Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hometowning in Penang

It is reassuring to know that even in dubious times of the changeover in country leadership (same same but different) and the suspicious nouveau yet dodgy stance of the Opposition state government (ROAR, anyone?), some things remain the same in Penang.

The food still tastes amazing, at home or on the streets...

My very lovely Mom's cooking prowess' victorious attack on air-flown Alfonsino, which has the best name for a fish, hands down. She spiced up this already gorgeous deep-water fish by lightly frying it and serving it with a turmeric, chilli & bean paste sauce. Served at home. I think Alfonsino's a much underrated name, don't you?

Penang Hokkien mee classique with a twist - with tender slices of pork leg! Served at corner of Carnavon St & Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze (also known as Hong Kong St. by locals). RM3.50 for a slice of crustacean heaven. Tell me the country (and state) is in perfect government condition and I might even believe ya!

Apom, interior. 2 and a half kernels of corn and banana slices go a long, long way. Served at Ah Guan Apom stall, Burmah Road.

Fish meat beehoon, for the patient citizen, willing to endure a 50-minute (or 50 years?) for a good thing. I learned about this first from this very sexy post at Allie Food Talk.

The fish, glorious glorious deep fried pieces of siakap that melts in your mouth. Dunk in soup, then crunch, then swallow. RM7 per bowl, served at food court opposite Red Rock Hotel, on Macalister Road.

And the drink to numb the senses of you pesky, questioning, demanding, argumentative and critical folks...

Left: Seifried's Gewurztraminer, which traversed oceans from the wine-producing region of Nelson, NZ to the confused shores of Penang, impressing even sticky tastebuds of baby Ollie. Served at home.

Right: Local pints, easy on MS' tastebuds and her fiery defence of the local government. Served at Soho's, Penang Road.

I can only hope that the real charm of Penang holds out against the sordid changes that have been, or are about to be subjected to this little island I still like to call home.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

White on white, Chong Thoong Kee, TTDI

On this occasion in TTDI, we found ourselves at lunchtime in front of Chong Thoong Kee, purveyors of the middle Malaysian specialty that is Ipoh Hor Fun.

I have to be very honest - I've never really been won over by the whiteness of this Perak offering, the startling white of the steamed chicken over chalk-white hor-fun in clear-white soup. But we had little room to move on timing and location, so it would have to do.

Separate order of chicken thigh meat. It came heavily doused in a gelatinous oyster (?) type of sauce which disturbed me to no end. Like melted plastic.

Dry version of Ipoh Ho Fun with shredded chicken. It was alright, hardly the orgasmic stuff that warrants the legions of fans. The amount of chilli oil that settled on the plate at end of the meal unsettled me.

The straight-up, no-fuss version of the Ipoh Ho Fun in soup, once again swimming in chilli oil. OK, so extra points for not exactly being the boring stark white meal that I had anticipated but I still don't, don't get it!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Out of the wilderness, into the woods!

This weekend signalled the start of the long and tedious process of flat-hunting! And my general lack of orientation around the property market meant that I had to start from scratch, to leave no ground uncovered. Including neighbourhoods to which I had been less inclined or initiated. Gee-whiz, the process is tiring to say the least, and leaves me with the realisation that I have to do so much more homework!

We hit Kota Damansara on Day #2, and halfway through a dozen appointments with real estate agents (why don't we do open houses plain and simple here in Malaysia??) , we stopped for lunch at Mee Papan, a pan mee outlet. I am trying to understand the Papan in the name, which kinda sorta ties back with the Chinese name " Big Wood" - Papan doesn't make for very appetising expectations but never you mind, we were already knee-deep in unchartered waters anyway.

My companion went with the regular Chief Pan Mee in soup minus the meat, for she doesn't do pork. Generous ingredients, but they didn't translate to the awesomeness potential that pan mee usually proffers.

I had the Zha Jiang Pan Mee. Noodles were standard, the sauce a tad askew. It was sweeter than I'd liked, and the cardamon seeds that popped up were questionable. I wouldn't order this again.

We also gave one of the recommended side dishes a go, Stir Fried Carrot Cake. This was lacking in many departments, and needed the boost from the chilli sauce to go anywhere.

The red bean soup wasn't quite ready yet so she settled for the Yee Mai Fu Chuk (barley & bean sheet) dessert, looked OK, gingko nut peeping up in every mouthful.

Shopfront, with boutique above parading liberal standards of skanky in hip-length tops masquerading as dresses. Would you wear that alone?!

The disappointing meal rang up about RM23, fair enough given the prompt service. But I wonder if the wooden connotation of its name and the unfamiliar neighbourhood was a harbinger of sorts, and if dining at nearby Super Kitchen Chilly Pan Mee would have sealed a better impression of the neighbourhood.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fishy times, Hokano at Damansara Uptown

Hokano is the destination of the times - extremely friendly on the pocket with little compromise on the quality. Tucked in an unassuming half-lot in Damansara Uptown, its offering of cheap, good Japanese fare is bound to gain more fans in these rough and tough, post-stimulus haha times.

The place is spatially urban Japanese - tiny, busy and cramped, filled with ordinary folks tucking into Hokano's luscious sashimi and signature rolls. Doesn't make for the most comfortable dining experience but there's definitely a unique brand of ambience.

Hokano serves sake, which isn't on its menu at RM35 per jar, but we decided to start off with chilled Asahi in IKEA-type glasses. Aaaahhhhh!! Now that the beer buzz's on, what's on the menu??

Salmon sashimi, came in six fat slices, glittering with omega 3 comeliness. We ordered two of these babies. Ridiculously fresh!

We ordered one Saba Shioyaki set to share. At RM16, this mackerel stunner arrived with rice, miso soup and a salad. Hokano shares and cares!

Hokano Roll hogged the spotlight - a medley of creamy avocado, tempura prawn, eel and roe. A serving of this, good for sharing, at RM18.95.

With conversation and beer flowing, it was difficult to stop so on came the Salmon & Avocado roll... this was fine, not mind-blowing compared to the Hokano but it did the trick and shut us up for a bit.

Happy campers grin with no salmon stuck in their teeth! See what I mean about the place being tiny?

There's not much to not like about Hokano - a good meal, decent service and instant camaraderie with fellow troubled countrymen who love good food at good prices! OK, there's not much personal space to contend with, and frequently, you end up knocking elbows with your dining companions, but that's part of the Hokano charm!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A sizzling, sozzled soiree

Simple does it - that was the mantra agreed, when three of us gathered to spend some time together to while away a humid Saturday evening amidst brewing romance and drama.

Our first glass of sauvignon blanc overlooking the lovely green backyard. The table is set for some simple DIY sizzle, courtesy of Tefal's Excelio Comfort grill & griddle, which promises smokeless grilling!

Arf Arf, goes excited Zigsar, the resident canine.

I contributed some homemade salsa to provide some semblance of balance to the meal - this one had diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, red chillies, a handful of chopped toasted cashew and almond nuts, cilantro, lemon and lime juice and macadamia oil. Well-received, thank you thank you!

To stave off hunger pangs, we crunched on store-bought organic corn chips dipped in zesty aioli.

MS had ordered a modest selection of goodies from Painia, apparently Penang's favourite BBQ marinated meat stockist. I learned for the first time that Painia, which operates out of a residential home in Minden Heights, has been around for eons. And that one would be hard-pressed to encounter Penang folks who have not at least enjoyed some of Painia's sausages, ham, minces, burger patties, marinated BBQ meat or meatloaf growing up. Unless I'd been suffering from retrograde amnesia, it appears my childhood was not as blessed as I had been led to believe.

For those interested to find out more about Painia, feel free to contact me directly!

BBQ chicken wings with Painia's signature marinade and sausages galore... the absence of smoke made this a very pleasant outdoor grilling experience but took longer than usual. All the better for us to open our second and third bottles of white while waiting.

Fresh salmon steaks, grilled plain and served with plenty of lemon juice. The insides came out just seared, which rounded off this salmon encounter perfectly.

Finally, after we got into the thick of our wine buzz, the chicken wings called out to us, browned, crisp and juicy. These were simply splendid!

Sausage symphony! I missed out on a pix of the fat cheese-stuffed sausages which just made my evening. I only wish we hadn't started on the red wine that sent me tumbling into a semi-conscious state without having consumed more, incapacitated but gloriously happy.

At this point, other guests turned up and attacked the leftover food while those fed frolicked barefoot in the gardens, danced to Paris (please don't judge!) and finally at midnight, laid serenely supine, quite, quite still on the couch.
Simplicity, how we embrace thee!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Zun Express at the Gardens, Mid Valley

Zun Express had under-impressed me during my two previous visits. So when it was suggested as venue for a well overdue catch-up session recently, I was like, mehhhh....

It turned out that third time's the charm! I absolutely enjoyed the meal here, the usual raucous conversation aside.

Two of us ordered the Oriental Pork Chop rice. Incredibly generous serving for one - two huge slabs of well-marinated, tender pork chop, with lightly fried rice, a huge dollop of coleslaw and edible garnishing. SCORE!

I like the shrimpy, bean-y chilli paste in dainty jars on the tables.

The others were all equally satisfied with their orders.

Fried rice vermicelli with salted fish... check out the abundance of ingredients!

Cantonese style beef hor fun... my already humble digital camera skills are compromised at the sight of huge servings of carbs! Sh-sh-shake!

Being an offspring of Eu Yan Sang traditional Chinese medicine chain of outlets, it seemed only appropriate that we at least ordered something herbal. Janice had the Bak Zhan Black Chicken Soup. Am personally no fan of Chinese herbs but Janice felt very well-nourished by this.

The meal for four came up to a very decent RM77 with drinks. Apparently, they also run a non-express (?) outlet in town called Zun Kitchenette, as reviewed here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Working class heroes at Sid's Pub, TTDI

So much has been said about Sid's online (like here and here) that I couldn't possibly say better or differently. But I will say this - Sid's is the ultimate catharsis for mid-week pallor, induced by non-negotiable work deadlines and harsh office lighting.

Draught liquid gold soothes the frayed old souls...From L to R: Good ol' Tiger, Blackthorn cider bites and the perfect Guinness pint.

Because we are sensible beings who know it is not proper to ingest pints of happiness without lining the stomach, we also sampled some of Sid's menu of hearty pub fare.

Selective vegetarian H's meal of Veggie Burger (or sandwich rather), bun substituted with wholemeal bread. S'okay, says she. Fries could be thicker, I thought. But good call on not stinging on condiments though, including a bottle of HP sauce all to your own table!

My Ploughman's platter with Scotch Eggs. It came with a fresh crusty bread loaf, which was the only thing that was remotely warm on my plate. Order only if you're trying to match the temperature of your beverages. It'd been years since my last encounter with Scotch Eggs that I just had to have this. 1 and a half Scotch Eggs down, I realised I could've done myself a bigger favour by removing the yolks. The mustard, gherkins and cranberry sauce were very apt accompaniment.

Whitebait fritters - we were expecting tiny, tiny whitebait so when this turned up the size of skinny sardines, we were slightly taken aback. Still, more bite and more flavour! I found the buttered bread triangles somewhat odd, but does add that homey touch, I suppose!

It's very difficult to limit selves once the guzzling gets going, especially when we're having so much fun feeding off each other's negative mid-week energies and nitpicking on the working day. However, we made it out by 11PM, smelling like roses and ready to do it all over again the next day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Under the milky way

Food4Thot's recent post reminded me of the fish head noodles I enjoyed so very much at the famed Woo Pin in Taman Desa.

Woo Pin is packed to the brim from mornings till about 2PM when the workers start putting chairs and tables away to make way for Ho A One's seafood steamboat in the evening, which is equally popular.

The order du jour is the standard fish head noodles with milky soup (RM6 for regular, RM8 for large). Previous visits had me hankering after for the homemade fish paste, bouncier than Beyonce! But unfortunately this time around, they had run out so we had to make do with deep fried fish head.
Everyone else on the table ordered this and proclaimed it tasty, but we all had trouble with the amount of bones that riddled the fish pieces. That just spells L-A-Z-Y, I know, for real fish head aficionados would scoff at our gripe and say it's a necessary evil.

I'm averse to milk (and all by-products betraying its lactose origin) so went with clear soup instead. Loved the engrossing sour combination of thick fish stock and preserved vegetables.

Extra heat-generating factor came in the form of the lovely house sambal.
Suggest you get here early to minimise the table-hovering experience and to not miss out on them fish paste!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dynamite Ollie, the ultimate Valentine turns ONE!

Valentine's Day disillusionment reaches new heights every year, with increasing recognition that it's nothing more than a cash cow machine for folks in the floral and gift trade. I read with great joy the Valentine's un-love that's been spreading through the blogosphere. Nothing more satisfying for a cynic to have her personal convictions gain critical mass.

However, I rediscovered a new form of love for Feb 14th. No longer will I chortle and roll my eyes at the excessive significance placed on this date for since 2008, it has marked the arrival of Ollie, the Dynamite baby, all-bearer of joy and happiness, into the family.

A pretty adult cake just wouldn't do. We had Ritz's bakery custom-make a blueberry cake in the shape of Anpanman, Ollie's favourite hero (to date). Pretty swell job too, don't you think?

We had t-shirts printed for everyone bearing various hallmarks of Ollie's journey to 12 months. Thanks for a job well done, Fat Tulip!

And birthday yummies...
Osekihan (Japanese red rice), symbolic of happiness and celebration

Chinese red eggs, a symbol of happiness and prosperity

Taka's Japanese pork curry, which begins with about a ton of chopped onions, and left to stew overnight - a symbol of... ummm... surefire overeating?

Gorgeous char siew from the roast meat platter

Mag's renkon sandwich creation...

Two slices of renkon (lotus root) with minced chicken meat sandwiched in between, coated with panko breadcrumb and deep fried. Delicious!

Mama Chow made Jap Chae (Korean glass noodles) - a must-have symbol for longevity. Her version was light on seasoning, heavy on the ingredients - Chinese celery, bean sprouts, carrot, prawns, sliced Chinese mushrooms, pork mince and black fungus.

The happy birthday boy and his pressies, including one very desirable Tonka truck! I could've used one when I turned one!

The adults also got plenty of good buzz from bottomless supply of homemade sangria, which stretched the party until late in the evening. Dear Ollie, may you be blessed with all the love & happiness in the world for years and years to come! You can be my Valentine anytime!