Sunday, March 21, 2010

Balinese Cuisine at the Uma, Kota Damansara

One of the family traditions I cherish the most is celebrating birthdays together. Not only is it a good time to catch up with the family, it's also an excellent time to try out new restaurants. I really enjoyed Balinese food from my last trip to Bali, when I discovered the Bumbu Bali Restaurant at Tanjung Benoa in Bali. This was my first taste of the Balinese Rice Table or the "Rijsttafel", which essentially is a set menu comprising rice served with vegetables and meat condiments.

So, when my sis suggested going to the Uma, a Balinese restaurant at Kota Damansara for our latest round of birthdays celebration, it was a lovely trip down memory lane for me. We opted for their "Nasi Ratus", which is equivalent to the Balinese Rice Table at the Bumbu Bali. The portions are fairly big. We ordered six sets with 2 extra rice for the 8 of us. We ended up trying seven sets (they accidentally served us the Babi Kecap Manis which we didn't order, which turned out to be a happy mistake as it was very good).

The verdict? Absolutely delicious! The Nasi Ratus set is served on a bamboo basket, layered with banana leafs. Depending on the set, the rice and vegetable condiments may vary. A sample of the condiments include minced fish satay, shredded chicken salad, tempe goreng, sambal mbe and sambal tomat, mixed vegetable salad and fried long bean. Our absolute favourite was the Grilled Tuna set. The tuna was fresh and marinated in fragrant Balinese spices, not unlike our otak-otak, but much lighter in terms of the marinade.

Dad loved the Pork Rib Curry Nasi Ratus set (yes, this place serves pork - hurray!). The curry, which has a similar colour and texture to our Kurma curry complemented the tender pork rib perfectly.

The house specialty - Bali Bebek - Balinese steam duck. Served in a bowl of soup, very much like our Soto ayam, the duck literally melted off the bone. We also tried the fried duck set. However, of the two, I personally preferred the steam duck.

The happy mistake - Babi Kecap Manis (Sweet Sauce Pork)! Succulent and flavorful.

The pork sate set was scrumptious too. The sate was served on thick bamboo sticks and was well-seasoned enough to be eaten without any sauce. The rice, Black-eyed pea rice which had light sprinkles of nuts and herbs was my favourite rice accompaniment.

On the other hand, we found the grilled chicken set rather dry. To be fair, it was tasty but just paled in comparison with the other, oh so very delicious sets.

The meal which came to slightly over RM200 for the 8 of us was very reasonable. So, if you had a yearning for some good Balinese cooking, but don't have the budget to fly to Bali, head over to the Uma at Kota Damansara (7-G & 7-1, Jalan PJU 5/21, The Strand, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya). Be sure to make reservations (Tel:603-614 2271)!

Postscript: I paid another visit to the Uma in May, 2010 and was pleased that the food tasted as good as ever. As we were there with two first-timers, we ordered our top three favourites - the tuna, pork sate and pork rib curry nasi ratus sets for our group of four. We made sure we had room for dessert this time round. Fans of "hak lo mai chok", or glutinuos rice porridge aka bubuh injin would love this dessert. Served with coconut milk and gula bali, this dessert is rich and creamy. We'll definitely be back again.

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hua Hin Beach Resort - Plearn Wan

Hua Hin Beach Resort is a favourite destination among Thais. Unlike Pattaya, Hua Hin is fairly unknown to foreigners or farangs. Located 200 kms south of Bangkok, this is a popular weekend getaway with journey ranging from 2.5 - 3.5 hours depending on traffic conditions. Anyone who's lived in Bangkok can attest to the heavy traffic on the expressways leading into and out of the city!

In addition to the refreshing seabreeze, cooling waters, fresh seafood, there is much to do in Hua Hin if one wants a different scene. Our friends took us to Plearn Wan. It is described as a “Center of joy and happiness ... stop the past in order to tell the various tales of Hua Hin in the past ... toward present” on its website. It's actually a huge wooden complex designed based on the old wooden shops in the past, with shops and stalls selling food, souveniers, etc.

Highly popular with the local tourists (colourful buses, MPVs and cars fill the parking lot beside Plearn Wan on weekends) due to the cutesy shops and numerous photo opportunities (Thais love photography), it really is quite fun walking around the shops, snapping away and deciding which yummy desserts to try.

I highly recommend the soft love letter made on the spot. You can choose from a couple of different flavours - yam, banana, etc. Absolutely delicious!

Who can resist one of Thailands most famous desserts - mango sticky rice ("kao niao mang muang")?

Mini crispy pancakes with a choice of fillings - shredded coconut, sweet corn, taro, kaya (coconut jam), etc, etc.

Have some ice cold local coffee to accompany dessert, very similar to Malaysia's local coffee. I thought that the use of the rafia string to hold the paper cup was quite clever!

Watch a local artisan at work as he fashions a horse from candy...

Admire old and current photos of the royal family. It is very common to see shops hang pictures of the royal family from various eras. The Thais highly revere the king. This particular shop in Plearn Wan had quite a good selection of prints for sale.

I was told that in the evening, the look and feel of Plearn Wan is quite different from the day. Unfortunately, time did not permit for us to make a return visit at dusk. Still, we had a pleasant time roaming the "streets" of Plearn Wan, experiencing a little bit of "old" Thailand.