Monday, October 28, 2013

Great Penang food in Singapore? Enter Gurney Drive Restaurants

I have often lamented the poverty of authentic, well cooked Penang hawker fare in Singapore. While understadable as Singapore is not Penang, but yet, inexplicable because of the great popularity of Penang cuisine amongs our inhabitants.

So it is with a bit of joy, that I present a restaurant which brings us one step closer...not exactly there yet, but at least all the flavours are authentic and well cooked.

I had eaten at Gurney Drive...the real street food in Penang as well as the restaurant here in Singapore. My first experience with them was a few years ago, when they first opened in Suntec City. My conclusion then was it was not ready for prime time, and thus never wrote a review. But recently, I sampled their cooking again, in Changi Airport Terminal 3, and was pleasantly surprised. So I went to re-sample, to ensure that there was indeed consistency in the cooking at the Jems outlet. And indeed was pleasantly satiated, yet again. Bravo!

The Penang Prawn Hokkien Mee, shown above was rather well presented. Two large prawns, the correct ingredients. Taste wise it was quite good, though a tad salty. The soup had a deep savoury flavour typical of those found in the better hawker stalls in Penang. This is not a crustacean flavour in the Singapore version, but a pork bone based flavour with a touch of rock sugar.

Of course the Penang Char Kway Teow is indicated...rather prescribed

This is an all time favourite of mine and apparently a lot of Penangites. One would find a CKT stall almost every other coffee shops in Penang, and there are at least 3 or perhaps 4 which can claim to be world class in their interpretation of this dish. The Gurney version is very good. With nice wok hei, beautifully fried, not too greasy...though a little grease cannot be avoided as the kway teow itself is a bit greasy and pork lard used to fry it. Very nice.

The Penang version of the Mamak Mee Goreng is also very good

A bit different from the ones offered by the mamaks in Singapore, where we tend to use a red dye,they tend to add potato bits and croutons with the slightest bit of kichap manis, and fresh lettuce. Quite authentic. Nice flavours. Again a tad salty.

Their rojak is also authentic

With very nice ingredients. Tiny, sour mango, sliced cuttlefish, jambu, cucumber, bangkuang, pineapple, croutons from yu tiao, all mixed in the fabulous hae ko based sauce, and sprinkled with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. Very nice.

The dessert is equally nice. The classical Malaysian iced dessert of ice kachang...or ABC - air batu campur is superb:

A mountain of finely shaved ice, drizzled with a tricolour syrup, topped with sweet corn, and covering a base of red bean, jelly, attap seeds. In the Gurney version, the chef take a bit of poetic license and adds thinly sliced nutmeg and crushed peanuts. The nutmeg lifts the dish from good to quite exceptional.

and the chendol

Nicely flavoured. Reminds me of the Teochew Chendol stall in Penang Road when I visited as a youth. Alas, the last visit several years ago, the taste of the stall in Penang Road has deteriorated. But this version concocted by Gurney brings back those memories of the good times for me. The red bean was large, soft, nice aroma. The ice finely shaved. The gula melaka used to sweeten the dessert could have been a bit more aromatic and flavourful, and the coconut milk could have been fresh instead of out of a can, but this was good enough for a fascilime.

With this tasting, I can safely recommend Gurney Drive for Penang Cuisine. I had also tried the jew her eng chye and lorbak at my second tasting in T3, but still find them to lack the authenticity for a recommendation.

Gurney Drive Restaurant
04-27 JEM
Various other locations

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