Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Penang once more...

While there, we also made a beeline for Peace & Joy coffeeshop located at Lebuh China. This distinctive building, houses to me, one of the best curry mee stall. The boss was rather generous with the toppings made up mainly of beancurd skin or "tau pok", cuttlefish, cockles and best of all, pigs blood.

Noodles were cooked right and the gravy was not milky with enough spice and Ooomph...!!!Add the sambal for more kick and to give a refreshing twist, mint leaves was added which gave it another dimension. Try it...

This trip was partly about curry mee and we made a trip to another stall located at Lorong Seratus Tahun just off Jalan Macalister. There we had a bowl of curry bee hoon which was also loaded with the same toppings as the one at Peace & Joy.

Though the gravy was a little diluted compared to the previous one, the sambal was simply fantastic. Adding a dollop of it made a world of difference to the dish, one can tell that a lot of effort was taken to slowly cooked the sambal giving it that deep color and a spicy fragrance which to me can be called a "poor man's XO sauce" Thumbs Up for the sambal!!! I would say that if I were to add this sambal to the curry mee at Lebuh China, it would be the best combination...

While happy after breakfast, we decided to take a stroll along Chowrasta market and soak in the atmosphere, the walk took us all the way to Lebuh Keng Kwee and the cendol stall. This time though, we tried the stall that's opposite the famous teochew one. To my surprise, it was so much better than the famous one that everyone recommended. The green strands of cendol was springy, not mushy with better flavor and texture. Somehow, the dark palm sugar was also more fragrant and I must say, one must not be blinded just because the other stall is highly recommended. I was a culprit of this and I would now change my vote. Give this stall a try and you will know what I mean...

With our stomachs filled, we took a leisurely stroll to our hotel and checked into our room.

Rested and refreshed, we headed straight for Ah Teik durian stall yet again, this time for the long awaited "Ang Hay" or aptly called "Red Prawn". Even though it's the short season towards the tail end, the durian was still good.

The flesh was tight, sweet and creamy, followed by a dose of bitterness and a prolong finish with a hint of alcohol. It's really wonderful, my vote for the King of Fruits...!!! While there, we also tried another that's called "butter" which Ah Teik recommended and to my astonishment, it really tasted somewhat like butter.

The flesh was thick, really creamy like how you would taste butter except that it's sweet and milky. The creaminess can be a little overwhelming so take your time to appreciate it and I would likened it to having a really thick "milkshake".

Fabulously sweet with a short finish, another wonderful specie. The durians here tasted and smelt so much fresher due to the close proximity to the plantations and Penangnites truly has an edge when it comes to good quaity durians...

After a short rest and chat with ah teik, we took a short walk across to Lorong Selamat, towards Cafe Heng Huat for Char Koay Teow.

There, we were greeted with a coffeeshop full of customers waiting patiently for their noodles. We managed to find a table and placed our order. Be warned, the waiting time is easily half an hour so order a drink, chat and wait. When it finally arrived, the plate of koay teow smelt so good, loaded with the usual prawns, cockles, bits of lard and chives.

The noodles was fried to perfection, with what I called "wok hai" or a slight burnt smell due to the use of charcoal and the intense fire. It's been years since I last tasted such a wonderfully "controlled" fire plate of char koay teow. Nothing more said, the description ends here... My personal vote for the best char koay teow in Penang!

While in Penang, these are the other food we've tasted and recommend, the "chee cheong Chok" or "mixed pig innards" porridge, the cuttlefish and kangkong salad, roast duck stall outside new lane coffeeshop, where the duck is flavorful and succulent.

The dessert stall that serves equally good almond tea and the stall that sells kuih ketayap. All these stalls are located along New lane, just off Jalan Macalister. Staying at Sunway hotel, these stalls will be of easy access.
If you still have the time or stomach, take a walk to Cafe Kek Seng along Jalan Penang and try the Lor Bak.

Though not as well known as the one further up at Cafe Kheng Pin, this stall serves it equally well and the rolls comes with tender pieces of pork. Try also the chicken wrapped in beancurd skin. Not forgetting also, the "tau sar piah" at Him Heang along Jalan Burmah is a must get for some people too...

Till the next review, eat well and be happy...!!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mediterranean affair and its food

Visiting Greece and its wonderful islands was something we wanted to do but its food was no lesser than its sights... Towering over the city of Athens is The Acropolis and hidden in a street corner, we had wonderfully grilled pork chops at a taverna called Telis, at the corner of Epikourou and Evripidou street. As with all Greek grill places, the pieces of meat were grilled to perfection over hot charcoal, remaining succulent and juicy with a nice hint of the coal accompanied with a load of fries. We also ordered a plate of greek salad, where for the 1st time, we were greeted with a generous slab of feta cheese served on top of the salad, drizzled with olive oil and a good sprinkling of herbs. Together we washed it all down with a carafe of house wine. Not to be missed if you are in Athens...

If you like coffee, give the Frappe a go, this is the favourite of the greeks apart from greek coffee. Here, the Nescafe is blended with water till foamy then ice added to make it a cold and refreshing drink. Be warned, the greeks have theirs with lots of sugar. This is a cheaper and good alternative to an espresso or cappuccino.

While making your way to Plaka, stop by Thanasis Restaurant for a hearty serving of Kebabs or Souvlaki. This establishment is a local icon located along Mitropoleos Street at the end closes to Monastiraki station. The chicken souvlaki is grilled to perfection, juicy and well seasoned served with an abundant of fries.

If you like kebabs, try the beef kebabs, its done like an indian shish kebab, minced beef around a skewer and grilled over charcoal.

Order the full portion if you are a big eater, 4 kebabs together with fries and pita, its sure to fill you up... Order some Tzatziki or spicy cheese dip to go with your meal.

While enjoying the sights and shopping around Plaka, make a beeline for a taverna called Peristeri, on Patroou street.

For a first timer like me in Greece, the friendly owner made me feel at ease and the food was good too. As with most taverna, you can choose the dishes from a display inside the shop. We had pork in red wine sauce and potatoes, grilled whole bream, roasted eggplants and a basket of bread that was welcome, we used it to soak up the gravy from the pork dish.

A bottle of super cold coke each rounded up the meal. Good local home-style cooked food.

Another good place to eat is Thespidos, to locate this place, walk along Kydathenaon street past Adrianou and climb the steps, its on your right side, at a quiet location that you forget you are actually in the city. Sit outside next to the ruins of ancient Athens, close to the Acropolis. The fried cod fish was suggested by the owner and it was wonderful. Fried to golden with the just the right amount of seasoning. The sausages were good too, slightly spicy with herb seasoning. The owner was surprisingly friendly and stood by the table to chat while we were there.
If snacking or having a pie is something for you, head on to this pie place called Ariston, close to Voulis street.

The range of pies available here is astounding and you will see the locals queuing to get their share. The filling was substantial and moisture just right that will not make the skin soggy. The pastry is wonderfully light and not oily too.

As tourist, you'll be spending most of your time in and around Plaka, Monastiraki and along Athinas street to Omonia Square. Tavernas are scattered all over and in the area of Psiri, where it's up and coming, you'll find Platia Iroon. A cosy place that serves nice grilled octopus, the tentacle is very tender and comes served with a salad.

Try the moussaka, where layer of lamb though too much for me is layered high just like the italian lasagna. The lamb pot is good and is well complemented with the boiled vegetables where its cooked till soft and a little soggy.

Try the Rakimilo, which is hot raki with honey. Nice drink for a cold autumn night.
To me, a must visit if you like lamb chops is a place called Taverna Tou Psiri, it's packed nearly every night with people going for the lamb chops and like any taverna, check out the dishes on display inside. The eggplants and salad are really good too. The lamb chops were so good, we had 2 servings and all washed down with a carafe of red wine. We were even offered fruits after our meal... Bonus.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Penang Calling...

After thinking for sometime to visit Penang, we finally made the trip for a short food escape. Arrived early and headed straight to Sin Kim San coffeeshop along Jalan Macalister for Hokkien Mee. This is one of the best I've tasted, the soup is rich and flavourful, served together with bee hoon and round yellow noodles loaded with prawns and a good splattering of fried shallots. This time round, we also tried the Lor Mee which was surprisingly good, the chili and garlic added gave it another dimension. Noodles were cooked to perfection and the toppings, as usual were rather generous with slices of pork belly and fried coutons. Recommended to try it at least once if you're in Penang...

After unloading our bags at the hotel, we headed for Jalan Penang and towards Cafe Kheng Pin, located at the corner of Jalan Sri Bahari and Jln Penang, where locals will go for their Lor Bak.

The wait is quite long but patience is a virtue for good food isn't it... The mix plate of Lor Bak is served with beancurd-skin wrapped pork rolls, fried tofu, spring rolls, squid and slices of cucumber together with chili and sweet dipping sauce. The pork rolls was so good that we had a second helping to satisfy our craving. At this coffeeshop, Wantan mee is also a good dish to try, noodles cooked to al dente, smothered in black sauce and served with a generous topping of BBQ pork, mushroom and wonderful morsels of wrapped mince pork called wantan.

If your stomach permits, try the chicken rice too...

Feeling satisfied with a good helping of Lor Bak and noodles, we took a stroll and made a detour for Toh Soon cafe, off Lebuh Campbell for coffee and toast. Sitting by the alley, it's reminiscence of the days gone-by where coffee and toast are prepared using charcoal power. The ice coffee was potent and very aromatic.
The bread was toasted in an unorthodox manner, under the hot water where the ambers of the coal are, giving it a nice burnt smell of yesteryear's...!

A generous spread of Kaya or coconut jam onto it with butter and served.Under the hot sun, it's just awesome...!!! Try it, a must stop for good coffee, toast and some nostalgia...

Good food will always have a place in my stomach, we next headed for the Teochew Chendol stall, located on the side to Joo Hooi cafe.

Even with another stall directly opposite competing with them, the locals and tourist will still flock to this one. The chendol is done just right, a little springy and "lemak" in taste. It's served in a bowl together with a heapful of red beans, coconut milk, palm sugar and crushed ice.

My only grouse is that the red beans used are the big ones instead of the small and mushy ones which I prefer. All else, it's another hit for us.
When in Penang, you can't miss the Assam Laksa, with every turn, you will see stalls selling this dish but the discerning one I like is located along Jalan Penang at Kek Seng cafe, also the home of the durian ice kachang.

The sourish and slightly pungent gravy with shredded pieces of fish is poured over thick rice noodles with lettuce, mint leaves, thin slices of pineapple and most importantly, a spoonful of "Hay Kor" or shrimp paste is mixed in to complete this dish. The rice noodles served here is springy and its literally like the long version of "bee tai mak". After laksa, a durian ice cream topped ice kachang can't be omitted.

Colored syrup drenched shave ice with mushy red beans, multi-layered agar agar, corn and milk complete this dessert. A wonderful combination to end your meal at this venue.

As night falls, a visit to Gurney Drive food corner is something tourists and locals will do. As it's becoming more touristy, the vendors are charging more and serving smaller portion. With that said, one of the stall we like is the Pasembor or indian rojak, where you select things like, fish cake, cracking coutons, prawn cakes, potato just to mention a few. The vendor will then cut it into bite size pieces serve with a generous peanut based sauce accompanied with chopped cucumber.

Another stall to try is the Best fruit rojak stall, located next to the Luo Han Guo drink stall. Here, you'll get a plate of mixed fruit, cuttlefish and crunchy dough fritters all carefully "stirred and blended" with a good smothering of the home-made "Hay Kor" and topped with a generous sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Just a note, Penang is well-known for its "Hay Kor" or shrimp paste...
While there, we also tried the char kway teow at stall 43, though it might not be the best we've tasted, it was still good. The rice noodles were fried long enough for it to absorbed the seasoning and prawns added thereafter. They also used duck eggs instead of chicken eggs.

After our escapade at Gurney Drive, we headed back to Jalan Macalister looking for the durian stall but it was closed. Not getting our fix, we took a walk to Lorong Baru or "New Lane". We bought some satay, both pork and chicken, they were grilled just right with the meat still succulent but the peanut sauce was slightly diluted.

Still, it was good. We also bought dessert in the form of ice cheng tng and ice gingko nut which was amazingly good together with appam balik. With the food in hand, we headed back to our air-con comfort to enjoy...

Breakfast was Penang style, chee cheong fun from the roadside stall along Lorong Baru, the rice flour strips were drizzled with chili sauce, yet again with "Hay Kor" instead of the normal sweet sauce and a good sprinkling of sesame seeds. For RM2.70, it's a good bargain...

Next, we made our way to one of the best char kway teow in Penang, aptly called Ah Leng char kway teow. Its along Jalan Dato Keramat, located at cafe Khoon Hiang. This coffeeshop is opposite Federal Place and adjacent to Jalan Dunlop. Find a table, order your char kway teow, get a drink and enjoy a leisurely chat while waiting... Be warned, patience is really required here... Bon appetit !!!

While good food is abundant in Penang, the King of fruit is not lacking too. The different breed on offer is wide and caters to nearly every taste bud. We visited this durian stall called "Ah Teik" at the corner of Lorong Susu, just after the Dim Sum and Steamboat place along Jalan Macalister. Available that day was "Hor Lor".

With its yellowish and slightly wet flesh, this will be a favorite if you crave for bitter aftertaste and a slight hint of alcohol. Next was what "ah teik" called "See Kah Chua" or aptly called, four legged lizard. This durian has pale orange color flesh, is thick and compact with a wonderful sweet aftertaste that lingers.

This seems to be quite identical to another breed that the locals call "Lipan". All said, the durians were fabulous and as Ah Teik say, once you tasted the Balik Pulau durians, you can forget about the rest...

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Kuala Lumpur treats

We recently made a trip to this bustling capital of Malaysia. With its ever changing landscape and the famous Twin Towers reigning over the city, this place has wonderful eating places scattered all over. Walking through the lanes, you will find yourself sitting in alleys enjoying a plate of fried noodles or walking into nice restaurants surrounded by mouthwatering dishes, the choice is yours. Visit KL for a goody foody time...

The chinatown in KL has evolve as fast as you can ever imagine, the place has turned into a tourist magnet with stalls after stalls peddling copy designer goods from bags to shoes to T-shirts and more. Among all these hulla-bulla, you will find good food and one of the stall is the
  • Wanton noodle shop on Jalan Petaling, its nestled behind the row of stalls selling the fake goods. This shop has been here for as long as I can remember and the noodles are cooked to perfection. Order the original and you will get a good topping of shredded chicken, char siew and vegetables bath in a little black soya sauce together with sliced mushrooms. This is accompanied by a small bowl of broth with a few wantons in it. Have these with the pickled shredded green chili for a more rounded taste. Go early or be prepared to wait during lunch hour.

  • Another stall in Chinatown not to be missed is the roast duck stall, eptly named "Sze Ngan Chai" which is "Four-eyed kid" in cantonese. The roast duck is marinated using salt and other spices giving it a very unique taste as compared with other roast duck stalls around. The meat is very tender & juicy, it falls off the bone with just a light tuck and the skin gives a wonderful aroma with a hint of charcoal. Its a must try if you are a roast duck fan! The minimum order is half a duck. Make sure you're there early or you will be disappointed....

  • If you crave for fried black noodles ala "Hak Min", the one located along Jalan Tan Cheng Lock is reputed to be one of the best. Eating here is a test of guts as you will be dining among the roaches and occassionally rats running along the sidewalls. This stall is easily spotted with its trademark charcoal fire and a bright hanging lightbulb. If you are standing outside the chinatown Macdonald's, its diagonally across just after the traffic light junction. Open only in the evening till the early hours of the morning, this stall uses charcoal for frying the noodles. The noodles, with a choice of yellow, vermicelli or flat rice noodles are fried with a generous amount of sliced pork, liver and vegetables in dark soya sauce. The end result is a wonderful smelling plate of black noodles wafting with the aroma of dark sauce together with the smell of slightly burnt noodles from the charcoal fire, is definately a treat. This is further enhanced with the sambal chili and a good lashing of small pieces of fried lard if your health permits. Oooopps....

Moving away from chinatown, they are several places where good food lurks and our next agenda is the
  • Hakka Yong Tau Foo located at Lorong Peel, close proximity to Jusco Maluri. Tuck away in a run-down shop, this place is where good food awaits as you make your choice of fishballs, lady fingers, brinjal, tofu, pigs skin, dried tofu (tau pok), beancurd skin, meatballs amd many more... All these are coated with a layer of fish paste mixed with minced pork and a type of dried fish which is finely chopped. They are then either fried or cooked in a broth and served with steam rice. As you bite into each piece, you will get to taste the filling which is beyond description as there are so many flavours bursting in your mouth. Eat it with the accompanying sauces and you will go away a happy man! Try their assam fish too. It's definately better than the overhype ampang yong tau foo...!

  • Well if you are someone who enjoys HK style cafe then Kim Gary is the place. The food is reminiscent of HK cafes which features baked rice, noodles and a good selection of sandwiches, drinks and desserts. This place is tops among the many HK style cafes that have sprouted with outlets all over KL. For a quieter setting, visit the outlet at Avenue K shopping centre where the food is also more consistent. Go for a good "Ying Yang", which is a mix of milk coffee and tea, and take a bite of the thick toast with peanut butter and condensed milk... What's more?

  • Having breakfast at the Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang is a good start to the day. Located near the spanking Pasar Rakyat, the stalls are all scattered around the market ground with umbrellas and canvas sheets shielding you from the sun and rain. Find a place, order your food and wait. The porridge here is wonderful and is served with slice pork, pigs tongue, deep-fried intestines and more topped with a good sprinkling of spring onions. The crunchy intestines coupled with the porridge is something of a marriage on the palette and taste really good. End your meal with a good glass of strong locally brewed iced or hot coffee...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Malacca - ThE 2nd outing

Malacca, with its slow and relax atmosphere is a magnet for a group of us and to top it off, "Good Food" is found in nooks and crevices. We have found a few gems on this trip and are all worth trying... To start off, while the more famous "Peranakan Restaurant" is highly touted for serving good peranakan food, we beg to differ and dined at this little restaurant we missed during our last visit.

  • Restoran Nancy's Kitchen, 15 Jalan Hang Lekir, located in a small lane just off Jalan Hang Jebat, this little place pale in comparison in terms of size but makes up for the good food. We had the following:
    • Ayam Buah Keluak, the generous topping of buah keluak is a delight accompanied by the pieces of chicken cooked in a nice mild sauce. This dish taste like a home-cooked version, very real and genuine. No mock ups!

    • Hee Piow Soup, also called Fish maw soup is like what I've tasted while I was growing up. The fish maw does not smell of stale oil and the meatball has good taste and texture. The addition of cabbage brings a little sweetness to the soup. A dish worth trying.

    • Sambal Sayur Keledek known as Sweet Potato leaves fried in sambal paste with a little gravy. The generous serving of the leaves cook till just right, you can feel the crunch when biting into the stems goes very well with the steam rice.

    • Fried fish fillet with Sambal, the used of Dory fish fillet is cleverly seasoned then deep-fried with a thin layer of crumbs. After which, its topped with a generous amount of sambal chili tumis and garnish with coriander leaf. This dish is surprisingly light even though its deep-fried and the oil used is clean.

    • Fried Brinjal, a simple yet appetizing dish! The brinjal is not over-cooked and the sambal chili gravy that accompanies it is subtle and not overpowering though the over-sprinkling of fried shallots is not appreciated.

    • Sek Bak or braised pork belly with spices is nicely done. The five spice and star anise in soya sauce brings the meat to another level. The dish is also accompanied with servings of braised tofu and eggs topped with coriander leaf.

    • The meal is completed with a good cup of "Honey & Lime" or a home brewed "Sour Plum with Honey" drink. All in all, a good meal for the price!

  • Popiah, this stall located just outside the Mary King department store, Jalan Bunga Raya, is a local's favourite. A delicate thin piece of rice flour is smeared with sweet sauce and chilli then filled to the brim with a generous amount of very well stewed coarsely chopped turnips, omelette, tofu and the most sinful, fried lard to add flavour and crunch. Try and see the difference though you will not crave for more...

  • Durian, the king of fruit is something we can't simply ignore! You will find stalls selling these thornies and here you get good quality ones coupled with very reasonable prices. Durian eaters out there, have a go at these fellas... Wooo hooo....!

  • Dinner at a seafood restaurant in Malacca is never daunting, prices are reasonable and quality is of high standard. We had ours at Restaurant Lu Yeh Yen, 154A Jalan Bunga Raya, just round the corner if you are staying at Hotel Renaissance. The menu is pretty decent and some of the dishes sampled are:
    • Salt-baked Crab, this dish comes across as unappetizing and not well presented. Pieces of chopped up crabs were scattered on a big plate. Take a bite and you will find that all is forgotten. The crab is infused with the taste of salt and coupled with the sweet tasting meat of the crab, it's something to swoon over... Never judge a book by its cover

    • Fried Mee Suah, while we were all busy enjoying our crabs, we all but forgotten about the photos of this dish. Nonetheless, this vermicelli dish comes with a generous topping of prawns, sweet pork, and vegetables. The vermicelli is fried "Al Dente" and its not too soggy.

    • Steam Prawns, this is a dish we were all caught by surprise as we expected steam prawns with shells on but to our surprise, it was nicely de-shelled and steam in a sea of eggs with ginger slices, chopped spring onions and a good load of chinese wine. Well, no complaints as its another nice change...

    • Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs or "Pai Kwok Wong" as ordered in the Cantonese language. Again, the stomach got the better of us and photo was the last thing on our mind. Tells you how good a dish this was... In short, Try it, you will like it!!!

    • We also had two servings of vegetables fried with garlic which we like albeit it was slightly on the oily side. That's why the chrysanthemum tea is here for... A good meal that's worth the buck.

  • Wondering along Jalan Tan Cheng Lock, we stopped at The Coconut House for supper. On the menu was a delectable range of pizzas, pastas, main dishes and desserts. Our "Four Seasons" pizza arrived baked in a wood-fired oven, fully loaded with generous toppings of asparagus, pancetta, mushrooms, olives and though the bull mozarella was not available, we had a load of other cheeses. The crust was thin and crisp with the pancetta giving the saltiness and balance.
    We made space for 2 desserts, the Panna Cotta with Raspberry sauce and Hazelnut Pudding with Chocolate Sauce". The panna cotta reign supreme compared to the Hazelnut pudding which was a tad dry and tasted more like a muffin. Still, this is a place to try when you're in this little town.

  • Apart from the famous nyonya chendol, Malacca has another version which is styled in the local version. This stall located directly opposite the clock tower near The Stadhuys serves this in a small bowl filled with red bean, coconut milk, gula melaka and chendol topped with a generous amount of shaved ice. Though not as rich as the peranakan version, its very refreshing on a hot day. Have a go...