Vietnamese street food : Caramen nep cam (Creme caramel with fermented red sticky rice)

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The French occupation of Vietnam or French Indochina as their cartographers would refer to it, left plenty of cultural clues – Crusty baguettes and pâté made famous as a sort of backpacker rite of passage meal, Bánh mì.

Then there’s caramen, a near identical replica of the delicious wobbly French treat, crème caramel.

In caramen nếp cẩm lies the Asian variation, a plastic cup with crème caramel is topped with fermented black sticky rice, my translate app gave me the wonderful translation for nếp cẩm as “this special rice”, as usual miles off base when you want to know simple ingredients but I’d like to think it’s how it’s referred to, because the rice is delicious, with a bit of chewiness and slightly fruity from the fermentation.

Caramen nep cam

Caramen nep cam

When it arrives it’s got lovely layers of Caramel, fermented rice and ice, with another ingredient (which I presumed was coconut milk , but I’m not so sure anymore) and you can mush it all up, or eat it surgically (my preference) it’s a great treat, and a good cure for the vicious Hanoi summer heat and humidity.

We visited Kem Caramen, 29 Hàng Than. Expect to pay around 15’000VND per cup of ‘special rice’. Little English is spoken, but they have a handy board with the menu in Vietnamese, pointing got the job done. 

Some useful phrases
Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants (pronounced cha)

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Malay street food : Putu piring (coconut cakes)

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Sometimes you really luck out. Like on the occasion we sat in a Melaka restaurant with a chef friend whom we had met a few days earlier, and he say’s “You haven’t had putu piring!?” He then jumped into his car and took us to his favourite stall, for indulgent, gooey coconut and palm sugar kuih.

Kuih, – can also be spelled kueh – is a broader term to describe sweets and small treats in Malay, however it is not exclusive to sweets as some savoury kuih exist too, such as one of my favourite snacks – curry puffs.

Melaka, being the Malaysia home of Nyonya cookery is well known for sweet kuih, with many varieties which are mostly steamed.

These pictures were sourced from Flickr, under the Creative Commons Licensing, thanks to Choo Yut Shing & Kyle Lam

Putu piring, are steamed coconut and palm sugar patties. Palm sugar is made by extracting the sap from palm trees and boiling it until it turns to syrup. Melaka is famous (especially in Malaysia) for its gula melaka, the local and exceptionally tasty palm sugar. Palm sugar is also used in savoury dishes and curries to balance fishy flavours.

Rice flour, shredded coconut and pieces of gula melaka are cupped into a fine mesh, which is put onto a conical head attached to a large steamer. They are rapidly steamed so that the rice flour and coconut bind slightly and the sugar lumps melt. They are served up on a square of banana leaf, with a little more shredded coconut and a sprinkling of salt.

The result is biscuit sized warm coconut spongey kuih, with gooey sugary nectar oozing out of the sides. The palm sugar in itself has an incredibly rich taste, like a maple syrup – it’s not a synthetic or artificial sugar taste at all!

They take seconds to make and cost only around one ringgit each. Deliciously moreish – Click here for more sweets and deserts.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you
berapa harga – how much?
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food : Cendol (coconut milk and ice pudding)

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After grazing our way through some other areas of Malaysia we made our way up to Georgetown, Penang (or Pinang), lauded as the food capital of Asia, street food mecca, whatever. We had high hopes. 

Penang is world famous for having a cultural melting pot of Indian, Chinese and Malay population who all contributed to the culinary landscape.
Penang did not disappoint, in fact it was probably better than expected – One thing; if you’re planning on eating like it’s your last week alive don’t visit during the lunar new year festivities.

I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, I’ll always choose savoury over sweet and sugar laden deserts and sweets like toffee or fudge are generally the last thing I want to eat.

One afternoon I found myself eating a mountain of cendol…

Penang cendol

Penang cendol

 

Cendol, (pronounced shen-dul) is a sugarific Malay desert consisting of shaved ice, coconut milk, gula Melaka – a type of sugar syrup, originating from Melaka, kidney beans and little green worms which are actually pandan flavoured rice noodles. The noodles are also called cendol.

To my great surprise, I actually quite enjoyed it –  it was a delicious cooling pick-me-up on a hot afternoon, the gula Melaka was rich and flavourful and not the cheap sugary taste I expected. The coconut milk was refreshing, the kidney beans were strangely my favourite part and the noodles made a necessary textural change. Even when it all started to melt and looked like soup with an identity crisis it was still delicious!

Penang cendol

Penang cendol

Penang road, near to the KOMTAR is home to not only the famous and busy Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol but also rival stalls, too!

Although Penang is famous for the cendol, it is also well known in Melaka. Jonker 88 is a favourite..

If you’re keen to branch out on the sweet deserts, Ais (ice) Kacang is also based on shaved ice and sugar, with the additions of condensed milk and lumps of jelly.  Another sweet local speciality of melaka is tai bak a Peranankan desert of coloured noodles in pandan syrup.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food : Kaya puffs & white coffee, Ipoh.

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We previously got acquainted with kaya in Singapore, eating kaya toast for breakfast and we have to say, were pleased to find it in abundance in Ipoh.

Ipoh, in general did everything it could to help increase our waistlines and we really enjoyed the food experiences here.

Kaya, as we’ve previously posted is a kind of coconut spread, which is thickened and emulsified with egg to give it a more custardy texture. It’s gloopy and creamy and pretty indulgent. The lady half can’t get enough of it and I’m quite pleased when I hear her kaya squeal, too.

six bites of joy

six bites of joy

The puff is a really quite a decadent little treat, the pastry is buttery and sweet, but with plenty of flake and a golden eggwash. The Kaya paste filling is rich, thick and creamy, not too sweet but enough so, to know you’re contented after chomping through one.
The sweet snack is famous in Ipoh, perhaps even revered and bakers are craftsmen – one local and well known shop continues to make them by hand every day the same way they have for over fifty years.

The perfect mid-afternoon treat for us, was a kaya puff and a Ipoh white coffee. In Ipoh, they  make their coffee slightly differently; by roasting the beans in a palm oil margarine and serving (like most of Malaysia) with condensed milk. The resulting taste is a bit lighter on the palate and a bit perhaps a bit nutty? It’s one of those things where you know it’s different but you can’t quite work out how.
From reading online it seems coffee in other parts of Malaysia is roasted with caramel and wheat whereas in Ipoh style no additional sugars are added.

Pastry is seemingly everywhere in Ipoh’s Chinatown, it’s really quite hard not to find kaya puffs or mooncakes & lor por peng, known as wife biscuits and at around one ringgit a piece,  Kaya puffs are fast becoming favourites.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food :tau fu fah & how I conquered the funny mountain (sweet soy pudding)

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Puddings aren’t really my thing. Although, the older I get the more inclined I am towards dessert – which is alarming my waistline.

I do however like soy products (except tempeh – you can keep that, Indonesia) the more time we spend in Asia eating, the more I appreciate the merits of tofu as a textural component. Europeans will often turn their nose up at tofu; vegetarians struggle to use it well. I think, quite simply tofu in Europe is mass produced and a bit rubbish, which is a shame.

Tau fu fah is a type of treated soy milk using gypsum as a coagulant to thicken and bind it. The result is a fairly solid, jelly like tofu which is easy to break apart

Tau fu fah, as it is known in Ipoh and perhaps other areas of Malaysia, is known in China as dofuhua or dohua. Tau fu fah is the Cantonese name for the pudding. Penang follows the Hokkein name for the same dish is ‘tau hua’ whereas apparently, Singaporeans refer to it as tau hauy.

Confused? It’s all just soft set tofu.

Funny Mountain tau fu fah is pretty iconic in Ipoh – the shop has been around a long while, it’s popularity is well known so I figured, here is as good a place as any to get stuck into one of the most Asian of puddings.

It is served pretty much as it comes, with a sweet, syrupy liquid to give it additional flavour. Personally, I quite enjoyed the slightly nutty pudding, texturally similar to a crème caramel but without the richness. However, I felt the syrup was too sweet – I would have happily scoffed my way through two, or three tubs if it weren’t for the sugar syrup, which had me running for the dentist before I had even finished! Malays I’ve noticed are fond of the sweeter things in life, condensed milk tea, kuih, and cendol or ABC to name a few.

The dessert is worth checking out for the sweet lovers and generally curious and, at only around one ringgit it’s a steal.

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Indian street food : Jalebi (sugar syrup pretzels)

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Jalebi are a common sight across Rajasthan, and other parts of India with vats of oil on street corners and vendors fishing golden orange rings from the hot oil. Variations also exist in middle eastern countries.

A sweet note, Jalebis are a flour and liquid mixture which is piped into hot oil and deep fried  until a golden yellow colour. After frying they are dipped in a sugar syrup mixture which can be flavoured with spices such as cardamon and  saffron , which presumably helps to give them the bright orange colour. Sometimes rose water can be added too.

Sourced from Flickr via a creative commons license, thanks to Nate Gray. No modifications made to the image.

When they are poured into the oil, the vendor swirls the batter to make a distinctive swirling circular pattern, similar to a pretzel.  They are very sweet,  we bought  a whole paper bag for only ten rupees! Far too many sweets for my not very sweet tooth.Can be served hot, or cold.

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