Monthly Archives: February 2016

A Truly Asian Beverage Hunt

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I was told to try Nasi Lemak, a richer Malaysian version of the Bakuteh, Penang Laksa, Clay Pot Char Kway Teow, and Curry Mee during our trip to Malaysia by legendary gadget blogger extraordinaire, Michael Josh of Gadget Match.

I consider him an authority on Malaysian gastronomy (he knows the place so well that IMHO, he should write a guidebook). I knew his opinion on how I wanted to eat and drink through our essentially 1.5 day trip in Kuala Lumpur would be invaluable.

The beverage geek in me had to ask him though: “What would you say is a quintessential Malaysian drink?”

He answered, “Teh Tarik… And you have to get them to make one for you live”.

So, I set out on my hunt for the drink.

Somewhere in between Kuala Lumpur’s Heritage Walk (where the I ❤ KL sign is located) and Central Market, I found this little open-air canteen that served food to locals.

After negotiating with the kindly old lady for significantly less rice than she initially intended to give (I got her to go down from “enough to feed an army for two weeks” to “good for one plump Pinay”), serving myself spicy beef rendang and what looked to be their version of our laing, I asked, “Can I please have a Teh Tarik?”

She looked at me funny and asked incredulously, “Teh Tarik?

I nodded.

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Teh Tarik: Part of my 7RM lunch

I realized why she found my request odd: In the heat of lunch hour, I actually asked for hot milk tea, prepared by pouring a concoction of hot black tea and milk (condensed and/or evaporated) from one container to the other, back and forth at a height, creating a froth and thoroughly mixing the beverage.

It was ridiculously beautiful, but it was hot. In order not to leave me panting, I ordered a bottle of water to go with my lunch, had the Teh Tarik for dessert, and ended up paying a measly 7RM (or about 79.16PHP, or 1.65USD) for my meal.

Not bad.

Theoretically, similar rules apply for Malaysian food and wine pairing as with Filipino food, but Malaysian cuisine involves a lot more fragrant spices and less red meat. So, assuming I decided to have wine with Malaysian cuisine, I would probably stick to crisp, slightly sweet white wine.

The best alcoholic drink to pair with Malaysian food, however, is good old fashioned beer.

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Nasi Lemak with Tiger Beer

I opted out of exploring further in the evening (a total #titasofmanila cop-out moment) and decided to eat in the hotel. I ordered the Malaysian national dish (a breakfast staple for dinner… Because I can), the Nasi Lemak, and had it with a pint of Tiger Beer.

I decided on this combo because the spicy sambal called (nay, screamed) for something significantly more refreshing than wine. The dish’s gentle but multitude of flavors would not have wanted anything overpowering, either. I also find that pale lager beers go great with Asian food.

I specifically ordered Tiger Beer in the hopes of being very local*. Its origins can be traced as far back as the time that Singapore was still part of Malaysia. After Singapore left the Federation, Tiger’s head office stayed in Singapore, but one of its breweries remained in Malaysia.

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Old Town White Coffee

One of my interesting discoveries in Malaysia is the region of Ipoh. I knew I had a preference for this region’s style of white coffee (see here), but I did not know it was a region in Malaysia (yay for learning something new!). I also found out that the reason it’s so sinfully creamy is because the beans are roasted with palm-oil margarine.

I knew I couldn’t leave Malaysia without having some white coffee, so at the last possible minute (think airport on our flight out), I had one in one of their famous Old Town Coffee chains.

What is your favorite food and beverage combination? Cheers!

*Cheat Sheet: I find that when I’m stumped for food and beverage pairing ideas, I try to think of beverages indigenous to the region the food comes from. It can be Escargots de Bourgogne with Chablis (both from Burgundy), proper Chilean empanadas with Carmenere, sisig with San Miguel Beer, or  with Tiger Beer.

 

Seeing Red Part 2: LOVE

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day (or as some of my bitter single friends would put it, S.A.D., or Singles Awareness Day).

Speaking of the occasion, I was fortunate to co-host a food and wine pairing dinner in one of the ultimate Valentine’s Day date places, Le Jardin, about an equally romantic topic, Burgundy.

Okay, I admit: The main reason why I find Burgundy romantic is that (#throwback alert) Chad and I spent part of our honeymoon there. 😉

I know I’ve talked about Burgundy so many times before, so I’ll skip the part about the technical aspects of the region’s wines (but still give you the link for a detailed explanation) and focus on some of the phenomenal wines we had during the evening:

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Phenomenal Burgundy Wines for Burgundy Night in Le Jardin!

  • Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Foliatières – I love the story behind the Montrachet appellation… Incidentally, it involves a bit of love and lust that is quite timely for Valentine’s Day.
    Legend goes that there was a soldier/horseman (a chevalier in French) was serving in one of the great crusades. He was sent away by his father to fight in the crusades from the Montrachet castle. Afterwards, he met a woman and fathered a child with her.
    In ancient days, of course, this was scandalous.
    Since he wasn’t married to the child’s mother, the kid ended up being classified as illegitimate (a batard in French). Nevertheless, the child was welcomed (bienvenue) in their castle.
    Long after the castle has been destroyed, the appellations still remain, bearing names that chronicle these bits of legend: Montrachet, Chevalier Montrachet, Bienvenue-Batard Montrachet, and Batard Montrachet.
    Worth taking note of next time you pick up a bottle of Burgundy.
  • Mongeard-Mugneret Beaune 1er Cru Les Avaux – I admit to irrationally preferring wines from Beaune for personal reasons: The first winemaker I’ve ever met was born and raised in Beaune. He was marvellously kind, knowledgable, and managed to show us around his region like it’s his backyard (and forever spoil my palate for Chardonnays).
    Nonetheless, Beaune is legendary for producing stonking wines, and this bottle is the ultimate exhibition of everything Beaune wine is supposed to be… Luscious, multi-faceted, earthy, and elegant.
  • Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux Grand Cru – Excellent Pinot from one of the best (and most expensive) appellations in Burgundy? Check. Grand Cru, the highest classification of Burgundy wines? Check. Winemakers that have trained with the ultimate Burgundy winehouse, Romanée-Conti? Check. Extremely delicious, otherworldly, rich, masculine, complex, dark, sophisticated, and smoky expression of true blue Burgundian soil? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK.

 

My take on the evening is that it’s not work when you’re surrounded by gorgeous wines and enjoying a gastronomic feast courtesy of celebrity chef Jonas Ng.

My only complaint is that I wasn’t part of the audience to enjoy all of this against the Le Jardin’s famous backdrop of city lights. It would have been so romantic had it been a date with Chad (maybe that’s why a lot of our audience were couples…?).

Anyway, there’s always Valentine’s Day. 😉

Cheers!

For reservations in Le Jardin Manila, call or text +63917-8176584, or check out their website at http://lejardinmanila.net.

 

Seeing Red Part 1: LUCK

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IMHO, the best place to be in as we usher in the Lunar New Year is in Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown. I personally love popping in to get my feng shui done (I’m not an avid devotee, but I really like the science behind the astrology, and their traditions).

I am also down for some of the best dimsum in town. 😉

In the interest of keeping this beverage-centered, however… What are the best Chinese drinks to have?

Tea

I think that the way Chinese view tea is a beautiful, daily expression of their history. In our travels to China, I’ve seen them lug around thermoses full of piping hot tea, and even use it to clean their utensils before eating (my godmother who has settled down in Hong Kong does this whenever we eat in one of their hardcore local “you need to know Cantonese to order” restaurants). It is said that tea is part of the seven necessities of Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar.

Legend has it that the Chinese discovered tea through Emperor Shennong in 2737BC. They say that the discovery happened when a leaf accidentally landed into a pot of water he was boiling, and thus, the first infusion happened.

Today, some of the traditional tea practices still remain. Most of them find origins in expressing respect for elders. I am fascinated by the use of brown teapots called Gongfu Cha (and the rituals behind using it) ever since seeing it in one of BBC’s Sherlock series.

Chinese Wine

Also called Baijiu, this drink has been around for over 5,000 years. It makes use of fungus then uses grains for distillation. It is normally served either warm or at room temperature, but as a fair warning, most Pinoys I know couldn’t stand the strong smell the jars emanate.

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Tsing Tao with Emergency Chinese Takeout: Excellent Combo

My personal favorite way to celebrate Lunar New Year is with Chinese food and a bubbly.

This year, we admittedly weren’t able to prepare for a proper celebration because we were traveling from Vigan (more in a succeeding entry).

After arriving home really late, we decided to hit our local Chinese restaurant North Park, get some Chow Mien, buy some pilsner-style lager Tsing Tao (to keep with the theme and have an excellent pair with Chinese food), and just chill out after a long drive.

Beer is still bubbly, right? 😉

How did you spend your Chinese New Year?

See you tomorrow for Part 2: Love. Cheers!

Homesick (A Pinoy Food and Wine Special)

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It’s probably evident from my blog posts (and occasional lack thereof) that Chad and I have come to call planes “home” for the past few months.

At the risk of sounding like I’m #humblebragging, I have to confess that as much as the prospect of spending time in different parts of the world seems fun, there are moments that I get homesick… It often manifests itself with a strong craving for Pinoy food.

Nothing in the world compares to Filipino cuisine, IMHO. The great Fil-Am comedian Rex Navarette brought up a couple of points regarding Pinoy cuisine that I find incredibly insightful: First, it looks better in the dark… Visually speaking, the concept of eating Adidas (charcoal grilled chicken feet), our legendary Balut, Monggo, Pinakbet, and even Kare-kare (saving the arguments about whose mom’s version is the best for later… But just to put it out there, my mom’s Kare-kare is DA BEST) can be a bit unappetising.

I must say though, our food is delicious. I can describe our food by saying it contains so many different but very subtle flavors in one dish, owing to the different spices we use. For example, Adobo is equal parts salty and sour with a touch of sweet, but none of these tastes is overpowering enough to cancel out the other, or be dominant.

Another excellent point that Navarette pointed out is that we Filipinos can do anything to every part of a pig (in one of his routines, he even said that if we can harness the ghost of the pig, we would probably capture it and deep fry that sh*t). We are legendary for having Lechon (whole roasted pig) in our traditional parties. Chicharon is available in varying degrees, from the cheap air-filled versions peddled by vendors along EDSA, to more upscale ones from Lapid’s (some of which still contain the fat), to my all-time favorite: freshly-popped ones from our family’s house in Pampanga. There is also the pulutan (barchow) staple: Sisig.

Had a heart attack yet? Not to worry. I’m moving on to the beverage bits of this piece.

Taking all this into consideration, add that to the recent wine phenomenon in the Philippines (yup, we are now aware that the best wines don’t necessarily have to be sugary-sweet), and I would end up with this frequently asked question:

What wine should I pair with Filipino food?

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Tuna Kinilaw in Café Ysabel

 

To further investigate, I decided to attend the Pinoy Food and Wine Pairing Dinner with the Chaine des Rotisseurs. We had a seemingly endless number of courses for dinner, all of which were fantastic representations of some of our food, done in an impeccably gourmet way (nope, our kinilaw doesn’t look like this too often).

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Just one of the wines we’ve had the good fortune of experimenting with

We were also invited to experiment on a few wines to pair with the food: An impossibly rich Prosecco (Zonin), a crisp and sweet Riesling (Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt), and a light Rhône (Laurus).

My personal finding is this: The Prosecco (a sparkling wine from Italy) has crisp, refreshing qualities that compliment some of our gentler but complex dishes. A mildly textured, not-so-sweet Riesling (some Rieslings can be too sweet, or too rich) is phenomenal with most of our food. Our bolder red meats, especially ones that we roast, go well with a gentler, less tannic red wine.

One of my all-time favorite Pinoy food and wine pairing combos (which was not part of the dinner) is a greasy lechon paired with a well-kept new world Pinot Noir (I highly recommend Casillero del Diablo’s take on the wine). The light red fruit flavors of the Pinot Noir go beautifully with the greasy, rich lechon, without overpowering its mild flavors, and extra points for wine being good for the heart (as with everything, moderation for both the lechon and wine is key).

What is your favorite Pinoy food and wine-pairing combo? Cheers!

Greetings from a Place That’s #TrulyAsia

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Hello from Kuala Lumpur!

Here’s a little sneak peek at what I’ve been up to.

I know… I’ve either been sick or travelling. I have a ton of entries due, including my Burgundy talk with our partner Le Jardin, Pinoy wine pairing, and a little Malaysia special.

Also,  watch out for the blog’s facelift… Coming SOON!

See you in Manila. Cheers!