Pahang Adds Sizzle To Verona Restaurant Scene

(Review published on Baristanet on Sept. 24th)

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As someone who was born in Malaysia and has widely traveled and eaten her way through Southeast Asia, I was delighted to hear a restaurant called Pahang, after Malaysia’s third-largest state, had set up shop on Bloomfield Ave in Verona. With readers asking to know more about it, I was only too happy to oblige, even as I appreciated the surrealism of the task – little-known Pahang (plucked out of Malaysia), in the thick of Verona (ditto, out of Italy), in New Jersey. A neat microcosm of the three continents I’ve lived in. Serendipity? No matter, I was ravenous.

First, some context. Pahang the state, which comprises one million ethnic Malays and indigenous people (known as Bumiputeras), is also a fifth Chinese and seven percent Indian – factors which hugely shape the spicing and variety of the state’s cuisine, and of Malaysian food in general.

The visit to Pahang restaurant was a nostalgic one for me culinarily; for objectivity, I brought along a born-and-bred New Yorker friend who lives in Montclair and, thank goodness, was as motivated as I to find another Asian-food winner in the area. We had recently risked life and limb on Rt 10 to visit Penang on East Hanover, only to come away somewhat let down by our choices that day.

So, with renewed appetite, we walked into the cantaloupe and avocado-themed tropical-style interior of Pahang, which has been open since May, having parked easily across the restaurant and bought ourselves an hour at the meter for a mere 25 cents.

We made no reservations for lunch, indeed the restaurant was quiet, being as it was a Monday. More food for us then. I ask if we can have smaller portions as it was our first visit and as we were eager to try a number of dishes. Beyanka, the chef’s cheerful wife, politely obliged.

Perusing the impressive lunch and regular menus, we notice an entire section with several pages of Japanese food, including sushi, wraps and salads. As keen on Japanese as I am, I focus on the cuisine relevant to the restaurant’s name.

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We start with Roti Canai (pronounced cha-nai) – an Indian-inspired flaky bread which also goes by the name of prata, served with chicken curry. This is typical of street food in Malaysia and Singapore, and I felt it could be a benchmark of things to come. The bread was perfect, hot off the griddle, light and fluffy, not greasy, and the tasty chicken curry had tender chunks of the bird in it. Big thumbs-up there. (more…)

September 27, 2009. Tags: , , . Asian, Chinese, Restaurants, Reviews, Stories. Asian. Leave a comment.

Dulce, Church St’s Own Sweet Spot

(Written for Baristanet, Sept 21, 2009. Click on the title for the original post)

It all began in Northport, a little village on the North Shore of Long Island, when two sisters and their mom began a weekly tradition of walking to the local penny candy store, each child clutching a dollar in her fist, ready to stock up on whatever their hearts desired.

“We were raised in a way that we were never denied anything, although we were encouraged to eat healthily,” says Diana Tripoli, co-owner of Dulce (which hails from the Latin dulcis, meaning sweet), the candy store on Church St in Montclair that’s been open barely a month. “This was such a treat for us, a fun outing, a tangible reward that tasted great and we were also excited by the visual aspect of it.”

That passion for the sweet stuff continued into adulthood, so much so that the comely Diana and her sister Melissa, four years her junior, decided to recreate that piece of their childhood.

“A year ago, we had this idea of opening a quaint candy store like what we grew up around in Northport. We always liked Montclair and thought it was perfect – it’s pretty, full of families, it’s a walking town and there’s a unique shopping experience here,” said Diana.

They scoped out various possible locations for a store and waited for the right opportunity.

“We wanted a space that was the right size, not too big or small,” says Diana. “Then, we lucked out with this space and when it came up, we jumped on it.”

With a weakness for sweets and attractive visual arrangements, I was drawn by Dulce’s lime and aqua window display, with the triple vases of faux rock candy, well before it opened. With a few weeks of business under their (trim) belts, the Tripoli sisters said the response to their store, in the same building as Clearview’s Clairidge Cinema on Bloomfield Ave, has been nothing but positive.

Apart from a location that guarantees regular foot traffic, Dulce, which is decked out appealingly in a shade of retro teal, is a store that has something for everyone.

Said Melissa, radiant with a six-month baby bump, “We source our candy from different wholesalers and retailers across America, from Ohio, Long Island and California too, to get the best variety.”

Apart from the contemporary plain or filled chocolates, hard candy, lollipops and gummies, Dulce is chock-full of sugarfree, gluten-, dairy- and nut-free candy, and a whole ream of nostalgic sweets such as 5th Ave candy bars, Wax Lips, Gold Mine gum, Chick-O-StickMallo Cups, French Chew Taffy and Mary Janes.

My two sons, who don’t eat candy too often (due to their mom’s debilitating penchant for the stuff and temptation avoidance), are already fans, and my older son sent me along to Dulce with a request for almond-filled milk and dark chocolate. He wasn’t disappointed. Although I’ll have to drum up the courage to tell him I’ve finished the lot.
(Photos and slideshow/Bernadette Baum)

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Dulce
17 Church St,
Montclair
973.509.2221

(All text and photos or images are copyright protected. Please do not reprint any stories, recipes or photographs without the author’s permission.)

September 24, 2009. Tags: , , . American, Musings, Reviews, Stories. Leave a comment.

Melon Soup (Recession-Friendly)

So I copped out on the chicken soup and matzo balls this year. What can I say, it’s a recession and I couldn’t countenance wasting an entire carcass for what would have been, no doubt, a tasty soup. Besides, the butcher was long on non-kosher sausages and short on chicken bones. Instead, I reproduced a soup I came up with a few weeks earlier when I found myself with two voluptuous melons fast ripening and fast stinking up my kitchen – this is what melons do if you haven’t room in your fridge for them – and had to find a non-wasteful way of using them up. (more…)

September 21, 2009. Tags: , , , . Autumn, Festive, Jewish, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian. Leave a comment.

Moist and Majestic Honey Cake by Marcy Goldman


I chanced upon this recipe for honey cake, a traditional sweet for the Jewish new year, while perusing the web nearly ten years ago, amid unhappiness with the dry and otherwise uninspiring offerings I have had the misfortune of plastering onto my hips. The recipe, which yields the most addictive batter which later transforms into a mouthwateringly moist and majestic cake, is by Marcy Goldman.

While I make some adjustments to it, I love the fact that you can basically add all the wet ingredients together, then the dry, and the final result is almost always the same – stunning. Friends interested in knowing these adjustments will have to enquire Indoors, especially after our guests last night thought it was the best honey cake they’ve had. This was no doubt helped by the fact that I accidentally (honest) poured into the cake my husband’s prized select reserve Glenrothes single malt. Oops.

Click here for the key to a sweet year. And thank you Marcy!

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September 19, 2009. Tags: . Baked Goods, Cakes, Desserts, Festive, Jewish. Leave a comment.

Rosh Hashana 5770


A sweet and happy new year to you all! It’s the first day of the ten High Holidays of awe in the year 5770. A friend sent me a joke saying the Chinese year is 4706, meaning the Jews had gone without Chinese food for more than a thousand years, a period known as the Dark Ages 😉

Pomegranates are traditionally eaten on the second night (tonight), as they are a new fruit, and supposedly contain 613 seeds, the same as the number of commandments in the Torah. I don’t know if you’ve ever ascertained the truth of this, but I gave up on the pommy after digging out 15 seeds with a spoon. Not the easiest thing, especially after chopping up a vat of lamb and several fridgeloads of veggies. With luck, I’ll have more patience with those commandments. And hopefully some feeling will return to these fingers soon.

Stay tuned, the New Year honey cake comes next!

Check out this gorgeous and extremely large salad our friends Josh and Emily brought round last night, which stars pomegranate seeds that they dug out with grace 🙂


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September 19, 2009. Tags: , . Festive, Jewish, Rosh Hashana. Leave a comment.

Lemon Curd Loaf Cake

Today was a sunshiny lemony sort of day, you know, one of those pleasant days filled with happy events even though it’s practically rained for all of it. It started with me tumbling out of bed too early, forgetting about having a Saturday lie-in, and deciding to (lemon)squeeze in a 3-mile run on the treadmill. Quick shower later, I ran to catch the bus to NYC to meet a dear friend, one of the bright sparks of our 3.5-year sojourn in Toronto. Despite the gray skies, the view of the NYC skyline put a smile on my face. However many times I see it, like an idiotic tourist, I am wowed.

Meanwhile, my husband and two boys hit the neighbourhood bookstore (takes us 30 seconds to get there on foot), where, would you believe it, Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, is doing a reading. Him Indoors was clearly more excited than the boys as he regaled to me later how Julia asked him to play fox to her mouse in a mini dramatization of her book. Meanwhile, I had coffee, cake and chat with good old Corinne, as the boys and hubby traipsed off to meet Buzz Aldrin at Books of Wonder on West 18th St. I met them there and decided against popping in to say hello to the Nasa hero, who has been more Fuzz Aldrin lately (as in lost in space). I prefer to remember him as he was in his heyday.

Back at the ranch and still abuzz from the day’s events, I brew a pot of tea and feel the need to bake. It has to be a loaf cake, and has to be lemony. I decide to add pizazz to a basic loaf cake recipe with lemon zest, juice, curd and candied peel. It was tempting to add poppy seeds but that will have to wait for another time as I couldn’t recall when I’d bought the packet I found in my larder. Nothing worse than adding ingredients of dubious date-of-origin (no expiry date to boot) to an otherwise sunshiny cake with fresh ingredients.

At this stage (pre-baking), the plan is to top it off with a lemon-infused cream cheese and whipped cream frosting, lightly sweetened, over a layer of lemon curd – will decide later (it might only need a dusting of icing sugar) as one doesn’t want to gild the lily.

Okay, this is 50 minutes later, the cake looks amazing! I will allow it to cool and go for the curd and cream frosting. We had it after dinner and it was so moist, warm and lemony, with a lovely crunch on top, where I’d sprinkled some caster sugar before baking. I thought the children would find it too citrusy but no, they wanted seconds. And thirds (denied). Perfect end to a perfect day.

  • eggs, 3, large,
  • butter, 2 sticks
  • sugar, just under a cup
  • baking flour, 2 cups
  • baking powder, 1 tsp
  • lemon, zest and juice of
  • lemon curd, a few tablespoons
  • candied lemon peel

  1. Preheat oven to 360F, 170C
  2. Cream the butter and sugar till white and fluffy
  3. Add the lemon zest and eggs, beat further
  4. Slowly add, in alternating tablespoonfuls, the flour (earlier sieved with baking powder) and lemon juice, till well combined
  5. Stir in some candied lemon peel
  6. Pour half the mixture into your loaf tin
  7. Spoon some lemon curd over, then add the other half of the cake batter
  8. Bake for 50 minutes or till skewer comes out clean
  9. Top off as you wish – with frosting, lemon curd or powdered sugar
  10. To make cream frosting, pour some whipping cream into a bowl, whip till stiff, add two tablespoonfuls of cream cheese and more lemon zest and a dash of sugar. Pour onto curd.

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September 12, 2009. Tags: , . Baked Goods, Cakes, Desserts, Musings. 4 comments.