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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