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: Il Patio, Moscow Russia

We spent one day in Moscow completely underground on a self-guided tour of the metro system. We had looked at potentially joining a guided tour but found them to be quite expensive by Russian standards, so armed with a few recommendations saved onto our phones, we headed off to do a tour ourselves. The downside of this plan is that we didn’t know how long it would take to move between different metro lines and different stations, leaving us bereft of a plan for lunch.

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By the time we found ourselves getting hungry, we found ourselves near a suburban shopping mall that offered a handful of less inspiring options for a meal – Dunkin Donuts, Subway, McDonalds, and a non-descript bakery. The best option if we wanted something resembling a meal rather than fast food was Il Patio, a chain of Italian restaurants that you can find in most malls across Moscow.

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Il Patio offer a lunch special across all their restaurants, where you can get a soup, salad, a main and a drink for 395 Rubles ($8 AUD), a real bargain. The only downside is that they don’t offer English on their menus, so you have to try and match up the Cyrillic characters of the dishes in the lunch special with pictures on the main menu!

Alternatively, if you can teach yourself the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet, you can sound out each menu item to yourself as the name of each item is simply the Italian word written in Cyrillic – words like ‘minestrone’ and ‘mozzarella’ are pretty easy to sound out!

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K ordered a chicken and vegetable soup which proved to be quite rich and a little oily. With a strong tomato base, the highlight of this full-bodied soup was the generous serving of chicken thigh meat which made this a very satisfying starter.

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My minestrone soup wasn’t quite as satisfying unfortunately – it was more like a thin vegetable soup rather than a soup thickened with pasta starch. That’s what happens when you don’t put pasta in your minestrone!

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K chose what I presume is a seafood garden salad, with the ‘seafood’ being limited to a few shrivelled and crumbly mussels that looked as though they had come straight out of a tin. Mind you, the salad itself was very nicely dressed – just pick out the mussels and it would be a tasty if simple salad.

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I chose a classic Italian combination – tomato, mozzarella and basil, or a Caprese salad. I generally prefer my Caprese salads to use whole basil leaves with a drizzle of olive oil rather than pesto as it has a fresher and cleaner mouth-feel. Still, this was quite a tasty salad – simple is often best when it comes to Italian food!

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K’s main was spaghetti in a creamy chicken and mushroom sauce – a simple and classic combination. It was done surprisingly well with a light and subtle touch. The pasta was cooked just right, and they didn’t overdo the sauce either. Mushrooms were plump and the chicken was tender and juicy. This is definitely not a dish that belongs in a $8 lunch deal – it stands alone quite well as a $20 dish!

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I randomly chose a pizza for my main, and it turned out to be a salami and gherkin pizza. Unfortunately, this pizza wasn’t quite up to scratch as the base wasn’t as crispy as it should be, and the toppings were few and far between. Seven slices of salami and five slices of gherkin do not make a pizza especially when the base and sauce leaves a lot to be desired! Pizza definitely wouldn’t be my first choice at Il Patio.

If you find yourself doing a spot of shopping in a Russian mall, I’d recommend searching for Il Patio as your lunch destination within the mall. Their lunch deal is an absolute bargain, being on par with the cost of a fast food meal, and offers you greater choice and healthier options as well! If you’re only after a smaller feed, they also offer other lunch deal combinations, like a soup and a salad for 225 Rubles ($4.50 AUD). Not bad for an Italian joint in Russia – just make sure you order pasta rather than pizza!

There are branches of Il Patio located all over Moscow, see locations on their website.