Friday, 28 August 2015 Food Review: RGB and The Bean Hive @ Jalan Damai, KL.

"I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee."
~Flash Rosenberg-

RGB  and The Bean Hive is another one of those establishments I have heard of in passing but had hitherto no plans of visiting until I downloaded a KindMeal voucher for it.

I decided to stop by for a Sunday brunch on my way to volunteer at the SPCA one Sunday morning, and invited Aravind along. We drove right past the inconspicuous white bungalow which houses the restaurant as there was inadequate signage to distinguish it from the other residential homes in the quiet little area. I would suggest to the management that they improve signage, especially if they hope for more drop-in customers.

Juxtaposed against KLCC and other iconic skyscrapers in the background.

Unobtrusive and unassuming though the exterior of RGB & The Bean Hive may be, it was certainly not unknown among what I assume must be a loyal and regular clientele of mostly expatriate patrons. A queue had already formed at the counter although it was only 11 a.m. when we arrived.

The interior of the restaurant is utterly charming, and the smell of good coffee being brewed filled the air as I sniffed appreciatively.

The clean, uncluttered restaurant is filled with lovingly curated artwork and vignettes and felt most welcoming and cheery.

As we queued up to place our orders, I noticed that they have many organic and vegan products for sale, including chocolate bars and eco-friendly merchandise such as reusable coffee cups and coffee presses.

The menu surprised me further with its range of vegan offerings, including burgers, cakes and ice cream. Why have I not heard of this place before, and why don’t they advertise more eagerly and enthusiastically to the growing vegan and vegetarian community in the Klang Valley?

I used my KindMeal voucher to order a Hearty Har Har burger and ice lemon tea set, while Aravind ordered the aglio e oglio and an iced latte. We also ordered vegan ice cream – coconut for me and peanut butter for Aravind – since it was a Sunday and all.

We secured ourselves an indoor table due to the heat, despite the fact that the outdoor seating area looked a lot more attractive. Service was fast and pleasant, and the service staff was attentive without being smothering.

A credenza in the corner of the dining area placed extra cutlery, condiments and sauces within easy reach. Aravind believed it was important to have unobstructed access to tabasco sauce, and was happy to be able to help himself to it without having to ask a waiter to bring it.

Our drinks arrived first. Aravind’s iced latte (RM11.00) tasted as good as it smelled. Proper coffee, lads, none of your instant just-add-hot-water nonsense. My iced lemon tea was strong, refreshing and tart, the way a good lemon tea should be, and not syrupy and artificial.

Aravind’s aglio e oglio (RM15.00) consisted of angelhair pasta, sundried tomatoes, chili-infused olive oil and parsley and came with a side of salad. He sampled some and declared it ‘rather dry’, and then realised that he had forgotten to stir it up. Well, duh! It was one of the best aglio e olios I have ever tasted, with generous amounts of sundried tomatoes. The fine strands of angelhair were coated generously with spicy olive oil, and were delicious paired with the sundried tomatoes and garlic. It was light on the tastebuds and stomach, yet utterly satisfying.

The salad consisted of coral lettuce, grated carrots and toasted sunflower seeds tossed in balsamic vinegar, and tasted crisp and clean with just the right amount of sweetness and tartness.

My Hearty Har Har burger set (normal price RM21.00, with KindMeal voucher RM15.00) consisted of a sweet potato, bean and pecan patty served in a bun with a side of fries, although the Kindmeal deal voucher stated that it would come with a side of salad.

The burger patty was sweet, with a hint of cinnamon, and reminded me of the sweet potato pies so popular in the American south. It came with avocado relish, tomato slices and fresh alfalfa sprouts. It was surprisingly good, although there were just too many starches on a single plate. I’ve always believed that good vegetarian food entails a variety of fresh vegetables and less grains, starches and processed ingredients. Although alfalfa and tomatoes are excellent additions to the burger, I wish they had given me a side of salad, which would offset the heaviness of the combination of starches. I eyed Aravind’s salad jealously and managed to sneak some of it, not that he minded.

I know this is a really First World problem to have, but there were so many starches on my plate that I felt like I was going to morph into a tuber myself. I am diametrically opposed to food wastage, so I doggedly continued munching on the interminable pile of fries while muttering “Potato!” under my breath exasperatedly. I teach English at a community centre on Mondays, and the best thing about teaching 9 to 10 year-olds is that their favourite curse word is “Potato!”, as in, “You big potato!” So yes, potatoes to you, and potatoes to me, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for food on my plate but I really wish I had been given salad instead.

The attentive staff brought us our ice creams next. At RM7.00 a scoop, these homemade ice creams are rich, dense and delicious, despite being dairy-free.


My coconut ice cream had a slight nuttiness and crunch to it, while Aravind’s peanut butter ice cream was the perfect balance of sweet and savoury.

Fragrant and flavourful without being excessively sweet, our scoops of ice cream were the perfect way to finish off a relaxing Sunday meal.

While not inexpensive, dining at RGB & The Bean Hive is the kind of weekend treat you want to give yourself. There are many items on the menu I am eager to try out, and the coffee alone is enough to draw me back for a return visit.

The casual dining atmosphere is unbeatable, and I hope to return when I am not in a hurry so that I can browse the collection of books in the reading corner. I spied vintage board games as well and would love to come back with a gang of friends for a leisurely weekend brunch.

Families with young children are made to feel very welcome as well, as a bright and cheerful play area has been set up to entertain the young ones. You know, so you can cultivate an appreciation for good food in your children while keeping them active and occupied ;)

I’d give this establishment four stars out of five (yes, I know I am picky), and would raise the rating to four and a half stars if I had been given a salad instead of fries. Viva la veggies!

RGB & The Bean Hive
35, Jalan Damai, Off Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Opening Hours
Mon - Fri: 8am - 5.30pm; Sat - Sun: 9am - 6pm
+ 603 2181 1329

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Letter to the Editor: Construction of EKVE will have disastrous consequences


It is with dismay and disappointment that right-minded citizens greeted the news that the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) had given its approval for the construction of the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) today (The Star, 20th Aug 2015). This proposed expressway project would have far-reaching consequences that go beyond the boundaries of Ampang and would adversely affect the water supply and air quality of Selangor residents, as well as destroy and fragmentise wildlife habitats.

The decision of the council, which brushes aside the entirely valid concerns of citizen action groups, environmental organisations and the scientific and conservation community, makes a mockery of the concepts of transparency, democracy and participation in Local Agenda 21, which the municipal council and state government claim to be committed to.

It has often been reiterated that the Ulu Gombak and Ampang forests, which the EKVE will cut through, are vital carbon sinks and water catchment areas. The destruction of even a part of the Ulu Gombak and Ampang forests will result in more dry spells and poorer water and air quality for Selangor residents.

Furthermore, once the state government has gone down the slippery slope of forest degazettement, it will find it easier to justify the degazettement and destruction of a wider and wider area, and inadvertently create opportunities for unscrupulous developers, vandals, poachers and profiteers to enter into, plunder and destroy previously inaccessible forested areas.

The aforementioned forests are also part of the Selangor State Park, gazetted with the objective of protecting air and water quality, biodiversity and local climatic stability. The state government’s readiness to degazette a state park does not bode well for the future of other remaining green lungs and forested areas in Malaysia.

Proponents of highway construction often rely on the argument that highways will alleviate traffic congestion and thus ultimately improve the quality of life of residents and reduce carbon emissions. This logic is ridiculous, because the solution to the problem of traffic congestion is not to build an ever-increasing number of roads and highways, but to improve the public transport system and improve road safety for public transport users, cyclists, and pedestrians in order to encourage people to choose alternatives to private vehicle ownership. We have the infrastructure for an efficient public transport system in Malaysia, but not the political will to make the system reliable, punctual, convenient and safe. Improving road safety and the public transport system will use less public funds and take less time to implement than constructing more highways and roads.

Since the parties concerned have already given their approval for the construction of the dreaded expressway, any objection at this point may be purely academic.

There is apparently a list of conditions drawn up by the Drainage and Irrigation Department, Public Works Department, and MPAJ’s Planning Department to be adhered to in the construction and management of the said expressway. It is hoped that these documents will be made available for public viewing, and there must be a check-and-balance system to enable citizens to determine compliance with these measures and provide feedback on the same.

If the state government is adamant about proceeding with this expressway project, on behalf of all concerned citizens, I request that at least these environmental impact mitigation measures are considered and implemented:
1. That fences, barriers and wildlife corridors (underground or overhead) be constructed to allow safe passage for local fauna;
2. That filters, ideally helophyte filters, be utilized to control and manage toxic runoff from the paved substrates into the soil and waterways;
3. That a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule be established to prevent waste and debris from entering into waterways and forested areas;
4. That construction materials be sourced locally, and as much as possible, from reclaimed and recycled materials to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction project; and
5. That the project incorporates design elements such as solar-powered lighting and the planting of indigenous trees to act as a noise-absorbing wall along the expressway.

It must be admitted, however, that compliance with all the above requirements is still a weak substitute for scrapping the expressway project altogether. The haste with which approval was given, and the betrayal of trust by the authorities when they had previously assured the local residents that the Traffic Impact Assessment would be made available to them, reflect poorly on the state government, contractor and agencies involved in this controversial expressway project, and raise concerns that the parties concerned will just bulldoze through with this project with equal disregard for human residents and the natural environment.

All state and national efforts to encourage and reward environmental sustainability and citizens’ participation in public interest matters amount to nothing more than greenwashing and lip service if projects that cause significant and irreversible harm to the environment such as the EKVE are approved with such outrageous haste and recklessness.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Wee Green Flat Mini House Tour


 "Our house is a very, very fine house/
 With two cats in the yard/
 Life used to be so hard/"'

 ~ 'Our House', by Crosby Stills Nash and Young

I moved into the Wee Green Flat in June, but put most of my home improvement and decorating projects on hold when poor Shadow fell ill and later crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge.
I am just grateful my cats and I have a safe, comfortable, healthy place to call our own now. This is as much their house as mine. I'm just sad Shadow didn't get to enjoy it for long.
I've always wanted to own and create a living place filled with plants, cats, natural light and ventilation. Buying and moving into the Wee Green Flat fulfilled this dream, and my goal of having my own living space that is energy and water efficient.
So far, my energy and water use have been so low that both bills are subsidised by the Federal and state governments respectively as part of governmental efforts to encourage environmental responsibility and conservation. I practice the 3Rs, I have a composting system, I use solar lighting and I am growing my own vegetables. My home is decorated with beloved items that tell my story.
My surroundings are filled with trees, plants, birds and fresh air. A stream runs behind my low-rise, walk-up flat. I swim in the pool every week but haven't had the inclination to use the gym in the clubhouse. I have time for leisure, exercise and entertaining. I love having friends over. My friend Karen lives a few doors away and we meet often to share a meal or carpool to activities. Friends drop by on the weekends. I've hosted one of our Malaysian Nature Society branch committee meetings in my home already. I am finding home ownership to be a life-changing and empowering experience.
My home is still a work in progress, but then again, my life is also a work in progress. Still, I am happy to conduct a mini house tour of where I live.
These photos show what the interior of the flat looked like before:

The previous owners left behind most of their larger pieces of furniture as they were moving abroad. I decided to keep and reuse a number of them, but gave away the rest to charity. I called up Pertubuhan Amal Seri Sinar, a registered charity, to pick up the bed, couch, dressing table, and a number of other items. The previous owners didn't paint the walls either, so although the walls are reasonably clean, they are just a thin coating of chalky white primer over hurriedly-done plaster skim. As you can see, the original interior wasn't terrible, in fact it's quite clean and pleasant and the kitchen cabinets and stove are practically new, but it didn't have personality. It was all brown and beige and looked mass-produced. It didn' tell a story. I needed a space that tells my story.

This is what my apartment pool area looks like.

View from the clubhouse cafeteria.

A little stream flows from the neighbouring forest reserve past our apartment blocks and the pool area.

My minimalist living room. Obviously there is no TV set, because if I had one, this would be known as the Dying or Wasting Room, not the living room.

Cat-friendly, cleanable armchairs.

Katniss cleans herself next to my T-Bolt.

Recognise the artwork on the wall? This is a selection of my Postcrossing postcards!

No screens allowed. Talk to each other! Read a book! Have a drink! Play board games! Try solving some of these indigenous rattan IQ puzzles!

Board games, puzzles and Jenga, for when friends come over.

Toy bins full of vintage toys from my childhood, to occupy young children who visit so they won't harass my cats.

Pix gets comfortable on the window seat.

I used the TV bench left behind by the previous owner for book storage. I spruced up and repainted some of the pre-loved furniture and gave away the rest.

My minimalist Reds bedroom.

Informal dining area, with preloved furniture spruced up and dressed up to play along with my veggie theme. I saw the veggie poster online and knew I had to have it although it cost a bomb. And the capsicum tablecloth was part of a shop display and I convinced the shop to sell it to me. I'm sorta kinda obsessed with vegetables in case you couldn't tell.

I saw this huge poster of vegetables on PopChartLab and knew I had to have it, it is SOOOO ME. So I had it shipped across an ocean and framed and now it tells my veggie-loving story in my entryway/dining area.

Minimalist guest room. With an empty storage tub that just won't fit anywhere.

The storeroom/cats' room. Previous owners left the sideboard cabinet behind, so I cleaned and fixed it up and used it for storage. I store most of the things I need for volunteering here, so there's an SPCA Bag, an MNS Bag, a Reach Out Bag, a Teaching/Reading Programme Bag etc. Window ledge was added for the cats.

The storeroom/cats' room. Although the cats actually rule the entire home. Two of the boxes hold Green Living's documents, equipment, educational and display materials and merchandise. I possess very few unnecessary things, and a quarter to a third of the things in my home are held for and on behalf of the organisations I volunteer for.

The back balcony with the laundry/storage area. The veggie garden is still a work in progress. On the advice of my bestie Nic, I acquired a rack to put my potted plants on in the laundry area in order that the plants get more sunlight. Hope this works!

My little citrus-themed kitchen. It looked really dull and beige before so I washi-taped the edges in fun citrus colours. That's Mini-Me on the cookerhood and it's okay, I wipe down the tops of the cabinets and cookerhood every night.

The lighting is all yellowy and weird and my camera angles are always a bit off centre but here's the apron corner in my citrus-themed kitchen. Dog apron, cat handtowel. So me.

My wee citrus-themed kitchen, with a sunny lemony motto.

I actually have a designated bento drawer.

Find the hidden cats in the Wee Green Flat! Both items are gifts from friends and the ginger cats unexpectedly match.

Thank you for coming on a house tour of the Wee Green Flat.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Food Review: Medifoods Lifestyle Café

I have been eating very well for a very reasonable sum these days, thanks to It is also thanks to them that I discovered restaurants and cafés serving exceptional food that I would not have otherwise discovered on my own.

Medifoods is a chain of retail outlets, restaurants and lifestyle cafés with a strong emphasis on natural, organic food prepared with the advice and endorsement of nutritionists and dieticians. It currently has outlets in SS18 Subang Jaya, Sime Darby Medical Centre, Sri Damansara and SS2 Petaling Jaya. While it is not vegetarian/vegan, its menu does have a commendable variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices, and these are clearly marked with colour codes and symbols for ease of reference. 
My friend Karen and I dropped by the outlet in SS18, Subang Jaya, one rainy weeknight after downloading the discount coupon from Karen had skipped her yoga class to join me, and we arrived around 8.30 p.m., half an hour before closing time, yet the restaurant staff treated us with nothing but courtesy and patience. At no point did they hurry us or do the usual rude-Asian-restaurant-thing of switching off the lights or sweeping up a dust storm around our guilty munching faces.

The restaurant from the outside.
The outside of the restaurant is warmly-lit and welcoming, with an entire ecosystem of tropical plants to provide shade, privacy and oxygen. There were many younger professionals and college-age patrons in the outer dining area, while a gaggle of senior citizens filled the inner dining area, joyously singing a series of classics and thus providing us with dinnertime entertainment.
The retail section offered a large selection of organic and natural products, including non-toxic, biodegradable household cleaners and personal care products, dry food, fresh fruits and vegetables and locally-produced eco-friendly goods.

A wide range of organic foods and household products.

Fresh local produce for sale.

Ever the frugal consumer, I spotted several bargains and stocked up on organic goods and household products while waiting for our food to arrive. As I was waiting to pay for my purchases, I noticed that the lady next in line was holding merely a carton of organic eggs, and so I asked the cashier to let her go ahead of me. The said lady thanked me, paid for her goods and was about to leave when she overheard me replying to the cashier that I do not have a membership card. She then offered to have my purchases rang up under her membership account to entitle me to a 10% discount, for which I am very grateful. While this incident might not have its place in a food review, it does indicate the kind of clientele Medifoods has, and the sense of community it fosters and encourages.

Stocking up on organic and local products.

For our entrees, I ordered the Curry Mee Hoon while Karen ordered the Vegetable Mushroom Herbal Soup (i.e. vegan Bak Kut Teh), as the Hakka Lei Cha was sold out before our arrival. For our appetiser, we ordered the Thai-Style Bamboo Fungus Salad.

The Thai-Style Bamboo Fungus (RM8.50) is a cold appetiser prepared with onions and chillies in a spicy, sweet-and-sour Thai sauce. The mouth-feel of bamboo fungus (whose unfortunate scientific name is Phallus indusiatus, and I cannot even say it without cringing or grinning) is uncannily similar to chicken feet or fried pork skin, both common ingredients in Thai salad. It has the same puffed, chewy, rubbery texture, and this would have made me shudder in fright after years of plant-based eating, but the fungus tasted reassuringly light and lacking in any gamey smell or flavour. It also soaks up sauces particularly well, and as a whole, this dish is successful in reflecting the tangy, spicy complexity of Thai cuisine.


The Curry Mee Hoon (RM13.90) arrived next in a bowl big enough to swim in. Rice vermicelli, eggplant, long beans, tau pok (fried hollow tofu puffs) and enoki mushrooms were steeped in a fragrant santan-free curry that was surprisingly spicy and thick. It was clear from the first bite that the curry base did not come from a paste or boxed mix. It was like South Indian curry, with all the pieces of cinnamon, cardamom and star anise still sitting in the bottom of the bowl. The vermicelli and tau pok were a good foil for the spiciness of the curry, and the vegetables added flavour and crunch. Karen found it too spicy, so I polished most of the curry off, as it didn’t have the heavy, cloying effect of coconut cream-based soups.

The Vegetable Mushroom Herbal Soup (RM13.90) is an almost clear broth of herbs, cabbage, spinach, carrots, mushrooms and tau pok, served with a bowl of signature Medifoods rice, which is basmati cooked with lentils and millet. The soup tasted significantly milder and lower in sodium that the vegan bak kut teh I am accustomed to from the food courts. If you are not a fan of the overpowering herbal flavour of the average bak kut teh, this is the soup for you. The natural sweetness of the cabbage and carrots really shone through in this soup. Personally, however, I find that this soup does not have the depth of flavour of most bak kut teh soups, although it is still admittedly very palatable and wholesome.

What Karen and I liked about the appetiser and both entrées is that we obtained our five-a-day of vegetables in each dish, and all the dishes are low in fat and sodium, but packed with nutrients and flavour.

Karen's herbal sugarcane drink.

My ABC (Apple, Beetroot, Carrot) shots in a bucket of ice. Looks deceptively like watermelon juice, doesn't it?

To wash it all down, Karen had the sugarcane herbal drink (RM3.50), while I had the ABC shots (RM9.50). My drink came in shots of unsweetened and freshly-blended apple, beetroot and carrot juice in 3 glass test tubes chilled in a cup of ice. Beetroot formed the dominant flavour, which I have no complaints about since I do like beetroot. (I love all vegetables, so this really isn’t saying much, is it?) The apple and carrot provided a hint of tart sweetness, and the drink was altogether very refreshing.
We used the KindMeal voucher to obtain a 30% discount, and were pleasantly surprised to find that our bill came up to merely RM34.50, less than what we would have paid for a less satisfying meal in another restaurant.

I took a photo of the interior of the restaurant at closing time, which does not do it justice, as it was virtually packed at the time of our arrival. Apart from ala carte meals, the restaurant also has a buffet of dishes to go with rice, i.e. mixed rice.

With a name like ‘Medifoods’, I had expected the food to be blander and milder-tasting than what I am used to, but thankfully the use of spices, vegetables and natural plant ingredients made up for this.  
 4 stars out of 5.
 Worth skipping yoga class for.
 Medifoods Lifestyle Café and Store
 SS18, Subang Jaya
5, Jalan SS 18/6, Subang Jaya, 47500 Petaling Jaya
 Business Hours: Mon - Sun: 7.30am to 9pm
 Phone: +603-56325714, +603-56365338