December 30, 2018 § Leave a comment
My last post for the year has to be the wonderful eating escapade we had in Penang, a food paradise mainly due to its diversity in ethnicity, culture, and religion. Its multi-ethnicity brings variety in Penang’s street and hawker food. The Thrillist named the food capital of Malaysia as one of the best food city in the world. And the food should be one of the main reasons to visit Penang.
The most highly celebrated Malaysian Food is the street or hawker fare.
Expect to sit on colorful plastic tables and chairs on the roadside or in open air complex housing many food stalls.
Some of our favorites:
Char Kway Teow
A famous dish and a national love, it’s a plate of flat rice noodles, stir-fried in a charcoal fried wok with prawns, cockles, scrambles eggs, crunchy bean sprouts, strips of fish cake and chili paste. The more famous versions will include pork lards and even sweet barbecued pork slices and use duck eggs, which results in a combination of flavors that are pretty unique. The Penang style Char Kway Teow is made special by the flavor of the “wok,” and the freshness of the ingredients.
Oyster Omelette or Oh Chien
Popular in many countries, it’s basically a fried oyster-filled omelet. The use of rice flour in the Penang version, as opposed to potato starch in others gave it a lighter, crispier texture.
This sweet and soft creation is filled with soybean curd, grated turnips, french beans, fried tofu, chopped peanuts, shredded egg, Chinese lettuce and shrimps wrapped in a very thin crepe and served fresh.
It is a delicious serving of noodles in either dry or soup form. As the name suggests, the dish is served with wanton (meat or shrimp dumplings) and char siew (barbecued pork slices). The dry version, my choice, uses dark soy sauce and perhaps oyster sauce and the soup version comes either with chicken or pork stock. Another version that I am very curious but was not fortunate enough to try (because they ran out at the Chew Getty Cafe) is the white version. They say that while it is milder than the soy sauce cousin, it delivers a flavor with more depth. No wonder it is a fast seller. Should this be my reason to go back?
Begin your day with Malaysia’s national and traditional dish. A staple especially for breakfast, it is coconut rice served with a hot spicy sauce (sambal), fried crispy anchovies, toasted peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh cucumber slices.
Sambal is the soul of tis dish; it brings together all the various toppings and completes this iconic dish.
I had this superb dish at Cafe Mews with Japanese mackerel and prawn sambal.
With the Chinese having such influence in Malaysia, it is to no surprise that Crispy duck is a popular dish served everywhere. Baste in sweet and spicy sauce and served with rice, this duck dish is deliciousness on a plate. Try it at Café Mews.
The island’s claim to fame, however, is their Nyonya flavoring in the local Chinese dishes. The term Nyonya refer to the Straits Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia and adapted Malay tradition, customs, and cooking ingredients. The result is the Peranakan cuisines otherwise know as Nyonya.
At Penang’s gorgeous Seven Terraces Hotel is a Peranakan restaurant serving an excellent repertoire of Nonya food under the leadership of creative head chef, Christopher Ong. Outstanding modern Nonya Cuisine served in a stylish dining room.
A four-course meal comes with large portions of an appetizer, vegetables, main and dessert.
Located on Stewart Lane, Kebaya Restaurant is the best bet to sample the authentic taste of Peranakan food within Georgetown.
Because Malaysia is a multicultural country blessed with food from the Chinese, Malay, and Indian, it is to no surprise that Indian cuisine has melded its way into its kitchen. One such dish that has become a Malaysian staple is:
It is an adaptation of the Indian paratha roti (Indian flatbread), which made its way to Malaysian soil when the British brought South Indians to work in British Malaysia. It is one of the most basic rotis and is served with chicken curry. It is a favorite breakfast dish, but it is also served as a snack or quick lunch.
One of the most engaging side of Georgetown is the bustling, colorful Little India. It covers about 4×4 streets and is packed with shops selling beautiful saris, Indian pastries, and jewelry. But more importantly, Georgetown is home to quite a few authentic Indian restaurants.
Walking around Little India after a visit to the Pinang Peranakan Museum a few blocks away, we found ourselves in Dindigul Biryani.
Also known as Bite N Eat to non-Indians, it is a local eatery serving Southern Indian food in a friendly and clean environment. The staff are friendly and helpful, they will help you with the menu tablet, which includes photos for the appreciation of non-Indian diners. Try their chili gobi (A spicy cauliflower starter), mutton and vegetable biryani, paneer butter masala. Portions are significant and a good value for money.
Also famous for its diverse range of desserts, most of which are made with local ingredients such as coconut milk, palm sugar, red beans, bananas, sweet corn, and grass jelly among others. Penang’s desserts come ranges from piping hot to refreshing. Here are some of my favorites:
Regarded as Penang’s signature dessert and is sold almost everywhere. It is a bowl of shaved ice filled with chewy green rice flour jelly (cendol), red kidney beans, fresh light coconut milk (or condensed milk) and sweetened with a splash of palm sugar syrup. A refreshing treat on a hot day.
Another refreshing dessert that’s similar to cendol. Literally means “ice beans” and pronounced “ka-chong” and sometimes referred to as just ABC, it is a bowl of shaved ice comes with a serving of kidney beans. However, the number of ingredients has grown to include sweet corn, grass jelly, different fruits, and is served with coconut milk, condensed milk, or even ice cream.
Apom Balik (turnover pancake)
Apom Balik is a sweet Nyonya-style pancake that’s stuffed with shredded coconut, sweet corn, sliced bananas or peanuts folded over and topped with a sprinkling of sugar.
They are bite-size gems that are soft, almost pudding-like in texture. With appealing colors dominated by flavors of coconut, pandan and palm sugar, these dainty bites are a Peranakan delicacy that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Last but definitely not the least for durian lovers, where else can you find the best durian but in the island of Penang – the haven of hybrid durians.
At the time of our visit, it was pretty much the end of the season, and our Grab taxi driver brought us to Leng Durian at Anson Road, the few stalls still selling the fruit albeit at a very high price.
Durian, for those unfamiliar, is one of the world’s most exciting foods. While many associate it with its odor, it is a fruit that is a strange combination of savory, sweet and creamy all at once. And for durian lovers, it is one of the reasons to travel to Penang.
And with this, I wish you all a Blessed 2019.
April 12, 2016 § 1 Comment
Work will bring me to Hong Kong in a few weeks and I am reminded of the last dish I had a few years ago in Wan Chai. We walked from Gloucester to Lockhart Road to look for Hong Kong’s famous Under the Bridge Spicy Crab Restaurant. Known for their authentic and mouth-watering typhoon shelter crabs.
Back in the day before modern HK, there lived a community of fishermen living in typhoon shelters. Within this community rose a distinct culinary culture that centered on freshly caught seafood. As Hong Kong’s status as a fishing city decline, this community started moving to land, the younger generation trading up for better jobs.
We found the modest restaurant with staff that hardly speaks English. With an atmosphere like this, it almost always promises an authentic meal. The star of the show is the bits of garlic, chili peppers, and spring onion stir-fried till crisp then tossed with the deep-fried mud crab—insanely addictive. I love this version because I prefer fried or just steamed crabs sans any sauce, which sometimes masks the sweetness of the crab. The dry chill-garlic bits, albeit on the oily side, adds just the right flavour and heat to the crabs. A must-try when in the area.
See you in a few weeks Hong Kong. I hope to devour your impressive crab dish once again. And hopefully, introduce you to the people traveling with me.
Shop 6-9, G/F, 423 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you’ve never heard of “XO Sauce”, no it’s not the expensive brand designated to a grade of Cognac. In the culinary and gourmand world, XO Sauce is known as the emperor of all sauces. Vogue China once described it as the “Caviar of the East”, it’s pricey, but a little goes a long way. I’ve written about it a few years back (here) and continue to be awed by it.
Packed with deep, rich smoky intensity, this gourmet condiment is made from dried scallop, ham, dried shrimp, red chili pepper, onions, and garlic. It gives the added oomph to stir-fried meats, seafood, tofu, and vegetables. Never fails on pasta and noodle dishes too.
XO Sauce’s fabled history started in Hong Kong, its exact circumstance surrounding its birth is unknown. It most likely first graced the table of one of Hong Kong’s pricey dining establishments and ever since then, the fascination with this sauce has continued to heighten. One does not need to dine out to satisfy one’s craving anymore.
Lee Kum Kee has bottled a very impressive version of the XO Sauce. I add it to my vegetable or seafood dishes. It is perfect to add a different flavor to fried rice too.
What I have here are simple ingredients that I found on my crisper, a teaspoon of XO Sauce gave this eggplant a great lift.
August 28, 2013 § 2 Comments
On board the TurboJet catamaran en route to Macau, I mentally planned our next few days in a city best known today as a high-rolling-casino-lover’s haven. Not by any means my cup of tea, but there is more to this glitzy casino city than just the sin and the bling. Although heavily dependent on gambling, Macau’s real attraction (in my opinion) has always been the food. As an ex-Portuguese colony, Macau has married Asian and Mediterranean in its culture, architecture and even in its cuisine.
The flavors of Portugal intermingled with the Chinese and strongly influenced by the Southeast Asians, Africans, and South Americans has brought out a real fusion between East and West and has evolved to what is known today as Macanese cuisine. The result is earthy and rich in texture, flavor, and aroma.
Macanese food aside, the presence of raved about, quality establishments worthy of a Michelin star or two scatter around this peninsula making Macau a dining spectacle it is today.
First off our agenda: Dim sum
On the 2nd floor of the east wing of Hotel Lisboa is Portas do Sol. Contrary to its name, it is a “typical” Chinese restaurant, well-lit with a lively atmosphere, serving dim sum dishes as well as Chinese haute cuisine with season specialties. The extensive dim sum list reveals familiar and unfamiliar but exciting dishes. Mostly from the Chef’s recommendation, the dishes we chose were as ambrosial as its presentation.
Clockwise: Steamed rice flour with preserved vegetables and barbecued pork, Steamed river shrimp dumplings flavored with basil, Deep fried wonton in sweet and sour sauce, Deep fried spare ribs with garlic and honey sauce, Deep fried diced garoupa in mustard sauce
Then we walked down the street to a small alley. Tucked away in that alley is a small café selling the much talked about egg tarts. Creamy custard centers, slightly burnt caramel, buttery flaky crust – no wonder Margaret’s Cafe e Nata has queues any day of the week… well except Wednesdays, which was when we first found this hole-in-the-wall, darn! I found myself walking the same route from Hotel Lisboa the next day. I walked down Avenida Infante D. Henrique, passed the Grand Lisboa, crossed Avenida de Joao IV and veered right on that street until I saw a small (Margaret’s Café) sign pointing into an alley. I followed that sign and joined the others in the queue and in less than 30 minutes, I was skipping my way back to the hotel with four pieces of exquisite Portuguese egg tarts to be devoured at the comfort of our room with some leftovers, which held up well for breakfast the next day.
A Crossover from Hong Kong
This upscale restaurant has branches in Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai. Chef and owner Tao Hwa Yan, once an apprentice to a legendary Cantonese Chef, Master Lee Choi, opened Tim’s Kitchen in a quiet street in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in 2000. Bringing with him the techniques he learned with the master, the restaurant started as an on-site private dining serving traditional Cantonese cuisine. In 2007, Stanley Ho invited him to open a branch in Hotel Lisboa in Macau. With both HK and Macau branches currently given a Michelin star, Tim’s is not cheap but worth a visit.
The waiters know their menu, and although we failed to order their (pre-ordered) signature dishes, the recommended succulent baked pigeon with preserved veggies wrapped in lotus leaves had us licking our fingers.
Other just as good dishes recommended to us were: Sautéed scallops with fungus and chives with XO sauce, Fried rice with minced beef, onions and shallots, and Pan fried pork pie with salted fish.
Trade in the gilded casino floor at the Venetian for a quaint cobblestone lane lined with Portuguese styled pastel townhouses in Old Taipa Village. In one of these houses, at the corner of Rua dos Clerigos is Antonio.
Not easy to find, we wandered around way before lunch hoping to get a table. And in a small Alley, we chanced on some Filipino restaurant staff who happened to be taking their breaks from THE Antonio’s kitchen. With their help, we managed to get ourselves a table. Antonio Coelho has been preparing authentic Portuguese food in Macau since he relocated in 1997.
Arroz de Pato – shredded duck, rice, and preserved sausage baked into a flavorful, aromatic dish. A signature dish not to be missed.
From Left: Clams in white wine and olive oil, Pork Tenderloin steak, Portuguese style served with fried egg, a pitcher of Sangria.
Following the hearty meal, we wandered around the old village.
In a corner, near the Pak Tai Temple, we see a line forming but much as we would love to try Tai Lei Loi Kei’s famous Pork Chop bun, dessert appeals more than the bun. This will have to wait. So we walked back to Antonio to where he opened a café across.
We found our corner and ordered 2 amazing desserts to die for.
The Serradura is as velvety as this one and the orange roll is a perfect combination of moist cake, orange liqueur and caramel. Did I say to die for?Portas do Sol 2/F East wing of Hotel Lisboa, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau For reservations call: (853) 8803-3100 Margaret’s Café e Nata Edificio Kam Loi Rua Almirante Costa Cabral, Macau Tim’s Kitchen Lobby Level East wing of Hotel Lisboa Avenida de Lisboa, Macau For reservations call: (853) 8803-3682 Antonio Rua dos Clerigos No. 7 Old Taipa Village, Macau For reservations call: (853) 2899-9998
August 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
I first had it at my mom’s. Succulent, crisp strips similar in texture to bamboo shoot but less fibrous. It assimilated well with the heat of the chili bean paste and the savory taste of oyster sauce.
It became an instant favorite, thanks to the lady at Wei Wang, the neighborhood oriental store my mom frequents, for recommending this bamboo shoot looking vegetable to her complete with instructions on how to cook it. She said it was a kind of shoot called “kuw-sun”.
I later find out that “kuw-sun” is also called Wild Rice Shoots, an aquatic plant widely used in China and Japan which, when stripped of its husk, reveals a smooth, very pale inside. Rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and other minerals, it is sliced and eaten raw or cooked, usually prepared by stir-frying with thinly sliced pork.
Chili Wild Rice Shoots with Pork and Mushrooms
What You’ll Need
- 2 stalks of wild rice shoots, outer layer removed, and cut into strips
- 4-5 shiitake mushrooms cut into strips
- 100-150g minced pork
- 1 tablespoon Chili Bean Paste
- 1 tablespoon Premium Oyster Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoon Vegetable oil
- Sesame oil for drizzling
What You Do
- In a small bowl, mix together chili bean paste, oyster sauce, sugar and water. Set aside.
- Heat up a wok until smoky and add oil. Bring temperature down to medium high
- Add the pork, stir-fry until brown then add the mushrooms. Cook for seconds before adding the wild rice shoots. Toss around until the shoots are slightly brown.
- Add the chili mixture and toss until well coated.
- Drizzle with a good quality sesame oil before serving.
A dish packed with flavor and so easy to prepare.
May 5, 2012 § 1 Comment
Trips with the family always involve a lot of eating. On our (not so) recent trip to Hong Kong, it was with no surprise that the entire itinerary focused on where to eat. A few good ones picked out from a 2-page list and reservations made even before we boarded. Yes, if there is such a thing as food geeks, that’s us.
First stop was Hutong in Tsim Sha Tsui. The restaurant was set out to impress not only in the food department. It starts with a stylish old China interior and a view to die for from the 28th floor overlooking Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong skyline. The dim interior creates drama and intends to highlight the city’s colorfully lit nightscape, particularly the nightly light show at 8pm. So try to get a table by the window for the best view.
Clockwise: Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbor / dim interior, Cod fish tossed with fermented bean and chilies, Red Lantern, various desserts, the light show, Crispy De-boned Lamb Ribs
Specializing in traditional northern Chinese cuisine, the food is can be quite spicy. Make sure to order the Crispy De-boned Lamb Ribs, it is their house specialty and never disappoints. Its crispness resembles that of Peking duck skin and the meat slow-cooked to tenderness but still retaining the flavor of lamb. If you can handle the heat, their Red Lantern is a must try. Crispy chicken with Sichuan pepper bursts with great flavor and intense heat if you bite into the chilies. Even without touching the chilies, I can only eat so much. Another favorite is the Cod fish tossed with fermented bean and chilies.
Clockwise: Grilled Zucchini, Green Tea Banana Cake, the sushi counter, Hamachi Roll, Tuna Tartare with Miso, Grilled Chicken Wings
A friend invited for dinner at a different time I was in Hong Kong, we met at the Mandarin for drinks and walked over to The Landmark for what she said would be Japanese tapas. Given the prestigious address, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a cramped sushi bar but the interior still blew me away. Zuma has 2 levels with a grand spiral staircase that greets as one step out of the elevator. We took a table at the terrace where a garden surrounds. Memorable dishes include Seared Beef with a Yuzu-Ponzu dressing, Tuna Tartare with Miso, a Chicken Yakitori and a very yummy Green Tea Banana Cake with coconut ice cream. Authentic Japanese cuisine prepared non-traditionally and served Izakaya style – small dishes designed for sharing. Zuma boasts of a pretty good selection with a robota grill and a sushi counter. Second time around with the family registers the same satisfaction if not better.
Clockwise: Flan con Dulce de Leche, Provoleta Cheese with Olive Oil and Herbs, Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak (250g), the street of Soho in Central.
Steak – is always on our radar. Our usual haunt is Morton of Chicago but this time around, we felt like a change. At the heart of SOHO in Central is a place where carnivores find pleasure. La Pampas specializes in Argentinean cuisine, particularly in steaks and grilled meats. Flown fresh from Argentina, the organic beef is tender and tasty. Other Argentinean dishes worth ordering from their menu include sausages, chorizo, and cheeses. And speaking of cheese, their Provoleta cheese with olive oil and herbs is a delightful starter and the Flan con Dulce de Leche, a divine cap to the scrumptious meal.
Clockwise: Noodle and congee counter, stylish interior, my fish congee, Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli, The chef behind the counter, fried Beef Noodle.
With the excessive feasting, it is just proper to take a rest and end with some congee. Tasty Congee and Noodle Wanton Shop should be your last stop to somewhat clean the system. Before taking the train to the airport, spare some time to go to the IFC Mall for some really good congee or noodles on level 3. If you prefer to head straight to the airport, head out to the food court of Departure east hall of the Hong Kong International Airport. This one Michelin star restaurant definitely does not disappoint. So good, it even got listed on the premier edition of the Miele Guide. So even if you don’t really need to “cleanse”, head out to one of their establishments for some “tasty” comfort food. Outside of their congee, we loved their Fried Beef Noodle, which we spotted from the table beside us. Dimsums and wantons are excellent too.Zuma Levels 5 & 6, The Landmark 15 Queen’s Road, Central. HK (852) 3657-6388 (reservations recommended) Hutong 1 Peking Road, 28th Floor, Tsim Sha Tsui, HK (852) 3428-8342 (reservations a must) Tasty Congee & Noodle Wanton Shop Shop 3016 Podium 3, IFC Mall 8 Finance Street, Central, HK (852) 2295-0101 / 2295-0505 (reservations recommended) La Pampas G/F 32 B & C, Staunton Street, SOHO, Central (852) 2868-6959 (reservations a must)