Travel Tales: Kuala Lumpur, December 2016

It feels a bit redundant to be typing this blog entry, over eighteen months since we were actually in Kuala Lumpur on holiday. Still, I’ve had the photos edited and uploaded as a draft to the blog for months and months, so I might as well write a few short paragraphs to accompany the photo gallery.

After our visits to Singapore and Sri Lanka for my cousin’s wedding in December 2016, we (myself, husband, father and brother) spent almost a full week in Kuala Lumpur. We found a marvellous Airbnb right near the famous eating street of Jalan Alor, that was perfectly designed for our needs – three bedrooms each with its own ensuite, with a small living room, mini kitchen and laundry. And at about half the price of staying in a hotel, I really couldn’t fault the apartment at all!

Now the eating. Staying near Jalan Alor, we spent our first evening there in search for dinner and ended up at a hawker-style Chinese restaurant there…which clearly catered for tourists and served up tiny serves of not-particularly-great-food at inflated Australian prices. Disappointing. Much of Jalan Alor was like that – great for tourists who don’t know much about Malaysian food and don’t mind paying a bit more, not so great for us. 

We learned our lesson and from that point onwards, spent our time searching out the small hawker centres on street corners where the locals really eat. There was a lot of wonton mee, laksa, nasi goreng, hokkien noodles, oyster omelettes, roti canai, satay, ais kacang…all the traditional Malaysian dishes you could imagine featured in our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every day.

As always, a highlight was the day we spent in Seremban with hubby’s extended family. These day trips are never complete until we have at least six to eight meals, making visits to all the local hotspots recommended by aunts, uncles, family friends, and cousins. My father amateurishly ordered a whole curry laksa for himself at the first stop, despite my warning that it was best to share dishes so you don’t overstuff yourself too early on. He regretted that decision!

A shout-out also to all the times the heat and humidity of Malaysia simply got the better of us, and we ended up finding a little cafe to sit down with a kopi ais, Milo ais or teh tarik, perhaps with a snack of kaya toast to go with it. Holidays in Malaysia are best spent at a slow and leisurely pace watching the world go by with a cold drink in hand. The humidity doesn’t really let you do much more than that!

It’s obviously been eighteen months since our last visit to Malaysia and at this point, I’m not sure when we might be back. My father-in-law actually told us to not go back until our little one is of an age where she can actually speak and tell us if she’s feeling unwell. I think he’s afraid the heat and humidity might be too much for her otherwise! 

I had a baby

So in November last year, I wrote about my neglect of this blog, and gave reasons why. Namely, a baby was on the way. Clearly, I’ve since been neglecting this blog (again!), and the reason is simple – I had the baby. Matilda De Ling Choy was born just after 9am on Saturday 25 November 2017. She has filled my days and nights since.

I love her dearly. But at the same time, motherhood is draining. Lack of sleep (oh yeah, she’s not a baby that sleeps…) is draining.  I can’t wait to get back to work in two months time because I need to feel like myself again, not just Matilda’s mother. 

To that end, I’m going to try and be a bit more consistent about updating this food blog. Instead of updating once every ten months, I’m going to aim to update at least once a month with a proper review or recipe. In the meantime, I do suggest that people follow me on Instagram, as I’m very active on there and post regular small updates of cafe/restaurant reviews and share little recipes for baby food meals of my own devising.

And to finish off this blog post, here’s some of the highlights of Matilda’s life from the past nine months:

First time on the #swing today. Happy for all of a minute before she decided that she really wasn’t into it! #matilda #matildadeling #chanoy #baby #playground #park

A post shared by Amanda Chan (@gourmanda_me) on Jul 19, 2018 at 1:24am PDT

Review: Nora, Carlton

Late last year, I received an email from Sarin Rojanametin and Jean Thamthanakorn of the fine dining restaurant Nora in Carlton. Shockingly and disappointingly, they were announcing the closure of Nora.

“It is with great excitement that we announce the closure of our restaurant Nora. 3 years ago we had a 1 year plan to create a space to explore creativity through hospitality. What a ride.

We’ve evolved over that time, understanding more, making decisions to reduce sittings and guests but expanding the menu and the journey; less is more. More room to create, more opportunity to dig deeper into our roots, cuisine and ideas.

We’ve loved every bit, but we’ve also realised that to fully reach our potential, we need to get back to our land, our home, our roots. To be surrounded by limitless inspirations that will challenge us to uncover new possibilities.”

Broadsheet Melbourne covered this news, and I think they were as disappointed as myself. In saying “But for all our multiculturalism, some things remain challenging for the majority”, Broadsheet were able to explain the reason for Nora’s closure. The food was simply too foreign, too challenging for many palates when the usual Australian exposure to Thai food barely extends past the $10 Pad Thai at the local takeaway. 

Let me tell you now – if you didn’t get a chance to experience Nora in the past three years, you missed out. K and I were lucky enough to dine at Nora in April 2017 on the occasion of his birthday, and walked away raving about our experience and rating it on par with some of the best meals that we’ve had – and we’ve had a few! 

The titles of many of the dishes were mysterious and only very barely gave a hint of what we were to expect – what after all, is Tom Yum Prawn, add extra egg for $2? With quirky titles that hark back to traditional Thai street food, the dishes that show up on your table are uniquely elegant, playing with textures, temperatures and tastes in a way that would challenge any palate.

Some of my highlights include the Daft Punk Is Playing In My Mouth dish of pickled fish, served with chilli ice and black sesame paste. The concept of chilli ice is as mind-blowing as it seems, offering both heat and chill in the one mouthful.

Another highlight, one which we’ve vowed to try to replicate at home, is that of a drink from the matching non-alcoholic drinks menu. Lychee and brie mocktail…yes, brie, as in brie cheese. The strong creamy ripeness of the brie was brilliantly offset by the sweet fresh fragrance of the lychee juice. I think if we were to attempt this at home, we would have to use fresh lychees – no canned lychee could possibly provide that freshness. 

With the closure of Nora, Melbourne has lost a young and innovative dining experience. It wasn’t just a restaurant. It was one of the most extraordinary culinary experiences around, embracing the intricacies of a cuisine that most people under-rate and under-value. Give me Nora’s modern exploration of Thai over traditional stuffy French or Italian fare any day.

Nora was located at 156 Elgin Street, Carlton.