Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Garra Rufa Fish Therapy

Recently the fish spa craze has been hitting the Klang Valley, with more centers opening around the KL-PJ area. While the medicinal benefits were initially discovered in Turkey for people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema, the spas that have been operating here seem to target the beauty/retreat market. I've read about some spas that use a type of tilapia, which has no medicinal benefits at all other than biting off your dead skin. The real Garra Rufa species has a compound in their saliva that helps healing for those afflicted with certain skin diseases.

I came across Garra Rufa Fish Therapy at Bangsar, which uses the actual fishes for the therapy. I decided to bring my mom there as a treat for Mother's Day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were having a special promo that day.

The shop has a nice ambience, with a glass-fronted entrance, dark wood and soothing music. The receptionist was friendly and inviting, taking time to offer us towels and an explanation of how to go about with the session. It was helpful for first timers like me who felt a little ackward not knowing what to do.

First of all you need to wash your feet with a scrub to get rid of any residues so that you don't contaminate the pool. There was a separate area to do this and we were also provided with slippers to wear.

After I cleaned up, it was time to hit the pool! I was a bit apprehensive at first because there seemed to be quite a lot of them fishies swimming about. But I went in, both feet at once and breathed. I didn't have to wait long, as the little buggers came nibbling away at the feet. Mind you, I had quite a lot of dry, and probably dead skin from sunning by the beach a few weeks back!

What surprised me was how enjoyable it was to have fishes bite at you. It felt like a mild current running through my skin, not dissimilar to how an Osim machine might feel. Of course, you can't control the speed and strength of the massage hehe. The buzz sometimes got stronger when the bigger swimmers came nibbling and it was a bit ticklish. Somehow the big ones loved my left foot too. More dead skin perhaps.

After a while it really did feel like a therapy, as watching the fishes sucking your feet can be hypnotizing. I found myself just watching them, clear of thought and being very relaxed. It was also very nice of them at the spa to let us sit way longer than our booked session.

Many people question the hygiene and cleanliness of the pools and fishes, as there would be so many people using the same pool throughout the day. From my experience at Garra Rufa, there's nothing to worry about provided the spa that you go to have got the practices right. The water is cleaned everyday, and the pool has ultraviolet light to kill bacteria. The place feels really clean to me, and the staff is quite diligent in keeping it that way.

My skin didn't feel immediately smoother or nicer, but maybe because it's only my first session. But it was an enjoyable experience, something different. :)
Garra Rufa Fish Therapy is at Jalan Telawi, Bangsar (next to Al Rajhi bank). It's RM38 for 1/2 hour, RM72 for 1 hour and they also have therapy packages.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pasta Zanmai

I was out with a friend at 1 Utama last weekend, wanting to do some shopping. Needless to say, as with most of my shopping experiences, I didn't get my shirt but strolled through a myriad of exhibitions and deviated off-course.

But sometimes it's good to explore, as we discovered this gem of a restaurant. Discreetly tucked behind a small Japanese snack store, it's next to Carl's Jr. It was a Sunday night and the place was packed. We had to put our names down on the waiting list, but it wasn't too long a wait.

Once we got cosy we had a huge challenge. Almost everything on the menu looked so good! It was quite difficult to narrow it down, but we decided to share on a few dishes. We didn't order much as we weren't sure how big the portions were. Plus we wanted to leave space for dessert, hehe.

We started off with the miso soup. It had lots of vegetables and mushrooms, so it wasn't your normal tofu-seaweed staple. The soup had good flavour and it went down very well. It was clear and light on the palate.

Next we had this creamy japanese pasta with prawns and squid. The waiter grates parmesan cheese on top of the pasta upon your request and he'll keep going until you stop :) I smile because I love parmesan, hehe. This dish was delicious, though the cream was a bit sweet and it might not appeal to everyone. I found it special because there's actually three different flavours in that plate. I was pleasantly surprised when I bit into the prawn. You know how most seafood in a seafood pasta are just cooked together with the sauce, and they all have the same taste, i.e. the sauce? Well at Pasta Zanmai, the prawns and squid have their own flavours! I think the chefs marinated and cooked the ingredients beforehand and put it into the pasta before serving. This is brilliant as it keeps the dish interesting with every bite. Very nice :)


The second entree for the night was the teriyaki chicken and hot spring egg pizza. This is different from western pizzas as it had no cheese. It's a flatbread topped with teriyaki chicken, mayo, shredded seaweed, spring onions and a wobbly half-cooked egg in the middle. It looked really appetizing.

The trick to eating this (I think), is to break the egg and let it spill over the pizza. This will make it like a sauce for you. In our case, I just used the chopstick and swivelled it all over. It looked even better than before! The teriyaki chicken was succulent and sweet, balanced by the combination of the rest of the toppings. The spring onions gave a fresh taste to the pizza too. Of course, the best moments were scooping/wiping up the egg with the bread! Delicious :)


By this time we were kind of full, but the dessert menu looked so tantalizing we had to give it a try. We decided on something called Macha Cha on the menu, but Macha Macha on the receipt. Weird. But definitely nothing to do with your Indian brother though. It's this tower of green tea jelly in milk, topped with cornflakes, green tea ice cream, red bean paste and whipped cream. I was a bit skeptical about the cornflakes at first (har, so cheap ah?), but it turned out surprisingly well. You get very different textures and tastes as you work your way down the glass.
We also had hot chocolate, which was again different from what you get at other establishments. It was slightly bitter and not loaded with milk/cream. So you have a lighter drink that is still flavourful, and it leaves a dry finish on your tongue. Not bad huh?



So in summary - I Like. Very Much :) What they serve is really different and refreshing from the plethora of western, Italian, and oriental joints out there that offer mostly similar fare. The quality of the food is good, the service is quite nice, and price is reasonable. This is east-meets-west done really well. Fusion is fun. I have a feeling I will be back there again very soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Parpadelle with Prawns & Basil

I was contemplating something light for a late lunch last Sunday, but was too lazy to line up in the heat to take away at my local joint. So I dug up stuff from the kitchen and came up with this:

4-5 bundles of parpadelle (you can get a box of Barilla's from Carrefour or other hypermarts)
1 clove garlic
As many prawns as you like
Some basil leaves
1 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
Salt & pepper to taste
Put the parpadelle in boiling salted water for about 4-5 minutes. In the meantime, clean and remove the shells from the prawns and chop up the garlic. Heat up a pan with some olive oil (or if you're lazy like me, drain the pasta and reuse the pot). Keep some of the pasta water for making the sauce. Fry the garlic until fragrant and throw in the prawns. I threw in some basil leaves too. Once the prawns start to turn colour as they cook, put in the tomato puree and some of the pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Give it a minute and then put in the pasta. Stir to coat the pasta with sauce. Plate, garnish with a few basil leaves and serve.

This dish took just 10 minutes to prepare, and the best thing about it is that I'm already reaping the rewards of having my own basil pot! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The recent general elections have been a real eye-opener for me. As with the rest of my fellow Malaysians, I was in shock and awe at the sheer scale of the opposition's victory. In some states, even the tables were turned; the opposition is now the ruling goverment, and the previous goverment is now the opposition. How incredibly unprecedented. And how historic it is that we have finally made that first, important step towards a 2-party government. A government that has better conscience, and leaders who serve the people instead of protecting the interests of a select few.

We are no longer held back by fear, and we have transcended the barriers of race and religion to achieve the same goals. Malaysians have certainly come of age, and more importantly the coalition has shown (for now) that the country can have a multiracial/multireligious band of leaders working together for a higher cause. I hope that this will be the path to councils and goverments that are truly merit-based; leaders who are right and able to do the job irregardless of race or religion.

Much has been said, printed and blogged on about the elections and the huge array of statistics that come with it. Numbers, facts, rumours and analyses can be discussed to no end. But the one thing that struck me the most, and that really opened my eyes is this word - Power.

Power of the people
This election has been one of, if not the most significant and crucial elections in the history of Malaysian politics. Long have the people suffered in silence, stifled without a true voice in the parliament to demand for their rights and to scrutinize biased bills/policies/laws that benefited few and caused anguish to many. But now everyone has had enough. People have banded together to achieve a single aim; deny BN the 2/3 majority it has held for decades. In each individual's mind, the aim was simple and clear. If they vote for the opposition, there will be a chance. If they don't, then nothing might happen at all. A simple aim, but collectively, it's absolutely amazing how this has translated into such immense power and influence. The sum of all parts is definitely greater that its components. I think now Malaysians have realized that as citizens we hold real power, that we can decide who we want our leaders to be, and that we can influence and make changes for a better future. As we come of age, we must also mature and learn to use that power effectively and wisely.

Power of the media
Besides the swing of votes, the one other thing that has changed tremendously this time around is the access to media. Where previously we relied solely on the television and newspapers, the campaigning and results were largely dominated by text messaging and the internet. In fact, the results were circulating throughout the technosphere much faster than traditional media. While BN were very visible on the papers with their achievements, the opposition were in my opinion much more savvy, using the internet to its fullest potential while still reaching the masses with their ceramahs. With the proliferation of blogs, webmail, social networking sites and instant messaging, the opposition had the power to reach out to so many potential voters that traditional media can't. Coupled with the fact that the more tech savvy voters out there are of the younger generation who are better educated, I think this made another decisive factor in the results. This generation is more exposed to world issues than ever before, and they are more opinionated as a result. They will not take mere words and marketing blindly when it comes to political issues. The new generation of voters is a completely different beast, and I think BN has failed to realize that fact.

Power to act
The coalition now has the muscle to push for real change and voice out the plight of the public. They now have the power to ensure transparency, improve welfare and do away with corruption. No doubt, all these are not issues to be resolved overnight, but there have been some encouraging indicators with the push for open tenders and a Freedom of Information Act. Let's hope that there will be better news to come. The coalition has been elected by the people to be their proxy; a chance to act on their behalf ; a chance to walk the talk. If they do it right, the people will continue to support the cause and be right behind them. Else, we will just be back to square one in the next elections.

Now is the time for the coalition to prove themselves to be the right choice. It is time for real work and real battles to begin; the elections is just a start. It won't be easy, with no shortage of obstacles and it will be a big responsibility. But that's what you get with power.

Syabas Malaysia, and all the best to the stewards of a new dawn!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Herb Project: Basil

I've been trying to experiment with growing my own herbs from those sold in small packs at the supermarket. I heard that you can root them by just cutting and putting the herbs in some water, not unlike how you'd put your flowers in a vase. Sadly, both my naive attempts ended in clumps of dead leaves.

So I started looking for potted herbs, but they were quite hard to find. I finally got my hands on some basil last weekend at a higher-end supermarket chain. Whee!

It's quite small and fragile at the moment, but I'm hoping it will grow and be the first nice plant in my planned herb garden!

If anyone knows where to get other types of potted herbs please let me know! :)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

To curse without cursing

A friend of mine thought me this, and I found it really funny, hehe. Next time you feel like scolding someone in Hokkien but don't really want to curse, try this phrase:

"Lu lao bu sai skuter long tiao!!"

Translation: "Your mother ride scooter langgar tiang!!"

Hokkien is such a colourful dialect. :)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roast Pork (Siew Yuk)

Tried experimenting with siew yuk yesterday with a recipe I found on the net. I'm a bit lazy to jot down the recipe, except to say that the ingredients are so simple. All you need is good pork belly, five-spice powder, quite a bit of salt and vinegar.

The recipe first called for scalding the skin with a boiling vinegar and water mixture. I don't know why this needs to be done, but it did firm up the skin and seemed to help remove the moisture together with the salt.

Marinade the meat with the five-spice powder and salt for at least 2 hours. Score or pierce the skin and rub a generous amount of salt on it to remove moisture. This will help make the skin into crackling. Pop it into a 180°C oven about 1/2 hour and you'll see the salt crystallize. Remove them and roast for a further 1/2 hr or until the skin bubbles up and turn crispy. Rest and serve.

Fresh from the oven, resting...

After some deft knifework and a bit of garnish...

Nice and juicy...

Crispy pork!

The best part was cutting the meat. A good measure of siew yuk is how crispy the skin gets, and it was such a nice 'shyok, shyok' sound that reached my ears while I was chopping it into bite-sized pieces. Ahh..heavenly!
p/s: If anyone can explain about the vinegar, please let me know!