Sunday, January 18, 2015

My first batch of ramen noodles

I have a new toy! The Philips Avance Collection Noodle Maker (S$329) now takes pride of place next to my Philips AirFryer on my kitchen countertop. It means a lot, because my countertop space is limited, so only frequently used items can earn a place there.

I was initially skeptical about how good the noodles could be, you know, from a machine. We made our first batch of ramen noodles above (250g bread flour, 90ml water, 3g salt), and we were stunned. The noodles turned out fresh-tasting with good texture. And it took less than 10 minutes to make!



The Philips Noodle Maker comes with four moulds to shape the noodles

The Philips Noodle Maker has four shaping discs, so you can make noodles of various thicknesses and shapes - mee kia/angel hair, spaghetti, mee pok/fettucine, ribbed penne. I love the convenient storage drawer which holds all these and the disc cleaners. There are two handy measuring cups; one is for flour, another for water, to help you mix both at the right ratio.



Three easy steps to making noodles
I couldn't believe it was just three simple steps - pour in the flour, pour in the water, and the machine will do the rest! You can adjust the kneading time (5-8 minutes) for noodle texture - longer for more bouncy or QQ chew.

When it is mixing, it may look dry, but that's actually fine! Don't be tempted to add water; ironically wetter dough is more difficult to extrude.



Egg noodles
It does make beautiful noodles. These are egg noodles (one egg added to the water portion). You can get creative with colours and flavours. Use carrot juice, beetroot juice, spinach puree, pumpkin, pea shoot flower (bunga telang, used for dying nonya kueh blue) and you'll have a rainbow assortment!

I could not wait to try seaweed and dried sole fish (ti po) in the noodles.


Seaweed-dashi noodles
For the seaweed noodles, I pulverized two large sheets of roasted nori in a blender, and added it to the flour. For the water, I used dashi stock. You can use the powdered form for convenience, maybe 10g per 90ml. You can omit the salt normally required for the noodles. The noodles still turned out pretty mild, so I might increase the seaweed and dashi quotient.

I made seaweed peperoncino with lots of garlic, chili padi and squeeze of lemon juice, but found the noodles did better in seaweed soup with vegetables. With extra seaweed! I lurrrve seaweed!

Hey, both dishes are vegetarian-friendly too.


Seaweed noodles in vegetable broth
My older girl Nadine, 8, has started using my DSLR (in addition to my iPhone and iPad cameras). She is quite the photography fiend, filling up my album space with all sorts of random shots! She can hold the camera quite well. Picture is still blurry but I'm already impressed. Not bad for a kid with special needs.


Next up, the experiment with dried sole fish (ti po), which is often used to add umami kick to stir-fries and noodle dishes.


Dried Sole Fish (Ti Po)
Grill/Fry these flavoursome gems til golden brown. Resist chomping on them as they emerge crispy. Pound them into powder form and add to the flour. Mix well. I used about 50g fish per 250g flour, and omitted the salt.



Noodles with dried sole fish powder
Oooh, the egg noodles smelt great when they came out. But the ti po flavour is still quite subtle and not overpowering. So they can be paired with almost anything.


Dried sole fish (Ti Po) infused noodles with shrimp dumplings and roast pork
The noodles cook really quickly. Just a par-boil, and they are ready. I tossed them dry-style with a dressing made from oyster sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce, dark caramel soy or kicap manis, plus a dash sesame oil. Add whatever toppings you like - here I have roast pork, shrimp dumplings and some lettuce.

There are so many variations to play with. I would have liked to try karasumi or dried mullet roe ideally but maybe that's still better shaved on top of the noodles. You can also experiment with organic wholemeal flour for healthier noodles, and semolina for pasta.



We even tried making muruku
We even tried to make muruku! But the machine is too powerful with its kneading, so the dough was overworked and turned out too brittle when fried. Next time maybe we will use the lowest setting or just hand mix and use the extrusion feature.


We are now making noodles at home!
Here's Nadine. She and Jolie both LOVE noodles, so they are over the moon that we can make our own. "Can we have these noodles forever?"

So it's been a pleasant discovery with the Philips Noodle Maker. This is like Play-Doh but infinitely more fun, cos it makes tasty stuff you can actually eat!

Anytime we want, we can have noodles. Freshly made, with no preservatives! Definitely healthier than instant noodles too. Cleaning up was easier than thought - just leave the dough to dry out and it comes off much more easily. The machine also comes with a handy booklet of popular recipes - from mee goreng to squid ink pasta - all well photographed. Very awesome.

Oh, Lunar New Year is coming...now we can have homemade noodles for steamboat too!

And Philips is giving away a set of utensils (see pic, upper right) for one lucky reader who shares this post. Comment below with your shared link, or go to my Instagram or Facebook post  to like/share/comment. I will pick a winner end today (Monday, 19 Jan 2015) by random draw. Contest open to residents of Singapore.





Many thanks to Philips Singapore for sponsoring the machine. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wan Li Chinese Restaurant at Renaissance Johor Bahru

We had a lovely stay at the Renaissance Johor Bahru, which is a fairly new five-star hotel popular with both business guests and families (see pics of the rooms and facilities here). One of the bonuses of staying there is having a fine-dining Chinese restaurant right on site. Wan Li serves Cantonese with modern touches and isn't afraid to borrow ingredients from other cuisines to give dishes a lift beyond the usual renditions.
 
The kitchen has been inspected and the food deemed suitable for Muslim consumption. They just can't have a halal license because they carry liquor. "Lots of Muslims actually like Chinese food," the restaurant told us.

We tried the Dong Zhi Set Menu RM188++ (min two pax). That's about S$73 per pax.




Wan Li Dong Zhi special dual combination
This is a tasty appetiser of soft shell crab with floss; mixed veg tempura dusted with shichimi seasoning. The tempura is light and not greasy at all. Good temperature control, obviously.




Miso broth with Shredded Squid, Sliced Fresh Abalone, Crab Meat, Tomato and Egg White

Miso broth with Shredded Squid, Sliced Fresh Abalone, Crab Meat, Tomato and Egg White
This is a hearty portion, and a fairly luxurious soup with abalone and crab meat pieces. The touch of miso gives it interesting character.



Prawn in Two Varieties Wasabi prawn and cereal prawn

Prawn in Two Varieties
Wasabi prawn and cereal prawn - what's not to like?




Oven Baked Cod with Honey Sauce and Fresh Salad

Oven Baked Cod with Honey Sauce and Fresh Salad
Oh this was simply amazing. Beautiful rich cod drenched in a mouth-watering honey soy sauce, topped with garlic and scallions. The texture was just right - tender and delicate. It just melts in your mouth.




Stir Fried Italian Noodles with Seafood - Kong Po Style

Stir Fried Italian Noodles with Seafood - Kong Po Style
We really liked this one as well. The subtle tomato in the sauce made it sweetly comforting. I want to do kung pao pasta at home now...



Handmade Tang Yuen in "Gula Melaka" Ginger Syrup; Chef Signature Golden Glutinous Rice Balls

Handmade Tang Yuen in "Gula Melaka" Ginger Syrup
Chef Signature Golden Glutinous Rice Balls

It being the Dong Zhi (Winter Solstice) menu, you can't run away from having "tang yuan" or glutinous rice balls in soup. The chefs also did a deep-fried version with matcha, chocolate and red bean fillings.




Wan Li Mango Peking Duck

Wan Li is also famous for their Mango Peking Duck. We tried this on our previous visit, and the mango slices added to the pancakes did go well with the duck.


WAN LI
Ground floor of Renaissance Johor Bahru
No. 2, Jalan Permas 11,
Bandar Baru Permas Jaya,
81750 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Tel: +60 7-381 3333
Reservations recommended!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

King bed

The Renaissance Johor Bahru is where we spent Jolie's birthday. It's five-star, it's elegant, and it's still got that clean new hotel feel. The hotel is between the city centre (about 15 minutes drive from the Causeway) and the busy trading port of Pasir Gudang. So it gets both families as well as the business crowd.

We had the junior suite and adjoining twin room. Let me show you the rest of the rooms.


Twin room Deluxe
The regular guest rooms come with King beds (first photo) or twin beds (above).


Twin Room
They are pretty spacious at 34sqm/366sqft to 36sqm/387sqft for regular rooms.


The bay view
You can also choose rooms with a bay view.


Bathroom
Nice, clean, contemporary bathrooms with Tokyo Milk toiletries. Regular rooms have showers, not tubs.


Bathroom - bay view room
Some of them have peek-a-boo windows.


The lap pool
The pool is on the sixth floor. There's a lap pool and a smaller round shallow pool for kids.


Pool Terrace Room
The Pool Terrace Rooms open right out to the pool.


Pool Terrace Room bedroom
The bedroom offers cool and cosy respite after a day's worth of tanning.


Pool terrace room bath area
The ensuite bath is lovely. Only three types of rooms have bath tubs - Pool Terrace, Junior Suite and the Presidential Suite.


Living and dining area in Presidential Suite
And this is what the Presidential Suite looks like. It goes for RM5,000 a night, and has been booked several times already.



Living Room of Presidential Suite
The Renaissance also gets film and TV crew doing shoots.


What a view from the balcony
Another perk - the gorgeous coastline view from the high-floor balcony.


Business and meeting area in the Presidential Suite
A small nook next to the balcony serves as a business or work area.


Bar and kitchen area in the Presidential Suite
There is a dedicated bar and kitchen area in the Presidential Suite.


The bedroom in the Presidential Suite with see-through bathroom
It's a one-bedroom suite, with a gorgeous bathroom.


Living area of the bedroom in the Presidential Suite
The bedroom itself has a mini living area, and walk-in closet.



Gym at Renaissance JB
Also on the sixth floor is a well-equipped gym.


Locker and Sauna rooms
The locker room and sauna are nearby as well.


Grand ballroom
The grand ballroom has seating capacity for 800, expandable to accommodate 1,100 when the outer areas are included. It's one of the biggest in Johor Bahru. Can you say wedding banquet?


Second floor conference area
The business and conference facilities are also on the second floor across from the huge ballroom.


There's a cafe-like atmosphere, and they even have two working ovens here that make the place smell great with bakes
They deliberately made it cosy and cafe-like. There are even two functioning ovens that churn out delicious bakes and make the place smell even more welcoming.


Business meeting room
There are a total of 11 meeting rooms. Some of which have huge windows and natural light. But you might need to draw them at times for presentations.



The grand lobby takes up more than two floors in height.

Next up, I'll show you their fine-dining Chinese restaurant Wan Li, which serves pretty good mod Chinese food that's been inspected as suitable for Muslim consumption (they just can't have the halal certification because they serve liquor).



RENAISSANCE JOHOR BAHRU
No. 2, Jalan Permas 11,
Bandar Baru Permas Jaya,
81750 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Tel: +60 7-381 3333


Many thanks to Renaissance Johor Bahru for the stay and hotel inspection

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

IMG_9642

What a wonderful day we had last week. It was Jolie's birthday, so we brought Nadine and her to Legoland. We chose to stay not at the Legoland Hotel, but at the five-star Renaissance Johor Bahru (part of the Marriott group). Once you read through, you'll know why. We all loved this new hotel when we first stayed there last year. It's beautiful, elegant, clean and food is great there!

Regular room rates run from RM308 (a mere S$118). There are several good deals on the website - we liked the Discovery Legoland Adventure Package (RM668 -1170, which is about S$256-450):
 • Daily buffet breakfast for two adults and two children
 • One combo day pass for two adults and one child to Legoland (additional tickets RM175 per adult; RM140 per child)
 • Club Lounge Access for Junior Suite room bookings

The hotel was very kind to arrange for us a Junior Suite and adjoining twin room. These are perfect for families.


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They also helped us arrange for transport from Marriott Singapore into Johor Bahru. But for families that drive, it's less than 45 minutes from Singapore to the hotel.



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We spent the day at Legoland. Have you seen the Star Wars Miniland yet? I have a post on all the seven epic scenes they built from each of the movies in the franchise, plus the animated series. Naboo, Kashyyyk, Hoth, Endor, Tatooine...it's all there!


They planned a surprise for us
Back at the hotel, they planned a surprise for Jolie in her room. Balloons, all pearly pink and white, plus rose petals spelling "Happy Birthday!" What a nice touch. The shrieks of happiness rivalled that of the ones we got inside Legoland.


Birthday sweets and a sweet note
A sweet handwritten note with candy awaited Jolie too. And lollipops - the surefire way to kids' hearts.


The Junior Suite living room
The Junior Suite is extremely spacious - 69sqm/742sqft to 81sqm/872sqft! The living/sitting area is tastefully done. It has a separate toilet and wash basin is outside the bedroom too.


The Junior Suite bedroom
The bedroom follows the same contemporary decor. I really like the rooms. The space is peaceful and soothing.


Relaxing reading corner in the Junior Suite
An easy chair in the corner for reading or relaxing.


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The bathroom area is like one big extra suite you can run through. The bathtub (with huge windows) is further down with separate shower and toilet stalls. All very roomy.


Junior Suite bathroom
The bath entrance is flanked by his and her washbasins on one side, closet on the other.



Tokyo Milk toiletries
Tokyo Milk toiletries - some of the more wonderful and whimsical selections I've seen in hotels. Good stuff!



Bath time!
We made good use of the rose petals. A nice soak spells pure joy.


The Renaissance Johor Bahru viewed on 6th floor
The hotel has pools, sauna and gym on the sixth floor.


There's two pools - lap pool and shallow round pool
The view of the pools from above. One small round kiddy pool, and a lap pool 1.4m in depth.
It was SO HARD to get the kids out of the pool once they went in...



Pool cabana
Nice elegant cabanas by the pool. They also have pool terrace rooms that open out straight to the pool area. I will show you that in a separate post, along with the other room types they have.



Cafe BLD serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets at the Renaissance
And what holiday would it be without good food? Cafe BLD at the Renaissance serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, as its name suggests. The selection is quite impressive and the quality is very decent compared to other hotels I've tried in Malaysia.



Cold seafood - shrimp, mussels, scallops
Cold seafood on ice - such a must-have for many. Shrimp, mussels and scallops to go with various dips and sauces.




Real charcoal grill for satay!
And a real charcoal grill for satay? OK, how awesome is that?




The satay is to die for
And indeed the satay is superb! Juicy chunks of richly marinated lamb, chicken and beef grilled to aromatic perfection. I had to Instagram this immediately. No need to drive to Kajang for overhyped satay. Just pop over to JB. Man, I could come back just for this.

They also have a beautifully done Western grilled lamb and roast beef. There was a red snapper fillet dish that I liked too.


Sushi and maki section
The sushi, sashimi and maki selections along with Japanese pickles. Hmm, I need to make more takuan (daikon pickles) at home. So good with rice.


Antipasti section
The antipasti and breadsticks.


Who moved the cheese?
Cute way of displaying cheese...but looks like somebody moved the emmental!


Renaissance JB4
The hot mains in claypots are generally pretty good, but dishes may vary from day to day.



I love DIY gado-gado
Last year they had a DIY gado gado corner alongside the salads. I hope they bring this back!


One of several live stations at Cafe BLD
There are several live stations - teppanyaki, soup noodles, and satay. In the mornings, they make eggs any way you want, roti canai (prata) and thosai/dosai too.



Dim sum that is not bad for a hotel
The dim sum is not too bad for a hotel buffet.



Christmas and chocolate fountain goodies
Dessert takes up a separate corner altogether. For Christmas, they have the festive pieces of gingerbread houses and such. Too pretty to eat.


Make your own shaved ice dessert
Besides the cakes, tarts, pastries, jellies, puddings, ice cream, cookies, and fruits, you can also make your own shaved ice dessert.


The Renaissance has an inhouse showcase bakery
The Renaissance has its own inhouse bakery, which is itself a showcase. Lovely smells come from here.



Breakfast pastries - the kids only went for donuts!
Breakfast! Lots of selections. Pastries, cereals, the requisite ham, eggs, pancakes, beans, tomatoes, porridge, noodles, etc.



Nasi lemak so sedap
Nasi lemak - fluffy rice so lemak cooked in coconut cream! Comes with a great sambal sotong, condiments and cucur ikan (fish dough fritters).



Dosai on demand!
I was hoping for roti canai that morning, but they do rotate what's available. Well, dosai on demand ain't bad. And I love the way Malaysia does it - crispy!



The Executive Lounge on the 16th floor
If you have the Junior Suite, you could choose to have breakfast at the Executive Lounge on the 16th floor. It's quiet, cosy and definitely offers more privacy.

The Executive Lounge offers something all day, afternoon tea, evening hors d'oeuvres and light snacks. Enjoy their mini business centre facilities for up to two hours per day, and the complimentary wi-fi.





The best part is the view of the bay. Check out the balcony. This place is also stunningly beautiful at night with the lights.


Renaissance Hotel lobby

Service at the hotel has been marvellous too. The staff are polite, cheerful and easy-going. They look like they enjoy their work. We really enjoy our stay here each time, and will definitely be back. If you're looking at a short holiday nearby or staycation, this is a very good option.

Check out more photos of the different rooms and facilities, as well as the exquisite Wan Li Cantonese restaurant!

The Renaissance is a five-star brand, and there are only three such hotels in Malaysia. I am now tempted to visit the Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bahru ones!



RENAISSANCE JOHOR BAHRU
No. 2, Jalan Permas 11,
Bandar Baru Permas Jaya,
81750 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Tel: +60 7-381 3333



Many thanks to Renaissance Johor Bahru for arranging the hotel stays!


 
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