Going Japanese-a!

A friend of mine, Lui-in-Penh, and I arranged to meet at Aeon Mall last Friday for the much-needed breather from our daily routine. Last Friday, the weather was beautiful and sunny day in Phnom Penh, and thus was a great day for a lunch-date.

Aeon Mall is an upscale *kuning* mall filled with variety of shops and restaurants (to choose from). I haven’t eaten Japanese food in quite a long time and have been craving for it recently. So we went to this restaurant called Watami Japanese Dining. On our way there, I think I spotted a music maschine shop but was too excited about our lunch that I forgot to check it out afterwards.

It was nearly lunchtime when we got there, but it was still quiet with only one or two tables occupied. Good thing was that we didn’t have to wait for a table since this place normally gets busy come rush lunch hour.

There’s so much we wanted to try but opted for the special lunch set for a reasonable price. And we were not disappointed.

Special lunch set at Watami Japanese Dining, drinks excluded. The verdit - definitely coming back!
Special lunch set at Watami Japanese Dining, drinks excluded. The verdict – definitely coming back!

The special set came with a salad, hot potato fries that’s not soggy, breaded/fried chicken cutlets with egg sauce, sukiyaki, and the fantastic spicy salmon roll that just melts in your mouth. To finish our meal, we had mango honey toast and the refreshing fruit tea. Overall I enjoyed the meal. I think Manay Lui and I deserve special lunches like this, from time to time.

Watch out for a more detailed post coming out soon at PhnomPenhEats!

Photo Hunt #47: Tasty triangles

Foooooood!

Hey, what's that triangle thing-y doing in my pizza?
Hey, what’s that triangle thing-y doing in my pizza?

Because I was too lazy to haul my pampered behind off the sofa to get our dinner going, I broke our dieting regimen the other night by ordering this super-deluxe extreme pan pizza with sausage bites and extra cheese. We hadn’t had pizza for a looong time and I thought, waddaheck, having pizza once in a while won’t really hurt us. Delivered within the promised 30 minutes and the delivery boy left with a generous tip and a wide grin on his face.

And on days when I am in the mood for cooking, I can whip up my own version of chicken samosa from scratch. Don’t you just love this savoury triangles?

PH taste of triangle samosa

Okay, I still suck when it comes to wrapping the samosas but at least I got the right taste. Very much like the ones we order at our favourite Indian restaurant. Let’s take a look at what’s inside this tasty triangular turnover:

PH taste of triangle samosa 2

A crispy crust and an irresistibly fragrant with spiced stuffing – potatoes, green peas, ground chicken meat, cumin, cloves, coriander, and many others. I can never get enough of samosas!

Birthday kan Padaba (Mahal) Ko

After several weeks of being busy with the international women’s conference that I helped organise, I am finally free and back to my normal routine. I was relieved when the last of the participants left Phnom Penh on Nov 25, coinciding with my husband’s birthday. After sending them off, I didn’t waste time and immediately sprung into action and planned a simple dinner.

For our food, I decided to prepare my husband’s favourite. Nothing fancy, just his favourite samlor kari saramann, nom pang (local version of French baguette), and beer. In my mind, I was also debating whether I should bake or buy a birthday cake instead.

Cooking samlor kari saramann is a story in itself. It was easy to make as the recipe I used was taken from the cookbook that my husband bought for me months ago. However, selecting and preparing the ingredients for the curry paste is quite tedious. First in my to do-list was to get fresh ingredients from the market. Although I live in Tuol Sangkeo, Psah Boeungkengkang, for me, was the place to go. There, an array of fresh herbs and spices, such as lemongrass, coriander, ginger, garlic, shallots, chilli, and anise seed, greeted me. There were so many to choose from! I’m glad one ming (older woman) helped me out with my choices. Once the ingredients were selected and washed, these were pounded one after another to make a perfect curry paste. This task, I learned, required the strength of Wonder Woman to endure more than an hour of pounding in order to achieve the ideal consistency. I used a mortar and pestle made of stone, the one I ‘inherited’ from a Nepali friend who left Cambodia years ago. It’s really heavy, so you can imagine my ordeal. But, as I said, I love doing this so I went about the task merrily.

Originally, the recipe requires beef, but I substituted it with pork when I came home and found out there was no more beef in our fridge. Also, I added potatoes and string beans which are not in the original recipe just to add something filling in it.

After an hour or so of boiling and boiling… here’s the result of my labor of love…


After a hard day’s work, my husband came home and feasted on a steaming bowl of samlor kari saramann. Rich, savoury, spicy and creamy…

This dish is very popular especially at Cham (Khmer Muslim) and Buddhist weddings in Cambodia, served with either rice or nompang. Old folks, especially our landlady’s mum-in-law, told me that this dish tastes even better when served the next day.

Initially I was planning to bake a cake for dessert, but I thought that with the pounding and stirring of the kari dish, I wouldn’t have enough strength to do so. Against my better judgement, I bought a double-choco cake at Lucky’s. Bad move. It was dry and forgettable. I knew I should’ve made my own carrot cake topped with the special frosting that I successfully invented months ago. There’s always another time, my husband chirped. There goes my dear husband again… never demanding, always understanding. How lucky am I to have a husband who appreciates my efforts, especially in cooking! *lol*

Sure, the birthday dinner was nothing jaw-dropping or something, as some of you might be saying now. But hey, after being busy (especially me) and spending very little time with each other during those frantic weeks, the simple dinner was our ‘reunion of sorts’. It gave us back the missing closeness and connection making the night more memorable. It is certainly the kind of stuff we want to be included in our good times list.

Again, happy birthday, Mahal 🙂

Litratong Pinoy #34: Almusal (breakfast)

Hindi ako mahilig mag-almusal. Ewan ko ba kung bakit. Isa marahil ay ang pagiging malayo ko sa mga mapang-suring mata ng aking Ina nang ako ay nag-aaral pa sa unibersidad. Sa boarding-house kasi ako naka-tira, at, dahil wala ngang parental control, ay nakasanayan ko nang pumasok ng walang almusal-almusal.

Nakasanayan na rin naming mag-asawa ang di mag-almusal sa umaga. Kape lang ay okey na sa amin. Pero noong mga nakaraang taon na ako naka-base pa sa Kep, ay na-engganyo kaming tularan ang mga locals. Sabi nga, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Kaya naman ay tuwing umaga bago pumasok ay dumadaan kami sa mga kainan para mag-almusal ng kuy teav. Ito ay gawa sa rice noodles at sangkap tulad ng baboy o baka at piling herbs. Masarap ang sabaw na galing sa pinakuluan mga buto-buto.

Heto naman ang isang version ng noodle soup na paborito naming mag-asawa kapag kami ay nasa Kep:

chicken noodle soup

Simpleng chicken noodle soup gamit ang instant noodles, laman ng manok at sari-saring gulay.

Noong pumunta naman ako sa Japan ay sinubukan ko rin ang traditional breakfast nila:

japanese breakfast

Tamago gake gohan ang tawag dito.

Photo Hunt #35: Breakfast

My husband and I love to spend weekends in Kep. And while there, we stay at our friend’s newly opened guesthouse. Called the Kep Lodge, it offers six charming bungalows with a great view of the Gulf of Thailand and Bokhor mountain. We stay longer especially when it’s holidays, waking up late, having breakfast at the restaurant and enjoying the view. Breakfast is served free at the restaurant. Although the choices are very limited for the free breakfast, however, the restaurant offers a variety of international menu for lunch and dinner. The bar might be small but you would be amazed at how many drinks they can mix for you! But I digress now.

Rob and I loved this simple pork noodle soup, kiwtiew mi, prepared by the local staff for breakfast. A local breakfast fare, kiwtiew mi is served steaming hot; it’s so tasty, with generous amount of pork (or chicken, or beef) and vegetables sprinkled with freshly ground Kampot pepper. A bowl of this is surely a great way to start our day.

chicken noodle soup
Photo taken from my FoodTrips blog.

Kep Lodge is owned by Dan and Chheang Kreis and is located at the foot of Kep National Park. For more information, just click the link above and it will lead you to their website.

I made this!

My husband loves pork chop very much that it is served every week at home. They are tasty on their own, but I have to say that they’re even tastier when they are marinated before cooking. Soaking the pork in basic marinade such as soy sauce, lemon, and sugar, gives a better flavor to the meat.

I have to admit though that it gets boring after a while making the same pork chop over and over again. It challenged me so much that I scoured the Net for more ideas and, luckily, I stumbled upon this exciting recipe (and bookmarked it), white-peppered pork slices, from the Cooking Ninja.

I tried it not long ago and I am happy to say that my husband loved it! In fact, he asks for it every week 🙂 So I paid another visit to the Cooking Ninja to tell her how we love her recipe and to ask if she would allow me to post her recipe here. I’m glad that she gave her go-signal … big, big thanks!

Ingredients

* Pork (cut into big slices)
* Ground white pepper
* Black soya sauce
* Potato flour or cornflour
* a bit of sugar
* oil (for frying)

Directions

1. Tenderize the pork slices.
2. Coat the slices with ground white pepper (to your desired amount).
3. Add some dark soya sauce, and a little bit of sugar on it and marinate them well with your hands.
4. Then sprinkle some potato flour on it and mix them well.
5. Heat up some oil in a frying pan or wok till hot, fry the marinated pieces for a few minutes or until cooked. Then drain it on paper towel.
6. Serve it while hot. Can be taken as part of the main dishes.

Cooking Ninja’s original recipe didn’t include minced garlic but we at home love garlic so much I had to add it in. I marinated it overnight and the result – a succulent, sweet, garlicky flavor. It did remind me of tocino, the sweetened cured pork native to the Philippines, but the white-peppered pork is spicier (superb) and more flavourful. For my husband, I served it with chips (french fries to our American friends) – it was an instant hit – while I prefer mine with steamed rice and a side dish of sliced tomatoes and cucumber.

Again, many thanks to the Cooking Ninja for sharing me her recipe (and the photo above) and for letting me share it to others through my blog. For more exciting recipes, visit the Cooking Ninja’s blog.

Experiencing old-world Nepal

… at Dwarika Hotel.
Okay, I didn’t actually stay there but I did dine there on one occasion with my colleagues.

After a 30-min ride from Hotel Yak and Yeti, where we were staying, we were dropped off in the street amidst the hustle-bustle of the evening rush hour. It felt odd that we were standing out there in the biting cold of the night and in front of a nondescript doorway.

We reluctantly stepped in, not knowing whether we were in the right place at all. Once inside, we were all surprised at what we saw!
classical nepali architecture2
It felt like I was in a different world.

Dwarika is a beautiful product of a restoration effort spanning 25-30 years.
Built of brick and having ornate architectural bits and pieces added (hand-carved windows, door frames, pillars, etc.), all of which were obtained when old traditional buildings were torn down long ago. Additional wood carvings on the windows, the ceramic sculptures, as well as the pottery were all made in a workshop inside the premises. The result is a gorgeous piece of property providing a luxurious, old-world oasis from the chaotic capital; no wonder Dwarika was chosen as one of the World Heritage sites in Nepal.

We waited for the others at the lovely courtyard surrounded by amazing structures…
classicnepaliarchitecture6

classical nepali architecture

classical nepali architecture4

Warming our hands…(secretly hoping for a Gurka soldier to come out of nowhere!)
Of course, some of us couldn’t help but take photos.
warming our hands

… while a lone Nepali dancer provided entertainment as we waited to be ushered in to Krishnarpan restaurant.
nepali dancer

On our way through, we passed by a beautiful swimming pool. It must be great to come back to this hotel from a whole day’s exploration/sight-seeing of Kathmandu, or after a few days of tough trekking, and relax in the pool’s warm embrace.
swimming pool

Our dinner at Krishnarpan Restaurant restaurant, located inside Dwarika’s property, was an event in itself. We were greeted by pretty restaurant staff clad in different costumes representative of the different ethnic groups of Nepal. Before entering the restaurant, they help you wash your hands in a large bowl placed against a wall adorned with pictures of international celebrities and important people who have dined in the restaurant. I can lay claim that I was in the same spot where Prince Charles of England stood and washed his hands. Haha… as if.
wash hands before eating

Inside were rows of low tables tastefully decked in a red and black motif. The picture below didn’t capture the lovely setting well.
Notice the intricately-carved mirrors and wood-work?
inside krishnarpan

We sat on the floor with cushioned low chairs and the restaurant staff provided aprons so that we didn’t get food on our clothes.
wearing the apron

gerth and me

Food was served in antique, traditional bowls and with heavy old silverware.
utensils

We had a six-course meal – there was a choice from 6 to 22 course meals, vegetarian or non-vegetarian – and every course was a satisfying gastronomic experience.

Samaya Bajee, an assortment of food – lentils, potatoes, rice, etc., usually served as appetizer during religious ceremonies.
appetizer

Roti, Nepali griddle bread served with roasted mushroom & sautéed spinach)
nepali dish

Momo, steamed dumplings stuffed with minced meat served and with silam sauce
nepali dish2

Bodi Soup, bean soup cooked with aromatic Nepali herbs
nepali dish3

Traditional Nepali rice wine and Lapse Achar, loquat pickle
nepali dish4

This is how they served wine…
wine is served

Sada Bhuja, steamed Himalayan long-grain rice; Dal, lentil tempered with Himalayan herbs; Bhanta Ko Tarkari, aubergine curry; Mis Mas Tarkari, assorted vegetables cooked with Nepali herbs; and Kukhura Ko Masu, cubed chicken, also cooked with Nepali herbs
nepali dish5

Malpuwa Khuwa, Nepalese mini pancake topped with Khuwa
nepali dessert

I finished my meal with a nice cup of masala tea which I enjoyed tremendously. The delicious food, the visual delights, and the olde-worlde feel of the restaurant made for a unique dining experience. As an added touch, the restaurant printed our names individually on the menu (excellent for a souvenir) and handed out a give-away just before we were led out the door.

To think, I had only been in Krishnarpan restaurant and had a look around the premises on our way to the restaurant. I had not actually been inside the hotel itself and I can only imagine the same opulence and atmosphere inside the hotel, especially in the rooms. Obviously, Dwarika is not for budget-travelers, but the glowing feedback from very happy guests prove that the $$$ rates there are worth every single penny.

I have to agree.
I might not have spent a night there, yet, but the memorable dining experience I had that night made me want to come back. So now I am fervently hoping to return there with R for an anniversary getaway! Libre naman ang mangarap e, di ba?

Juice Mio!

Living in Cambodia for a long time now makes me get used to signs that are funny, or, are not intending to be funny but because of the outrageous word combination (i.e., translations or context) it takes on another meaning (humorous) or no meaning at all. Long ago, I posted pictures of funny signs most of which I saw in my frequent trips to the countryside. This time, I am posting something that I found in a Chinese restaurant’s menu right here in Phnom Penh. Juice with fancy (funny) names available at one of the Chinese restaurants (forgot the name) near Hun Sen park. It’s located just between the Java Cafe and the Ministry of Environment and it’s got a large sign in Chinese and in Khmer languages.

Stepping inside, there is nothing much except rows of tables and chairs. It’s as basic as you can get and the place is clean, too. But do not be fooled by the not-so-fantastic interior of the restaurant. Some of the dishes may be oily, as most Chinese food are, but they are lip-smacking tasty and cheap. I didn’t have trouble ordering my meal but it’s quite — err, interesting (even challenging!). Then when I pored over the Keep in Good Health Fruit Juice list it got me into serious thinking…

Have a look:

ohmyjuice@!

Bongga di ba? Fancy names…

Since it was really hot that day, so I ordered myself this:

juicemio!
Can you guess what I ordered??

No, not the Relieve summer heat the plum juice. No luck. They have no plum in stock.

I wanted to ask for a glass of Keep like good health the turnip juice but then changed my mind. Singkamas juice ba ito? Eew.

So in the end, I settled for the cool water melon juice!

Boring ba? In fairness naman, the cool water melon juice is refreshing. I was told that the list I showed (pic) is not complete. There’s a page two so next time I go there, I’ll take a photo of it. I wonder what else is there 🙂

How about you, what’s your choice?

If you are in PP and looking for a good Chinese restaurant, this is the place. Punta kayo dun, promise, di lang kayo mabubusog, maaaliw pa kayo.

***
This was originally posted at FudTrips.

Funny Khmenglish signs

Living in Cambodia for a long time now makes me get used to signs that are funny or are not intending to be funny but because of the outrageous word combination (i.e., translations or context) it takes on another meaning (humorous) or no meaning at all. Previously I posted pictures of funny signs most of which I saw in my frequent trips to the countryside. This time, I am posting something that I found in a Chinese restaurant’s menu. Juice with fancy (funny) names available at one of the Chinese restaurants (forgot the name) near Hun Sen park, just a stone’s throw away from Java Cafe. Have a look:

ohmyjuice@!

Since it was really hot that day, so I ordered myself this:

juicemio!
Can you guess what I ordered??

No, not the Relieve summer heat the plum juice. They were out of stock.

Tried asking for the Keep like good health the turnip juice. No luck.

So I just settled for the cool water melon juice!

How about you, what’s your choice?