Rai Rai Ken


Address: 214 E. 10th St, New York

Phone: 212-477-7030

Eating in Rai Rai Ken is like eating in a ramen shop at one of the alleys in Shibuya, Tokyo. The 14-stool shop is always packed with people slurping down their bowl of ramen but the good thing is, ramen is a fast meal and you will get your seat relatively quickly (Ramen is a fast food in Japan, as is Mc Donald’s in America). Overall, the ramen at Rai Rai Ken is pretty good, springy and fresh, although I would like it even better if the soup base is slightly more flavorful like tonkotsu base. They use pork as well as various vegetables as the base of the broth. But I think that’s just personal preference since Gan loves the Shoyu ramen at this place just fine. Other dishes I usually order here are Gyoza (pork and chives dumplings), Menma (stir fried bamboo shoots), and Cha-An (fried rice). These are the typical side dishes for ramen. They also serve delicious Hiyashi Chuka (cold Japanese ramen), which is refreshing, during summer time. With so many ramen restaurants popping up in the village, Rai Rai Ken still remains as our favorite in Manhattan because unlike other places which try to sell food based on gimmicks; Rai Rai Ken stay true to itself as a ramen place that does one thing perfectly well.

Shio (salt) ramen

Cha An (fried rice)

Shoyu (soy sauce) Ramen

Pork and Chives Gyoza

*pictures taken using iphone camera

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Malacca 06 & 07 Part 2

Dim Sum at Jalan Panjang

Dim Sums are quite popular in Malaysia. However, I noticed that in my hometown, Dim Sums are not as sought after, maybe due to the fact that it is more expensive for the locals to eat Dim Sums for breakfast than to eat, say Chicken Rice or Laksa.

Chong Fun with Sambal Chili - Sambal is to Malaysian cuisine what hot sauce is to American food. I like both hot sauce and Sambal, but given a choice, I would choose Sambal in a heartbeat. Sambal is made with chili, garlic, onion, some citrus juice, sugar and salt and it goes well any dishes.

Loh Mai Kai - sticky rice with chicken

Da Bao - Big hot bun with meat and hard boiled eggs inside

Shiu Mai

City Bayview Laksa

Laksa is a spicy curry noodle soup. I'm not a big fan of Laksa, but Gan loves it, especially this stall near City Bayview hotel.

Gan enjoying his Laksa

I ordered a bowl of hee kiaw mee, which is fish paste with noodles in light sauce

Heeren Street Wonton Noodles

It's extremely rare to find Wonton noodles served in light sauce in NYC since most of the restaurants make only Wonton noodles soup. You might have noticed by now that Malaysian loves their noodles in light sauce so this is our own adaptation of Wonton noodles dish.

Banana Leaf Restaurant

I love the fermented rice taste of tosei/dosa/tosai and it's not easy to find good ones here in NYC. I've tasted tosei at Dosa Hut in Jackson Heights Queens, and its other branch in Journal Square Jersey City, but I still miss the ones I get back home. Banana Leaf in Malacca is one of the places I go for good Toseis. We usually go to Banana Leaf for breakfast, but you can get Tosei there any time of the day.

Bunga Raya ABC Shop

This is a dessert place in Bunga Raya, Malacca's Chinatown. I rarely go there, but Gan told me that he used to visit this dessert place quite often as a kid during his mom's shopping trip to Bunga Raya. We like the ABC here since we have the option of adding two scoops of Jagung (sweet corn) ice cream on top of the already sinfully delicious ABC. *ABC = ais batu campur, which means mixed shaved ice.

Little Merlin enjoying his ice cream!

Across the street from the ABC place is Min Chong, a small store which sells pretty good rojak and chendol. I love the look of the shave ice machine, wished I have one here.

Rojak or Mixed fruit salad is usually made with freshly sliced cucumber, pineapple, mengkuang and mango, and tossed in a shrimp paste molasses with some toasted ground peanuts. Delicious!

Jonker Walk

During the daytime, Jonker Street houses some restaurants, shops, galleries and museums, but during the night time of every Saturdays and Sundays, the whole street is transformed into a lively night market where you can find the most gorgeous arts and crafts, tropical/local clothings and shoes, antiques, souvenirs, food, pubs and more. We love to take a stroll at this market whenever we are back in our hometown, and soaking in the lively atmosphere, as well as doing some shopping and enjoying some yummilious local food. You can find sugar cane juice, shiu mai, candies, satay, chendol and all sorts of other local food at the food stalls on Jonker Walk.

Sugar cane juice vendor

Shiu mai

Chendol - shaved ice with palm sugar, coconut milk and green bean jelly

Calanthe Art Cafe
We were very impressed by this coffee shop when we found out about it a couple of years ago. The owner has done a good job in transforming this old Dutch House into a cozy coffee shop. The coffees are pretty good too. This cafe serves coffee from 14 different states in Malaysia, where the coffee beans from each state has its own unique taste due to the roasting process and technique used.

I ordered a glass of the famous white coffee from Perak, a northern state in Malaysia. The reason why it is called white coffee is because of the roasting technique. White Coffee is produced by roasting the coffee beans with only margarine which resulted in a less dark coffee, as oppose to the regular Malaysian Black coffee which is roasted with Margarine and sugar, and is therefore darker.

The historical Malacca River is just a street away from Jonker Walk. The river used to be smelly and dirty when I was growing up, but the local government did a fantastic job in the river restoration. Nowadays, the Malacca River area has become a popular and lively nightlife area where new pubs, lounges and bars are popping up everywhere.


Roti Canai is extremely popular in Malaysia because it is tasty and inexpensive. It is an Indian flatbread where the dough are made with flour, eggs, ghee, water. It takes numerous kneading and folding of the dough, and waiting for the dough to rise before it is oiled and flipped and finally cooked on a flat iron skillet. I love my Roti Canai flat, crispy and flaky, slightly thicker than the ones I get here in NYC.

Putu pirim - steamed fermented rice with palm sugar and coconut. This is one of my favorite Malaysian desserts but it's difficult to find a vendor that sells it nowadays. Sinfully delicious!

Durian and Mangosteen

This is the famous or infamous Durian. The fruit is very pungent and is not for everyone. It tastes somewhat like pungent custard. Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Food, who is able to eat anything from bugs to a beating snake heart, is not able to even eat one piece of Durian.

Colin opening a Durian with a cleaver

Durian is extremely "heaty" (inflammatory) to the body, so be sure to drink lots of water after eating Durian. I usually overdose on green tea or fish oil, but the traditional way is to eat more Mangosteens, another local Malaysian fruits that has anti-inflammation effect.

Mangosteen - also known as Queen of Fruits in Malaysia. The fruit is very refreshing and sweet.

Tang Yuen


Tang Yuen with Palm Sugar Soup + Pandan Leaves + Ginger

Tang Yuen literally means round (glutinous rice) balls in a soup and Malaysian Chinese usually make and eat Tang Yuen during Dong Zhi/Winter Solstice Festival around December 22. When I was younger, my mom always make this soup a couple of months before Chinese New Year, and told me that I'll be one year older after eating Tang Yuen. I still don't understand why I'll be one year older after Dong Zhi, but I just love eating them.

There are alot of different varieties of Tang Yuen - there are the ones with peanut fillings, black sesame fillings or red bean paste fillings. I like my Tang Yuen plan and simple, but I have to have them in palm sugar soup with Pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) and ginger. My mom reminded me over the phone yesterday that I have to prepare Tang Yuen, so I made some today. Happy Dong Zhi Festival!

Le Bernardin


155 West 51st Street, New York


Phone: 212-554-1515

Le Bernardin has been on our list of restaurants to try for quite some time now, but we were saving it for special occasions since dining at this place doesn't come cheap. So to celebrate Gan's very special 30th Birthday, I decided to splurge and treat him to a dinner at Le Bernardin.

Unlike wd~50 which excites diners with experiment of flavors and textures, Le Bernardin's food speaks for itself by being extremely fresh, well-prepared and well-seasoned. Even though the dinner was last week, I can still vividly remember the taste of the Lobster Bisque starter, the Fluke and the Langoustine dish. We were very pleased with the service and the whole dining experience as well. No wonder the restaurant was awarded 4 stars by New York Times every year since its opening in 1986.

Gan: The "high-end" (read: you get to charge >USD150 per person) restaurants usually comes with the typical pre-requisites: a celebrity chef or in some cases - owner, signature dishes that may or may not have past its time, and the sideshows - snotty sommelier, judgmental wait staffs, and all the underpaid runners and bussers. To the uninitiated, the whole experience of this "formal" dining concept can be a little more than intimidating. That, I'm happy to say, is absent from Le Bernadin. Well, you still have celebrity chef/owner, sommeliers, general managers, runners, bussers and what nots here but the hospitality shown by the front staffs (staffs who manage the dining room, as oppose to back staffs who manage the kitchen) more than make up for the stuffiness radiating from the ritzy crowd. It's well known that the high end restaurants live and die by their regulars, who at times, dines nightly at their restaurant. I suspect, some true blood chefs who are motivated more by their craft than the cash registers, welcome the influx of some of these uninitiated. It can be a source of great satisfaction to have your meticulously prepared food enjoyed by people who understood and appreciate the efforts that went into them.
I have heard or read somewhere that chef Eric Ripert kept a high level of quality control by tasting a majority of the food before it's allowed to pass from kitchen to the dining room. That is quite rare amongst the ranks of the celebrity chefs as they start to juggle between their many obligations from opening of new restaurants to expand their empire, publishing biographies or cook books and appearances in marketing events.
Le Bernandin is a true antithesis to how impossible it is for celebrity chefs to still be active in the kitchen daily, how formal dining can still be made accessible to the masses, and how you can get value for money at the "high-end" restaurants.

The wine was good. We told the sommelier that we don't drink as much so he recommended a bottle of Groebe Aulerde Westhofen 2005 Riesling that complemented all the dishes in chef's tasting menu wonderfully.
Gan: The sommelier was very accommodating to our likes and dislikes, as well as patiently explaining the intricacies of wine pairing for us to understand. There's usually a list of pre-recommended wine-pairing for tasting menu but we opted not to go for that as it's usually too much alcohol for us.

Chef Eric Ripert really knows how to start the tasting menu course well. This was actually a pre-dinner lobster bisque with Baby Langoustines. I never realized that lobster bisque could be this perfect- not too creamy and heavy, and have a good blend of lobster broth and liquor/wine.
Gan: Delicate. The baby langoustines were cooked perfectly and was very juicy. The bisque was a little more subtle than usual but the spices complemented the protein well.

White Soy-Yuzu Marinated Fluke; Seaweed and spiced "Rice Crispies" - This dish is so refreshing and absolutely DELICIOUS!!!
Gan: This was my favorite dish of the night. It was very flavorful and very refreshing. Without any sauce, you would think it could be dry or bland but the fluke must have been soaked in white soy-yuzu for quite some time as it was complete with flavor. The seaweed and rice crispies provide good contrast in texture to the fluke. Totally satisfying.

Sauteed Calamari Filled with Sweet Prawns and Wood Ear Mushroom; Calamari Consommé - I realized that Chef Ripert loves to serve his seafood dish with consommés on the side, pouring into the dish just before eating. But it makes perfect sense since fish and seafood tends to soak up liquid quite easily and can get quite mushy.

Spicy Langoustine Curry; Heart of Palm Meuniere; Mango Chutney - I was wowed by this dish. The sweetness of the langoustines went well with the light and tasty curry and mango chutney.
Gan: This was great as well. As you can see by now, I love langoustine. It has the sweetness of lobster and the texture of a shrimp. Best of both types of shell fish.

Barely Cooked Wild Alaskan Salmon; Snow Pea Tips and Enoki Salad; Baby Leek-Wasabi Sauce - To me, this was the perfect way to cook Salmon. Instead of the usual boring citrus seasoning for Salmon, the Baby Leek- Wasabi Sauce was unusual and quite intriguing.
Gan: Le Bernardin specializes in seafood, as you can see in the dishes we've had from the tasting menu. The menu is split into 3 separate categories of done-ness (as in meat's well done, medium pink, or raw): almost raw, barely touched, and lightly cooked. As you can see, they believe strongly in not over-cooking the seafood. The seasonality and freshness of the seafood is of utmost importance here and the creativity is usually seen in the seasoning, saucing, and plating/presentation of the food.

Wild Turbot; Shiso- Matsutake Salad; Lemon Miso Broth - Gan and I have never tried Turbot fish before, thought it tasted somewhat like sole.
Gan: I realized mushrooms go very well with seafood. In fact, most ground or below ground vegetables (even underwater vegetables) compliment well with seafood. Not sure why. Need to look into that.

White Tuna Poached in Extra Virgin Oil; Sea Beans and Potato Crisps; Light Red Wine Bearnaise - Perfect dish before desserts. The white tuna was delicious and the potato crisps gave the dish a really nice texture.
Gan: This white tuna is a bit fatty though it doesn't look like it. That makes it a good entree dish as it's more hearty and heavy.

Warm Butternut Squash Puree; Vanilla Cream; Cinnamon Beignets - Beignets are basically dough nuts and these were puffy, crispy and addictive. The warm Butternut Squash Puree was also very nice.
Gan: What a delight. Who doesn't like doughnuts? The butternut squash puree was very savory.

Star Anise Infused Chocolate Cream; Warm Caramel; Crispy Rice; Vanilla Salt - A very delicate chocolate cream dessert.
Gan: Just like Eric Ripert, we like chocolates as well. This is one of the more interesting chocolate desert we've had.

Our waiter brought over a cake with a candle for Gan
Gan: Honey bunny's surprise. I was wondering why she was grinning ear to ear all night. Thought it was because of Eric Ripert showing up in the dining room.. or maybe it was. :-)

Mini assorted cookies/pastries

We were hoping that Chef Ripert will go around and say hi to everyone, but of course that did not happen. Nevertheless we were glad to have caught a glimpse of him in the dining room.

Gan and I outside of the restaurant after the dinner
Gan: Great food, delicious wine, amazing wife, quiet dinner: can't think of a better way to hit the big three-oh than this.

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