My style of travel usually involves minimal planning with a few points of interests we’d visit, and pretty much winging it rest of the way. After all, it’s always more exciting to have a bit of surprises and a sense of adventure while at a foreign land, isn’t it?
Mien Luon Dong Thinh, fancy some eel?
This method of traveling was precisely how we ended up at Mien Luon Dong Thinh, we were basically walking around Hanoi looking for a lunch spot and thought whatever that they have right at the stall in this restaurant looked peculiar enough to warrant further investigation.
As it turned out, we landed on a rather notable eel restaurant! Yessss!
There are several options to choose from at this place, and luckily the menu on the wall did have English subtitle for all the half a dozen choices – vermicelli blend, fried eel, clear vermicelli soup, fried vermicelli, eel soup, and eel porridge. Each will cost between 25,000 to 60,000 vnd.
crunchy deep fried eel with porridge turned out to be rather good
We ended up trying the fried eel with vermicelli and the eel porridge. The eels were crispy and quite tasty, a very different taste from the boiled eel soup I had in Ho Chi Minh City, much easier to eat and not entirely too different from Japanese shishamo, but with sweetness of eel.
Of course, the vermicelli salad comes with fresh greens, nuts, and a healthy dose of fish sauce, as you would expect. The porridge also would make a very good comfort food on a cold day.
I’d recommend anyone with at least a mild sense of adventure to try this while at Hanoi.
Ten years ago, Japanese food is synonymous with with raw fish. When someone told you they’re going to have Japanese food, it is always sushi & sashimi. Over the last few years though, the cuisine from far east has slowly mature at the local scene, there’s places that only offers ramen, there’s tonkatsu, yakitori, and even izakaya style Japanese restaurants.
Latest to the scene is Klang Valley’s very first Japanese restaurant that specialized in tendon(not the connective tissues of animal..) – the dish with tempura on rice.
Shitamachi Tendon Akitmitsu at Evolve Concept Mall, Ara Damansara
Shitamachi Tendon Akitmitsu is located at Evolve Concept Mall, one of the newest malls located at Ara Damansara, just a stone’s throw away from Citta Mall (use the same entrance/exit from main Subang Airport road). Half the restaurant serves tendon, while another side sharing the same kitchen serves yakitori (another story for another time).
Chef’s special tendon
The menu consist of a dozen of so different tendon offerings ranging from RM 20 to RM 67. The choices are:
shrimp tendon, super deluxe tendon, chef’s special tendon, tencha
Additionally, the restaurant also serves tempura and a selection of sake as well as Japanese beer. The menu then, as you can guessed, is rather simple, and just the way it should be.
We were served shrimp tendon, super deluxe tendon, chef’s special, as well as tencha for our session. Haze and I were joined by Keiko & her business partner (they’re Japanese). The food was certainly top notch and satisfied not only the two Malaysians in us, but our two Japanese friends had nothing but great feedback on these tendons.
The sauce was prepared in-house by the Japanese chef, marrying the the light & fluffy tempura batter with fresh seafood cooked just before serving. While at the first glance it appeared to be hastily put together, the combination was in fact meticulously prepared and very well balanced. You can ask for more sauce, but we felt that whatever the chef decided was spot on.
check out the oyster, yums
I’m going to have to plan a second trip pretty soon, and hopefully there are more of such restaurants coming up!
Shitamichi Tendon Akitmitsu EV-G-09, Ground floor Evolve Concept Mall Pacific Place @ Ara Damansara Petaling Jaya Selangor GPS: 3.110532, 101.586864 Tel: 03-7831 9929 Hours: Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm; Weekends and public holiday, 11am-9pm
Chile is the longest north-south country in the world, stretching over 4,630 kilometres “top” to “bottom”, but only as wide as 430 kilometers at the thickest region east-west. Situated on the west side of Andes and right next to Pacific ocean as well as the presence of Atacama dessert allows Chile to have a remarkably wide range of climates and thus, a huge selection of agricultural resources as well.
According to my colleague who is from Peru, a neighboring country to Chile, it is also a prosperous and stable country, something that can’t be said for many South American nations. If not for the usually prohibitive airfare, I am sure it would be a fantastic place to visit, perhaps some day…
Kiwi fruit isn’t just from Australia and New Zealand
In the mean time, we got to attend the “Flavor of Chile” event held by the Embassy of Chile in Malaysia. It was a treat of gastronomical adventure at Westin Hotel, KL. This was actually a two day event that gives Malaysian businessmen a chance to discover Chile’s wide variety of high quality products, according to ProChile director Felix De Vicente.
South American food is something of a mystery to me, prior to this dinner, if you ask me anything food related from the region, I’d probably just say Argentinian steak (from Gaucho Grill), Chilean wine, and Chilean sea bass.
During the course of the event, I got to know more than I bargained.
There were video presentation in between every dish, with quality of production that makes most travel programmes look amateur. The clips introduces different places in Chile and what it has to offer, as well as plenty of airtime with Chef Carlo von Mühlenbrock – a guy who looked more like a rockstar than a chef – explaining how the ingredient is grown/catch and his method of preparation.
And then the very dish is served. Brilliant.
Quinoa Timbale with avocado and Chilean King Crab
The first starter was Quinao Timbale with avocado and Chilean King Crab, paired with Sauvignon Blanc. This was the first time I had quinoa, a grain that is high in protein balance set of amino acids, and it was delicious. It has a crunchy texture, a bit sourish, and undoubtedly perfect with a couple slices of king crab and the wine.
Pablo Neruda’s Conger Eel Chowder
Next was Pablo Neruda’s Conger Eel Chowder. Eel? Chowder? This was not something that was expected, but perhaps it had something to do with our familiarity with unagi – a very narrow view of eel.
This eel was more like a cross between scallop & sea bass, subtle yet delicious, with the broth and other seafood in the bowl, it was a wholesome chowder for sure. We had Chilean Chardonnay to wash it down, which was of course, lovely.
Smoked Salmon and Mussels with Coriander Spiced Barley
The main dish was Smoked Salmon and Mussels with Coriander Spiced Barley. A generous slab of smoked salmon sitting on bed of barley, accompanied by a couple mussels.
This was another good dish, but the texture of barley that doesn’t come in a dessert or drink was a little too foreign for me. The dish was served with Vina Cono Sur Pinot Noir.
Southern Chile berries sorbet with fresh fruits, and the wine
The dessert was Southern Chile berries sorbet with fresh fruits. A sweet ending to the wonderful dinner. Due to my allergy to kiwi, this was the only dish I did not completely finish. The sorbet, made from pureed Chilean berries, were excellent.
The dessert wine Late Harvest, however, were a tad too sweet for my liking. It would probably be great if served at almost freezing temperature at a smaller dosage, but alas, this was an event with hundreds of peopld, one can’t be asking too much.
Chilean Chef Carlo von Mühlenbrock & Haze
It was a lovely night punctuated by a visit of the famous chef to our table and did a autograph on Haze’s drawing of his dishes. The drawing later appeared on a Chilean newspaper too. 😀
Before earlier this year at Sipadan and Mabul islands, my previous diving trip was Redang, way back in 2005. After the very first dive at Mabul island, I realized how much I actually missed diving and promised that I would do it perhaps 4 times this year.
I guess I over achieved, it is June and I’ve went on 4 diving trips already. This time at Redang island, it was a trip organized by Terence to con our buddy Horng in getting his PADI Open Water certification.
Terence chasing the green turtle
Together with Haze, Kim, Kerol, FA, Joe (went to Tenggol with), and dive instructor Edvin from OceanXplorer, we started our journey just after midnight from KL to Kuala Terengganu on Friday.
The drive took a little less than 7 hours, which proved to be a bit of a mistake in scheduling. As our boat does not leave till past 9 am, we ended up having to spend over 2 hours at Kuala Terengganu for breakfast. Should have left at perhaps 1:30am instead to optimize the journey and catch more sleep prior.
Haze, Kerol, FA, and Kim. bottom rigth: 2 vagabonds found on the boat
In contrast with the departure point to Tenggol at Dungun where there were perhaps half a dozen people heading to the island, Merang Jetty was absolutely packed. There were tourists representing all continents, a cacophony of foreign languages and various local accents served as white noise while we board our relatively comfortable boat.
A little less than an hour later, we arrived at Redang.
KY & Haze, Joe, Horng getting his PADI certification by Edvin
While Tenggol was a hidden paradise, Redang felt more like a well oiled machine all prep up for tourists.
Boat load of people being herded to the resort registration counter like sheep by hounds, tractors hauling your luggage, loud PA system announcing snorkeling time, and huge dining area not entirely unlike school canteen.
freaking lucky Horng, Eagle Ray on his first ever dive
Having said that, while I don’t particularly like the commercialization of the island, it does have advantages some can’t live without.
There’s projector with Astro showing world cup, convenient store, pub by the beach with dance floor and all sorts of alcohol, and even eateries offering pretty awesome Cantonese noodle and lor mai kai (glutinous rice with chicken).
Terence, Horng, KY, Joe, diving at Redang on 2nd day
I did 5 dives at Redang, the first was the shore dive in conjunction with Horng’s very first compressed air breathing experience in the ocean. We saw a magnificent spotted eagle ray!
puffer fish, nemo’s cousin, and cleaner fish on my fins
The second dive we did was with the resort’s dive operator at the site just a couple minutes from the beach. The dive turned out to be pretty forgettable, not a whole lot to see and a tad too many divers at the same time. I did manage to get some cleaner fish to service my fins though 😀
Luckily quite a lot of people left the island on Sunday (our 2nd day). The lesser crowd was a blessing, and though not related, the diving was much better too.
blue coral fish, moray eel, more nemo, blue spotted sting ray
Our second dive at Tanjung Tokong dive site had the best visibility I’ve ever experienced, we could see well over 30 meters. It was like diving in 1080p HD quality.
We ended up visiting a lot of nemo in our 5 dives. There were other usual suspects like moray eel, trigger fish, cleaner fish, shrimp, puffer, porcupine fish, green turtle, and blue spotted sting ray. There weren’t a lot of nudibranch though.
Unfortunately, there were also some signs of coral bleaching due to the warm ocean temperature, hopefully that will reverse itself in due time.
another eel, ikan kembong?, cleaner shrimp, porcupine fish
While the diving weren’t superb, they were still pretty enjoyable. The excellent vis at Tg. Tokong was a savior, and of course the feeling of being in water with total freedom and almost total quietness was always something I love.
Kim and Kerol did a discovery dive with Ed and totally loved it, I think there’s probably more certified divers in #porkgang next year. As it stands, all the guys are certified divers, and none of the girls are. Lets change that soon guys!
After a night’s stay at Semporna at the lion’s lower jaw of Sabah, we packed up our gears and took the boat to Mabul island. The six of us jumped onto the speed boat operated by Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge.
We were all stoked as it was the first half of our 2 day, 6 dive expedition.
all smiles except for Chan, who is susceptible with sea sickness, noob
A lot of people associates diving at Mabul/Sipadan to be an expensive affair, but with Uncle Chang’s, accommodation is at an affordable RM 60 per night including all meals, with 3 dives at Mabul & Kapalai priced at RM 260, and a further RM 560 for 3 dives at Sipadan (longer boat ride and 1-day dive permit). For those who doesn’t dive, there’s a RM 100 boat transfer fee that includes unlimited snorkeling at Mabul.
We had a bit of an engine problem half way to Mabul, so the usual 45 minute ride took over an hour, no one really complained though. We were too excited for what’s ahead of us.
giant sea turtle
Mabul and Kapalai are arguably the best spots for muck diving, which basically consist of slightly water with higher concentration of sediment, a condition perfect for many exotic sea creatures to call home, albiet with slightly lower visibility.
Our first dive site was at Eel Garden where we spent 43 minutes at 17 meter underwater. There were plenty of giant sea turtle, stone fish, lion fish, and of course, the famous Nemo too.
pipe fish, crocodile fish, blue nudibranch
After stopping at the dive lodge for slightly over an hour, we proceed to our second dive site at Kapalai island and spent a further 42 minutes at a maximum depth of 18 meters.
The dive site at Kapalai consist of mainly sandy bottom with plenty of man made corals. Ship wrecks and other structures make perfect home for plenty of fishes. There were giant grouper, trigger fish, cuttle fish that flashes colors, blue spotted stingray hiding under the wreck, and even a sea dragon too.
clown fish with anemone, blue spotted ray, cuttle fish, hermit crab
We probably didn’t have enough surface interval between the two dives as the boat transfer from Semporna to Mabul took a bit too long. As a result, Chan somehow ran out of air (while I still had some 70 bar left) and Gan managed to throw up after surfacing. I think we almost went off the dive chart for diving again too soon, oh well..
We then went back to the dive lodge and had our well deserved lunch. It wasn’t great food, but perfectly edible with meat, vegetable, rice, and fruits.
fluet fish, angry eel, upside down pencil fish, moray eel
After lunch and a bit of rest to clear the residue nitrogen in our body, we headed to our final dive site of the day, Paradise II at Mabul. There we spent 45 minutes at a shallower 12 meter maximum depth, I managed to finish with more than half a tank of air left.
Paradise II had plenty of turtles, moray eel, sting ray, and we even spotted a hermit crab. It was already 4pm by the time we were done.
Some of the best photos I took on this day came from this dive as shallower water = better colors.
the most beautiful sunset this side of malaysia
We spent the rest of the day completing our dive logs and a bit of tanning. As Uncle Chang’s is located at the west side of Mabul island, by around 6pm when the sun starts to set, the whole resort bask in amazingly beautiful golden rays of light.
They claimed this place to have the most beautiful sunset, and they were right. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
rocking it on at Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge
After dinner, the live band at the lodge came out and started rocking the crowd. There were 4-5 singers, some of them orphans under Uncle Chang’s wing (part of profits go to orphanage), and the man himself (long hair, white t-shirt) too sang “we are the world”. The singers were actually rather entertaining, with the girl possessing an exceptional though unpolished voice. She’d have made Simon Cowell proud.
After a while, bottles of free rums were given to each table, and the dive masters started pouring cheap red wine to us too. That got the crowd really going, in no time we were dancing on the floor and singing together with the rockers. It was absolutely awesomesauce.
The night more than made up for the canceled Killers concert.
A couple of us spent the night sleeping on uncomfortable wooden deck chair under thousands of stars at night, with sea breeze blowing on our face, and max brenner the cat on my stomach acting as an extra organic heater. It was splendid.