Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Follow the Chef: Chef Poupée @ Bad Burger Bangkok

Anyone who remembers the On Nut Market, yes the rowdy one right opposite Tesco Lotus On Nut connected to On Nut BTS station will not forget a stall called Burgers and Bangers popping out of nowhere to sell gourmet burgers (that cost 4 times as much as any other meal sold by its neighbours) like hotcakes.

Much has changed since the the abrupt closure of On Nut market, but thankfully Chef Poupée is still finding her way to get her burgers into our tummies. During the Songkran break, I braved the waters, getting really really drenched in the process, and managed to catch up with her at her new baby, Bad Burger to discuss what ensued after being forced to leave On Nut.

Bad Burger, nice and comfy

My first impression of Chef Poupée was her incredible command of English, especially for someone who did not attend international schools nor went abroad for studies. Her cooking background was even more eye-opening. She honed her skills at Tables, Le Beaulieu and L'Atelier Joël Robuchon before deciding to share her talents with the mass market at an unlikely night market, with the most accessible dishes you can think of, the burger and the sausage.

Some familiar bad asses will watch you wash down burgers with craft beer.

According to Chef Poupée, she promptly started a new Burgers and Bangers at a permanent location in Asoke with a team of partners after the closure of On Nut Market, which built on the momentum of its predecessor. However, some board decisions stifled her freedom to make products that she wanted to present to her regulars. It soon became impossible for her to continue. Unfortunately, the partners decided to keep the name after her departure, so she had to accept the decision and start from scratch again with a new name. So, the birth of Bad Burger, this time with the full support of her immediate family, including her mum and brother.

The stars at Bad Burger, burgers and ribs.

In our short chat, something about Chef Poupée shone through, that is her passion for cooking, and the need for her to give what she thinks is the best to a large audience. She could have sold anything with her experience in the best kitchens in the country, but she still chose burgers after numerous obstacles threatened to end her run in the food business.

With her departure from Burgers and Bangers, she has moved away from sausages into BBQ ribs, which are sous vide for 24 hours (a disciple of the finest French chefs after all) before finishing off on the grill. I personally find the ribs refreshingly good, and also recommend her rib burger if you are not into beef.

In terms of the burgers, there's nothing much for me to say, but to tell all lovers of the original Burgers and Bangers that the founder is now showing off her skills at Bad Burger, and for all who have not tried her burgers before, give it a go and you will not be disappointed.


"Follow the Chef" is a new blog series where I sit down face to face with chefs and help them tell you what they want to say, in their perspective. My inspiration for this series stems from the fast-changing dining landscape in Bangkok, which is both exciting yet confusing for consumers like us. Do we follow the restaurants, or follow the chefs? I hope I can help you make a better decision.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2016: Sunrise at Phu Chi Fa (ภูชี้ฟ้า), Chiang Rai

It's been a peculiar winter in Bangkok.

The chill came for a week early December and some unexpected heavy showers took over thereafter (it really isn't supposed to rain during winter even if it isn't cool). Just when we thought the Bangkok winter has become a pipe dream, I saw FB posts from friends of low temperatures hitting again at the end of January 2017 for a couple of days. This morning, the temperature was as low as 20degC again, and expected to remain cold for the week. It's already mid-February, I guess we're going to have a wintry Valentine's in Bangkok this year.

It's a little late, I know, but my blog is not complete until I make a new annual entry to this Thailand Winter Getaway series (you can always use it for future winters right?). I spent winter way up in Chiang Rai again this time, and instead of chasing the sun at Doi Phatang again, we explored the more popular Phu Chi Fa, hoping to catch an even better view.

Before I give my verdict on the view, I have a few pointers for all of you planning the hike up Phu Chi Fa.

Had to do a lot of cropping to get a picture of myself with the view

1. Be prepared for companions

A lot of them. Prior to seeing the sea of clouds (that is if weather permits), brace yourself for a sea of people first, like maybe more than a thousand of them.

Taking a proper picture of the view will be a challenge.
So I tried taking a picture to my right.
And then to my left

Fret not, such is the wonder of nature, God makes sure that the scale of natural beauty is so huge that no human wall can stop anyone who made the effort from having a chance to admire what they worked hard for.

2. Cover your head

As your visit will likely be in the winter months between November and February, the wee hours of the morning will be extremely cold. It was early December during my visit, and the temperature was already below 10degC as we began our journey.

Beautiful sunrise over a sea of clouds
Unlike last year's comforts of sunrise-viewing at Doi Phatang, which was the home-ground of our guest-house, Phu Chifa threw us a curve ball. We had to park our minivan mid-journey and continue our ascent at the back of a pick-up truck, in the open pitch-dark gusty cold, winding up hilly tracks for no less than 20 minutes. At such temperatures, 50% of your body heat is dissipated from your head, so get your head covered (I didn't) unless you want a really uncomfortable ride.

3. Know that you can get to the top, and enjoy the process

I have stopped proper exercise since Noah arrived (that's more than 5 years ago). The trek up is not considered long, but a little steep at certain points. I certainly felt tired more than once and wondered whether it was necessary to go all the way up. Anyway, I would just like to tell you that you can do it. Since you made it all the way here, just suck it in and push yourself to the top. Phu Chi Fa has its way to make sure you remember your conquest.

Our group photo, we did it, 1,628m above sea level!

So, is Phu Chi Fa worth the trouble?

I would say yes, if you have not been there before. Even though the sun is the same (duh!), you can enjoy a more extensive view of the surroundings at Phu Chi Fa compared to other spots like Doi Phatang.

Captivating view on the descent too, but just look at the number of people.

You might even find yourself falling in love with one of the many kids jostling for your attention along the way.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Kuching Food Recommendations from the Kuching Boy, feat. lava sweet potato balls

In case you didn't know, I come from Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, a province in East Malaysia (on Borneo Island). I've never mentioned this much because I am a little confused myself regarding my heritage. My dad hails from Sarikei, my mum from Sibu and I was born in Singapore, thus it's both a little peculiar yet also accurate that all of us now call Kuching home.

I've also never spent an extended period of my life in Kuching bar the months waiting for University to start. That said, I do have a strong feeling for this endearing little city and I am extremely impressed with its rapid development especially over the last 5 years. At this rate, within a decade, I am sure Kuching will become one of the most comfortable places to live within our region.

Despite this growth, the core of food in Kuching has not changed one bit. The food I longed to eat when I was a little boy is still what the locals eat today, everyday. Most of these delicacies are found in the increasingly-modern coffeeshops, with a focus in simple, hearty flavours. I am not familiar enough to give you details on where to eat what, but through this post, I hope to show you what you should look for if you manage to drop by.

1. Sarawak Laksa

With all due respect to other laksas, which I also enjoy to different extents, Sarawak Laksa is definitely the best. I believe the only reason it's not more widely found is because of the difficulty to obtain the authentic laksa paste. It also takes a lot of good ingredients to make a broth robust enough to present the laksa at its best, so a good bowl of Sarawak laksa is not necessarily easy to find even in Kuching.

2. Kolo Mee

A Kuching staple, the ultimate everyday food of the local. Kolo Mee focuses on clean flavours and the curly, springy noodles, usually paired with minced pork and charsiew. However, Kolo Mee condiments can come in numerous iterations, with blanched seafood being my favourite after the original.

3. Kampua Mee

More popular in a small town in Sarawak called Sibu, Kampua is a staple of the Foochows. A meal does not get simpler than a plate of Kampua, which always comes with just a serving of al-dente noodles (thicker than the standard kolo mee) tossed in lard and shallot oil plus a few wafer-thin pieces of blanched pork.

4. Teh C Peng Special

There's nothing uncommon about iced tea with evaporated milk, until it fell into the hands of the innovative coffeeshop owners in Kuching. Not only did they make iced tea "special" again, they made it look great (with some managing up to 5 colour layers in a single glass) and made it a signature drink of the city.

A photo posted by Eddie (@strangerinbangkok) on

5. Mongolian BBQ

The influx of Chinese in Kuching created a new Chinese food culture. My pick has to go to the Mongolian BBQ stands which only open from evening onwards. The lamb skewers and racks of ribs are to die for.

6. Omakase-style tzechar stalls

Omakase or "up-to-the-chef" dining is in-trend at the moment, especially among the upper class. Did anyone realize that this kind of dining might already have been around in Kuching coffee shops since a long time ago? I know of at least 3 such locations in Kuching and do give it a go if you are adventurous enough!

7. Lava sweet potato balls

For a guy who has random emails frequently from people all over the world asking for restaurant recommendations in Bangkok, I did not expect to be surprised by anything my hometown can offer, until this.

Ordinary-looking Thai Fried Sweet Potato Balls

Bite in and voila, oozy lava custard

I've always been a fan of sweet potato balls in Thailand, though I wonder why they are not as commonly found here as they should. Molten lava buns are also something I frequently order during our dim sum fixes. Putting these 2 together should be common sense, but why did it feel so new and interesting when I chomped into these crispy balls? Perhaps common sense is not that common anymore.

So there you go, my lengthy but by-no-means exhaustive amateur guide to food in Kuching. If it's your first time in Kuching and you managed to try all or most of the above, give yourself a pat on your back. It's a job well done.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Birthday Letters from Daddy: Noah turns 5

Dear Noah,

I remembered when you were still an infant (or was it before you were born), my Auntie (your grand-auntie) Elfy told me that her son Jodan (your uncle) taught her way more than she can ever teach him.

I think I am slowly starting to understand what she was trying to say. You are my first-born, my first baby, first infant, first toddler and will soon be my first teenage, then first adult child. You will always be throwing at me curve balls I have never caught before, no matter how many years of parenting experience I would have accumulated.

In no time, you will be learning from your school, your friends, your bosses, your seniors and less and less from me, while because of you, I will still be learning how to be a better father every single day.

I used to think that the parent's love is unconditional, that I am willing to die for my children if situation calls for it. Even though that is true, I also realise that my love for you is maybe not that unconditional after all. I find myself being nasty to you for the little tantrums you throw, for the minor disobediences that are inevitable in a growing child increasingly mesmerised by the world around him.

2 nights ago, I got impatient with you for dragging your feet when I wanted to brush your teeth to prepare for bed. You climbed onto the dining table with pen and paper when it's way past bedtime. I got frustrated and gave you a strict ultimatum. You quickly came with the piece of paper with "Noah loves Eddie" written on it.

That's all you wanted to do?

Even when I started to evolve into the angry Dad when you didn't follow my orders.

This is the kind of love lesson you are giving me every single day.

Happy birthday Noah. You are 5 now, and will start to realise Daddy is no perfect know-it-all. But Daddy hopes you will understand that Daddy has a job to do, that is to tell you what is right and what is wrong, so that you grow up a righteous discerning young man who is a blessing to everyone around you.

Even though we will have our differences, we are family at the end of the day and I will be behind you all the way.

Never forget that.

Loving you more everyday,

Sunday, December 18, 2016

[REVIEW] Delishop - Thailand Online Supermarket, Plus Discount Code for Readers!

Unlike the online shopping portals of established department stores and supermarket chains, Delishop is a complete online supermarket (without any shopfronts), aiming to eventually provide its customers with everything they need (ranging from food to home essentials and even stationery). A huge proportion of their goods are procured from Europe and every item is stored in their own warehouse to ensure quick delivery to customers upon order. Impressively, they already deliver to every location in Thailand.

I found it interesting when Delishop invited me to try out their service, and those who have read my previous post on online shopping will know that I have had my fair share of frustrations even if I find such services useful. I decided to put Delishop to the test.

Test 1:

The first test revolved around their promise to let customers choose specific delivery time slots, and also the possibility to deliver after office hours. I made my order and chose it to be delivered to my apartment the next day between 6-9pm.

The products arrived at 8.30pm, and the messenger was extremely friendly as well. Test passed!

Test 2:

I CHANGED the delivery address using the same customer account, to be delivered to my office during working hours, between 9-11am.

My 2nd group of groceries, meat still nicely frozen.

I had some doubts when it approached 11am and no one called me, but it arrived in the nick of time, with the same messenger jokingly asking me why I changed address. He had enough change when I flashed out a 1000THB note for payment too.

Stranger in Bangkok's verdict.

I am happy to report that Delishop passed both my tests with flying colours, which essentially means that if you are in Bangkok, the entire delivery and collection process will be a breeze.

The overall experience was not perfect though. Firstly, food items aside, the household items were pretty lacking. We have to note, however, that Delishop is less than 1 year old. I am confident they are constantly working on building up their variety so that they will eventually become as comprehensive as any supermarket around.

Secondly, their best deals are attractive, but confusing to understand. Fret not, I am here to explain them to you so that you have a clear idea when you make your decisions. Generally, they have 5 kinds of promotions:

. Buy 2 pay 1 : You add 2 products in the cart but will only pay 1 – it’s essentially a 50% discount
. Freebies: If you purchase Freebies, you will get a cashback voucher in the value of the Freebies you purchased and can be used for your next order (valid for 15 days)
. Discount: Discounted price
. Giveaway : Delishop regularly offers samples of new products to be given to customers with every order. 
. Coupon Code: Special coupon code when there are a unique events (World Cup, Black Friday etc…)

Talking about coupon codes, Delishop has kindly given me a chance to present an early Christmas present for all my readers. Just input the code STRANGERINBANGKOK while checking out and you can get 250THB off your total bill. Furthermore, there is no minimum order required and no expiry date!

Disclaimer: Delishop provided me with coupon codes to try the service twice, but all opinions and comments are mine.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sushi Masato - 4 Valuable Lessons in the World of Omakase

When it comes to Japanese food, I am no know-it-all. My wife doesn't take raw food, and I wander around Bangkok with 2 little kids in tow, so my knowledge is pretty much limited to the reliable family chains (eg. Maisen, Ootoya, Yayoi etc.) and Ramen, oh, how I loooove good Ramen....

Blink, and you will miss it.
On 11/11, things would dramatically change. With some divine intervention, the stars aligned, and I had the opportunity to build up my Japanese food knowledge once and for all at Sushi Masato, the only place I know thus far that actually set up an email address explicitly named "waitinglist" for those yearning for a seat at Chef Masato's counter.

Without boring you with the details of every course (for those interested, I will be writing them on another space), I would like to share a few points that left a deep impression during my first proper Omakase experience.

1. Freshness and rarity of ingredients

I am a firm believer that the best food is usually the one that is made by the freshest ingredients which are not prepared over-elaborately. Sushi Masato literally brings this to another level. Even though sushi is really nothing more than a fresh piece of fish placed over some well-cooked rice, the effort to fly the best produce in from the Tsukiji Market 5 days a week and making sure they enter your mouths at the peak of their freshness is worth much appreciation.

Throughout the 24-course dinner that consisted predominantly of seafood, I cannot use the word "fishy" as a description for any single course. I also expected to taste the unexpected, and I was not disappointed. Some worthy mentions are the monkfish liver pate, shirako (cod fish sperm) and the pleasantly-surprising shiro ebi where the sweetness of the little shrimps danced and developed in your mouth as you chew along.

2. Techniques

Aside of impeccable knife and sushi-assembly skills, I wanted to see more. In many establishments, blowtorches are commonly used to sear sashimi when required. At Sushi Masato however, blowtorches are deemed to impart the smell of gas to the fish, and thus they use hot charcoal to achieve the desired effect.

And of course, there's the shari, the flavoured sushi rice, notoriously known to be the hardest to master for a sushi chef.  Here, it's nicely seasoned, slightly brownish in colour and served to you warm, which was a nice touch as I do not like cold meals.

Perfect picture to showcase the rice. You can separate every grain of rice if you wanted to.

3. Uni

And then there's Uni, the much renowned delicacy of the sea which I never really had a chance to enjoy. It's always either too little (in the Chirashi Dons) or overly fishy and heavy (like some over-aged cheese).

Chef Masato introduced 2 types of Uni during the meal, 1 of which is simply soaked in sea water, and will disintegrate within hours after opening if not consumed.

Uni drained and served on a soup spoon.

Wow. Bursts of the sea in my mouth. I finally understand what Uni is all about, but how, just how can I bring myself to eat any other relatively-inferior grades of Uni after this?

4. Chef's personal flair

Omakase literally means 'up to the chef'. Enjoy anything that the chef serves you on the day. For this to work, ideally you need a chef with personality. Chef Masato has a good command of English. He explains every dish to the diners and gets his staff to show us exactly what fish he's serving with a seafood/sushi encyclopedia.

I would love to have sat closer to him to have more personal interaction, but he made use of his minimal opportunities to show me some of his flamboyance.

All in all, the adventure to Sushi Masato was certainly a worthwhile experience. It not only made sure that my very first Omakase experience was a proper one, it also allowed me to understand the spirit of Japanese cuisine, and taught me how good sushi should taste like.

As of 11/11 this year, the next available slot at Sushi Masato is in April 2017, so I would hereby like to thank Nack and Jacq for making it so effortless for me to warm one of Chef Masato's much sought-after seats.

Khop khun mak khrup.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Noah's Book of Jokes Volume 2 (with special guest appearance by Ellie)

Sudden Death

Was talking to Noah about what he should do if I pass away.
"Daddy, before you die, can you call Li Kunqi yiyi to come first"
Eh son, please la. If I manage to die slowly, of course I will settle everything swee swee (nicely) for you before I go and see God right.
But I might go suddenly ma. God might summon me suddenly.
Suddenly, I realise I hope the teacher quickly teaches him the meaning of the word suddenly. In a better way than how I can teach him.

Defining torture

Is when you need to pee badly.
But your son says he needs to too, and you bring him to the cubicle to see and hear him pee before you.

What you doing Daddy? feat. little sister Ellie

Ellie pooped not once but twice tonight after I came home from work.
During the second poop clearing session in the shower, I was using my soapy hands to wipe her butt clean when she turned over to me, looked at me in my eyes before saying in her most serious tone.
"Daddy, what you doing?"
"Err... Poopoo 臭臭bye bye Ellie...."
She then smiled and turned away to continue playing with the stickers on the wall.

The Parenting Life Hack

Yesterday after dinner, Noah started to carefully remove the plates and bowls from the dining table and passed to me to put in the sink. I was so pleasantly surprised and asked him who taught him.
"You lor," he said.
"But I didn't."
"I see you clear the table everyday what."
OK, so this is a parenting life hack, don't teach them, show them.
But in case you find your kids wearing their boxer shorts around the house and farting all over the place, remember, no one taught them.

The Best Picture Ever

Noah, "this is the best picture ever"

Me,"but how come it is not complete?"
"No no, it's like that it's like that. I am very tired already it's finished already."
"OK. I will take a picture of it and put it on Facebook."
"No. You need to put it on the wall."

Too many cooking videos

Me: I am so tired I bring you home still gotta rush dinner out for you. I didn't get to rest.
Noah: If tomorrow I ask you to cook dinner again you need to do something.
Me: What.
Noah: Rest. Rest for 6 minutes.
So he treats me like a piece of seared steak.

The moment that convinced me that this is all worth it

Noah just told me before he slept:
Daddy. You are the nice Daddy that God made for me.


Also see, the even more hilarious Noah's Book of Jokes Volume 1.
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