Food Review – No. 78 Aba’s Nasi Lemak, Wai Sek Kai [Non-Halal] @ SS2, Petaling Jaya

Food courts are great places to go to if you’re looking to try local food at low prices. Wai Sek Kai is no different. It has been around for a long time, and has a good reputation for its huge varieties of good food at cheap prices. It’s a popular spot for locals especially during the weekends and Mondays (weekly night market night)!

It houses over 80 stalls selling a variety of foods (though they might get a little repetitive – especially fried kueh teow!). On weekdays, the stores operating hours differentiate depending on where they are located. But generally, all are open during the weekends.

Parking is generally easy to find, except on Mondays where there is a weekly night market. I generally avoid SS2 on Mondays, because the jam is just crazy, except on occasions where I decide to go for the night market food… but that’s another story for another day.

One that I often frequent to is No. 78 Aba’s Nasi Lemak! Don’t let the name fool you, it doesn’t sell your standard nasi lemak, but rather dishes that are more like of those normal economy rice stalls… just that this isn’t like the others.

Like most run off the mill economy rice stores, they have a wide variety of over 30 kinds of dishes to choose from. But unlike the others, they are more “up market”. They have fancier dishes like sambal prawns, steamed fish, marmite mantis prawns, wild boar curry, and others. As their name suggests, the style of the dishes are closer to Nyonya cuisine. So do expect a good mixture of spicy dishes mixed with traditional Chinese food preparation methods. They also sell soup dishes that are available upon order.

As a long patron to the stall, I’ve tried most of their dishes, and most of them were superb! I especially like the chicken curry (my rice is usually banjir-ed with their curry)! My other favourites are their marmite mantis prawns, sweet and sour pork, steamed fish, and their braised pork (“sam zham bak”). Those dishes that I didn’t like weren’t because of the taste, but because I didn’t like the thing itself, like bitter gourd (but their salted egg bitter gourd is one their popular dishes!).

They are only open for dinner, and are closed on Thursdays. They usually start setting up at about 6 PM, and start taking orders at around 6.15 PM – 6.30 PM. They will bring some of the dishes in their pick-up truck, and cook the rest of the dishes at the hawker store itself. Unlike other economy rice stalls, it isn’t self service. The two aunties that run the store will scoop the dishes you want for you. It’s slower, but I guess it’s more orderly since there are so many people who want their food.

The queue is usually all the way to Wai Sek Kai’s entrance or to the other side.

Do note that most of the time, there is a queue even before they start setting up! The queues are often relentless long. If you’re there late, do expect to wait up to 30 minutes for a plate economy rice. But if you have the time and patience, it’s definitely worth the wait. Though they have quite a spread, most dishes will be sold out by 7.30 PM, especially the popular dishes. So, do go early.

Price-wise, it’s a little pricy given the dishes are more “up market”. A plate of economy rice with sweet and sour pork, mantis prawn and veggie will cost you RM12 onwards (not your typical economy rice price). Although the premium price, many people still flock to the store for the good food… and so will I.

My rating:
70%: Ambiance
75%: Price (value of money)
90%: Taste
80%: Location
70%: Service
77%: Overall rating

Opening hours:
6 PM – 10 PM (Fri to Weds)
(Closed on Thursdays)

Location:
Store No. 78
Wai Sek Kai
Jalan SS 2/61
47300 Petaling Jaya

The death of triva apps?

HQ Trivia.jpgIt’s official! HQ Trivia is shutting down as of 15 February, 2020. Once ranked by Time as the No. 1 app in 2017, it is now officially dead. Earlier somewhere middle of last year, home-based Dooit Live also called it quits, with it’s last game on 24 May, 2019. What once was dubbed as the future of entertainment, is now no more.

In 2018, these apps were really popular. We were all hyped about the idea of playing trivia on your smartphone and standing a chance of earning real cash (or at least I was)! Fast forward to today, they are all but gone, like a trend that was never meant to last.

When I was first introduced to these apps, I was sceptical. I had many questions like, “How do they make money to pay out to players?”, “Is it legit?”, “How will their business model sustainable?”, etc. But once I tried, I was hooked (I tried both HQ Trivia and Dooit Live). HQ Trivia would be in the mornings (they aired from the US at night) and Dooit Live would be at noon. Each game would take about 20 minutes, and my schedule soon revolved around their trivia game schedules. At it’s peak, if my memory does not fail me, Dooit Live had about 30,000 active users per game, and HQ Trivia would be in the millions (though it dawdled down soon after).

Playing these apps were fun. Even though if you don’t win cash, you still would win in other ways, like learning some fun facts about animals and geography (generally general knowledge).

How do trivia apps make money?
The apps itself were free – anyone who owns a smartphone and a stable internet connection can simply log on, play trivia and win the prize money (or bits of it – if there are multiple winners that day)… so how on earth did they make money to give away thousands of dollars in prizes?

Trivia companies are backed by venture capital. Initially, profitability is not their primary focus. These venture capitalists are backing on getting the game big enough, so much so that companies will pay to be associated with it… in other words – revenue from partnerships and advertisements!

True enough soon after, HQ Trivia inked advertising deals with Warner Bros., Nike, etc.. I remember seeing Ready Player One and Detective Pikachu being advertised when I was playing HQ Trivia some time last year. Dooit Live also had a sponsorship deal with Maxis and Yoodo… and the prize money got bigger! But guess even with those, it just wasn’t sustainable.

What contributed to the death of trivia apps?
I think the engagement with players were on a constant downward spiral ever since the initial hype peak in 2018. The lure of a possibility of winning cash and having surprise celebrities / influencers just weren’t good enough. It’s hard to maintain engagement with public. People these days have shorter attention spans… and are getting harder to please. To be honest, I also felt bored with HQ Trivia after I was 6 months into it, and wouldn’t bother to tune in when the trivia games were on.

Social media engagement: Measures the public shares, likes and comments for an online business’ social media efforts. Engagement has historically been a common metric for evaluating social media performance but doesn’t necessarily translate to sales.

As engagement with the public dropped, the complaints didn’t. There were constant complaints about cheating by using bots and delayed pay-outs for winners, and these weren’t really addressed by the trivia companies.

I personally have had issues on getting my pay-out from Dooit Live. Dooit Live had a cap that you must win at least RM50 to cash out. When I finally managed to hit that minimum cap somewhere in March 2019, I tried to cash out vide the app… fast forward to today, I am still waiting for my winnings (I know it’s a goner)! I had no problems with cashing out from HQ Trivia though.

Final words
It is always a challenge to keep things exciting and entertaining, with people having shorter attention spans these days. It’s sad to see the demise of these trivia apps… though it was fun while it lasted.

Food Review – Luckin Kopi (Pork Free) @ Petaling Street

After reading a few reviews on this place, I decided to drive to the city centre to try it out, just to find out that it was another overrated cafe… but more on that later.

Firstly, the parking was horrible. Since it’s right smack in the middle of the city centre, public parking is scarce. It’s almost impossible to get any public parking available there. The next best alternative is to park at the private carparks available nearby… but they charge a bomb! Just opposite Luckin Kopi is one that charges RM10 for the first two hours (which I paid as I had no other alternative). Do take note that they will charge you extra should you go over two hours. A cheaper alternative would be to take the train to Pasar Seni and walk for about 5 minutes to the cafe (which I didn’t know!).

Get your queue number right in front of the cafe!

I visited the cafe at about lunch time on a weekend. It was no surprise that there was a crowd waiting outside the cafe since there were so many good reviews. What I did like about this place was that they had a queue system at the entrance where you can get a number and wait for your number to be called. Unfortunately, they aren’t like Beauty in the Pot where they will call your mobile when it’s your turn. They also have a waiting area inside with chairs (though limited). I was lucky enough to get a table in less than 5 minutes.

It’s no question that the cafe ambience is instagram-worthy. The deco in the cafe has that nostaglic feel of the good old days, but with a modern twist. The cafe itself is quite spacious – it spans over four sections (front, mid, back and first floor). Apparently the middle section is an instagrammable area cum waiting area, of which the deco changes from time to time.

However, taste-wise, it was kind of let-down. For mains, I tried their Indo Mee Biasa Pedas with Rendang Chicken (RM12.90) and Funky Nasi Lemak with Curry Lamb (this came with Luckin Kopi Kaw – RM19.90). I also tried their Luckin Toast (RM12.90) and Cendol (RM5.90). I’m sad to say I didn’t like any of the dishes I tried.

Indo Mee Biasa Pead with Rendang Chicken (RM12.90)

Their Indo Mee Biasa Pedas wasn’t spicy at all. Though the sambal served together with it was spicy. However, their Rendang Chicken was a big letdown! It tasted more like curry, and didn’t have the usual rendang look or flavour. Since when the kuah for rendang was so watery?

The Funky Nasi Lemak with Curry Lamb with Luckin Kopi Kaw (RM19.90)

The Funky Nasi Lemak with Curry Lamb is served in a pot on a portable gas stove. It comes with quite a spread – fried chicken, ikan bilis, peanuts, cucumbers, curry lamb, egg, sambal and sweet chilli sauce. The raw egg is poured into the pot and is cooked right in front of you (a little extra – but points for trying to be different). The curry lamb was too peppery for my liking, but the lamb was tender enough.

Luckin Toast (RM12.90)

Their toasted bread was too thick and hard. I would have preferred thinner toast bread… how the way toasted bread should be! On the bright side, the half boiled egg that was included in Luckin Toast set was done just right. They, however, did not provide any soy sauce.

Cendol (RM5.90)

Their cendol tasted weird too. I felt that the gula melaka wasn’t authentic enough. Give me James Cendol any day!

What’s weird is that based on the other reviews I’ve read about the cafe, most are saying that the food here is awesome. Furthermore, the food pictures they posted looked way more appetising and sometimes different (e.g. like the Luckin Toast, the bread I saw in the pictures in reviews were thin toasted bread as compared to the thick toasted bread that I had, or the Rendang Chicken) as compared to what I had at the cafe. Maybe the chef was having a bad day, or the dish that I was served wasn’t done properly.

Nonetheless, I’ll definitely not be back for more.

My rating:
85%: Ambiance
70%: Price (value of money)
40%: Taste
60%: Location
80%: Service
67%: Overall rating

Opening hours:
8 AM – 9 PM (Daily)

Location:
14
Jalan Panggong
City Centre
50000 Wilayah Persekutuan
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +6016 397 6898

Food Review – Anne Elizabeth The Deli Restaurant @ Cheras, Kuala Lumpur

I rarely visit Cheras since it’s at the other side of town, but as my friend highly recommended this place, I decided to be adventurous and go for it anyway! Tucked away nearby Cheras Leisure Mall, is Anne Elizabeth The Deli Restaurant. It’s a small and quaint little restaurant hidden away from the city.

Parking can be a problem though, since it’s so near a mall. Also if you plan to visit the restaurant on a weekday, prepare to face jammed up roads, as there is also a school nearby.

The crowd at 2 PM

Surprisingly, when I visited the store after lunch time on a weekday at about 2 PM, it was still packed with people and there were still people coming into the restaurant.

Choice of meats, sausages and seafood up for selection

This deli restaurant has a broad selection of meat, seafood and sausages! To place an order, you will need to first get a table. Then, make a selection from the selection of meats at the counter and tell them your preference of how well you would like your meat to be cooked (if you are unsure, you may ask the staff for recommendations!).

I had their Abanico Pork (RM39.80), Bacon Bratwurst Sausage (RM10.90), Spicy Russian Sausage (RM7.90) and Portobello (2 pieces) (RM27.90).

Abanico Pork with the three condiment sauces – mustard, dark caramelised roasted gravy and pepper cream

Their Abanico Pork was highly recommended by their staff. It’s their signature. Abanico is the marbled slab that wraps the ribs from the outside. It is sometimes known as the wagyu of pork. To my surprise, this cut can be grilled to either 70% doneness or well done. I never knew that pork could be eaten not fully cooked. But to be safe, I ordered mine to be well done anyway.

At first look when it was served, I thought it will be chewy and hard. But it was the complete opposite! The texture of the Abanico was superb… the meat was very juicy and utterly tender. The dish is served with the three condiment sauces – mustard, dark caramelised roasted gravy and pepper cream; which all paired the pork well.

Bacon Bratwurst Sausage and Spicy Russian Sausage served with mustard

Next up, sausages! They have a wide array of sausages to choose from. As it was my first time here, their staff recommended me their Bacon Bratwurst Sausage and Spicy Russian Sausage. I must say I really liked their Bacon Bratwurst Sausage. However, their Spicy Russian Sausage has a spicy kick that leaves an aftertaste that I didn’t really fancy, but still good nonetheless.

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Portobello Mushroom with Cheese

They also serve portobello mushroom too! They serve it with either cheese, or bacon and cheese. I had the one just with cheese. The portobello was awesome (not really a mushroom lover here)! It didn’t have the typical strong mushroom taste, and the cheese paired well with the portobello.

Overall, prices are decent and the service is top-notch. Their staff really know their meats! A true hidden gem and a highly recommended place to dine! I’ll definitely be back to try their beef and seafood next time. Just that pity it’s just so far away.

My rating:
90%: Ambiance
80%: Price (value of money)
85%: Taste
70%: Location
85%: Service
82%: Overall rating

Opening hours:
12 noon – 11 PM (Sat to Thurs)
(Closed on Fridays)

Location:
No. 1
Jalan Manis 4
Taman Segar
56100 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +603 9130 0319

Food Review – James Cendol @ Sitiawan, Perak

It’s Chinese New Year (“CNY”)! Say hello again to the super jammed up roads and super hot weather! It just seemed like yesterday it was Christmas though. This year the timing between Christmas and CNY is rather near.

This year, the weather is much hotter as compared to previous years’. Seems like it’s getting hotter and hotter as the years go by (we need to start taking steps to preserve the environment!)… And what better way to cool down than a tasty bowl of cendol?

Fun fact: Cendol is an iced sweet dessert that contains droplets of green rice flour jelly (the green colour is usually derived from pandan), coconut milk and palm sugar syrup (gula Melaka).

Cendol kosong (Cendol without any additional toppings)

To be honest, I didn’t know the green wormy things were actually called green rice flour jelly till I started researching about cendol. Sometimes, stalls will have additional toppings available for add-on, like pulut (glutinous rice) or red bean.

Located right in front of a Hindu temple, this cendol stall offers cendol served with red bean or pulut, or if you’re feeling greedy, both. It has the royal stamp of approval from the Sultan of Perak who once had cendol at their very store!

Over the years I have frequented their store, they have switched from metal bowls to polystrene bowls and then back to metal bowls when serving their cendol. There is a noticeable difference in taste when the different type of bowls were used. I personally prefer it when the cendol served in a metal bowl. Perhaps the shaved ice melted faster in the polystrene bowls, or the metal bowls are able to keep the cendol cool more consistently.

The quality of service at their store has also dropped. The lady who is currently mending the store can get rather grumpy at times. The original owner, who once minded the store back then when I was a kid is no longer based there.

Price-wise, the store is charging for a bowl of cendol slightly on the higher side, comparable to of those in the city. The serving is also rather small. Though probably on hot days like these, I wouldn’t mind spending a little more for a cold dessert to cool down in the hot weather. The gula melaka that they use here is one of the better ones, so I guess it makes up for the premium pricing. But I would appreciate if they would give more shaved ice, as the ice tends to melt rather quickly in the hot weather.

Do give it a try if you ever drop by Sitiawan!

My rating:
60%: Ambiance
60%: Price (value of money)
75%: Taste
90%: Location
70%: Service
71%: Overall rating

Opening hours:
11.30 AM – 7 PM (Daily)

Location:
5
Taman Bunga Ros
32000 Sitiawan
Perak

Personal Reflection – Happiness

As we head into the new decade, it’s good to take some time to take a step back and reflect what life has given us thus far… and what it may give in the future.

Personal Reflection
As I reflect back on my own past decade, I question myself… what have I done that has really made me happy in the past decade? Graduating from university? Landing a job in a big company? Buying myself the new iPhone XS? Or was it climbing the corporate ladder?

Work-Life-Balance-Cartoon.png

Surprisingly the answer is none of the above. Yes, the above did made me happy for awhile… but it was temporary. Happiness that was elevated for awhile and then fell back to the normal mean (mathematical mean). It was the people that did.

I used to think that by having money would solve all problems. I’m not denying that money is an essential tool to survive. But when do you tell yourself, “Hey you, it’s time to stop and smell the flowers. You are giving too much of your own happiness away for money and time, start living before it’s too late.“?

The Monk and The Minister Parable

Two close boyhood friends grew up and went their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, and the other, a rich and powerful minister to the king.

Years later they meet up again.

As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”

To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king!”

The World – A Depressing Place?
But there’s no denying that the world today is designed to depress us. Why? Because happiness isn’t good for the economy. Imagine, if we were all happy with what we have, would we want more? Look around you… Why do you want the latest iPhone? Because Apple has made you feel that you are being left behind. Why do you buy insurance? Because insurance companies have ingrained the fear and worry about everything. Why do you buy supplements? Because you have been made to worry about ageing.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” – Will Rogers

To be calm and happy with what you have suddenly becomes a rarity. A non-upgraded existence that is now shunned upon. The world is now all about stuff… and lesser about life. Life is what’s left when we take all the crap away… and that’s why our environment is paying the price.

But I get it, when we are at the bottom, we always want to be on the top. No one wants to be at the bottom. We want what others have – more money, being the boss, finally calling the shots – hey who wouldn’t be happier there?

The question is “Is it really like that at the top… or is it just how it looks when you’re standing at the bottom?“.

But sure… being rich is always better. Shit always runs downstream, but there’s a price to pay to get there. Time. Money. Health – mentally and physically. As you gain more, you have more to lose, and more ways to lose it. And stress begins to build up. More stress leads to accelerated aging, more diseases, heart attacks and so on. So really, is it worth it?

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Moving Forward…
My take is, get back in control. It’s time to redeem on how and what makes you happy. The way to achieve happiness is often not in the hands of others… but rather in the hands of your own. Often, because we think that others will judge, so we take and give that bit of happiness away, and put it in the hands of others. In reality, the others do not care, and those who do, are those that share your ups and downs together. Hence, care a little less, be you, and get back the happiness that you forgone so far… it’s time to get back in control.

And that’s how I am going to start this decade… get back in control and to live life happier.

Food Review – Choong Kwok Restaurant @ Sitiawan, Perak

Back in the day, Sitiawan was a thriving settlement for migrants from Fuzhou, China (the people there were called Foochow). The only other place that people from Fuzhou settled in Malaysia was Sibu… and they are well known for a noodle dish, called kampua! And the place to try it in Sitiawan is Choong Kwok Restaurant!

Kampua is a noodle dish that is very closely associated with Foochow. It’s looks like wonton noodles, but it tastes very different. The noodles are fatter and has a different texture. Also, an essential ingredient in kampua is pork lard (who doesn’t love lard man)! Usually kampua is served with generous amounts of lard, though this days they cut down the amount for health reasons. It gives the noodle it’s fragrant smell and flavour.

I also ordered their fishball and wantan soup loh. It paired well with the noodles.

Prices of the various dishes offered

The prices for the food are very reasonable, though that’s because I’m using KL’s pricing as a benchmark. I’m not a big fan of noodles, but this place is one of the nicer places for authentic Foochow kampua.

P.S. Surprisingly, for such an old place, they have an instagram page.

My rating:
70%: Ambiance
95%: Price (value of money)
80%: Taste
70%: Location
85%: Service
80%: Overall rating

Opening hours:
7 AM – 3 PM (Mon – Sat)
Closed on Sundays

Location:
88
Jalan 5
Taman Desa Aman
32000 Sitiawan
Perak

Tel: +605 692 1058