Fish Amok and Angkor Beer, Phnom Penh

For all those of you who’ve been wondering why it’s taken me a month to post anything on the blog, I was backpacking through Cambodia, experiencing the beauty of their temples and culture, their gruesome history, meeting fellow backpackers and interesting residents…. And most importantly, experiencing food and ale. Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing a lot of posts on my travels in the hope that it inspires you to get out of your homes and go see the world.

When I arrived in Phnom Penh, my first question to the tuk-tuk driver was regarding what the local ‘must-have’ dishes were. Something that he and a few other folks recommended was a dish called the Fish Amok. Needless to say, my first stop before going anywhere was to head to a restaurant to try this out.

Food doesn’t go without a decent ale for company. As I waited for my dish, I ordered a mug of the Angkor Beer. With a bright golden colour to it, this is a light bodied lager with no particular aroma, except that of the grain. The beer lost carbonation very easily, not much of a head and was quite bitter in taste. Except for the price point of 75 cents, the beer was a mere thirst quencher for the sultry weather of Phnom Penh. While the vacation wasn’t off to the greatest of starts with this beer, the food was yet to come. I had a lot of hope pinned on this dish.



Fish Amok is a classic dish from the Khmer region (now known as Angkor) and is probably the only prominent cuisine style in Cambodia. The cuisine is largely based around meat and ingredients found nearby lakes and rivers of the region. This would include fish, pork, snails, shrimp along with limes, lemongrass, coconut, mangoes and chilli. Beautifully capturing all these elements, the Fish Amok I had championed lemongrass spectacularly. Both the aroma and flavour of lemongrass put together made me salivate as I quickly clicked pictures before I gorged through the dish. 




Served in a banana leaf, the bite-size pieces of fish (I wasn’t able to understand what fish it was when the waitress told me) had a lovely lemongrass, coconut and kaffir lime flavour on the outside with the natural flavours of the fish coming through on the inside. Dressed with a light chilli on top, I got a mild hit as the fish went down my throat. The flavours started to intensify as I went through the dish as the bottom had a higher concentration of the curry paste. Accompanied with plain boiled rice, this dish hit the spot immediately.

Here's a quick video review - 


I tried out various versions spice of this dish throughout my stay, each with a slight difference in terms of more coconut, or gravy or spice. This version, at the On the Corner le resto du coin in Phnom Penh, located on the river front, was my favourite. 

The Mango Mailbock at Arbor Brewing Company

I had about 20 mins to spare while at Garuda Mall, so I popped into Arbor Brewing Company India to try out the Mango Mailbock.

My quick review - While the beer lacked the mango aroma of some of the other mango-beers I've had recently, the after taste of mango lingered for a fair bit.I was expecting this fairly malty beer to be on the sweeter side, but it seemed to be held back by the hops. Overall, enjoyed the body, had a lot more expectation of flavour.


Too bad the person behind the bar told me about the mango-themed menu after I had ordered some grub. Going through the menu, I felt the beer and the food might have paired off wonderfully and complemented one another. Look forward to the 'Smoked Summer' (Another mango flavoured beer) which should be out by next week.

Leffe Blonde

Sunday evening’s IPL final had me opening this bottle of Leffe Blonde, a Belgian-Style Blonde Ale     ( also categorized as ‘Abbey Beer’ , as I read later on) from InBev Belgium. This smooth and medium bodied beer offered a lovely golden colour with a relatively light malty aroma. The head was a little over two fingers when I poured it into the glass. In terms of taste, I found this on the sweeter-fruity side with a mild bitter after taste, almost like a bitter orange, followed by spicy notes, probably cloves, as it went down. With an ABV of 6.6%, this was fairly easy to gulp down. While I didn’t have any food to pair this with, I’d probably pair it with some nice red meat, like lamb, from the barbeque. I’d definitely recommend you pick this up from your local store and give it a try. If I had to rate it, I’d give it a 7/10. Cheers!


The Boxing Cat Brewery, Shanghai

Inspired by my conversation with another fellow food blogger/beer enthusiast, I’ve decided to add microbreweries to my list of places to visit when travelling and attempt to develop the taste buds to differentiate between good and average beer. For my trip to Shanghai, the Boxing Cat Brewery was on the top of my list. Reviews online gave this an excellent rating for both food and the beers.


Located in the absolutely gorgeous French Concession in Shanghai, Boxing Cat is a lovely little microbrewery which gives you a total feel of chilling on some cold beer on a holiday. Built with (the now very common) brick and bare bones interiors, this place is ideal to kick back on a weekend afternoon with friends and catch up over a game. Since I was by myself, I was given a small table on the outside, on the street; but that was fine because I was blessed with fabulous weather that day. 




I kicked off my meal with a plate of wings aptly named Fist of Fury. A house specialty, this dish comes with 12 absolutely spicy tangy wings with a buffalo style sauce. They were not joking about how spicy these were, every bite made my lips burn just a little bit while the tanginess just took over my mouth. Giving this brilliant contrast and some relief was the blue cheese dressing on the side. While the dressing was very mild compared to other blue cheese, it was the ideal match for these tender spicy wings. Giving the wings company was the Sucker Punch Ale. This light beer had a very mild fruity taste to it and I was glad that the waitress recommended this as a pair. Overall, everything just went excellent with this meal. The spice of the chicken, with the blue cheese, interspersed with a light fruity beer made it a memorable meal.

Fists of Fury

Sucker Punch Ale

I was quite full after belting away on the wings and was torn between doing a main course and keeping no space for dessert or with heading straight to a dessert. Such are the troubles of a food enthusiast with no company. I chose the latter. And like the flip of a coin that goes your way, I was glad I chose the dessert. I chose the Snickers Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel sauce. If that didn’t make you drool, take a look at the picture below.

Snickers Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Sauce
In my limited career as a food blogger, this dessert ranks among the top three I’ve had. Those who experiment with food know the familiar feeling of putting a spoon into a dessert, grabbing that first bite and experiencing what heaven probably tastes like. This was one of those desserts. Without being overly sweet, the snickers, the dark chocolate and salted caramel came together and had a little orgy in my mouth. I was making fairly obnoxious noises as I worked my way through the cake; the waitress came up to me and commented that I really seem to like the cake. (Which was a polite way of telling me to stop making the other customers uncomfortable with all the grunting and sighing).  With just the right amount of saltiness, this dessert knocked my socks off. If I ever go back to Shanghai, I’m going back to eat just this. What made it even sweeter was that I didn’t have to share this with anyone.


I washed down my meal with a helping of a bitter, high alcohol content beer called the TKO IPA. While the colour was lighter when compared to the Sucker Punch, the taste was heavier. With a mild citrus after taste, the beer left a fresh taste in the mouth and set me up for the rest of the day. 

TKO IPA


Unfortunately, I am but one man. So I couldn’t have either tried more food or drink more beer. I did put Boxing Cat on my list of a place for a second visit should I have had more time during this trip. Alas, I had to leave content with my pictures and memory of the fabulous dessert. If you’re ever in Shanghai, do not miss going to the Boxing Cat Brewery. It is a little pricey compared to other restaurants I visited, but the experience is worth the extra money. Also, don’t forget to take a friend along so that you could divide and conquer.

Food Mood: Biere Club turns 4 years old

The Biere Club on Lavelle Road completed four years on the 20th of April. An anniversary is always a good time for change, and they've done just that. A few weeks ago, some of the other bloggers and I were invited for a sneak peak of the menu that would be introduced post the place turning four years old. Having moved away from their traditional Mediterranean cuisine, Biere Club’s new menu focuses more on small eats and finger foods. This makes complete sense considering their star performers are the beer and most folks coming there are looking for grub to accompany the same. Our hosts for the evening were Shaun Kenworthy, Director F&B of Biere Club, and Vishal Nagpal, Director of Biere Club.




Besides sampling the various beers available that evening, we kicked off what was going to soon become a wild evening of eating and drinking with a helping of Pizza Samosas. These mini-samosas are to die for. With a filling that tastes like pizza, and more importantly oodles of stringy cheese, this dish is the perfect accompaniment for any beer. Every blogger fell in love with this dish instantly. This was followed by another superb veg starter, the Corn Curd Salt n Pepper. To me, it was a twist on the better known Dahi Kabab with a delicious curd and corn filling on the inside. Another perfect accompaniment with any ale. 

Pizza Samosa


Corn Curd Salt n Peppar

The next round of starters moved along with a serving of Asian style cottage cheese skewers with Thai peanut dip. This was a very simple dish and the name pretty much says it all. I personally found it to be a bit bland. That may be probably due to the two scrumptious starters from before. But that was soon forgotten when they brought out the Chicken with peppers, chilli and coriander. For those who love spicy Indian food with their drinks, this is a must have. The portions are quite neat and convenient to eat. I really enjoy how both these starters were served in the tea glasses one would find in their local chai adda.

Asian Style Cottage Cheese Skewers with Thai peanut dip

Chicken with Peppers, Chille and Coriander

We also got a helping of hummus, but with three varieties of the same. This was accompanied by a Rava fried fish and chips. I’m a bit on the fence on this one. I enjoyed the taste, the crispiness, the presentation, but am not entirely sure why it doesn’t fall into my list of recommendations for the place. Fish lovers can try this twist on the London Fish n Chips and see if it catches their fancy.  We also had a helping of the spicy Pork vindaloo with pav

Hummus Trio

Rava Fried Fish and Chips

It was at this point the evening got really fun because we began some serious drinking. We all had a helping of beer with Kahlua shots which hit a lot of people. Veterans like yours truly were still standing. Shaun Kenworthy took it upon himself to ensure everyone was adequately sozzled and ensured a variety of shots were served at regular intervals. We tried everything from the Biere Mojito to the stout float to the Biere Sangria and more. I personally enjoyed the Stout Float. Soon enough, most of us were having a good time. Some more than others. These drinks were accompanied with various starters including the Prawn Chettinad and the Mutton Pepper. I’m always partial to prawns and thoroughly enjoyed the former. 


Shan Kenworthy brings on the shots

Le Sozzled Bloggers

Prawn Chettinad

We also sampled some of the main course of which I tried Beef stroganoff with steamed rice and the Massaman chicken curry with steamed rice. A big plus point is that the main courses are served in small helpings rather than in large quantities. This is ideal for the crowd at Biere Club who are mostly full on booze and appetizers. This was a good move and shows that the restaurant understands their customers really well.

Beef Stroganoff




The final chapter – desserts. I’ve been actively trying to cut down the amount of sugar I have by eliminating it from coffee, tea, avoiding desserts and more. I’d like to thank the folks here for making me break my resolution by offering me a helping of Biere battered bounty bars with ice cream. I tried my best to resist, but alas. No one ever denies themselves fried bounty bars. As expected, the one bit I took filled my mouth with a fabulous sensation, amplified owing to the lack of sugar in my diet. Don’t miss out on this. We were also offered a Sticky date and toffee pudding and a Knickerbocker glory, which I avoided.

Biere Battered Bounty Bars with Ice Cream

This was definitely one of the more memorable blogger table meets I’ve been to in ages. Everyone had a great time thanks to the great hospitality of the folks at the Biere Club. I think I’m definitely going to enjoy the new menu. I’ve always enjoyed the ambiance of the Biere Club, and really enjoy the fact that they play retro pop and rock which is more my style as compared to most of the new age techno stuff. With the new menu in place, I’m looking forward to a lazy afternoon with friends where we’ll have some beer, good food and sing along to the music. Do head over the Biere Club and check out what are your favourites on the new menu.

Food Mood: Aperitivo Evening with Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Bang at Ritz Carlton, B'lore

I was recently invited to an Aperitivo Evening sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro at the Bang located at the Ritz Carlton. This was the first time I have been to the fabulous venue here and simply loved everything about the location. Towering over the centre of Bangalore, the venue was apt for an evening of fine Peroni beer along with some fabulous Italian appetizers. I also got to take look at some of the art work by Shola Carletti, an Italian painter and sculptor. My knowledge of art is limited to doodles and comic books, so lest I come across as a philistine, I’d better not comment on the same. 




As far as the appetizers go, Chef Anupam had put together an excellent fare. I really enjoyed this little starter made out of duck and fig. The little pastry had three distinct flavours as you bite through. The immediate flavour is that of the fig. This slowly gets replaced by the taste of the duck and finally the taste of the pastry. I also enjoyed an appetizer which had a prawn over a shot glass, the contents of which were beer and tomato extract. The shot itself wasn’t strong, but the taste complemented the prawn excellently. There were numerous other appetizers that evening. An excellent end to the evening was the Tiramisu which was made fresh and left a fabulous taste in the mouth.  Overall, it was a fun evening of meeting people, copious amounts of Peroni beer, great food and great music. Here are some pictures from the evening.

Chef Anupam (center) with fellow food bloggers Natasha and Nitin










Food Mood: Beer Master Class at Four Points by Sheraton Bengaluru Whitefield

It was the start of another fabulous evening, courtesy the nice folks at the Four Points by Shertan Bengaluru Whitefield. However, it was a little different this time. Besides being invited to be a part of their Beer Master Class at their Best Brews Bar, I was staying the night over. Being a business hotel, it made sense for us to get the true business feel of coming in straight from a busy day at the office in the middle of the week, unwinding and heading back out the next day. The last time I stayed at a Sheraton property was way back in 1991 at the Sheraton in Lagos. Clearly, I was super-thrilled.

We checked in at around 6:30 in the evening. When I entered my room, I had to try very hard to act my age and not use the bed as a trampoline. A quick shower and we began the facility tour by around seven, led by Mr.Rajesh Malliya, the GM at the hotel. It was nice to see the hotel choosing to promote the vast and beautiful heritage of Karnataka through all the artwork. Every room had a custom portrait over the bed depicting various places in Karnataka. The rooms themselves are quite spacious and adequately stocked to meet the needs of business travelers. Pictures at the end of the post.

Now onto the fun part that you've all come to read on this blog. The Beer Master Class was a workshop of sorts where we were allowed to sample various beer-based cocktails and accompaniments that were also cooked in beer. Driving the cocktails section of our evening was Karl Fernandes, who entertained everyone with little stories of how he made the cocktails. We started off the evening with a Beer Kazi. Made in a snifter glass, the Beer Kazi was a refreshing drink with a distinct flavour of coriander, accompanied with vodka, lemon juice and of course, beer. The Beer Kazi is a great drink to be had even as shots.

Beer Kazi

Beer Kazi
The second cocktail for the evening was the Summer Drummer. Tasting almost like a modified Cosmopolitan, the drink had watermelon, cranberry juice, and peach syrup and was topped with beer. Served in a tall glass, this cocktail was not my favourite as it was too sweet. While Karl did try to be a little cheeky saying that it was a ladies drink, the women that evening vehemently disagreed.

Karl Fernandes

Summer Drummer
The third and final cocktail for the evening, my favourite, was the Citrus Oak. The concoction contained whiskey, the dominating taste of orange juice, a little bit of lemon juice and was topped with beer. What I really liked about this drink was the fact that it wasn't overly sweet and you got all the flavours of the beer, orange juice and whiskey at the same time. Needless to say, I had a fairly good share of the same. This is the one I would recommend for anyone heading to the Best Brews at Four Points.

Citrus Oak
A quick note on the decor at the Best Brews - the ambiance is very laid back, almost retro. A lot of the art work on the walls depicts life of Bangalore from the 70's. The lighting is warm and makes you want to sit back and try out all the brews while munching on some local savouries that are quite popular in smaller joints.

Best Brews

Om nom nom nom

Fried Prawns
Now to the food. The first dish was prepared by Chef Mangilal Kurly. The Dahakte Jhinga was my favourite dish of the evening. A spicy dish of jumbo prawns marinated in a ginger and garlic paste, accompanied by beer was cooked in a hot pan and served on a sizzler plate. After this, the prawns were flambéed with brandy. You’d think that the amount of alcohol would actually make you high, but the taste of beer hits you very mildly. I loved this dish and could have spent the entire night just munching on those juicy prawns.

Burning in Brandy

Dahakte Jhinga
Next up was Chef Michael Swamy, who besides being the host for the evening's Beer Master Class, made a very neat Meen Varuval (fish), again cooked with beer. The fish was marinated in egg, ginger-garlic paste, lemon and coriander powder. Fried well, the fish had a nice crunchy feel to it, but I loved the prawns way more.

Chef Michael Swamy with his masterpiece

Meen Varuval
Karl was kind enough to whip up another batch of cocktails for everyone before we went to dinner. We also got a second helping of the prawns which was a clear favourite. We retired to the Four Comfort Beds post dinner. All those lovely cocktails, prawns and fish gave me one of the best night's sleep I’ve had in a long time.

Don't you just want to jump on that bed?

Idea for my living room

Simple super reception
We checked out by around ten in the morning after a lavish buffet breakfast put together , aptly titled 'For the Love of Great Breakfast' . I made my way to work in a really good mood which made my boss worry if I was going to leave for greener pastures. Little did he know that I was thinking about the fab Dahakte Jhinga from the previous evening and that I was all fresh and rested for another long day at work.

Food Mood: Punjabi by Nature

I made my first visit to Punjabi by Nature last weekend and was quite impressed with the food. The restaurant is very well spread out and has seating arrangements both inside and outside. Despite being located near the fairly busy Diary Circle road, very little noise travels into the restaurant.

 The troupe and I arrived there a little after 1:30 in the afternoon and considering Bangalore was having a good weather day, we decided to sit outside. A major annoyance as we took our seats was the fact that the outside area was infested with flies. Those pesky little creatures have the ability to destroy even the best dining experience.

 In under a few minutes, we had to request to be moved indoors as we couldn’t take it anymore. While there were no flies inside, we were witness to leaky air conditioning at a lot of points, forcing the staff to keep empty ice buckets to collect them. The beautiful interiors were reduced to shame thanks to poor architecture.
Luckily, those were the only two sore spots of the afternoon and we quickly forgot about it once our food arrived. The waiters were extremely courteous; they knew the menu card and made some very good suggestions on what we could eat. Punjabi by Nature also has its own microbrewery. We stuck to beer all afternoon as the taste was quite good. The mead and the ale especially stood out.

Beer
We started with the Kastoori kabab and the Dahi ke kabab. The Kastoori kabab was a nice spicy chicken kabab that complimented the beer real well. It came with a small helping of a tangy carrot salad which really accentuated the taste. Coming covered in a layer of egg whites, the kabab was grilled almost perfectly and left a nice spicy taste in your mouth. 

Kastoori Kabab
The high point was the Dahi ke Kabab, which as the name explains is a vegetarian kabab made out of curd. The cool taste of curd occupies your taste buds just as you bite into the mildly spicy exterior. Apparently, available in the northern parts of India, this was my first exposure to the dish and I simply loved it - a must-have at Punjabi by Nature.

Dahi ke Kabab
Before we hit the main course, I felt adventurous and tried the Golgappa Shots. These golgappas are your traditional ones, but have vodka mixed in with the jal-jeera water. While I had only two of them, the combination of spice and liquor hit me almost instantaneously. This is one for the more adventurous folks who visit.

Golgappa Shots
Our main course was fairly simple which consisted of a Paalak Paneer, Daal Makhani and a plate of Chicken Sheekh Kababs. The true nature of Punjab is summed up in this meal. The entire meal was delicious and extremely heavy on the tummy. The daal was well cooked and the chef was not frugal with the makhan at all. While some found the Paalak Paneer to be spicy, I rather enjoyed the taste. The Sheekh Kababs were very tender and heavy at the same time. We had these along with some Indian bread which were quite large in size. Pretty soon, most of us were overcome by the richness of the meal and had to considerably slow down our pace. (That might have been just me) The servings of food here were quite good and even had enough left for me to parcel and take home.

Daal Makhani

Chicken Sheekh Kaba

The lunch ended with a simple yet heavy and delicious Hot Chocolate Fudge. Besides the traditional vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, the sundae also had chocolate brownie and roasted nuts to add flavour.  I’d definitely recommend this. I suggest sharing it with another person thanks to the size of the sundae. 

Hot Chocolate Fudge
Overall, besides the flies and the man-made interior waterfalls, the food and experience at Punjabi by Nature was excellent. The waiters were courteous and never made us hurry through. It’s a great place to catch up with friends over some beers and kababs. Located near the Bak Bak Bar, opposite the Forum Mall, Punjabi by Nature is a pricey establishment. A typical meal for two would come up to at least Rs.3000. The servings are good and the food is rich, so I suggest you had better skip the previous meal before heading to Punjabi by Nature. 

Food Mood: Breakfast in Goa

These pictures were taken when I was on vacation in Goa. I know it's a Monday morning, but more than the breakfast, the accompaniments are what I miss in this Indian summer.

American Breakfast
Chicken and cheese Club Sandwiches

Heineken

Corona
Bhaaji Pav

Tea
PS: Yes, we did start drinking beer with breakfast.