Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Penang Food Diary: Part 3

Life has been really busy and my kitchen had been feeling pretty lonely lately, but my tummy is still filled contently. This would be my final part of Penang food endeavour, which I had held off for far too long. I hope I would be at least posting once a week from now on unlike my recent absence, for my job load is high and my weekends are spent relaxing or having fun. But I have no intentions to abandon this blog of mine, which had just celebrated its first birthday! Oh no, where is the cake? It will come, I have no doubt but when is the question. It deserves a cake (or maybe a cupcake) and a post on its own, so do look out for it. Now off you go to drool on more Penang food fare.

Off we head towards the outer sides of this island, where the road is long and winding, and the sea runs along the side. We stopped halfway just to have a glimpse at the sea, though not really clean and beautiful, but still we needed a breather. Cheekily, we stopped right beside this sign, which I seen for the first time and found it pretty interesting.

Then we head on winding around the hillsides, searching for a hill which J said have spectacular view, with lovely set up and a Thai restaurant. On the way, we passed by a huge dam, which was a good place to stop for fresh air and clean view.

We continue our way to find our special hill, when suddenly we saw a huge signboard saying “Fruit Farm 1km” with an arrow pointing the way. On a whim we decided to give it a visit. We drove up at a turning up a steep road for few turns, and then we found the fruit ‘stall’.

The place was packed with local fruits that are currently in season. There is also a counter which serves freshly squeezed juices and sliced fruits.

We opted to just get some local fruits, some for a friend we would be visiting later and some for us to lug home. J and I was attracted to the black (or dark red) banana, which we have never seen before in our local markets back home. We enquired and the shopkeeper explains that it is nothing special in taste but the color causes many not to plant it due to superstitution. (Here locals believe that banana tree are prone to evil, thus a black banana would certainly be much worst that its yellow counterparts). So we happily bought a bunch back home to try.

Off again we go in search again and finally, we found the hidden way up to Genting Hill! Yes, there is such hidden gem in Penang, which even most localites do not know. The way up was pretty steep and scary, especially for my little black car to brave, but we did nonetheless and were certainly thankful we did. The view was certainly breathtaking, the place lively with funky designs and woodwork of Thai influences.

We found that this Thai haven also offers Thai massage and reflexologies, being crazy, we decide to go for the Thai massage (we do not know what effects will it have judging we just had reflexologies few hours ago) but we came out refresh and rejuvenated. Then we sat down by the restaurant’s balcony, just a top the beautiful scene below.

The meal was alright, just like a cross between Thai food and Mamak (Indian-Muslim) style of cooking. We had green curry chicken, which was a bit water down and with slices of chicken meat which seemed like pre-cooked and then thrown into the gravy for a little while before serving. Then the salted fish green vegetable, which I suppose should be Thai but tasted deceivingly like a Malay dish I know, and lastly was the Mango Kerabu, which was totally disappointing, nothing like the authentic tangy salad but instead very sweet (I suspect liberal sprinkles of brown sugar here).

Then we ended the meal with a Thai jackfruit with chestnut dessert, which came in a really small portion, which was not too bad. It tasted real coconuty with a little sweetness from the jackfruit and chewy-crunchy jelly-covered-chestnut. Given the credit of beautiful scenery, I really enjoyed the meal.

Bukit Genting (Genting Hill)
Off the road between Teluk Kumbar and Balik Pulau
(take a left turn at the huge water storage tank)
11.30am – 10pm daily

It is time for us to go back down to Penang, I am starting to miss the hawker food again. We went straight towards Kek Lok Si, to my one-and-only-favourite laksa in town.

I do not need to describe more of this wonder bowl, which I had featured before. Beside this stall, there was another mini stall selling fried popiah, which we found crunchy and tasty from our previous trip. We had it as starters while waiting for our laksa.

Laksa Stall
Pasar Air Itam

(Kek Lok Si)


Close: Tuesday

J remembered I mentioned that I wanted to try out Penang version of Chee Cheong Fun, which I learnt from L’s post long ago. So he took me to a nearby hawker stalls to try it out.

Chee cheong fun, apart from a smooth, slightly chewy and soft texture, the sauce is one of the most important part of the dish. This one comes with heavy take on heh kor (a sweet thick prawn paste, usually served with assam laksa; the black sauce drizzled on my laksa up-close shot above). Heh kor taste is usually acquired, it can be smelly to some, a taste really hard to be describe other than you taste it yourself, just like rojak. The chee cheong fun was not bad and certainly something new and different, although I still prefer the Taiping-style tim cheong (sweet sauce) best.

I forgot to note down the address but it is the restaurant not too far from Kek Lok Si where there are few more with the name in numbers. This one is a corner shop with the name of a year.

Our last stop is not any hawker stall or any fancy restaurant, but instead J’s friend’s house. Being a gracious host, they had prepared a full course delicious home-cooked meal, Penang style for us. Our eyes bulge at the amount of food they prepared, cursing our whole day gluttony. Yet being gracious guests too, we devoured everything, even though we were already filled to the brim. But it was not too hard as the meal was fantastic.

I did not get to take much picture, as not to be rude. The picture was sneakily taken while our hosts are bringing more food from the kitchen. We had the smoked chicken, prepared specially by the lady host, which later when I asked her, she explained that the chicken was rubbed with mixes of spices and then smoked with rice and coffee beans. It was certainly the star dish of the evening; with the deep smoky flavour embed right into the bones while the meat was juicy and sweet. I can still imagine it now. Then there was the dry beef curry, with slices of daging bakar (barbequed meat) with thick curry with kerisik (pounded dry-fried grated coconut, like those in rendang). It was really addictive too. then there was the tom yam fish head, which was the huge bowl you see there, that was good and really spicy after some time. Then besides that, there was another fish dish, which was Teochew steam fish, the fish was really fresh and the simplicity of the dish brought it out. Then we also had some stir-fried vegetables to complete the meal. When we just came we chit-chat with the hosts’ son on the topic food (of course, he is a penangite after all) and he asked us what was our best meal in Penang so far, that time I answered Laksa, but after the wonderful Penang-home-cooked meal, I had to re-declare that it was the best meal I had so far in Penang! Nothing beats home-cooked meal isn’t it, and to top it off, this one is by one of the food-critics in Malaysia.

After the meal we had long hours of catching up and talking about everything under the sun. Finally when we leave, we have slightly digested and did not feel like a walking wate-balloon. Then J get on with the final itenary, which is of course food, this time is for kuey teow kerang (fried flat rice noodles with cockles). This one surprisingly is not made by Chinese, but from a Malay stall, that had adapted the infamous char kuey teow into a slightly wetter version with much much more of cockles.

This kuey teow dish was certainly thick with cockles taste, though I am not a fan of it but this one was certainly yummy. It was slightly spicy with loads of fresh cockles drowning the white kuey teow, which was soft and smooth. It is certainly a dish well worth the extra space in my overload tummy.

Kuey Teow Kerang Stall
Jalan Sungai Dua

Finally when the day has ended, J and I packed into my little black car and head back home, discussing all the way about all the food we had and some extra funs we had thrown in. Definitely a trip to remember by, else my expanded waistline will remind me anyway.

Penang Food Diaries:
Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Penang Food Diary: Part 2

11.02 am
J and I got Jalan Penang (road) for a fix of something icy, this time it is
cendol. But it is not like the ordinary cendol we can get others places as this one apparently is Teochew style.

We ordered for a bowl and got into the restaurant, where this stall is parked right outside. This restaurant, charged extra rm0.40 if you ordered the cendol into their premise. I guess they can’t earn much judging that everyone drinks from the stall outside instead of their drinks. We obliged nonetheless as we wanted a place to sit and cool down.

The cendol came, looking ordinary, but once I tasted it, I found that it is milder in coconut taste than the usual Indian cendol and also there are more red beans. I can’t say this is the best cendol, in fact I still love the one back in PJ, still it is a cool refreshing drink to down the thirst.

Then J spied on a char kuey teow stall in restaurant and wanted to give it a try. After all we could not have the famous one at Lorong Macalister.

The plate of char kuey teow came, Penang style with huge prawns, cockles, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), fishcake, and taugeh (beansprouts). It tasted great, even better than the one we had at Kek Lok Si. So J quickly cleans out the plate.

Joo Hooi Café
475 Jalan Penang
Opens 10-7.30pm

After that, I still yearns for more icy stuff and told J about a famous ais kacang (local shaved ice dessert) nearby at the next street. Just outside the restaurant, is the junction to four famous streets in Penang. We walk over the overhead bridge, which connect all four streets, one of it leading towards Komtar (shopping mall), towards our destination.

11.31 am
Down the street from the overhead bridge, we got into Kek Seng restaurant for its famous
ais kacang. We ordered for one and it came looking really special.

It tasted great too, unlike anywhere else I get, with sweet corn, red beans, huge jelly and two dollops of ice cream. The ice cream is even freshly made, as I saw a huge sign showing they have their own-made famous durian ice cream here, which was served with the ais kacang. Indeed the ice cream tasted great and complimented the ais kacang well.

Feeling bit nibbly, we ordered the popiah (Chinese spring roll) to go along. The lady came to serve asked us whether we want to pour in the broth (first time I encountered broth for popiah) then we agreed and it was poured over the popiah. It was a little bland but the texture was not bad.

Kek Seng Coffeeshop
384 Jalan Penang

Feeling really filled up we decided to have a little break from our eating frenzy and head over for some massage and reflexology. It is located at the same row with Joo Hooi Café, at the other end of the row of shops. Here, they offer massages and reflexology by the blinds. Nowadays, it is really popular in Malaysia, for the blinds to learn reflexology, from a school which is catered to them specially. Going to these places always makes me feel that I had helped them in a way, where they can earn their own income. I opt for the reflexology while J went for the massage. The service was great and both of us enjoyed it. I would recommend you to stop by if you ever had a chance to be around town.

Aroma Reflexology
Jalan Penang
(same row with Joo Hooi Café)

After an hour and half of relaxing, we are ready to eat again (surprise!). So J and I got in the car and sped off in search of Char Kuey Kak (stir fried radish cake) and Or Chien (oyster omelette). I read that the one near the Chinese school was famous so we went there and alas again, we found that the stall was not open. Then we guessed that it is only opened for dinner. So we sat down and ordered har mee (prawn noodle) instead.

The noodle was great, expectedly as har mee is another famous dish hailed from Penang itself. It came in a superbly rich prawn broth, with prawns, sliced pork, eggs and beansprouts. It was good; we eat and drank the soup dry (we would not want to count the calories here).

Opposite Penang Chinese Girl School
Jalan Gottlieb

So, feeling satiated again, J and I decided to head on to some site seeing. I just found out, thanks to J that, besides the glorious food, it turns out there are some hidden places to visit in Penang.

To be continued….

Penang Food Diaries:
Part 1
Part 3

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Penang Food Diary

I have just notice that one main reason of the scarcity of post is not just because the lack of free time, but also my own expectations from it. Every time I wanted to rush to post up something, I would in the end put it off or did not even start due to the fact that I know I would not be able to give my best. I guess its time to change my mindset a little, after all, when it comes to blogging it should be about the flexibility, the freedom to express oneself and most of all, it should be enjoyable. Of course I do enjoy writing, but sometimes I might just be too hard on myself. Enough of self-ranting and let’s get on with the food. Oh yes, I promised you my food excursion up north, didn’t I?

Morning 8.00am
Drag myself off the bed to the bathroom, wash up and dress up hastily. Got into my little black car with J and sped off northward bound. Did not have enough sleep but strangely felt seriously energized, thinking of all the food to come (the wonders of being tham-jiak).

Finally crossed the
Penang Bridge and had arrived at food paradise. The air seems mixed with sea breeze and food smell. Now it is probably the morning sickness or it is just that I am really hungry. Finally, after just a short search, we got to our first food destination. We stopped by for the infamous Sg. Pinang Ark Thooi Mee Suah (Duck Leg with Fine Wheat Noodle). We ordered for it and after some time, it still has yet to arrive, I got agitated, went over to reorder then they told me ark thooi has just finished and they recommended me to take keh thooi (chicken drumstick) instead. Oh well, I just obliged as my stomach seems to get grumpy.

This keh thooi mee suah also came in the same broth as the famous ark thooi, which is double boiled yok choy (herbs) soup. The ingredients, I believe should be of the usual yok choy herbs such as kei chi (wolfberries), tong sum, wai san, ginseng and so forth. It was really energizing as a breakfast, and certainly fueled me with enough energy to wander around whole day in my food adventure. The mee suah deserves a mention as it was exceptionally soft and smooth, without the floury coating which can be found in commercially made mee suah, and certainly complements the yok choy broth well.

Oon Swee Hoe
Duck/Chicken Drumstick Noodle
Jalan Sungai Pinang,
10150 Penang

After that good and hearty noodle soup, our hopes are high as we gaily drive to the next destination which was just a few streets away. We got over to get some less heart healthy stuff which the famous Penang char kuey teow (stir fried flat noodles) at the famous Lorong Macalister but alas, when we got there, the store was close. So we head on next to another killing delicacy that is the famous Penang curry mee (noodle). This one we got off the internet from
Penang Haven, which she mentioned that this stall is known as the brothers curry mee. This is because the stall, which was passed on by their father, is run by a sibling. I just had to go there to see what the fuss is all about to be able to remain reputable for two generations.

The noodle came, just like how authentic Penang curry noodle should be, with prawns, cockles, pig's blood cubes, sotong (squid) and beancurd. J tasted the noodle first and found nothing special about it (I guess he is accustomed to the KL style ones) thus he took the liberty and add huge dollops of sambal, available at the table.

After that J announced that now it was good and so I have a try at it. I love the spiciness (thanks to J) and also enjoy the extra flavours from the ingredients aforementioned. Certainly different from other curry noodles I used to have.

Brothers Curry Mee,
Lorong Seratus Tahun,
(access from Jalan Macalister)

After sweating all over from the spicy curry noodle, we got back into the car and drove down several blocks to Lorong Bangkok (Bangkok Lane). Here, is specially taken by J as he had tried it once, following a Penang food-lover friend, as a typical Penangites, who took him there before. J swore that this stall has the best mee goreng (fried noodle) you can ever find in Malaysia. We arrived at the humble restaurant, where the mamak stall is located. J ordered for the mee goreng in
Hokkien, as the mamaks there in fact had learnt to speak this ubiquitous dialect of Penang. I was certainly impressed.

The noodle came looking redder than the usual mamak mee goreng. One bite and I am totally won over, I was never really a fan of mee gorengs of any kind, but this is certainly different. As the stall also sells mee rebus (literally boiled noodles), which comes in thick sauce (consisting of potatoes, curry, soybeans, shrimps and peanuts), which usually comes with marinated sotong, tau kwa(firm tofu) and beansprouts. Judging from the taste of the mee goreng, I can guess that they had used the mee rebus kuah (gravy) to fry the noodle. Eating it you will find sotong (which was marinated well before hand, thus extremely flavourful and without the fishy taste at all) and mashed up potatoe. It is certainly hard for me to explain how special this plate of mee goreng is, I guess the best way is for you to head on there for a try if you had the chance, I personally recommends it.

Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng
Lorong Bangkok
(Located in the coffee shop at the junction of Lorong Bangkok and Jalan Burma)

Then filled up with spicy fried noodles, I am thirsting for something refreshing, something icy. J and I got into the car and sped off once more in search for more.

To be continued….

Penang Food Diaries:
Part 2
Part 3
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