Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tasty vegetarian Thai, old Georgetown

My spell of year-end leisure continues in the old part of Georgetown. I love this area, around the heritage enclave. Every visit invariably reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to call this gorgeous town home, with its colonial-era architecture, narrow streets and most of all its general atmosphere - distinctly nostalgic and chilled at the same time.
Lots of good flavours can be found in this part of the town too. We were farewelling some vegetarian friends bound back to big bad-ass KL, so we parked ourselves at Tasty Bake, a 6-week old cafe on Pitt St near the splendid Goddess of Mercy temple.
This place isn't designed to handle a huge traffic of diners - just a couple of tables set up outside and a sofa area inside. As we soon found out, this was directly related to the the kitchen capacity as well - only one dish at a time. So if you went in a big group, you'd find that the first person who got served would have well finished his/her meal before the last person got fed.
First up was Phad Ki Mow - basically fried flat noodles with vegetables, plenty of basil and hot, hot bird's eye chilli. Extremely palatable.
Fried vegetarian "chicken" nuggets - I don't know about this. My stand on vegetarian is to stay clear of mock meats, regardless of how it's prepared.

Star dish of the day was definitely the Cashew Salad, no contest. Toasted, crunchy cashews tossed with diced tomatoes, red peppers, onion, basil and coriander and probably a hearty squeeze of lemon juice... beautiful!

MS and KJ both ordered the mixed Vegetable Green Curry, which came with rice. The curry was probably too light and watery for my liking but once again, basil came to the rescue.

The Mutton Curry was spicier, richer and more agreeable to me than its green amigo. Yes, mock meat elbowed its way in but who can resist the call of the flesh?

I settled for the Tasty Fried Rice, which was ordinary on its own, but delicious when paired with the mutton curry.

After enduring the wait time in between every dish, we decided to further test our patience by ordering a round of healthy drinks while witnessing a couple of obviously high or drunk jockey touts fight out some territorial dispute. No one got seriously hurt, thank goodness. And when it finally arrived, the pineapple coconut smoothie (with choice of whole or soy milk) was a refreshing end to a lovely meal and good company. Thanks for picking up the tab, H! Hope you had a good trip back!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Breakfast at New Cathay, Burma Road

The slew of late alcohol-fuelled nights has been unkind to mornings after. One surefire way to help one back to basic humanoid functionality is to head out for a substantial breakfast.

This particular morning, we headed to the ever-popular New Cathay kopitiam on Burmah Road, opposite Bellisa Row. This place is buzzing all the time, with both Penang folk and out-of-towners who have descended upon the island this season. There are a handful of stalls, dishing up guaranteed goodness.

I made a beeline for the Char Hor Fun, one of the best I've tasted in the area.

For RM4, you get a generous serving of flat broad rice noodles fried to a golden-brown hue, doused with a gorgeous gravy and topped with a half cooked egg. Stir in the egg, dump in the pickled green chillies and you're ready to continue your year-end hedonistic binge!

The stall is manned solo by an auntie, so it's understandable she gets grouchy when the heat is on, such as packed mornings like this.

The Koay Chiap with duck meat here is decent as well. No kick ass special chilli sauce like Kimberley Street's though - here, they serve this plain with bird's eye chilli in soy sauce.

Margarined toast to round off the meal for some. I like the look of the heap of sugar on the side.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cheap Thai at Mangrove Food Court, Tanjung Tokong

Xmas Day mid-morning: Frantic search for smoked salmon for party dish later that night. Where has all the smoked salmon gone in Penang? Giant, Cold Storage Gurney Plaza, OK food store in Pulau Tikus, nada! Last stop was Cold Storage at Island Plaza, but before I headed back home to prep, we decided to satisfy our Thai craving, cheap and on the double, in the Tanjung Tokong neighbourhood.
The unusually named Mangrove Food Court is located within the Prima Tanjung shophouse enclave. It houses a dubiously luminous repertoire of famed Penang favourites - Carnavon St Char Koay Teow, Penang Road Assam Laksa, Taman Kuda Popiah, just to name a few. The legitness of the name-dropping remains to be seen.
The food court also has a curious number of Thai food stalls; a small Thai community of hawkers seemed to have found it opportune to congregate here. I decided on the Thai Koay Teow soup from one stall, having been missing the delicious herb-laden variant on Bangkok streets. It arrived looking like THIS.

Gah!!! Can anything scream terminal illness more? I am vehemently against eating local koay teow soup and this one looks nothing like its Thai counterpart. Luckily, one thing Thai this stall did nail (apart from the lilting sing-song accent) was the 4-condiment caddy.

Add a generous spoonful of this...

and more of this...

...and we have a spicy, near-Thai experience!

It's not breakfast in Banglamphu but it's several notches up from that bowl of soporific boredom that was initially served.

Sweet Pork Rice (RM4.50) from another stall. This one was quite lovely - the pork slices, heavily coated in sweet dark soy and garlic worked beautifully with plain white rice.

Also from the same stall, we got the seafood glass noodle salad (RM5). This one was a bit of a hit and miss, too much glass noodle, too heavy on the onions and the bird's eye chilli. My nose was running halfway ploughing through this sedate looking thing.

Oh and by the way, negatory on the pursuit of smoked salmon for potato skins. Either Penang folks have completely wiped the supply out over Xmas or the supermarkets didn't care to keep them ont their shelves. No great damage done, I substituted with bacon instead! :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Savoury pies at John King, Pavillion

Found myself wandering around Pavillion's food hall, wondering what I should get to kill the munchies. Had just come from a more-ish breakfast, so really didn't want to go crazy either. After pacing the stretch of the food hall about three times, I finally stopped at John King. Now John King purpotedly serves the bees' knees of egg tarts. Egg tarts would be about the right size and serving to fit that itsy craving but I wasn't up for anything sweet.

They also had a range of pies, about the same size of the egg tarts. I got a regular chicken & mushroom one and a curry chicken one; both pies came up to about RM6 plus. I can't say I'm crazy about these.

Chicken and mushroom pie

Chicken curry pie

Same signature crumbly pastry, great on its own but it's still SWEET pastry and tastes off-kilter when paired with the rich savoury flavours of curry and cream. Couldn't complain about the filling, so if you like your savoury with your sweet - like sundae with fries or other such combination - you might like this.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Hakkas at Ying Ker Lou, The Curve

My Hakka heritage has been attacking my tastebuds for a while, so it was opportune when my very Hakka dad and my very obliging Hokkien mom were in town to revisit some familiar flavours.

Dad had been to Ying Ker Lou at the Curve some years ago and it left a good enough impression enough for him to say, "Let's go to the Curve!" when asked where he'd like to head on the first day they arrived. My Dad is of the school of seniors who refuse to remember names of places, preferring instead to associate places to sights and sounds and more importantly, food! So that specification of a location alone augured well and dandy.

We couldn't go too heavy on the meat, in observance of "eating light in the evenings."

Hakka Minced Pork Bantiao. A slightly more upmarket version of the local Hakka Mee, this package was as light as noodles and fatty minced pork can get. Noodles were springy and toothsome, coated with the juices of pork and dare we speculate, generous lashings of "ham yue chap" (salted fish sauce).

Hakka Bamboo Shoot Dumplings. Glistening fat pockets full of bamboo goodness and more minced pork. We like our meat, even if that means shooting to hell our interpretation of "eating light."

Hakka Yam Abacus. Now my parents make this at home on occasion, and take to the tedious process of kneading yam and tapioca flour like fish to water. They conceded that this deserved a half thumbs up, which is no small feat. The crunchy texture of Chinese parsley and black fungus was a fitting finish to the substance provided by the nicely balanced yam-and-flour dough.

Hakka Chives Rice Rolls. Now, by this time, the flour and meat mixture was starting to get a bit much, so we probably could've done without this dish. It was a decent rice roll attempt, with chunky filling but just too much of the same for us to be rightfully appreciative.

Siu Pak Choy with Ginger and Black Fungus. The "eating light" comes to play. Nevertheless, this added the much needed non-dough and meat dimension to the meal. Dad was somewhat resistant though, as he felt it wasn't cooked thoroughly enough but Mom and I relished this happily.

And to wash it all down and to accompany Dad's stories of his childhood entrepreneurship back in China, Pu'Er Tea served in lovely china. I can't heap enough praise on outlets that take pride in the tableware with which they choose to pageant their food and beverages.

The meal came up to about RM77 for 3 pax. Not dirt cheap, but by no means ridiculous either, especially when I got a good, exclusive one-on-one re-telling of one of my favourite stories ever from Dad.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Voila, Sandringham Road

I hate to follow up a deliciously devastating review with a bland praise-heaping one but we had a pretty good meal at the Moroccan-French cafe in Sandringham, so sorry for snores... but there was this weird dude who insisted on sitting at the same table as me. Pictured here is his demonstration of coffee coinosseur stirmanship. He was also wearing a sweatshirt that resembled a grey marshmallow. When people dress like confectionery, it's hard to say no.
This was my Eggs Benedict with Salmon on a Spinach-filled gallete. Your eyes do not deceive you, that is a salmon steak resting on the parcel with poached egg and hollandaise heaped on top - an unusual and welcome luxury in a land of paltry salmon shavings.

Weird Dude's breakfast of mushroom/caramellized onion filled omelette, a thoughtful balance of the savoury and sweet.

Exquisite lemon tart, big enough for two.

My Long Black, their coffee is supplied by Supreme, an Auckland-based roaster; the owner told us they had been through several suppliers until they settled with Supreme. Great service, the pastry here deserves definite props - this place is filled to the brim and then some on weekends so visit on a weekday if you can.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dimsum at Zhong Hua, Cititel Penang

For fine dim sum in Penang, we tend to stick close to the tried-and-tested Forum at Island Plaza. And on occasions where we dare venture to new places, we pay dearly, often finding that when it comes to the ultimate har gao, Forum, nothing compares 2U! This outing to Zhong Hua, the Chinese restaurant at Cititel Penang reinforces exactly that.

Cititel Penang also houses the legendary Kirishima, so we were expecting similar standards at its Chinese counterpart. Sadly, as they say, expectations beget disappointment. Now, it wasn't AWFUL but it just wasn't good either.

Century egg & pork porridge (pei tan chuk) - my dim sum litmus test. This came lukewarm, and half- hearted. It appeared as if the chef started out with the best of intentions, to turn this into a silky smooth concoction but gave up halfway and decided, "screw it, let them eat my half-congee, and to prove that I really don't care, I'll serve it cold!!"

Fried radish cake - this was presentable, but entirely due to the amount of oil that overwhelmed the yawn-inducing radish cake. Grease, like greed, is good.

Teowchew dumpling (chiu chao fan gor) - no effort here whatsoever to emulate the traditional recipe of its namesake. The filling was essentially a doughy pork meatball with some token greens, not the loose mixture of peanuts, minced meat and chives that it's supposed to be. Fail!

Prawn dumpling (har gao). All skin, shrimpy and skint filling.

Pork dumpling (Siu Mai). This picture says it all, don't you think?

Fried prawn dumpling. Again, skin as thick as my sole. All the pretty paper doiles and framed photographs of MCA eminence dining here in a thousand shades of batik can't conceal the fact that this is only as good as the next economy kopitiam dim sum's.

Chee Cheong Fun (steamed rice rolls with prawns). Probably the worst of the lot. It was over-steamed to the point that the rice roll disintegrated as soon as it made contact with chopsticks. Ideal for the tooth-deprived, or those recovering from a nasty dental surgery.

In case this post has somehow tempted you to pay a visit... maybe the chef just had a bad day.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Breakfast at Petaling Street Wet Market & 7 Random Things

I am working my way through the KL cliches, the undisputed champs and gems around town, and last weekend, with my visiting lovely folks in tow, I managed to tick off one of them - breakfast at the Petaling Street wet market.
Madras Lane chee cheong fun stall, featuring an efficient production line of chee cheong fun.
Now this has been touted as one of the best in KL but frankly, I didn't quite get it. The CCF was cold to begin with, which isn't the way I like my breakfast. The simplicity of the two mingling sauces worked fine, as did the slippery smoothness of the rice noodles, but I would have liked it at least lukewarm.

Curry noodles, the cockles were practically still breathing! Too bad none of us were fans of raw cockles, as I imagine this would've really made the day for one. The curry was thick and nutty, and I liked the fact that the curry came with plenty of long beans and slices of brinjals, upping the veggie content from just the customary toss of beansprouts.

The star of the show at the area has got to be the Yong Tow Foo stall. The stall was completely inundated by patrons, who were jostling and pushing for the attention of the lady boss, a shrewd looking, sharp-mouthed woman presiding over yet another impressive production line responding swiftly to the mounting orders. I'm not a fan of yong tow foo to begin with so the fact that I found the stuffed brinjal palatable when dunked in the chilli and bean sauces goes to explain the queue - they have the goods!
On a separate note, I have been tagged by What2see and Food Paradise! Thanks for thinking of me, CK Lam and Regina!

7 Random Things about me:
  1. I'm a notorious movie/tv show bootlegger, having severed ties with Astro after a very acrimonious relationship. I enjoy foreign flicks (with correct subtitles, of course) but also find great amusement in pirated DVDs with extremely inaccurate subtitles. Case in point: Memoirs of a Geisha (hideous movie, but this is not the forum for that), you badly needed the subtitles to understand what the hell anyone's saying, but when "Mr. Chairman" becomes "Mr. Charming" and "Mr. German", the movie suddenly comes alive and becomes heaps more fun!
  2. I can't stand milk, but I love ice cream. I don't touch cheese on its own, don't mind it on pizza, but not in my pasta or anything else. So my stand on dairy is... inconclusive.
  3. I am a great reverse parker.
  4. I am a great fan of hats. I have great joy in shopping for hats, purchasing one and watching them wrapped up nicely in a hat box! I wish we had more agreeable weather in Malaysia for hats.
  5. I play Scrabble online. I was devastated when they removed Scrabulous from Facebook, and now I make do with Scrabble worldwide (excluding US and Canada).
  6. I read gossip blogs. There, I wrote it, posted it!! Gah! I shall so regret this. Please don't judge me.
  7. I have given up on the gym after having wasted good $$ on year-long commitment membership and numerous battles of conscience. However, a functional alternative towards the pursuit of health and fitness remains to be seen.

And that is all! I shall now tag the following:


Makan King and Queen

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shanghai 10 Grand, Avenue K

After battling Friday evening traffic into the city, a usual 10-minute journey that took 45 minutes, I was grumpy and ravenous. My friend H who had made the proposition for dinner at Avenue K had promised good food at reasonable prices, and I was intending to hold her to her words.

We arrived at Shanghai 10 Grand at the basement of Avenue K, right above the hordes of LRT commuters. At this point, I remembered a pleasant dining experience at the Shanghai 10 outlet in Bangsar Baru more than a year ago, and a less pleasant one at the outlet in Queensbay Mall in Penang, so really, the evening could go either way.

H took to the task of ordering for all four of us with great ease, fuelling suspicion that she had been lunching extremely well at her new work surroundings. We were a little taken aback when all the food arrived at one go and we had to join our 4-seater table with another to make space for all the plates, teacups, condiments and whatnot.

Fried flat glass noodles with crab roe and shrimps. I'm not a huge glass noodle fan, the stringy variety anyway, but this one transformed me into an instant convert. Tasted like hor fun, with rougher texture and more bite, and each piece see-through to boot! The crab roe and shrimps were abundant, though you wouldn't be able to tell from my awful photo.

The outlet name has Shanghai in it after all so missing out on the Xiu Long Bao would have been a crime. The XLBs here are decent, with the right amount of filling nestled in a small mouthful of soup. It isn't quite Din Tai Feng's 18-fold offering, but it'll do.

Egg tarts, extra milky. Because I'm quasi lactose-intolerant, one half of a tart was just about all I could stomach.

Fried yam cake, instead of the usual radish cake. I have to say I much prefer this to radish cake. There's just so much more substance to yam than radish.

Crispy prawn rolls in beancurd skin. Nothing extraordinary but credit due for the chunky fresh prawns within.

Pickled cucumber. Refreshing, tangy with a mild hint of spice and everything nice!

There was also an order of the ramen in Shanghai-style hot & spicy soup but I completely forgot to get a shot of it. The noodles were springy, and a nice soupy addition to the rest of the relatively dry meal.

We polished everything off, right down to the last sliver of cucumber. The bill split up evenly to about RM16 per person, which is reasonable enough so all the horrors upon exiting the Smart tunnel earlier were well forgotten!