Monday, July 14, 2008

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #1: Pita with Homemade Pork Patties

Forget McDonald's and KFC. Make your own patties and satisfy your fast food cravings at home.


I'm not a precise cook, so I'll just roughly point out what I bought and put into the mix:

600g minced meat (I used pork, but you could substitute with any other meat, including poultry)
16 pcs (slightly more or less depending on how much of a "meat-person" you are) of Jacob's high-fibre crackers (pounded into powder)
5 or 6 eggs (enough to make a not-so-wet dough out of the above two ingredients)
soy sauce (1/3 cup, I think) or salt to taste (or a combination of both)
black pepper to taste

Mix these into a pliable dough (can you call a dough "pliable"?), which is then divided and pressed into 1/2 cm-thick patties just a bit smaller in diameter than your pita bread. Fry these patties on a pan (on medium flame) with whatever amount of oil you can allow yourself to indulge in, till cooked inside and golden outside (I know this kind of instructions are rather vague; but you should not be in the kitchen if you can't judge if something is cooked). Use butter if you wan't extra creaminess. Use olive oil if you want to appease your conscience a bit. :-)


You can buy pita bread from most hypermarkets these days.

Cut the pita bread into halves, and bake them to moderate crispness (if too crispy, they crumble as you try to stuff things in). Bread toaster on low heat does the trick just nice (and faster and easier than using an oven).


You should also get some lettuces, tomatoes and a cucumber. Slice them thinly. For extra punch, I also bought some coriander. But you can leave this out if you don't have a fancy for it (not many people do; but it's a favorite ingredient in Teochew and Thai cuisines).

For the sauce, mixed up some mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and chili sauce, in roughtly 7:2:1 ratio. Replace chili sauce with mustard if available.


Next? What do you mean "next"? Just stuff those ingredients (patties smeared generously with the special sauce, a huge leaf of lettuce, a few slices of tomato and cucumber, and a bunch of chopped coriander) into the toasted pitas and eat up!

By the way, I forgot to put the lettuces into the picture above.

The picture below shows what it looked like just before landing inside my mouth. Yum!

Salivate, man, salivate...

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #9: Best Pan Mee in Penang

IMHO, the BEST pan mee (板面) in Penang is found in Nibong Tebal.


The stall is run by a middle-aged couple. They also sell Hainanese Chicken Rice, Hot Plate Noodle, and Hot Plate Rice. But their best serving is this pan mee:

The noodles are home-made (translation: free from boric acid and other nasty stuffs): they kneaded the doughs at home, and when you order this dish, they press the dough into this fettuccine-like flat thick noodles right on the spot.

And they make it nicely thick, as pan mee should be. For a few months last year, they tried to make the noodles thinner - perhaps someone who knew nothing about food complained that the noodles were uncooked; bah! whoever it was knew nothing about the meaning of "al dente" - and somehow, it tasted different - well, not nice, really. But I think they realized after some time that it was ruining their reputation and they reverted to the original thickness. And I'm glad they did.

And I love the soup. Real anchovy soup. I'm not sure if it is MSG-free, but it certainly tastes like its MSG-free.

And above it all, you get what you won't get anywhere on the Penang Island: loads of shrimps, chicken fillets, fried anchovies, fish cake, shredded mushrooms, shredded black fungus, and lots and lots of vegetables (in the picture, I have already stirred the noodles, so some of these have been buried beneath the noodles). On Penang Island, you should be thankful if you get some fried anchovies, a bit of minced meat, and some greens. No competition compared to this, I can assure you.

And the big one - enough to satisfy a fat glutton like me - costs only RM3 (used to cost only RM2.70 when we first moved to Nibong Tebal about 5 years ago).


If you ever go to Nibong Tebal, look for this stall in front of the Yawata Supermarket.

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #8: Avoid this Bull

I have a theory about food: the more thoughts they put into the garnishing and presentation, the less tasty it often turns out to be.

And my theory scored another point the other day when my wife and I dined at this "Taiwan Bull" (台湾公牛) in Queensbay Mall (I won't even bother to tell you where to look for it).


My wife ordered rice with minced meat. And it sure looked nice...

But tasted just like 600cc repackaged. And 600cc was not all that tasty to begin with.

I ordered stone-bowl rice with skewer-roasted beef. Again, looks pretty nice. And sizzling hot (the stone bowl kept the rice steaming hot until the last bite - which, to me, was rather a nuisance; I have what the Japanese call "a cat's tongue").

And how did it taste like? Well, it tasted exactly like what half-raw beef (which was OK) and raw carrot and raw cucumber and half-cooked soy bean sprouts and half-cooked tasteless spinach and raw egg should taste like. That was totally not worth the RM16.xx I had to pay for it.

All in all, it was RM35.xx (including drinks) badly spent.


And speaking of the cost... the service was bad, too. In the whole restaurant, you get this one guy wearing bull-horned cap running around handing out menus. To place the order, you have to step over to the counter, and pay UP FRONT! It felt almost like an insult. =.=


On the way home, I was kicking myself for not going over to the Golden Lake Hawkers Center (金湖饮食中心) for a nice steaming bowl of Yong Tau Foo (酿豆腐) instead.

Remember: good food should be delicious, not pretentious.