only during spring. You can actually get them all throughout the year.. (OK I made that up).

Vietnamese spring roll is quite a fair bit different from its Chinese counter part of the same name, with some saying origin started from Vietnam, while others believe it was the Chinese who came up with the dish first. In any case, the ingredients are a fair bit different.

gui cuon, or Vietnamese spring role, with dipping sauce
gui cuon, or Vietnamese spring role, with dipping sauce

Vietnamese spring roll is made up from rice paper as the wrapper, with pork slices, shrimp, rice noodle, green onion, and and generous amount of vegetable. It is often served fresh and at room temperature. A type of peanut sauce is usually served as the accompanying condiment.

dip & bite, can you see the ingredients?
dip & bite, can you see the ingredients?

If you try this at HCMC from one of the restaurants typically frequent by the locals, you can expect to pay about 5,000 VND for each piece. 2-3 pieces should suffice for light breakfast.

map to che minh khai restaurant, Saigon

Address:
Che Minh Khai
18A/16 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS10.786134, 106.700463
Tel: +8408-3825 6432
Hours: 7am to 8pm

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Continuing with the introduction in Vietnamese street food, today let’s talk about bo kho, or the Vietnamese beef stew.

Thus far, everything dishes in this series is from the same 4-day December 2016 trip to HCMC, and they’re mostly common dishes you can find most anywhere in the city.

a nice big pot of bo kho, Vietnamese beef stew
a nice big pot of bo kho, Vietnamese beef stew

Kho is a cooking technique in Vietnamese cuisine, while bo is beef. Like most dishes in Vietnam, fish sauce is one of the ingredients in this stew. The result is a more complex taste than the usual Western style stew.

Bo Kho is usually served with either rice noodle or banh mi (baguette in Vietnamese), though you can also have it with rice.

bo kho comes with banh mi (baguette), or rice
bo kho comes with banh mi (baguette), or rice 

The version we had was from a small restaurant a stone’s throw away from the Airbnb at HCMC by the name of Thuc Don. Haze had the version with banh mi (45,000 VND) while I opted for rice (40,000 VND).

The meat was lovely, with really soft flank cut with tendon attached. The stew itself has a rich and complex flavor, made better with those chunks of carrots. I didn’t miss the absence of potato or celery at all.

of course, coffee at Vietnam is always the accompany drink
of course, coffee at Vietnam is always the accompany drink

If you love beef, this is a dish to try in Vietnam, and if you’re not in Vietnam, this won’t be a difficult dish to replicate at home either. I think I’m going to find a recipe and try it at home.

bo kho restaurant map, District 1 HCMC

Address:
Com – Pho
Bo Kho
18A/23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.786259, 106.700355

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You can just about find a street food vendor near every busy intersections in Ho Chi Minh City, the set up varies, but more often than not they have these tiny tables and chairs seemingly set up for kids of kindergarten age. If you’re Vietnamese size, these will fit just, and fortunately for myself and Haze, our body size is within range.

street side food vendor outside Ben Thanh market
street side food vendor outside Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh market is one of those “must-visit” places in Ho Chi Minh City, especially if you feel like getting slaughtered buying touristy or otherwise imitation goods. We went there only because it was almost a decade since I got my fake Nike jerseys there, plus we had rented a scooter so it was rather convenient to do so.

you want spicy? we've got spicy!
you want spicy? we’ve got spicy!

Anyway, there is this little bot chien & ha cao stall situated right outside the market manned by a middle aged lady with a frying pan and a metal small pot on clay stove. Street food is best sampled with the locals, so we made this our spot for afternoon in-between meal snacks.

Bột chiên - fried rice cake
bột chiên – fried rice cake

Bot Chien is the Vietnamese version of fried rice cake (25000 VND). While the base ingredient is similar to our “char kuih kak“, the execution is vastly different. The rice cake is fried together with egg in generous amount of oil, with the surface area all crispy while retaining the inner bits soft.

Soya sauce is then poured over and then topped with shredded green papaya and chopped green onions. If you like it spicy, there’s also chili sauce & sambal that can be added to the whole mix.

This dish was actually pretty good, the various ingredients complement each other well, and best consumed while the rice cakes are still crispy even though soaked in soya sauce. The green papaya also serve to cut through the greasiness of the dish as well, I’d recommend anyone to give this a try.

há cảo - shrimp dumpling
há cảo – shrimp dumpling

Ha Cao, as you may suspect, is the dish of the same name in Cantonese –  shrimp dumplings (25000 VND). You get the shredded greens as well as the sambal, soya sauce and fried shallots ala Vietnamese style, but otherwise they aren’t overly different from the Chinese version. It was still enjoyable, but if I had to choose between the two, bot chien would be my choice.

map to ben thanh market, Saigon

Happy food hunting!

Address:
Phan Bội Châu
Ben Thanh
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.772582, 106.698676