Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lily's Homemade

Fans of chunky sausages might want to check out Lily's Homemade, which prides itself primarily on products independently made with premium pork, free of nasty chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotics.

The range of handmade pork sausages comprises multiple flavours, offered in 500-gram packs that mostly cost RM30 each. Inspirations span East and West, leaping from Thai-influenced sausages laced with Southeast Asian herbs and spices to a back-to-basics version that conveys the simplicity of garlic and black pepper.

The sausages offer rustic textures and sufficient flavour for a home-cooked meal. If you'd like a bit of extra juiciness, try the Bacon and Cheese sausages (RM33). Chicken and beef sausages are available too, as are streaky bacon and beef burger patties. The sausages, constructed with natural hog casings, are also made without preservatives, MSG and gluten. 

For ordering and delivery options, see

Thanks to Lily's Homemade for this treat.

Baan Rao @ Petaling Jaya

With countless Thai restaurants scattered throughout Greater Kuala Lumpur, it can be challenging to stand out. Baan Rao does so naturally, keeping things real with a kitchen filled with more than half-a-dozen Thai cooks from northeastern Roi Et province, led by chef Ivy Rungtiwa.

Ivy's love for preparing food began at home, so it's no surprise that the recipes here evoke the nourishing comfort of a family feast. Like a matriarch who ensures that everything comes close to perfect, she takes no shortcuts to what's served at the table, being rightfully proud of produce brought in from her homeland and discerning in her distinctive use of herbs and spices. 

It's an especially impressive effort considering how extensive the menu is - this is the place in PJ to head to for a no-holds-barred casual Thai meal, with offerings both familiar and unexpected to encourage repeat visits.

Start with something not conventionally seen at commercial Thai eateries in KL and Selangor: Goong Chae Nam Pla (RM28), raw prawns that underscore Baan Rao's confidence in the freshness of its fare, showcasing a smooth, pure and fleshy crustacean sweetness, garnished with garlic, completed with a richly nuanced spicy sauce. We'd happily return to Baan Rao for this alone.

The BBQ Platter (RM39) is well worth sharing too, a brilliant way to enjoy a galore of grilled goodness in one go. The platter potentially comprises pork neck (perhaps a less fatty cut than the norm, but no less tender and tasty), fillet, nicely seasoned moo ping, and even sai kork, a speciality secured from Ivy's wider Isan region - essentially fermented pork sausages stuffed with sourish sticky rice; it might sound like an acquired taste, but it's a delicious gateway for customers ready to venture more deeply into the diverse realm of traditional Thai cuisine.

Freshness resurfaces as a motif for crabs and selected fish, plucked live out of the tank in Baan Rao's back kitchen. There's no faulting the ravishingly meaty crabs, as succulent as they come, blanketed in a variety of thick, textured curries and gravies that complement, not overpower, the flesh, all the time remaining unmistakably true to the intricacies of Thai flavours.

The kitchen also has no trouble fulfilling the promise of a salt-grilled tilapia, simultaneously firm and moist, channeling undercurrents of lemongrass for a fragrant flourish, paired again with a house-made dip that delivers well-rounded, cooked-from-scratch satisfaction.

We can never resist cockles, so the Pad Prik Gaeng Cockles (RM25) ranked among our should-haves. The red curry paste stir-fry proved too fiery for us though, so if your tolerance for heat is as feeble as ours, inform Baan Rao's friendly servers to tamp down the burn for this.

Eggs are another weakness of ours; here, you can have them with the Gaeng Hanglay Moo, another cherished northern Thai classic, a sumptuously chunky pork belly stew that conveys the essence of sweet, sour, salty and spicy in every spoonful (available in lunch sets or as a special), and in a hearty omelette that's deceptively simple-seeming - it has the right level of fluffiness to still boast a solid bite, being neither greasy nor dry (offered with a choice of minced prawns or pork).

There's pretty much something for every preference here, whether you favour the mellow, splash-it-over-rice warmth of tom kha coconut cream soup (RM23 with seafood) and green curry (RM23 with chicken or pork) or the balanced protein-and-fibre ensembles of steamed squid with lettuce in chilli lime sauce (RM33), paku with prawns (RM22) and kailan with pork belly (RM22), each with its own clean, clear dynamics of flavour and crunchy-juicy dimensions of texture. Chang and Singha beers are available for the full, unfettered Thai experience.

Many thanks to the Baan Rao team for having us.

Baan Rao
8, Jalan BM1/2, Taman Bukit Mayang Emas, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Daily, 12pm-230pm, 6pm-1030pm. Tel: 03-7886-0016

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

New Branch: Chequers @ Solaris Mont Kiara

After three years of serving up American-inspired comfort fare in TTDI, KL's top venue for elaborate waffle creations has launched its second outpost. Customers in Solaris Mont Kiara seem to love Chequers too, a testament to how the recipes here have been fine-tuned to crowd-pleasing perfection.

The ideal introduction to Chequers remains the signature waffles, painstakingly prepared with different batters to complement each preparation, some savoury, others sweet. These offerings are distinctive, offering playful waffle-based interpretations of classic favourites.

If you love Eggs Benedict, you're in for a treat with the Down Home Benny (RM 20), a savoury waffle draped with beef bacon and a seductive poached egg glistening with guacamole and hollandaise sauce. Best for brunch, but satisfying for an evening meal too.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Fried Chicken (RM 25) proves to be a jazzed-up version of the U.S. soul-food staple of chicken and waffles, with turkey ham stuffed into the crispy fried chicken, enhanced with dripping melted mozzarella and cheddar, with flavoursome garlic and scallion waffles furnishing a solid foundation for a medley of punchy dynamics.

And, if you want to take control, Chequers lets you build your own waffle too.

Beyond waffles though, Chequers promises more than enough for a fulfilling multi-course meal. You could start with one of our favourites here, the Chilli Poppers, boasting plump green chillies stuffed with tuna (RM 12), as well as the Summertime Salad, a zesty mix of greens with sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and orange slices, made complete with protein of grilled salmon and tiger prawns, tossed in Chequers' house-made French dressing (RM 28). 

For mains, the possibilities are wide-ranging - you can have a relatively wholesome serving of Seabass Vierge (RM 33), showcasing chunky pan-seared sea bass with a lemony sauce that hints of olive oil, tomatoes and basil, plus sides of pesto fettuccine, mushrooms and asparagus for well-balanced nourishment ...

... or indulge in a cheat-day temptation of Chipotle Mac n Cheese Burger (RM 30), a grand slam of an all-Australian beef patty, beef bacon, chipotle sauce and so much mac and cheese, the burger turns into a culinary tower, with the ingredients deliciously spilling over each other. 

The Fried Chicken Burrito (RM 26) is also worthwhile, putting a twist on what initially seems to a straightforward Tex-Mex concoction, with chicken fingers mingling unexpectedly with couscous, grilled pineapple and spicy mayo. 

Weekday lunch sets are also available, with a menu that changes weekly. These come with a free selected drink and dessert at RM 18++.

Chequers is not short of a variety of desserts, but the Chocoholic (RM 18) is the apple of our eye - a velvety chocolate semifreddo that's intriguingly constructed on a waffle crust, made textured with almond brittles and Oreo crumbles, coupled with chocolate ice cream for double the cacao delight, buoyed by mixed fruits for a naturally refreshing sweetness. We'll be back for the other imaginative treats, which include a Red Velvet Smorffle and a Deconstructed Tiramisu.

Beverages for all ages abound at Chequers. Alongside the array of coffee, smoothies and juices, you can drown your woes with the Amber tea, a mix of apple, cinnamon, rosemary and lemon (RM 11), and a thick, frosty Salted Caramel milkshake (RM 13).

There's certainly no sophomore slump at Chequers; many thanks to the team here for having us.

Chequers @ Solaris Mont Kiara
3A, Ground Floor, Block H,Jalan Solaris 5, Kuala Lumpur. Open 8am-11pm, except Wednesday.