sweet corny cheesiness.

8:53 PM sians 2 Comments


i have been very busy this past week. and i have eye bags under my eyes that i kinda look like a panda. i guess that's mostly my fault - i got into this bad habit of going to bed at 1am but having to wake up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am every weekday. which is why i absolutely love weekends cos i get to sleep in!

so my busy-ness is due to..
01| apartment hunting - NEED to find a cheap and nice place to live in for next year. btw i think i am leaning more towards downtown chicago. must be the visit to christina's cozy place last weekend.
02| revising some stuff from college. it's been almost two years and i have barely used any of my knowledge at my current job. sounds nerdy but it needs to be done.
03| a few house errands.
04| admiring the cherry blossoms, flowers and what not. spring is here!
05| complaining about the damn "spring" weather - which is not very spring-like. freaking chilly for what is supposed to be nice weather!
05| other stuff that i can't mention here.

anywho, now that is out of the way, tried cheese popcorn before?

"...say whattttttt?" some of you might say.

yup, you read it right.

cheese popcorn!

chicago is the home to the famous popcorn chain located throughout chicago and new york called garrett popcorn. they have the usual selection of flavors such as caramelcrisp, butter and plain but they also have unconventional flavors such as cheesecorn and (insert nut name here) caramelcrisp namely macadamia caramelcrisp or pecan caramelcrisp. but suprisingly they don't have the regular kettle corn at this store. (like wth right?) kettle corn is reminiscent of the popcorn i could get in malaysia but with added salt - so it's slightly sweet but has a salty note at the end.

as described on their website:
caramelcrisp: "taste the best: rich butter notes, sweet and sultry brown sugar and a crème brulee crunch that is as sophisticated as it is irresistible."
cheesecorn: "freshly melted sharp cheddar cheese (we would never use a powder!) is generously stirred into our kettles of hot air popped popcorn."

when you mix those two popcorn together gives the most popular selection at garret: the chicago mix.

i've never really thought much about garrett and their popcorn choices. i was more into kettle corn but secretly wishing there wasn't any salt in it (i do love my malaysian popcorn). so what sparked the change in my view of the chicago mix was when i went home to malaysia for my three week break last month. i was trying to think of something that was native to chicago but also something that my family has never tried before. that was when garrett popcorn came into the picture. plus i love that the mix is called chicago mix - gives it a more chicago feel. lol.

before i bought a whole few gallons to bring it back to malaysia, i had to try some first myself to see if i like it. the first time i tried it was more like a love-hate relationship. well, actually it started more like a confused relationship. i couldn't really decide if i like it. i started off with a cheesecorn first (never had those before so i was very curious about how it'd taste). first bite was very savory - strong flavor of cheddar that i didn't know what to make of it. i thought it was too salty but then after i popped a few more of those in my mouth, the saltiness started to mellow down and i was hooked. then came the sweetness of the caramelcrisp. to some it might be too sweet but with the constrast of the cheesecorn, it was fun alternating the sweet and the savory or have them both combined! true to its name, caramelcrisp popcorn is slightly crispy from the caramel. in short, the popcorn have pronounced sweet and savory flavors that some might either love it or hate it.

ryan was sceptical about cheese popcorn cos the ones he had before were dry because some companies used cheese powder. he was pleasantly surprised that the ones from garrets were moist and buttery that he had trouble to stop munching. it could potentially get messy when you eat the popcorn cos it leaves a distinct cheddar color on your fingertips. but fear not, licking the cheesy cheddar flavor off your fingers is pretty satisfying.

i warned everyone who is trying it for the first time that the first taste of cheesecorn could potentially be overwhelming but they need to try more before forming an opinion on it. in fact, my mom thought the same as i did when she tried it for the first time and now she loves the cheese popcorn quite a bit, much to my relief :)

definitely try some when you are in chi-town. i know a few ppl who loves it and some who hates it but if you like cheese and you like sweets, you can't really go wrong. it is pretty pricey for popcorn though. think my family was a lil shocked when i told them how much it was.

a fair warning though, it could get addictive.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Garrett Popcorn on Urbanspoon


on chicago skyline.

3:34 PM sians 0 Comments

this weekend was a ball of fun. i have to say both days were mostly spent sleeping and recharging myself since i've been only sleeping averagely for 5 hours during the weekdays. so i was a lot more cranky throughout the week that even i'd call myself miss crankers. but the highlight this weekend was probably the bbq fun at christina's place in downtown chicago.

christina and i have had plans to go to her apartment for pot luck for the past year but never got to it. however, this weekend we finally had a plan going and it definitely didn't hurt that it was a pretty nice spring day. it was warm under the sun but cold in the shade type of deal. the next thing we had to plan was what food we were bringing. she suggested that she was gonna do the burgers and grilled asparagus and i was gonna bring the side dishes.

i had trouble deciding what side dishes i would bring that might go well with burgers. putting on my thinking cap, (gosh what a nerdy corny statement! lol) i came up with three side dishes: citrus salad with fennel, artichoke balls and pasta salad. the citrus salad is a recipe by giada de laurentiis which i have tried once before. i thought the combination of tartness and sweetness from the grapefruit and orange paired with the licorice flavor of fennel and then the slight crunch from the walnut would be refreshing on a spring day bbq. thank goodness the grapefruit was slightly sweet and tart and wasn't bitter like the one when i first tried the recipe last year. there was supposed to be basil in the recipe but i had to leave that out cos i couldn't find fresh basil in two grocery stores....(like wth right?) 

artichoke balls and pasta salad were both ryan's mom recipes. ryan is a sucker for artichoke and his mom even warned me to watch him while he helped me roll out those artichoke balls because if i didn't, it may all disappear before it even got to christina's place.. lol. the artichoke balls had grated parmesan cheese and italian breadcrumbs in them and it seemed that it was a hit with everyone. the pasta salad dressing was a simple concoction of louisiana remoulade sauce combined with house italian dressing where the ratio is to personal taste. i added sauteed onions for the slight sweetness to counter the bite of the horseradish from the remoulade sauce and as a personal touch and healthiness, i added a brocolli slaw with the cooked rotini pasta. the pasta salad was addictive - i couldn't stop taking servings after servings of it. what i like about these dishes is that i could make them a day in advance since they were both supposed to be served chilled.

before we got started on the grill with our burgers, we were starving since we got there half hour late. (i blame the fresh basil) christina and lyle made homemade ranch sauce which was yummy goodness served with cucumber and carrot sticks. they also served cheese (cheddar and mimollette) and crackers as appetizers too. the mimolette cheese (aged 12 months) had a bright orange hue to it and takes on a nut-like flavor.  not long after, we went to their sun deck to grill some burgers for our exciting lunch :)

while the chefs were busy grilling i was taking photos of the breath taking view from the sun deck.

the food smelled so delish while we waited for the food to be done. we were so starving at this point that i wanted to eat the food straight from the grill. we initially wanted to sit by the sun deck to enjoy the view but it was a tad chilly outside so we went back to her apartment but not without filling the hallway and the rooms we walked through with the yummy aroma of freshly grilled burgers, enough to make anyone hungry.

the burgers were so good and so was the bun. the bun was soft and toasted to perfection. the cheddar cheese was slightly melted and i loved the crust and grilled marks on the burger patties (most flavor!) as well as the moistness inside. i've always loved grilled asparagus and this time it wasn't any different. juicy with a slight smoky flavor and christina did a great job flavoring them with just enough salt, pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice. we were pretty stuffed by the end of the meal and i think we could have fed another 3-4 ppl with the leftovers we had. lol.

they were also in charge of the dessert although i offered to make brownies from the brownie mix. instead, they bought my favorite-st desserts of all time - tiramisu! i was eager to give it a try to see how it measures up to my current fav from maggiano's even though i was filled to the brim.  omg omg! i think we might have a winner here! lol. i want to say that it's better than the one i get from maggiano's but it's a very tight race. i'd have to try both of them side by side to compare but this tiramisu they purchased from fox & obel was fantastic. it had a sharp espresso flavor but it's balanced well with the sweetness from the cream. i guess the only thing i could pick on it is i thought it might be better with more lady finger to balance the textures a lil bit.  but <3333

although we were exhausted at the end of the event, we had a ton of fun, tasty food, bright sun and semi-warm weather - what more can we ask for? :)


two days it is.

11:00 AM sians 0 Comments

finally i finished writing it! as promised. :)

my family planned a trip to the historical town of malacca even before i returned to malaysia for my three week break. actually they planned around my trip so i could be a part of it. i think the last time i've been to malacca was perhaps 7-8 years ago. i wouldn't classify this trip as a leisurely  family trip, instead i would categorize it as a food hunt escapade.. at least that was what i felt we were mainly doing. actually come to think of it, my whole vacation in malaysia has really been similar to being a participant in a food fair for three weeks. (and i love it!)

well, we drove in two separate cars and i travelled with my second sister. my eldest sister had an early start and they got to malacca first and had breakfast there. on the other hand, we made a detour at seremban for their famous seremban beef noodles (which i was secretly craving for but did not express it) at my bro-in-law's suggestion. the famous stall that sells this yummy cuisine was at the pasar besar seremban (translated to seremban big market). the smell of meat and live animals was quite overwhelming but we only had to endure it for a quick minute to get to the food court filled with a variety of stalls on the second floor. there were quite a few stalls selling the famous seremban beef noodles but my bro-in-law knew which one to go based on his past experiences.

we ordered one of each - a dry version and a soup version and they were both tasty. i prefer the dry version because that is what i remembered being the reason why i love it. and it was different than any other beef noodles we can find in kl or pj. the noodles were cooked just right and the amount of delish thick gravy was just nice and the beef were cooked to perfection. yummmm!


the other dish we ordered was some curry noodles with some yong tau foo. i wasn't too fond of it and the taste was mediocre.

on our way back to the car, my sister suggested us to get some popiah to go. popiah is similar to a spring roll except with different ingredients and isn't fried. i actually read that it's actually called taiwanese spring roll which can be commonly found in taiwan, malaysia and singapore. i bet that the ones in malaysia has already been adapted to malaysian taste buds and each stall has added their own flair.

this one was probably one of the best popiah i've ever had. it had a good amount of moisture in the stir fried turnip that it didn't drown the exterior popiah "skin". popiah "skin" is a soft, thin paper-like crepe made out of wheat flour (qouted from wikipedia). the sauce they added were just the right amount that it wasn't overpowering the rest of the ingredients and it had a surprising crunch between bites. sooo good. but i have to warn you it can get a tad messy eating it but soo worth it!

after our satisfying meal in seremban, off we went on the rest of our journey to malacca. we met the rest of my family at the popular jonker street of malacca at a boutique where my mom bought me a really pretty dress as a gift (wasn't expecting it..thanks mom <3). i knew we were in malacca cos i saw some really familiar historical maroon buildings and the traditional homes lined along the street. and of course the sign that says "welcome to melaka" (melaka is the malay spelling for malacca)

what is popular about jonker street is they have small petite stores along the street almost similar to the magnificient mile in downtown chicago, minus the name brand stores and more old school. what is best is at night where they will have a night market when the streets will be lined with hawker stalls selling variety of things but more on that later in the post.

we walked around the area, occasionally entering some stores and then proceeded to hotel puri to take a peek around the place. the hotel was preserved to look like the traditional houses in malacca but has been updated to keep up with the time. my sister is pretty adamant about wanting to stay here during their next visit here. lol. as we walked into the hotel, i saw boxes of pineapple tarts (which is also what malacca is famous for) beckoning at me and i finally gave in and bought a box of those tarts to try at the end of our "tour" around the hotel.

once we checked in at our lodging, we headed out for lunch hoping to hunt for the best nyonya food in town. malacca is supposedly to have the best nyonya food in malaysia since the majority of the nyonya ppl centers in this state. after asking around a few locals, we found banyonya just around town.

my parents did most of the ordering of food so i was just waiting patiently till the food to be served. for lunch, we had kangkung belacan (water convolvulus stir fried in shrimp paste), vegetarian dish, ayam pongteh (chicken, potatoes and mushroom in soybean paste), fish dish (don't remember the name of it) and the ayam buah keluak (spicy chicken cooked in keluak nuts which gives a sour flavor to the dish).  we ended the meal with a bowl of cendol (more about cendol later in the entry)

overall, i thought it was somewhat overpriced and i wasn't anywhere close to impressed with the food they served. there were some dishes namely the chicken dishes were alright but nothing compels us to return to this place again. i know there are very good nyonya food around in malacca but we just haven't found it yet. but in the meantime, i think we will be passing on nyonya food our next visit to this town.

we spend the rest of the afternoon at a supermarket to get some necessities and then rested at our lodging before heading out in the evening for dinner. we could see our evening destination from where we were staying: the portugese settlement by the straits of malacca. that means very fresh seafood for dinner!

the seafood business is competitive in this area. we were approached by restaurant representatives (not sure what to call them really) to try their fresh seafood. and we finally decided on one. we did hear that the first restaurant from the right in that row of restaurants was very good but it was so packed that we decided to give restaurant #8 a try. btw i didn't have any of the seafood pictured above but we did have razor clams (meh...), devil chicken (spicy and yummy), two crab dishes (soooooooo fresh and soooooo yumzers), and a vegetable dish.

besides the lovely fresh crabs, the biggest highlight of the dinner was this drink:

what so special about it, you ask? well, firstly i have to say i am a sucker for mangoes. so i'm hooked to any mango drinks. but.. it is not like any other mango juice. joe's only one mango juice added their own unique spin to it. they added sour plum to give the drink another flavor dimension, and adds a touch of simple syrup to compliment the natural sweetness. there is such a perfect balance of sweet and sour that it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. it also kinda reminds me of umbra juice but with the taste is elevated to higher level. i officially appoint this as one of the best things i have ever had.

our next itinerary was to head down to jonker walk. the street were bustling with people now instead of cars as it was in the afternoon. jonker walk has transformed into a venue for night market where there are several hawkers selling a variety of things from food, home stuff to shoes and apparel. it's busy and was packed with a lot of locals and visitors.

what caught my attention were these candied fruits / chocolate covered fruits. for some reason it is highly popular at this night market so i could not resist and ordered a skewer of chocolate covered mixed fruits so it was kind of a surprise with each bite since i couldn't see what was inside the chocolate shell. what i totally despised were the fact the grape that they used wasn't seedless. so i was biting into the seeds which kind of made me somewhat annoyed.

have you heard for durian cendol? well now you have. cendol is a traditional dessert that consists of coconut milk, noodles with pandan food coloring, palm sugar, red beans and shaved ice. the only difference is they add durian in this concoction. lol. this definitely had a prominent taste of durian that it was overshadowing the other ingredients.

speaking of cendols, did i tell you? one of the thing that i remember distinctly about this trip: it almost seemed like this trip was solely for the purpose of finding the best cendol. hahaha. cos every corner we went, we just couldn't resist trying a bowl of this dessert. not saying that it doesn't taste good cos it does! but it was rather almost like crossing the thin line into obssession. see, our reasoning is probably this: the best palm sugar probably comes from malacca since it is called gula melaka so the cendol should be great, if not the best. however, my sister commented that she's tried a better bowl of cendol  in petaling jaya.

anywho, we were so exhausted by the end of the day that i fell asleep on the way back to our hotel/apt.

next morning, we had breakfast at a place that apparently we used to go to whenever we go to malacca but i have no recollection of this.

the last two photos above makes a hakka dish called lui cha fun. it's supposed to be nutritious and healthy and i had a few bites and it was definitely an acquired taste. and no, the soup is not made out of grass. it's actually mint soup that is supposed to be combined with the mixture of noodles, peanuts, long beans, etc. i prefered it without the soup mainly because i don't fancy mint soup too much in general. kinda reminds me of drinking toothpaste dissolved in water. maybe in time i will learn to like it. my favorite dish was the warm congee with slices of fresh fish. it was so simple yet so flavorful. yummmms!

we spend some hours at stadhuys taking photos and buying souviners before returning to our home sweet home where everyone just looks over-exhausted.

but before we headed back we made a  pit stop to get some mee rebus and indian rojak for a quick snack.

the indian rojak was tasty - different textures on a single plate and not overly sweet with a slight note of spiciness. the mee rebus was alright. i think it was tad too sweet for some.

finally back at home, it was close to dinner time so we were just hanging aroumd my sister's place before it was time to go for dinner. for the past two weeks, my second sister has been asking me when i was gonna try her favorite sup tulang (bone soup) place so i suggested we could have dinner there that evening. it is located in a supermarket called 'giant mall' and it was a little cafe. the downside of this place is that they have a very limited menu - their delicious variety of soup and fried egg which comes with servings of rice. we ordered a few bowls of the soup and some fried eggs.

boy, was it good! glad my sister was persistently asking me about it :) the soup was packed with beef flavor with enough pepper-y taste to it and the beef as well as the chicken in the soup was cooked to perfection. it was a tad salty but my guess is they intentionally salt it a lil more since it was supposed to be eaten with plain white rice which will mellow the saltiness a tad. good news for me was that you could ask for refills of the soup (without the meat and such, of course) till your heart's content. i almost drank a 1.5 bowls of the soup and the bowls were quite big. what complements the whole dinner was their chilli mixture which was spicy and it basically just went well with everything. mmmm :)

later that night, we were all tired that we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. but what a fun trip it was :)

i miss my family :/

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others