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Toronto Gems: Fried apples, Milk tea, House-made pita

1 Jan

Happy new year! Not only is this my first post of 2014, but also my 100th post! What could I write about to make this post extra special? Such pressure…So I thought I’d share some gems I recently found in my hometown.

1. Fried Apples.

No, this isn’t some redneck deep fried apple you might find at a deep-fryer party, beside some deep-fried Twinkies. In fact, the English name doesn’t do it justice. In Chinese, these are “silk apples.” At Asian Legend (505 Hwy. 7 East, Thornhill, ON Canada), they are apple pieces fried golden brown, brought to your table along with sugar syrup, and a bowl of ice water. The server coats the apples with the syrup, and then dunks the pieces into the ice water.

apples in ice water

The sugar caramelizes over the tender apples pieces, forming a delicate, crunchy layer. If prepared exactly right, you’ll see thin sugar strands on the apple pieces, like silk.

IMAG1285

Silk apple

HK iced milk tea2. Milk Tea.

Not too far from Asian Legend is Marathon Cafe (155 East Beaver Creek Road, Richmond Hill, ON, Canada), the home of award-winning Hong Kong-style milk tea. If you go in the summer, try the iced version. Absolutely smooth!

Marathon Cafe

3. House-made Pita.

In Toronto’s downtown core, Paramount Fine Foods (253 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, Canada) is a Lebanese restaurant that makes the largest, poofiest, pita bread I’ve ever seen.

Paramount - pita

Dip it in mousakaa – a delicious combination of grilled eggplant, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and chickpeas mixed in a tomato sauce. Or, wrap the pita around crunchy falafel and top with tahini.

falafel (Paramount Fine Foods)

Lebanese Cusine in Kuala Lumpur: Al-Amar

30 Dec

I had initially wanted to dine at a street-level, local restaurant in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle district, but was turned off by questionable cleanliness standards – I wasn’t sure my North American stomach could handle it. I ended up stumbling upon Al-Amar in the shiny Pavillion Kuala Lumpur mall. Only later did I find out that the restaurant has won awards in the Time Out KL Food Awards in the past four consecutive years and is ranked in the top 20 of over 1000 KL restaurants on TripAdvisor. It may very well be Kuala Lumpur’s best Lebanese restaurant.

Our meal kicked off with complementary pita bread served with olive oil and spices for dipping.

Pita

Kebbeh Kras is a delicious hot mezze: minced meat, onions and pine nuts are stuffed in a ground beef and bulgur wheat shell, and then fried. The shell is crispy on the outside, reminiscent of a falafel. The only thing that would have made this dish better would have been a bit of cool cucumber raita.

Ground beef fritters

Lamb Mechwe is a platter of 3 large grilled lamb skewers marinated with spices. The lamb pieces are served between two large grilled pita, and topped with onions.

Lamb kabobs

We also ordered the half grilled chicken, which was marinated in a garlic lemon sauce. The portion was equally as large – three large sheets of pounded chicken served between grilled pita.  Unfortunately, the chicken was not de-boned, so it was a bit challenging to eat.

The Final Word: Al-Amar serves large portions of delicious, marinated meats in a spacious and elegant dining room. It’s a good place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Address: Level 6, Pavillion, 55100 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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