Tag Archives: tea

Eating in Kuala Lumpur: Murtabak & Teh Tarik

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I didn’t know what to expect from Kuala Lumpur. Multiple friends described the city as unwelcoming, difficult to navigate, and unremarkable. More than a few people looked perplexed when I told them I would be visiting KL.  Luckily for me, the skeptics were wrong.  While KL is not the most picturesque city, and does not have many conventional tourist destinations, it has a rich blend of cultures that is perhaps best experienced through its vibrant cuisine.

Malaysian food reflects its diverse cultural heritage: it has the sweet-sour flavors of the Malay, paired with the wok-frying techniques of the Chinese and intoxicating spices of India, all of which combine to create a truly distinct cuisine.  And despite mounting ethnic and religious tensions, there is one unifying characteristic that transcends these differences: Malaysians love to eat.  No matter what time of day, every restaurant, street stall, night market, and kopitiam is full of customers, happily devouring the house specialty.

One specialty that I still dream about is murtabak — a less well-known cousin of Malaysia’s more famous breakfast dish, roti canai.  Murtabak is a paper thin wisp of a pancake, fried until crispy and light.  But unlike roti canai, which is dipped in curry, murtabak envelops a spicy-cumin filling of ground mutton or chicken, eggs, and onions.  It’s served with a rich coconut gravy and red onions pickled in rosewater, which provide much-needed relief from the murtabak filling, whose heat grew more intense with each bite.  It was my first meal in KL, and perhaps one of my best meals there, perfectly encapsulating the many cultures and flavors that define Malaysia and its cuisine.

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Another ubiquitous Malaysian specialty is teh tarik, or pulled tea.  Sweet condensed milk and black tea are pulled back and forth between two glasses, creating a pleasantly frothy concoction reminiscent of chai, minus the spices.  It’s available hot or iced at pretty much any restaurant or street stall, and every version tastes different.  Though I did not witness the acrobatic display that is mamaks (a.k.a. tea masters!) pulling teh tarik, it is a hallmark of daily life in KL — so much so, that it inspired a hipster local clothing line.

Excellent murtabak and teh tarik can be found at Restoran Fathima (10, Jalan Bangsar Utama 1, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur 59200), located on a quiet corner in the expat friendly Bangsar neighborhood.  The restaurant is no-frills and unassuming, which in my experience, signals a good meal is in store.

KL is not for the faint of heart, or for travelers expecting guided tours.  But those who are willing to venture off the beaten path and explore Malaysia’s diverse culture and cuisine — preferably with an open mind and empty stomach — are in for many rewarding experiences and epic meals.

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Song Fang Maison de The: A Lovely Teahouse in Shanghai’s French Concession

Possibly my favorite place in Shanghai, Song Fang Maison de The is a lovely teahouse in the French Concession featuring premium Chinese and French teas.  The teahouse is a labor of love from owner Florence Sampson, a Paris native and longtime Shanghai resident.  Every detail, from the vintage tin cans lining the shelves, to the old-fashioned Chinese bird cages hanging from bamboo rods on the ceiling, to the elegant floral patterned cushions, adds to the charm and whimsy of the shop.  You certainly pay a premium for the tea, priced at 40-70 RMB per pot, but it is certainly worth it for the quality of the tea an sheer loveliness of the shop.   

Partly because I am pressed for time, and partly because Song Fang is so pictureque, I will keep the descriptions short and let the photos speak for themselves. 

Song Fang’s signature tea tins 

Third floor seating area. 

Song Fang features both a Chinese and a French tea menu.  The above photo is of the Chinese tea set, with naixiang oolong cha.  The tea was very aromatic, with some floral and even milky notes.  My friend and I absolutely loved the tiny tea cup and the adorable frog ceramic teapot.   

The French teas are served in whimsical Western-style teaware.  I enjoyed the China Blue tea (60 RMB), a pleasantly fruity white tea with coconut, blackberry, and orange.  My friend and I also shared a slice of freshly baked peach cake (40 RMB), which was light, buttery, and utterly delectable.  

Despite the fairly steep prices, Song Fang Maison de The may be my favorite teahouse in Shanghai.  With its charming setting, high quality teas, and knowledgable staff, Song Fang is definitely worth paying a premium for.

Song Fan Maison de The
227 Yongjia Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu
永嘉路227号, 近陕西南路
Shanghai 200031
(86 21) 6433-8283

Dim Sum (and then some) Happy Hour

Ping Pong Dim Sum opened on Saturday (12/12) in Chinatown and from the looks and tastes of things, it’s off to a great start (review will be posted shortly!). If you want to sample Ping Pong’s delectable dim sum at a discounted price, stop in on Tuesday 12/15 between 6-10pm for lots and LOTS of specials. These include: $5 Ping Pong specialty martinis, $4 beer, and $3 baked puffs, char siu buns, prawn balls, spring rolls, and more. See Ping Pong’s Twitter for more details.

Ping Pong Dim Sum

900 7th St. NW (behind PS7’s)

Washington, DC 20001

(202) 506-3740