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.
October 9, 2018 § Leave a comment
Decked out on Jalan Alor is an impressive collection of roadside eateries and street food vendors. Plastic tables and chairs adorn a good portion of the street.
If you are looking for the perfect example of Malaysian food, look no further. This strip running parallel to Jalan Bukit Bintang is best known for its budget-friendly street food eateries.
Wander around, choose the stall/s that piqued your fancy and enjoy the gastronomic journey.
Fresh oysters. We chose Dragon View Restaurant for its oysters. Along with it sitting by the roadside, we had a feast of Fried Garlic Prawns, Chili Crab, Sweet and Sour pork and an order of Won Ah Wah’s famous BBQ chicken wings.
“Sometimes, the simple things are more fun and meaningful than all the banquets in the world.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri
July 4, 2018 § 1 Comment
I fell in love with Taiwan and vowed to return and explore the other parts of the island. Well, it took us seven years (unbelievable but true), this time with parents in tow. And so we didn’t venture too far away from Taipei.
Fushan Temple in Jiufen
Honeycomb rocks in Yehliu
The itinerary was loose and relaxed with only 1 full day outside the capital. A family of foodies, the natural thing to do as soon as we landed was to enjoy a bowl of Beef Noodle Soup, Taiwan’s pride. While there are several recommended spots for this, we chose Yonkang Beef Noodle.
Founded in 1963, this small family run, 2-level restaurant serves up signature beef noodle and tendon soup.
It’s Sichuan style hot and spicy soup with huge chunks of tender Australian beef – cooked to perfection and best with a bit of their fantastic chili paste.
Besides having a large variety of side dishes, the restaurant also serves steamed spare ribs and steamed intestines – something to try next time.
We walked off that fantastic noodle soup in Yongkang Street, Taiwan’s cuisine mecca. It is not a very long street, but one can spend an hour or two just browsing. Not to be missed when visiting Taipei.
Initially owning fame for its traditional cuisines such as Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao, Yongkang Street and its neighboring lanes and alleys are now dotted with old-school eateries, coffee shops and dessert shops, clothing and souvenir shops, tea shops and some quirky cafes.
And speaking of xiao long bao, we found another gem just around the corner from Din Tai Fung serving a similar menu but is far less crowded. Perpetually overshadowed by its heavyweight competitor, Kao Chi has been serving Shanghainese dishes since 1949, about 8 years earlier than Din Tai Fung. The 3-story flagship store is quiet, though somewhat a favorite among the affluent locals. Signature dishes include their Shen Jian Bao – pan-fried pork buns, Xiao Long Bao (of course) – Steamed Pork Dumplings, and Steamed Crab Egg and Pork Dumplings, among a wide array of dishes on the menu.
Still full from the massive bowl of Beef Noodle Soup, we opted for an order of Xiao Long Bao, not knowing then about the pan-fried pork buns (later on recommended by a local friend). I find that the XLB was equally good, and we didn’t have to wait in line for it. Another option to keep in mind for XLB fans.
Tu Hsiao Yueh
Another noteworthy restaurant not to miss is Tu Hsiao Yueh. Highly recommended by a Taiwanese friend, we didn’t waste time to go check it out. Established in Tainan in 1895 with an interesting story to boot. The name means “survive a month” or “living through the bad months” referring to the hardship endured by the fishermen in Tainan. In those months, a fisherman named Hung would go to town and sell Dan Tzai noodles in front of the local temple to make ends meet.
Fast forward to present day, Tu Hsiao Yueh has evolved into a modern restaurant chain serving traditional Taiwanese fare and still specializing in the same noodles that is now a Taiwan staple.
The signature dish is a small bowl of noodles topped with minced meat, dried shrimps, and black vinegar. One can choose between egg noodles, rice vermicelli or bihon, or flat noodles, and if you want it with or without soup. We decided on the dry bihon just because I love bihon that way. I was pleased with our choice, but I heard that the soup was exceptional and elevated the dish. That gives me another reason to go back.
Fried Oysters, Stir-fried Tomiao, Minced beef topped rice (reminds of my youth…)
Fried oysters with white pepper and salt on the side was another remarkable dish that we enjoyed so much that we placed a second order – A definite must try!
We followed it up with a bowl of Bubble Milk Tea Sensation – shaved ice dessert likewise made famous by the Taiwanese. Ah… another must.
Yongkang Beef Noodle: No. 17, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Kao Chi Branches:
No. 1, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City
No. 150號, Section 1, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District
Tu Hsiao Yueh branches:
No. 9-1, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City
No. 12, Alley 8, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
Ice Monster Zhongxiao Flagship branch: No.297, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei
September 23, 2017 § 1 Comment
Credits: Jsprague TW Dialog template; papers by Splendid Finns’ You are Awesome and Sus Design’s Saving Memories Kit.
Named after the Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan, Jingisukan is essentially Hokkaido-style Yakiniku.
In a dome-shaped cast iron looking a lot like the helmet of the Mongolian soldiers, thinly sliced meat (in this case, lamb or mutton) is grilled on the table and shared family style much like how the Koreans do it. It also reminded me of the Laotian Barbecue (sans the soup) I so enjoyed in Luang Prabang some years back. An unforgettable meal, that was. Come to think of it, Asian cuisines although diverse in flavors have a lot of similarities, especially in how meals are cooked and shared.
On our last night in Asahikawa, we chose a restaurant close to our hotel, highly recommended on Foursquare.
The line was not visible when we arrived because it was so long, the weather so cold; we were asked to wait in a room across the restaurant. It was worth the wait. Right off the grill and dipped in a soy-based sauce, the lamb was superb.
It was tender and flavorful and not gamey at all. We ordered several cuts and all were satisfying. Do find your way to a Jingisukan place when in Hokkaido. Better yet, if you find yourself in Asahikawa, make sure to look for Jingisukan Daikokuya. It could be your best meal in Hokkaido.
Other Must-Eats when in Hokkaido:
The island of winter sports, hanging cliffs, and endless lavender fields is also known to offer the best food adventures in Japan.
In fact, it is one of its biggest attractions, specifically its seafood and agricultural products grown on its extensive farmlands.
The prefecture has a massive dairy industry that produces about half of Japan’s milk and other dairy products like butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
The best melon in Japan is grown here too, making it quite a popular flavor for milk and ice cream.
And of course, don’t forget to grab some of Hokkaido’s famous cheesecake.
Jingisukan Daikokuya 5 Chome 4-jodori,3,4 Naka, Asahikawa +81 188-24-2424
January 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
Credits: JSprague Digi In Deeper Course Material
This noodle soup dish has a typical Yunnan local flavor that could only be had in some parts of Yunnan and carries with it a love story. A scholar, preparing for the imperial exams retreated to an island in a lake. The wife delivers lunch to him daily, crossing a long wooden bridge. Dismayed that she couldn’t keep it warm, figured out that adding a thin layer of fat on top prevents the heat from escaping. And by doing this, she discovered that she could bring the broth across the bridge and cook the rest of her Noodle Soup there.
And with that, I had our driver bring us to Qiao Xiang Yuan, a restaurant chain famous for its Guo Qiao Mi Xian, which translates to Across the Bridge or Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.
Driver Wang ordered for us. Minutes later an attractive mix of ingredients laid before us. There were slices of lightly cooked (some raw) meats, Yunnan ham, strips of bean curd sheets, mushrooms, vegetables, rice noodles (of course) and a piping hot broth with a layer of chicken fat and oil glistening on top, the key to this noodle soup. The meat sliced wafer thin so that it will cook almost immediately when added to the broth. Once the vegetables and noodles are added, stir it a bit, and the Guo Qiao Mi Xian is ready to eat.
A must try when in Kunming.
Qiao Xiang Yuan: Shulin Jie, Wenhua District, near Jinbi Guang Cheng
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 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you’re thinking of visiting any part of Vietnam, the first thing you need to know about is that food is an integral part of their culture and livelihood. Anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you that it is one of the major attractions. You can’t go to Vietnam and not have a taste of their cuisine.
More often than not, the street is its stage – street food stalls can be found anywhere from the main roads to the alleyways. Small plastic stools and a table taking up the sidewalk is a common scene.
So what is Vietnamese food? It has a distinct flavor yet it is almost universally accepted palate-wise. The taste comes from fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, and fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and lemongrass – think spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet when combined. Influenced much by the Chinese and French, Vietnamese love their noodles and bread. Theirs is a cuisine that is light and refreshing, which is probably why it is easy on the palate. Their taste for fresh ingredients and simple methods has actually placed their cuisine on the map of the foodies.
On my recent visit to Hanoi, I rediscovered favorites and got introduced to new staples. So without further ado, here are a few staples and must-haves when in Vietnam, in my opinion.
Pho – THE staple of Vietnam, available all day and night long.
The national food is a steaming, fragrant broth of rice noodle with chicken or beef topped with bean sprouts, mint, and a few more herbs. Squeeze a wedge of lime into it and the freshness of this simple noodle soup raises the bar for all noodle soups. It’s impossible to walk a block without bumping into a hungry crowd slurping noodles in a makeshift pho stand on a sidewalk.
Banh Mi – The French has stamped its mark on Vietnam through its baguette and has since been given a Vietnamese spin.
This Vietnamese sandwich (more commonly called Banh Mi) is a heavenly concoction of crusty baguette filled with pork, pâté, butter, and an array of local ingredients (cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño and pickled carrots and daikon). Indeed a product of cultural and culinary blend that managed to put Vietnamese cuisine on the map.
Bun Cha – If Pho is Vietnam’s most famous dish Bun Cha (ubiquitous in the North) is what everyone prefers over lunch in Hanoi.
Nem Cua Be – Bun Cha lovers normally order a side dish of this spring roll filled with small amounts of crab meat, minced pork, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and glass noodles, then deep-fried to juicy/crisp perfection.
Goi Cuon – Fresh spring rolls, light and healthier version of Vietnam’s many spring rolls.
Nem Nuong Xa – Grilled minced meat on lemongrass skewers.
I’ve always loved these and have long been one of the familiar Vietnamese dishes on my side of the world. It’s meat patties wrapped around lemongrass stalks/skewers then grilled. Simple yet so satisfying.
Ngo Chien Bo – It’s sweet corn kernels fried in butter. Introduced to us by the locals we befriended at the beer corner.
Bo Bia Ngot – a dessert so intriguing though it didn’t call out to us at first sight until some kids on a night out convinced us to buy some.
It’s a rolled up crêpe made up of shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and light sugary candy pieces (sometimes just sugar). Made to order at a food stall. Another simple concoction that delivered a sensation of complex textures and flavor.
And because I have caffeine running through my veins, all meals end with coffee,