Monday, March 27, 2017

Ideas to Stretch your Entertainment and Food budget


This post will be slightly different from my previous posts. Looking back, I have maintained this blog for years, dating to my university days. My gastronomic journey never cease even though I left KL and opted to work in my hometown. With such a mediocre salary in Ipoh, you might wonder how do I try out new food now and then and also dine out most of the time. 

Simple! It's by doing some proper research on on-going promotion by eateries nowadays. With the poor consumer sentiment far from fully recovering, food businesses are more aggressive in throwing promotion after promotion like never before. Never mind the profit margin, they think. They need to regain the market share, or at least, to generate a healthy turnover to account for the business overheads. 


1) KENNY ROGERS ROASTERS


Kenny Rogers Roasters has been quite rampant in promotion recently. Previously they only open to the KRR B-Card for the Buy 1 Free 1 or you will need to dress in red in conjunction with their Red Hot set meal.

Last month, they had this prom from Monday to Wednesday and this is the Red Hot Meal Buy 1 Free 1 (original price is RM21.90) and it comes with a muffin but without drinks. No specific period, you can rush for a lunch or just enjoy it after work.


A week or two later, I just got this meal for RM10 nett - a quarter chicken, a scoop or rice and a limited-time-only Peanut Butter Chocolate muffin. The chicken base is similar like their usual original and pepper roast, just that the sauce is freaking spicy! It is very similar to Nando's Peri-peri sauce with the highest degree of spiciness. Else, lookout for something like the poster below - usual set RM22.90 (buy 1 Free 1)


Value for money: Definitely! even a plate of drumstick chicken rice now cost you RM5 at hawker stalls in Ipoh (even much more in Klang valley). And mind you, this is with the thigh portion as well, and they throw in a muffin. How does that sound to you with aircond dining environment with sofa seats?

Drawback: no hidden terms and conditions as no service charge and the GST already priced in. As the meal is kinda spicy and the cheapest drink available is soft drinks at RM5.90 per pax, you may end up spending a bit more than what you expect/forecast.


2) THE CHICKEN RICE SHOP 

Chicken Rice Shop is offering a quarter chicken for RM1.80 for minimum two diners    
                                    
How? 
All day long every 18th of the month (regardless weekdays or weekends)
Dine in with minimum two person


Drawbacks:
Not much hidden terms and conditions. At the minimum, you will end up spend slightly above RM5 per pax after ordering ala carte portion of rice (RM3 per pax) and drinks (around RM1 per pax for plain water/Chinese tea) but quarter chicken may not be sufficient to be shared by two persons.

Hence I will propose one person order a chicken rice meal (RM10.90) or a set meal (RM17.90 onwards but it comes with drinks and a plate of vegetables and small sides) while the other person just tops up a plate of rice at RM3. This will work out to be around RM10 per pax. Coincidentally, on the previous 2 months, the 18th falls on a Saturday. The two photos amount to RM23+ and serves as a good light lunch for 3 pax (2 rice shared between 3 people) - which comes to around RM8 per person. Now who says you can't dine more comfortably without hurting your wallet much? :) 


3 ) PIZZA HUT

Honestly, I am a fan of Dominoes for their takeover personal pizza at RM5.90 flat. And at the same time I have countless bad experience of poor customer service and speed of serving food in Pizza Hut. But for RM8.90, I will brush aside my so called "ban". Choose between a pizza or a pasta and your meal is made complete with a soup and soft drink. Not sure if there is still 10% being charged, but even so, the meal is stil less than RM10. 

Drawback: only on weekdays lunch (excluding public holidays) and probably the poor and slow service will spoil your appetite by driving you up the wall. Else, are you bored everyday eating having your RM5.50 bowl of noodles and RM2 iced coffee or soft drink? Care to pay a few bucks more for a change and more cosy environment than your usual unscrupulous overcharged hawker stalls?




 4) DRAGON- i

The famous annual Dragon-i 一蚊鸡 (RM1 Chicken) is back but they with some changes this year

Pros: There are a total of 4 different flavors for each week. Initially they run this promotion on weekdays but due to “overwhelming response” (yours truly feel otherwise though), they extended it to weekends as well. Although the promotion starts from 6pm onwards, limited portions are allocated daily
                                                                                                                         
Cons: Minimum 3 diners to trigger this promotion. And this time, 3 diners will only get half a chicken unlike previously they offered a whole chicken for RM1. To get the whole chicken, you will need to dine in a group of 6 people and above.


Drawback: Enter unprepared and you will definitely spend a lot here! Meat dishes ranges from RM30 onwards and vegetables alone will cost you RM26 per plate (not to mention plain white rice at RM2.50 per bowl) A group of three can have a bill touching RM100 easily even with just ordering one vegetable dish and another meat dish.

The best way to keep your bill low is to order individual noodles and rice meal. On two separate occasions, I managed to keep my bill to RM60+ for myself and my parents.

Week 1: Roasted Chicken. The chicken is marinaded lightly as portions like the chicken breast is quite evenly flavoured. Being prepared in advance and chopped into serving portions awaiting the crowd to start coming in past 6pm, this dish is not piping hot as expected. Bathing the chicken in hot coil will rejuvenate its crispy skin and scored even higher points.

Week 3: Soya Sauce Chicken. Kampung chicken is used this round, resulting into a tougher texture but leaner meat. The portion seems to be bigger than the roasted chicken though. Like its name, its just soya sauce chicken which does not have any herbal aftertaste/tingue you might be expecting from those stewed chicken.


On my first outing. my first main dish is this Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles. For RM16, it seems to be quite pricey for a bowl of "plain noodles" The broth has a hint of sesame and peanut aroma with a strong hue of chilli oil but actual dish is far from the one illustrated in the menu, lack of condiments and topping. Somehow it failed to deliver a memorable note despite Shanghai delicacies supposed to be their forte.


On the other hand, Stir Fried La Mian with Sliced Australian Beef in Black Pepper Sauce (RM24) saved the day as the second main dish. There is a generous amount of tender beef slices while the noodles is well braised in the black pepper gravy. My parents liked this dish alot. Coupled with a serving of their signature Xiao Long Bao (RM11.50) and nibbling on the half roasted chicken, we were not really full to be honest, but it was still a satisfying dinner.

On the second visit, as the chicken is stewed soya sauce chicken, I ordered a bowl of white rice and some dim sum to nibble on. Besides the soupy xiao long bao which is a must order in Dragon-i, I tried their new item which is the Scallion Pork Floss Pastry (RM9). The pastry texture is similar to fried man tou with a generous serving of sesame oil all over, resulting to a aromatic yet crispy exterior which is best eaten hot. The filling is concentrated at the centre only, or perhaps they could be a bit more generous with the pork floss?

Shanghainese Pan Fried Meat Buns (RM9) arrived piping hot and the fluffy and soft dough of the bun is evident that this item was indeed freshly made to order. The filling is juicy and cooked to the right degree (bears resemblance to the minced meat filling in xiao long bao) but lacked some seasoning though.

And for a fulfilling meal, we had La Mian with Shanghainese Deep Fried Pork Ribs (RM19) which  is not actually pork ribs though but a decent portion of pork chops fried till forming a slightly dry exterior with a moderately moist centre. Far from being tender, but rest assured these are lean meat cuts. The soupy la mian had a slight flaw this time with a mild "flour" aftertaste in the broth. Else, it was a nice dish if the chef had drained the la mian well enough to avoid the water from cooking the noodles to drip back on the bowl before pouring the broth over. The bill time was also was just around RM60 for 3 pax. Yes, it may not be cheap meal but you still pay lesser than a usual dining bill.

5) SECRET RECIPE





An ideal place for dating! One main meal in the range of RM18-20. Which makes it to be just RM10 per pax! The cheapest drink is iced filtered water at RM1.20. You can just bear with it for a while and head towards Starbucks (they are throwing a lot of promotion like Buy 1 Free 1, 2 Venti sized handcrafted drinks at RM25 etc off and on, but the time period is usually just from 5pm-8pm) Maybe you can consider clocking off work on-time, enjoy your dinner at Secret Recipe at 6pm+ and head to Starbucks at 7pm+. Takes a bit of time management though :)


If you would like the ultimate combo -  be there slightly before 6pm to get you entitled for the Tea Time Promotion (buy 1 slice free one drink – Long Black, Flat white, or a pot of  tea. Top up RM2 to upgrade to latte, mocha, premium flavoured teas ) and once you have locked in a portion of that, proceed with the Monday Buy 1 Free 1
Slight drawback: It is limited to Monday dinner 6pm-9pm only (so far no sold out scenario unlike the recent RM20 for two which features more premium options)


 6) STARBUCKS

Noticed that Starbucks has raised their prices lately by a range of RM1-2? Plan to cut down your trips to get your caffeine fix? As this is a food blog and not a financial management blog, I WON'T suggest you to "make your own coffee". If the coffee and atmosphere is what you love about this place, make use of the ongoing promotions so that you do not need to cut your plans to reward yourself! By the way, I just inserted this section as soon as I received the email this morning (you can refer to my FB posts for more current updates)  From 28-30th March 2017, during 11-2pm and 5-8pm, you will get 50% discount on handcrafted beverages if you make payment with your Starbucks card. If its hard to find time to drop by Starbucks to takeaway during your lunch break, how about seeing this as a motivation for some of you to stop staying in office till late? The coffee is still the same, the environment is still the same, perhaps the time is a bit "inconvenient" to some. But hey, if you wanna stretch your purchasing power, there are some minor sacrifices on priorities and commitments you have to make :)


7) OLDTOWN WHITE COFFEE

Staff vouchers and discount coupons, need I say more on my weekly check-in here? Okay to be fair, you may not be able to enjoy this benefit like I do (unless you are my colleague), having free items and set meals at lower than walk-in prices. A meal for 3 adults can be just RM30+ or even lower if I use some Free main course vouchers (:

Else, yours truly will be distributing some discount vouchers/cash vouchers of and on if you are keen to save a few bucks, just like the ones above.

8) GENERAL - OTHERS

Most businesses will run promotion on off-peak hours, especially on weekdays. The same concept goes for entertainment businesses. Cinemas having cheaper tickets on Wednesday (new movie release on Thurs) or generally, ticket are priced at their peak on weekends. Be a smart consumer and arrange your entertainment and meal outings wisely. Make use of certain credit card perks like Buy 1 Free 1 drinks in Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf using Citibank Clear Card or Buy 1 Free 1 movie tickets on Fridays for that same credit card. You pay only half the amount compared to amount you are paying on weekends! And this means you can enjoy twice as frequent on your handcrafted coffee and movies


The same goes for karaoke as well (yours truly just love the RM10 happy hours at Enco Karaoke form 5pm to 8pm - although by the time I leave office and reach there at 6pm, I still have 2 hours of singing and at RM10 with a drink included and NO tidbits charge, I couldn't ask for more. It is way must better and cheaper than to just spend almost RM40 to sing on peak periods on weekends. One time of singing on peak periods can allow you to sing 4 times on off-peak periods. I am sorry that most of the promotion are no longer valid but if you are my Facebook friend, most likely you will see me sharing these post on ongoing promotions. Nevertheless, I think you already can get an idea on how to still enjoy a good meal in a cosy environment without paying much extra/cost you much lesser. Till then have a great second quarter of 2017!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Great Harvest Meal, East Ocean Menglembu


大丰收 literally translated in the Big Harvest (or the Bountiful Harvest) could have been circulating in your Facebook news feed off and on, especially you have friends from Ipoh. Yup, you recalled it right - its a huge platter with a "pole dancing" chicken. This unique dining way of presenting Chinese banquet dishes could be savoured in East Ocean Restauran (Tung Hoi)

They have two outlets offering this meal - the one in Menglembu (the one with the reputation of the best among all under the same name) and the one in Chemor. Both offer the same price and items and it comes down to which is nearer to you. I am not sure whether the one in Ipoh Garden South offers this dish as the crowd seems less and rumours have it that they are under a different management.

The famed platter arrived in a trolley and they need two person to transfer it to your table! Served in a multi-tier platter style, perhaps one could start from the top as the lobster salad acts as a great appetizer. The shell of the lobster remained for decoration purpose with small blinking battery operated LEDs attached on it. I really loved the lobster salad alot as it is a refreshing entree. The mayonnaise is not over-cloying in richness and it is well balanced with some mixed fruits (longans!!!!) I can have this everyday for a month without feeling bored. LOL

The tiger garoupa is then filleted and fried. As tiger garoupa is priced above your average fish, fetching up to RM70-80 when ordered individually (depending on size and festive season), having it fried seems to be slightly a waste though. But due to serving time and coordination purpose, I think having it steamed would be less feasible though. Nevertheless, the "buttered" firm fillets of the garoupa made the mark, although far from being piping hot. Having them resting on a bed of mixed stir fried vegetables (shimeiji mushrooms, snow peas, etc) is a bit weird though. The "skeleton" of the fried fish is not put to waste though, more on that later...

The other highlight of the platter goes to the roasted chicken which is "impaled" on a steel rod. He/She does not look very happy though in this picture. :p

There! I found a happier photo of the similar chicken. Though not as photogenic and boastful in the earlier picture, this photo seems more down to earth though. With most part of the chicken chopped for more friendly handling, the chicken breast is then stir fried with diced vegetables (carrots and some beans?) and it should be eaten along the iceberg lettuce (similar to Korean way of eating your dakgalbi ya!). The chicken is slightly tough though, probably free range chicken is used here. The size of the chicken wing itself could be comparable to your average drumstick size!

The fate of the fish goes beyond the buttered fillets, as the legacy is continued in a bowl of tummy warming fish head beehoon! Sourish and savoury at the same time, the comforting bowl of noodles will give you an appetizing carbohydrate fix for this dinner!

Zooming into individual items on the platter! Everyone will get one unit each! No more, no less! All diners are to practice thoughtfulness and remember what items they have "plucked" from the platter as not to cross over other people's portion. This is a "dumpling" containing fish meat paste and prawn in moreish gravy used to lightly braise it. Nothing really spectacular though as this could appear as one of the side dish of the entree platter you normally find as the first dish of a Chinese wedding/banquet dinner. There is another patty of fish paste "dim sum-like" item at the bottom of this dumpling (you can refer to bottom picture, it is actually covered by the inverted wine glass)

Another common sight of an item in the first platter of a Chinese banquet dinner. It contains shredded seafood filling mixed with some vegetables and mayonnaise and coated in some Thai style sweet and sour sauce. Not really to my liking as it tasted very normal.

Moving forward, this is probably something you don't see (well probably you see it now and then but you don't eat this now and then though) often. Each soup spoon contains an abalone with braised fish maw. Needless to say, this is one of the priced item here, so savour it slowly :) At the inner circle, there is another circular assemby of spoons containing a dim-sum like meat paste item (again!)

Okay, here is a close-up shot of the missing items beside the abalone. (Photo credit to my cousin, Chris). Come to think of it. This is deconstructing the whole Chinese banquet meal which usually takes almost 2 hours from the first course all the way to the 8th course by fitting it into one single gargantuan platter. Appetizer platter, fish, chicken, noodles, vegetables! And yes, it is indeed filling! We did ordered a side portion of Assorted Waxed Claypot rice but it was unnecessary as the bowl of meehoon is there to fill the void in your stomach (should there be any)

Standard Chinese banquet dinner desserts - Shanghai pancakes (crispy layered pastry with lotus bean paste filling) and Red Bean soup (the one where is fully loaded with water chestnut, black sesame and glutinous rice balls! These are not included in the Big Harvest meal, pancake was RM12 if not mistaken while the red bean soup is at around RM26?

This is another aeriel view of the Big Harvest platter which carries a price tag of RM799. Speak to the manager in charge and if you pay in cash, they can "make some arrangements" for you. Not convenient for me to disclose in details but I guess you know what I am trying to hint. Signing off with a video below courtesy of my cousin being the ad-hoc videographer while yours truly is busy snapping photo. Have a great week ahead! :)