Sunday, April 20, 2014

My story – Food adventures of Thanis Lim

It’s been a long journey for this food blog. I started out writing this blog as a cooking journal to share recipes and cooking tips for friends while I was studying in Australia. I must admit I began my journey as a foodie with humble beginnings – relying a lot on cooking magazines and websites for my food adventures. Blessed with a good mix of multicultural friends, I had the exposure to different types of cooking techniques and ingredients readily available in Australia.

 

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After I graduated and moved back to Brunei, my cooking style had to adapt to use more locally available ingredients, allowing me the creative motivation to combine and fuse culinary boundaries. The root of my cooking lies in using the freshest available local produce from Borneo and incorporating them into my cooking using East versus West cooking techniques. My fascination with cooking shows and food science, watching and reading about great chefs such as Heston, Thomas Keller and David Chang, as well as reality TV series like Iron Chef, Master Chef and Top Chef, inspired me a great deal. It was this period in which I experienced the most growth as a foodie, constantly experimenting with new ideas in my kitchen – the Thanis Kitchen.

 

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A big change in my blogging style in Brunei was when I started to do restaurant reviews, which became an integral part of my blog. Informing the public on where to eat and what to eat became a passion of mine. This was during the blogging boom in Brunei, bloggers became popular figures in Brunei, but I wasn’t one of them – I was enjoying my blogging – behind the spotlight.

 

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These two guys made a very big impact in my blogging life. Geek In White, Marul, inspired and introduced me to a lot of the other bloggers. It kick started the initial networking to give a push to my journey as a foodie. Dinoza, another great social media individual from Sabah, also gave me a lot of inspiration and we have a lot of mutual respect for each other. I worked with Dinoza for many years for Breeze Magazine which is an important part of my life as a food journalist.

 

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Fadillah is another man I really respect, as both Bunny and him are very talented foodies as well, creating many recipes, delicious and beautifully presented! He has also organized many foodie events and challenges in Brunei – which I’ve participated, enjoyed and won a few of them.

 

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An invitation to cook in his kitchen was a big honour and motivated me a lot as a foodie. For this dinner, I cooked olive oil poached seafood, sous vide eggs with miso butter and asparagus, chicken satay pizza, Nyonya Dry Curry Pasta, Thai Style Marinara and finished up with Chocolate Lava Cake and White Chocolate Almonds and Marshmallow Pizza.

 

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One of the fun bake sales at his place~~ which I cooked these Japanese Style Marinated Octopus Tempura on a stick, as well as tasting portions of my fusion pastas. They were all sold out that day!

 

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I have won four cooking challenges to date. One of them was during a special event to support breast cancer awareness in Brunei. Foodies baked tons of desserts for this event – and I have to admit – a lot of yummy desserts were consumed that day ~~ I won it with my chocolate lava cake with shaved white chocolate and kuih sapit, served with vanilla ice cream, while also doing a live demonstration in the kitchen.

 

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Pasta has always been my favourite dish to cook; in all three other challenges, my pastas always come out in the top three. My fusion pastas such as Nyonya Dry Curry Pasta came first in my very first cooking challenge, much to my surprise, while the Kuching Laksa Pesto Pasta, came first in my second challenge and my Thai Style Marinara came third. The most memorable was my final challenge, in which my Golden Salted Yolks Carbonara won second place while my Sour Plum Vinegar Lamb Stew won me a ticket to Melbourne, the first prize! I have to thank Fadillah and Reedah (anakbrunei) for giving me the chance and motivation in these cooking challenges. They are a big inspiration and catalyst to what I have achieved today and I thank them deeply from the bottom of my heart, and stomach.

 

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Being a judge in National Cooking Competitions was another experience for me as well. I had the pleasure of working with Chef Salvo, from Sorisso, which I dare to say is one of the best restaurants in Brunei. It was a great experience for me as a food blogger. I also judged the Healthy Campaign for Laneige Brunei, tasting creative healthy Korean themed food!

 

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Writing for Breeze, a Sabah based magazine - covering news from Sabah, Kuching and Brunei, was an important part of my life as a foodie. It encourages me to constantly seek out new recipes as their food editor. I’ve been regularly contributing to the magazine for almost five years now! I’ve watched the magazine grow together with Dinoza.

 

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Above are some shots from Breeze magazine, where they do short introductions about me and what recipe I will be writing about that particular issue. 

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I have also written a few articles on restaurants for BIG (Borneo Insiders Guide) Magazine – a magazine based in Brunei. It was a good experience working with Pauline, whose a very good editor and a fellow food lover as well.

 

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My two full-page featured recipe for Happenings Magazine, a lifestyle magazine based in Kuching – the healthy muffin recipe – is this possible? Do grab a copy when you visit Kuching!

 

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I’ve seen myself in the National papers for winning cooking challenges or being involved in charity activities but I never thought I would ever be featured! Brunei Times reporter Aliyah interviewed me and I was very surprised to be featured in a three full page spread. A very big surprise for me as I did not expect much from the interview, probably expecting a small column where nobody would see! An online version of the article can be read here!

http://www.bt.com.bn/features/2010/08/21/prudent-foodie

 

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Writing for Brunei’s pioneering food website Love Food Hate Waste was also an important part of my foodie life. For three weeks during the month of Ramadhan, Rano, Kurapak and I actively checked out restaurants every day, taking pictures, enjoying the food and churning out mouth watering reviews of Sungkai Buffets. It was a great two years and I’ve enjoyed my time with them but I had to leave as I needed to focus on my blog, and I could not commit to the busy daily article deadlines during Ramadhan.

 

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I really love this Super Bloggers Tshirt designed by Kurapak – comprising of Brunei’s popular bloggers. It really shows how much fun we had and the Tshirt proceeds were donated to charity. A good fund raising event! Can you spot me at the bottom right? Rawr!!! Cookie Monster !!

 

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Being invited as a guest speaker for Borneo Bloggers 2.0 was another milestone for me. It was a good opportunity to share social media knowledge as well as establishing a lot of new friendships and connections – with Nuffnang representatives, top bloggers of KK and even filmmakers such as Jared and Moses – very inspiring!

 

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Being featured in Lonely Planet as the blog to check out for restaurants and food in Brunei was also an honour for me. My friend spotted this book while shopping in KL and snap some pictures to show me. Thank you Lonely Planet! It really meant a lot to be featured in such a prestigious guide!

 

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The influx of visitors from Google is another big moment for my blog. I’ve devoted my blog to help travelers hunt for food, writing good guides such as my Penang, Hat Yai, Brunei and Sabah food guides! I was very surprised when my friends told me Google searches for Brunei food, Best Penang Food and Best Hat Yai Food, showed me coming out as the top website in all three categories! As a food blogger, it is an important milestone for me and is a very big reward for all the effort and hard work put into my blog. It has also generated a lot of international visitors to my blog – as well as local visitors – about a few thousand viewers per day! I hope to write more travel guides in the near future. Stay tuned for Manila and Kuching updates!

 

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Update: Guess whose in the top search for Kuching food in Google? Feels good to be appreciated! Thanks Google!

 

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Here’s also a screen shot of my average monthly hits for my website. over 60 000 per month is not much but I am very happy with that achievement – and hope to hit 100 000 per month in the near future.

 

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Celebrity Chef moment: Picture of me with Bobby Chinn during his book signing session in Brunei. I wonder if I would publish my own cook book one day?

 

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Dinoza, my great social media buddy in Sabah. Looking forward to more foodie hunts in Kota Kinabalu.

 

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During my birthday (Uniform Theme Party) with great friends who had been supporting me all these years. Lily, Sim Yuan and Denise.

 

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So that’s my foodie story. A long journey, filled with challenges and fun moments. I currently also have a talk show with Pilihan FM every Saturday at 10:30 AM. It’s in Mandarin and it will be on travelling, eating and cooking. Be prepared to get hungry and laugh at my terrible Mandarin!

http://www.rtb.gov.bn/RTB_City/02_NetRadio/PilihanFM/index.htm 
Listen to me at 10:30 AM every Saturday!

 

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It would be great if you can follow me @thanislim on instagram where I post micro updates of my food adventures on a daily basis! Catch the latest food updates with me via social media! Or you can add me in twitter @thanislim or Thanis Lim at Google + 

You can also email me for my advertising rates for blog posts, banner placements, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts.  Email: thanislim@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Brunei Restaurant Review: Pappa Rich Restaurant

 

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Franchises are mushrooming in Brunei and now Bruneians are spoiled for choice! Pappa Rich was one of the anticipated ones this year with rumours of spending a lot (more than 1 million) just on renovation and equipment. Naturally for Brunei, franchises are bound to be packed in the first few months of opening. Since franchises need to order a lot of their stock from their main franchise kitchen overseas, it can take time to replenish. I heard their supposed 3 month’s supply of certain popular items like wholewheat buns, fried mantou etc ran out within 3 weeks of operation! Yes – Brunei Boleh! We’re an excited bunch when it comes to trying out new places.

 

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The first few months were pretty challenging for the franchise in Brunei – the staff and management pushed to their limits which was expected. I finally got the chance to give the place to try just this month, having heard many mixed reviews about the service and the place – I came with not much expectations. The place is still pretty packed when I tried out their food.

Ambience wise – I like the place. You can see they spent a lot of money on the interior design. Seats are comfortable and spacious, with child seats for young children. They have different sections in the restaurants to cater for family meals, dates or meetings.

 

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We’ll start with their bread – it’s different as it’s pretty soft in texture unlike typical white breads. Reminds me of the soft textured white breads in the famous kopitiam in Damai KK. This is their honey toast.

 

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I’m always a fan of peanut butter and kaya – so this Hainanese style peanut butter kaya toast really suits my taste. Soft textured white bread with two of my favourite spreads. This would make a lovely breakfast daily – if I can afford to eat this daily that is! Probably for dates or gathering with friends or business meetings.

 

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If you don’t like peanut butter (I know right? Some people just don’t like them) – there are other spreads to choose from in the menu – such as this simple kaya toast – or you can have them with soft boiled eggs. Hmm …. toast and eggs ~ hubba hubba.

 

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Sorry to say – My favourite will still be their peanut butter kaya toast. How can you say no to that?!

 

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Another good breakfast item or snack is their steamed wholemeal buns, filled with bean paste. I think the wholemeal gives it a more fragrant smell, especially when they arrive steamy hot and you try to peel them because you can’t wait!

 

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Now – this is the epic one. Deep fried buns (mantous) with egg mayo. Crispy outer layers and soft inner layers paired with the rich eggy filling. Highly recommended and this is something I would crave for! Thumbs up!

 

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Their porridge is quite good as well – served with peanuts and fried anchovies on the side. I regretted not adding an extra egg to the porridge.

 

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Pappa Rich serves dim sum like these too but unlike the steamed wholemeal buns, I wasn’t impressed with these. You would need to dip them in a lot of sauce for extra flavour. On their own, they taste pretty bland.

 

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Their Curry Mee while not being the best in Brunei, is still pretty good. Rich, spicy slurpy soupy noodles. Just be careful when slurping especially if you’re wearing that white office shirt!

 

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I for one prefer their dry curry mee, which is a bit like kolomee – noodle tossed in their signature soy sauce blend, with some thick curry gravy. Basically like having kolomee with curry sauce. Yum!

 

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You have the option of pairing it with their steamed chicken – it works well together!

 

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Dry curry mee with steamed Hainanese chicken ~~ oooh yes! Good combo! For me it’s more worth it to order this as a set since the usual chicken rice is already 5.90.

 

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Ipoh Hor Fun – an Ipoh style prawn soup base with silky rice noodles. The dish is pretty standard but I wished it had a stronger flavour – perhaps I am spoiled by my frequent trips to Malaysia – so I tend to expect more.

 

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If you have a craving for Assam Laksa from Penang – you can pop over to try Pappa Rich’s version. Having tried Penang’s famous Assam Laksa and learned to make the dish myself, I think Pappa Rich’s version passed the test. It’s a good Assam Laksa but it cannot compare to freshly made Assam Laksa – understandable because it’s a franchise. Pretty good for a franchise Assam Laksa though, I must say.

 

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If you’re really hungry – you can order this rice set – aromatic rice (quite yummy) served with curry chicken, beef rendang and sambal sotong. It has a bit of everything and will satisfy your hunger. Good for those who like a bit of everything and variety in their meal.

 

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They have Western food too like this fried chicken chop and fried rice. Their frying technique and coating for the chicken is pretty good. Very crispy – though I would ask them to put the sauce on the side as I don’t want the sauce to drench the crispy skin.

 

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Now I must say – I’m a big fan of Penang Kway Teow and I was very skeptical when my friend ordered this to share with me – since I don’t believe that franchises can have great kway teow. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it – and I must say I highly rate this plate of kway teow. Good caramelization (wok hei) and strong flavours – while using the same type of thinner kway teow used in Penang! Funny thing on my instagram – someone posted and asked if this is the #blogger special – I mean – how can you make a kway teow any more different or special just for a food blogger? A few other readers tried this and gave a high rating to this as well – but of course – some do complain that it’s pretty expensive. I guess it’s normal for places with better ambience – you cannot expect to pay pasar malam or kedai kopi/kopi tiam prices. Let’s hope Pappa Rich Brunei make sure no one kidnaps the chef who makes this delicious kway teow!

 

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Dessert wise – they have two types of sago in coconut milk dishes. This is one of them served with gula melaka.

 

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I prefer this one with an added slice of pudding ~~ oooh yeahhhh!

 

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You can adjust the sweetness to your liking with the gula melaka ~ I personally like mine less sweet.

 

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Their ABC is pretty epic too. Creamy sweet corn, grass jelly, red beans, lychee etc and topped with ice cream. Refreshingly good – though I don’t care for the lychees or longans.

 

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They also have glutinous rice balls/tang yuans and dried longans in soy milk but I am not particularly fond of this dessert. Some friends liked this though – so I guess it’s a love it or hate it kind of dessert.

 

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I didn’t expect Pappa Rich to have brownies – so decided to give it a try. It’s pretty good – quite moist and goes well with the ice cream. I’ll definitely have this with a nice hot cup of coffee or cham (mix tea and coffee).

 

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Or I could have it with this iced premium coffee – this is their signature gold quality ice coffee. Ahhhhhh ~ Pappa Rich is popular for their wide variety of drinks. When I was in Malaysia and visited their branches – they are pretty busy especially at night time – where people hang around there sipping their specialty drinks. Pricing wise for drinks – I was surprised that compared to Singapore and Australia branches – the prices in Pappa Rich are cheaper for their drinks. The management told me they negotiated with the franchise to lower the prices to be competitive in the Bruneian market. Considering that we pay quite a hefty $5 to $7 for typical drinks in other franchises – the prices for drinks in Pappa Rich are pretty reasonable. Below are some of the drinks we tried.

 

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My friend ordered this iced mocha with ice cream (or was it a shake). It was pretty good as I like the thick coffee creamy flavour and the added bonus of an ice cream on top instead of whipped cream sealed the deal for me. Ice Cream > Whipped Cream – anytime any day.

 

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I was excited when I saw Frosty MUG Root Beer Float on their menu. This sparked good memories of that icy cold mug – root beer float from A & W in Brunei which unfortunately closed down. To my dismay – I think their fridge for the mugs were out of order – so my 'supposingly frosty icy mug came out like this …. quite a disappointment and I hope they fixed this soon! I’m a big big fan of FROSTY MUG ROOT BEER FLOAT! Rawr! #incrediblehulkrampage #hulksmash

 

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My brother being the adventurous type tried this Ribena and Watermelon drink. He likes it but not for me. There are some things in life that you just cannot imagine going well together. I still can’t fathom why my brother likes this drink! Try it and see if you’re on my side or my brother’s side (Dark side)! LOL.

 

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Last but not least is my absolutely favourite drink in Pappa Rich. This is their Soy Milk, with pudding and grass jelly. The contrast of the soft pudding and the slightly firmer texture of the grass jelly goes very well with the fresh soy milk (ordered daily from a local supplier. Now if they could serve this with black sesame ice cream (available only in Malaysia branches.. sniff sniff) this would be the most epic beverage in Brunei. Highly recommended! I actually can finish two of these on my own!

 

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After trying some of these dishes in a few visits, I can say the food is pretty standard in Pappa Rich – some hit and misses as I described. People would always debate about the price point – since you can get pretty much most of the food for cheaper prices in other kedai kopi or kopitiam – which would be an unfair comparison considering the extra costs of interior design, maintenance as well as franchise fees. It would be more fair to compare their pricing to other cafes or franchises in Brunei.

It’s not possible to eat here often but I’ll definitely return just for the dishes I really like and for occasions where I want to hang out with my friends and chat over drinks (ooooh that delicious soy milk grass jelly pudding) while having some food. It’s also a good place to bring your clients or business meetings, or a casual date you want to impress – a not too posh place as if you’re trying too hard and not a kopi tiam (no ambience la)

 

PappaRich Brunei
ANSH Restaurant,
Block G, Ground Floor,
Abdul Razak Complex,
Gadong, BE4119,
Brunei Darussalam.
Tel: +673-2432333

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