Monday, May 19, 2008

Asia Cuisine Guide - The Malaysian Cuisine

Malaysian Food Guide
You’re probably familiar with the Malaysian Tourism ad slogan “Malaysia, Truly Asia” and may have even sniggered once or twice at how cheesy it sounds. But actually, when you visit the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur and walk around the city centre, you realize just how apt the description actually is, and how pleasant the country can be for the same very reason. Colorful Malay dress such as baju kurung blend in with corporate suits, Chinese cheongsam and the Indian “Punjabi” style pant-suit called the shalwar kameez. Diverse, loud, and perhaps a little overbearing at first to the inexperienced tourist, Kuala Lumpur (KL) is indeed a melting pot of ethnicity and culture. And besides the bright dress sense of Malaysians, this fact is also best illustrated in the nation’s passion for food (makan). While every Malaysian will have their own opinion of where to find the best Char Kway Teow or Nasi Lemak in the city, I’ve listed a few for you to sample. Got better ideas? Let's Share!

Classic Malaysian dishes:

Nasi Lemak is the unofficial Malaysian national dish and comprises of rice steamed in coconut milk, roasted peanuts, a hard-boiled egg, anchovies and the essential piquant sambal (a red sauce made with shrimp paste). It’s also often served with spicy chicken (ayam percik). While you can find Nasi Lemak virtually anywhere (even on the Air Asia menu) in Malaysia, the rumored “best” places around KL are:

- Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa, 4 Jalan Raja Mudu Musa, Kampung Baru (+603 2931 1358)
- Madam Kwan’s restaurants: 65, Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru,(+603 2284 2297) and Level 4, Suria KLCC, +603 2026 2297)

Chicken Rice is widely served and relished in Malaysia. Despite the fact that Singapore has claimed it as “their” state dish, it comes from the ethnic Hainanese Chinese who populated both Malaysia and Singapore. The dish is characterized by its “oily rice” which is cooked in stock from the chicken.

- Nasi Ayam Laily, located at the SS15 Subang Jaya Food Court
- The Chicken Rice Shop, Lower Ground Floor, Mid Valley Megamall (+603 2287 9290)

Char Kuay Teow

Stir-fried in a extremely hot wok (preferably with the charred remains of previously cooked meals for added flavor), Char Kuay Teow comprises flat rice noodles, dark soy sauce, prawns, bean sprouts, cockles and egg, and is most famous in the Malaysian state of Penang. You can find this classic hawker dish throughout KL, but for the Penang style try:

- O & S Restaurant, the corner shop house facing the Caltex petrol station, Jalan 20/14, Paramount Gardens, Petaling Jaya
- Chow Yang (aka Cheow Yang), 157 Jalan SS 2/6, Petaling Jaya
- All Penang Village branches

Curry and Assam Laksas

These famous soupy noodle dishes are a must-have in Malaysia and different states have their own versions. The two main types are: Curry Laksa which is made with coconut milk, and Assam Laksa, which is a sour-fish based broth that uses tamarind. The former often comes with thick yellow noodles, tofu, bean sprouts and chicken, prawns or egg while the latter is served with rice vermicelli, shredded cucumber, pineapple and bite-size pieces of fish. Try these in KL:

- Aunty Nat, The Boulevard, Mid Valley Megamall, (603) 2283 5339
- Sri Melaka Nyonya Restaurant, 11 Jalan 52/8, Petaling Jaya, (603) 7956 3497
- Penang Village branches


Foreigners often confuse satay as being a Thai dish, but it originated from Malaysia. It’s such a renowned favorite that it needs little explanation. Basically, the skewered meat is marinated in coconut milk, tamarind paste, turmeric, ginger and other spices and then cooked over a charcoal grill. It is served with a peanut spicy sauce. In KL, satay can be found commonly in front of Mamak stalls (cafes run and teamed by Indian Muslims) and many food courts or hawker areas. But you can also try:

- Restoran Maju Garuda, 36B, Jalan Raja Alang, Kampung Baru (603) 2691 4077
- Sate King branches

Banana Leaf

A visit to KL would not be complete without “daun pisang”, otherwise known as banana leaf. Served on the said foliage, an order of banana leaf consists of rice and a series of chutneys, vegetables, dahl, sambar, curries, papadums, yam chips and meat, fish or tofu. You sit down and are literally swarmed by men from all directions piling things up on your splayed green leaf. You can choose from different curry masalas to pour over your rice and are offered fried, tandoor or curried meat and vegetarian options in addition to little metal cups of soup (rasam) and yoghurt. Expect to be overfed, overwhelmed but extremely satisfied. Try these classic venues:

- Sri Nirwana Maju, 43 Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru (603) 6028 3526.
- Sri Paandi both Brickfields (254, Jalan Tun Sambathan,
(603 2274 0464) and PJ (Jalan 11/4, Jalan Dato' Mahmud) branches
- Lotus Family Restaurants (especially the branch on Jalan Gasing)
- Devi’s Corner (Jalan telawi 5, Bangsar)
- ask any taxi or local and they will know this place

Mamaks and Hawker stalls

Mamak cafes or restaurants are found on almost every corner, in every suburb, of every town in Malaysia. Mamak in Malay language means Indian Muslim and they are usually owned by Malaysian Indians and staffed by Indian immigrants. Serving a wide array of foods of Indian and Malay styles, these cafes are brimming with people at all sorts of hours as many are 24 hours. Typical foods ordered at a mamak stall wuuld be thosai and roti canai (both savoury pancake style breads) served with curry, nasi goreng (fried rice), mee goreng (fried noodles) and there is always a selection of hot dishes available in buffet style for self service. The mamaks are also famous for serving teh tarik which is a source of pride across the country. Translated into English, teh tarik is “pulled tea” – which reflects the technique used to make it. Tea is poured from one hand held container to another with condensed milk to produce a frothy effect. It is quite an elaborate artform and Malaysians are so keen on this drink and there are fierce national competitions for the teh tarik masters title. There was even, at one point, talk about performing the feat on the moon with the country’s inaugural space mission.

Hawker stalls are found throughout the many suburbs of Malaysia, usually in large food court style areas. From fried noodles, soups, to rice dishes and fried meats and tofu, hawkers cover a range of foods. In downtown KL, the street of Jalan Alor is famous for is eclectic hawker selection, as is Central Market Hawker Stall (Top floor, Jalan Hang Kasturi, Kuala Lumpur), the Ampang Park Shopping Complex Food C ourt (Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur) and Brickfields outdoor hawker area (Jalan Tun Sambathan, Kuala Lumpur).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Travel China Guide - Explore Shanghai the eighth largest city in the world

Travel Shanghai GuideShanghai. It’s hard to imagine how this once humble fishing village at the mouth of the Yangzte River grew into China’s biggest city and the eighth largest city in the world. And yet it has become the pride of China in more ways than one – a sprawling, progressive city with a proud, resplendent past. An epicenter for art and culture as much as it is for commerce. Yes, this cosmopolitan city has plenty to offer the curious tourist and Shanghai trip has become a popular option for those traversing the East. For first-timers, why not adopt a chronological order approach to sightseeing to truly get a taste of Shanghainese history?

Part I: Imperial Era – Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.)
In Puxi district (west bank), make your way to the Yuyuan Garden, a traditional Ming style private garden built in 1559 and opened to the public in 1961. Within the garden are rockeries, cloisters, pavilions, halls, ponds and many scenic areas.

Part II: 1930s
Visit the Bund (Wai Tan) where European architecture lines the streets. This area was once the financial and commercial districts in Shanghai, where foreign businesses and governmental buildings were established. Wander the French Concession where shikumen townhouses, art deco-buildings, cafés and shops stand. Evidence of the city’s hedonistic past can be seen in these colonial buildings abound. For those who want an authentic shopping experience, head to Nanjing Road.

Part III: 21st century
Cross the Huangpu River to Pudong, and you will find China’s Wall Street. For a grand city view from atop, head to the Oriental Pearl Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

There are numerous
hotel options in Shanghai as well as an endless range of dining choices, from delicious street foods in Wujiang Road to upscale, expensive eateries in Xintiandi.

China celebrates a number of festivals and timing your trip to coincide with an event might be a good idea for folks who prefer a bona fide taste of Chinese culture. However, avoid going during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in February because most places are closed. For more information try the official Shanghai city website -

Monday, May 12, 2008

Travel Thailand Guide - Enjoy a unique trip of Bangkok via its waterways

Bangkok Boat Trip GuideRivers and canals have traditionally been the lifeline of Thai people since ancient times. Today, they present a fun and exciting way of seeing Bangkok rather than usual traffic-congested, chaotic channels normally presented to tourists.

Rivers (mae nam) and canals (klongs) were the main pathways for trade and travel in Bangkok and most of the country for centuries. The Thai way of life is serene by the banks of the Chao Phrya, which is dotted with beautiful architecture and temples.

When Bangkok became the Kingdom’s Capital in 1782 (which marks the beginning of the Rattanakosin era), canals crosscut and converged at various points across the city. Thus, the main reason why early Western merchants and diplomats dubbed Bangkok the “Venice of the East.”

Early Bangkok residents lived life by the banks of the Chao Phraya River or close to it as Chao Phrya literally means ‘Great King.’ Today, many foreigners opt to stay in apartments and hotels along the river, because of its calming force and interesting views. Touring the waterways will give you a glimpse of the city’s glorious past, especially if you take a peak at the Royal Barge Museum – where you can imagine how wonderful a royal entourage of more than 70 barges down the river would look like. While Bangkok may be fast-flying towards technological development, the genuine charm of the waterways seem to provide an unruffled source of temperance. Perhaps the nature of the river is best reflected by the famous Thai smile and hospitable disposition.

Many boat services along the Chao Phrya connect various ports in Bangkok with northern provinces as well. River cruises are ample, with some of the best offering sumptuous lunches – look out for some of the more traditional barges such as those operated by the Peninsula and Shangri-La. Canal tours are also widely available around the busy pier of Ta Chang.

Once you’re in a long-tail boat (kind of like a Thai style racing boat for passengers that is popular for touring) or a classic, gracefully moving barge, you will witness magnificent temples and other historic buildings of interest. You will see the Royal Thai Navy Dockyard, the Thai Maritime Navigation Company, the Old Customs House, Wat Prayunrawong temple, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), the Grand Palace, Wat Rakhang Kositaram, and the Royal Boat House.
If you have got more time, a visit to the river island of Koh Kret is also a good choice. A shuttle boat leaves Wat Sanam Nua temple, which is a brisk walk from the Pak Kret Pier and runs from 6 am to 9 pm. Basically, within the island, a community of traditional potters lives and peddle their wares for over a century. Descendants of Mon ancestry, their forefathers who arrived in Bangkok from Burma. Spending their lives perfecting the art of terracotta ceramics, tourists are very welcome to purchase their products.

However, try to stay off the river during the evening rush hour as the waterways remain a popular method of travel for much of the city’s population, a clever way to avoid the infamous Bangkok traffic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Travel Philippines Guide - The Manila Melting Pot

Travel Manila GuideIt's summer and Manila is HOT!!  The city famous for envelopes, jeepneys, balut and the greatest fight of all time (Ali vs. Frazier III) is waiting to be explored. The rich mix of Filipino and Spanish cultures is as beautiful and intoxicating as any city in SE Asia. Manila rocks!

When in Manila, sightseeing is protocol. Many history lessons have been learnt while visiting the oldest part of the city, Intramuros (Latin for “within the walls”), which was founded by the Spanish in 1571 and houses numerous historic buildings and churches. Rizal Park, named after anti-colonialist Dr. José Rizal, features a skating rink, chess plaza, beautiful ornamental gardens and free concerts on Sundays. Other places worth visiting are the Malacañang Palace, The National Museum of the Philippines, Binondo (Manila’s Chinatown) and the Chinese Cemetery, where some of the rich are buried with air conditioners, chandeliers and flushing toilets.

accommodations in Manila is available, ranging from 5-star hotels to more affordable options on Roxas Boulevard or in the districts of Ermita and Malate. As with dining choices, the high end brings us to Lolo Dad’s Café, a popular restaurant for gourmet Filipino cuisine and Ilustrado, which serves Filipino and Spanish dishes.

For the more adventurous foodie, a great selection of street foods such as isaw (grilled chicken and pork innards), banana cue, kamote cue (deep fried banana and sweet potato with caramelized brown sugar), kwek kwek (hard boiled quail, chicken or duck eggs covered in orange batter, then fried and seasoned) and halo-halo (shaved ice with condensed milk, preserved fruit, sweet beans and a scoop of ice cream) can be found throughout the city.

The best way to get a feel for
Manila shopping is to go to a ‘tiangge’, a market of stalls, where everything can be bargained. Market! Market!, St. Francis Square, Greenhills Shopping Center and Tiendesitas are examples of such.

Traffic is a major headache but a Manila experience wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the colorful and crowded Jeepneys – jeeps once used by American Armed Force units that have been modified for public transport and are known for their flamboyant decorations. To find out more about this exciting metropolis visit the
official tourism website -