Monday, October 29, 2012

More Eats in Penang: Best lorbak and others

Last installment this Penang trip...covering the same 3 basic Penang Hawker essentials...Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee and Lorbak.

Today's main feature is the lor bak. We have come to the best that Penang has to offer...IMHO.

Perhaps not the healthiest dish...heck, none of the dishes I featured in this Penang route is healthy...all deep fried, with strong, powerful stock. But tastewise, these are the best on offer.

The essentials are the lor bak...literally translated from Hokkkien as gravy meat. It usually features a sliver of fillet pork, with spices...wrapped in a bean curd skin, deep fried. The best, like this one here have the pork still succulent, juicy, tasty, and the wrapping light and crisp. Yes, I did say light, despite the deep frying, the best lorbak somehow manages to give the impression of being relatively grease free.

Then there is the prawn fritters

Prawns, often with the shells still on, encased in a airy batter. The batter is special, rendered super crispy, but yet still manages to stay light and airy...a bit like tempura in this respect, but altogether different in all others. The flavour of the prawns permeate. And dipped in the gravy...the lor...and a little quite heavenly.

This is for me the best lorbak in Penang. The gold standard.

The coffeeshop which houses this lorbak also sells the standard hawker staples...the Hokkien Prawn mee

Quite good. The broth is deep with prawn flavour, slightly sweet through the use of rock sugar. The tiny prawns which garnish the bowl with the deep fried shallots are powerpacked with flavour. The tinge of chilli completes the taste.

And the char kway teow

Not the best, when compared to Ah Leng or Google Lady, but still holds the flag high. Nice flavours, good wok hei. Fresh ingredients.

Another rather interesting aspect is that although the star of these shops are the various food offerings, almost always the shops are owned by the coffee vendor. Here, still plying the coffee trade the traditional way.

Certainly highly recommeded to stop here for the lorbak and prawn fritters. Best of breed.

Kafe Kheng Pin
Corner of Penang Road and Sri Bahari Road

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Eats in Penang: Hawker food...

Seafood in Penang is one of the delights. And Hawker Centres are still to be found in many enclaves throughout the island. Today, I feature a hawker center in Tanjong Bungah...right near the beautiful beaches of Tanjung Bungah and Telok Bahang.

This hawker center, with stalls selling a variety of delights...most of the Penang favourites and usual suspects can be found. When we were there on a Monday evening, the open air dining area was rather crowded with patrons. The main seafood stall - the place's namesake Viva, was not open that evening. But there were plenty of options.

We started with the usual...Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee

De rigeur, I say. Which means...very good. One comes to expect the level of standard fare like this to be rather very good when in Penang. And this was no different. The tiny little prawns pack more a flavour than it would seem from its size. The broth was flavourful. The chilli, a bit weak, but added a nice punch.

We also had the standard offering of lorbak.

Again, de rigeur. Meets the requirements. Very good, but not excellent or mind blowing. Next week, I will feature a mind blowing lorbak from Penang. But that evening's was only good.

Somewhat breaking the de rigeur mold, is the very excellent oyster omelette

The oyster was excellent...fresh, large, fat, succulent, rich tasting. Luxurious in the palate, ably assisted by the magnificently fried eggs.

Hokkien Char

A noodle dish, with a dark sauce...not quite as dark as the Black KL Hokkien Mee, but a more enigmatic, aromatic sauce. Fried with mee and beehoon. Seafood, and pork. Nice.

Pasembur, a kind of Chinese rojak was also ordered...

Not comparable to the best in Penang...which is to be found in Padang Brown. But again a high level of compentency. The crisp bits were nicely done. The vegetables were nice and crisp. The sauce lacked a bit when compared to the Padang's, but still quite delicious.

And for Indian pancake

A special dough poured and cooked over a clay pot...sometimes with bits of ripe banana cut and mixed within. Delicious.

Viva Hawker Center
Tanjong Bungah

Monday, October 22, 2012

Penang delights: Kueh Kak

The Anson Road market in Penang is one of the old favourites of my family. We used to live just about 1km away, and my mother would buy our daily groceries from there. There are a couple of iconic hawker food there. And Kueh's feature is one of them.

I used to love the Char Kway Teow at the corner coffee shop...the uncle who fries the special dish uses a charcoal fire. Slow, super hot. Wonderful wok hei. The same coffee shop also has a wantan mee stall who have been run by the same fellow since I was in Kindergarten. And in the market proper, the Chee Cheong Chok...a congee dish with deep fried, crispy pig intestine dish is wonderful. But except for the wantan mee fellow (who sold out at about 9:30 when I arrived), sadly they are no more. CKT uncle passed away years ago, and CCC stall disappeared.

I was, however delighted to see that the Kueh Kak stall is still there. The uncle who does the frying...a talkative and jolly fellow who has been running the stall for the last 40 years, was game to dispense life advice as well as a mean kueh kak...a variant of our fried carrot cake.

The rice cake used as a base is somewhat smoother in texture and firmer than the ones used by Singapore's carrot cake. And the radish...the name carrot cake is a misnomer...for there is no carrot used in the ingredients, but rather preserved radish.

Deep smokey flavours, excellent wok hei. The egg was nicely fried and fragrant...and the radish is flavourful, permeating throughout the dish. The taugeh and koo chye providing counterpoint in the form of nice crunch. Very nice. Recommended.

Kueh Kak Stall
Anson Road Market

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More eats in Penang: Ah Leng CKT and other delights

Char Kway Teow, or spelled Char Kueh Teow in Penang is one of my favourite it comfort food..

Certainly it has all the vices of a comfort plate easily clocks up some 800-900 calories. But eat one must, especially in Penang. One of my all time favourite places to eat CKT in Penang is at the famous Ah Leng.

The CKT is awesome...this plate is with everthing egg in place of a chicken egg...and mantis prawns.

The same fellow has been helming the wok for I guess the best part of the last 40 years...I remember eating as a small boy...but on to the description...the duck egg is alltogether a richer and more flavourful alternative to the regular chicken egg. We do not get fresh duck eggs here in Singapore...for some reason, it is banned by AVA, or so I understand.

The wok is super hot, and sears the ingredients. The wok hei is quite amazing. The prawns are large, succulent and super fresh. The mantis prawns are deep fried, and added as a garnishing on top. Makes a very fragrant savoury treat. Very good. Most of Ah Leng's clients are now tourists or a plate as presented is RM11...a tad expensive for the locals. But converted to S$, this is approx S$4.80, a bit pricey, but not extraordinarily so. And for such a wonderful tasting dish...totally worth the entrance fee...including the calories, fat and cholesterol.

While waiting, we spied the Hokkien Prawn mee stall...then dishing out the last few bowls...we enquired...the cook said yes...I have one more!

I found the broth to be a tad too salty...perhaps this was because it had been boiling for hours...being the last bowl. The noodles were very soft...boiled, and the prawns were intensely flavoured. I don't remember ever eating prawns as intensely flavoured like this in Singapore. But this kind of prawns, small, but powerpacked is common amongst HKM stalls in Penang. Recommended, but for me, I reserve my best of breed laurel for Super HKM, which I featured earlier.

We also decided to add some lor bak, as the wait for the ckt was going to be 40 minutes.

This was de rigeur lor bak for Penang. Somewhat similar to ngor hiang in Singapore, but in a style only found in Penang.

The strips of loin pork marinated, and wrapped in a beancurd skin, deep fried, dipped in chilli and a dark sauce known as lor. Very good.

Also good is the heh chee...or prawn fritters

Prawns in batter, deep fried...till super crispy. Great flavour, dipped in lor and chilli.

Highly recommended.

Kafe Khoon Hiang
Jalan Dato Kramat/Jalan Dunlop (facing Honolulu Club)
Closed on Thursday

Monday, October 15, 2012

More eats in Penang...Padang Brown

Padang Brown in Penang is an institution for foodies. A must visit place, for local Penangites or vistors alike. The place come alive from about 2pm in the afternoon, and for most of the stores featured here, the action is over by 4pm. Come early for your afternoon snack.

I used to live just a stone throw's away when I was a wee kid...and some of the hawkers doing their stuff there have been there since then...from about 40 years ago! I start with one of my favourite Penang dishes...char kway teow...variously spelled as char kueh teow.

The CKT is quite good...

Freshly fried each plate on its own...the noodle is flat rice noodles...kway teow...but the variant in Penang is somewhat thinner, more delicate in physical structure, but altogether a bit more robust in taste than the variety we get in Singapore. Fried without any sweet black sauce, but with seafood. Lovely. Not the best in Penang, but will best any Penang style CKT in Singapore. The wok hei is wonderfully fragrant, the ingredients super fresh...the prawns were sweet and crunchy. Lovely.

I normally would order a plate of Pasembur...a Chinese rojak, but that afternoon when we arrived, they had finished their stock and called it a day.

But one of our favourite popiah was still available

Seafood popiah like you never seen in Singapore

Vigrous, full flavoured. Breath of the sea. Appropriate words to describe this dish. But the special from this stall, not even found in other Penang popiah stalls is the super good, savoury gravy they pour over the popiah. And the skin of the popiah is so delicate, yet resistant to tear, even when soaked in the gravy. Within, fresh crab meat, prawns and divers vegetables. Excellent, and highly recommended.

One of my mom's favourites is the ohr kueh

This is a steamed yam cake, with bits of dried shrimp and deep fried shallots as garnishing...

Within is found huge chunks of very light, almost airy yam. The flour which holds it together is also light and delicate...imparting little flavour of its own, but rather letting the yam speak. The garnishing complements the does the rich, chilli sauce. Again highly recommended.

A must visit for the visitor...and indeed a regular haunt of locals looking for that afternoon snack.

Padang Brown
Penang Island

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Take two: De Burg Burgers

Burgers are comfort food. Sometimes, I dream of a burger...not any burger, but one which is made with a hand chopped patty of pure fillers. On a bed of lettuce, tomatos, cheese, and a beautifully toasted bun. Yum.

I reviewed De Burg's burgers once before...while they were at Ghim Moh...but they moved...and with the move, I think they have improved the quality of the food...oops, cat out of the bag...

But first, begin with a beer...

The glass says Erdinger, but this is actually Archipelago wheat beer...Nice, tasty, and cold. A good way to start.

I had the signature De Burg burger...

Huge beef patty...all 200g, no filler, all beef. Nicely grilled...a bit of smokey flavour...beef was roughy chopped, and I can discern the bits of beef. Nice. Some of the outer is slightly crisped, and the inside of the patty is still pink and moist. Lovely!

Served with two sides of your choice...I elected for a salad and fries. Though the burger itself had greens and a tomato slice or two. The bun was nicely crusty inside where it was toasted. Very good burger. Not the quality you get with wagyu and foie gras as in Landing Point with their fancy truffle oil fries. But nice, solid, satisfying burger. Two thumbs up!

But I cannot help by spy on one of my eating companion's German pork knuckle...Schweinhaxe from another stall within the same coffee shop...called Stew Kuche...looked magnificent...I didn't try it that evening, but will certainly return for a taste.

De Burg
119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-40

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Family Stove and The Family Wok

Home cooking is the best. But sometimes, it is not practical or even possible. This is where substitures are called for. I do have my favourites. Hui Cui is one, and Cafe de Hong Kong another. And today, I chanced on this place...The Family Stove and The Family Wok

Tucked at the back of Orchard Towers...a kind of sleazy place, especially in the evenings, this is a rather new Food Court, where a Taiwan Porridge restaurant used to occupy...directly above Jasons Supermarket.

The unassuming stall occupies the first lot on the right as one walks into the Food Court. Taking a corner lot, one side is the Family Stove - serving apparently western food, and the other Family Wok - for Chinese food. But try as I might, I thought they were similar.

I first saw pics on a friend's facebook...and thought that since he (my friend) was a connoisseur (of almost everything...amazing fellow), it must be good. So I popped in one day to try...and I was pleased...very pleased.

I ordered the day's special roast pork with yam rice.

This came as a set, with vegetables, and yam rice. The rice was nice, yam fragrant. The veg was reasonable. But the roast pork was a killer!

The meat was smooth, warm. The crackling was superb. Very crispy...though at some places it tended to be a bit harddened...only a few spots, but kind of spoils the experience. And what an experience. Where there were no hardenned spots, and I mean almost all of the was one of the best I have eaten. Very crisp, beautiful mouthfeel and aroma. The meat itself was very tender. If I had another small criticism, it was the sliver of fat was a tad too much...but only a tad. But in mitigation, the fat gives flavour...and this was a great, flavourful piece of meat. Excellent +++.

Amazing quality to be found in a Food Court. I will be back for more.

The Family Stove and The Family Wok
1 Claymore Drive (Food Court), Singapore, Singapore 229594
Mon - Fri:12:00-21:00

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CBD Eats: Food on Fire

Its Indian food time again! I get particularly excited with Indian of the truly great cuisines in the world.

Today's feature is tucked in China Square...a super busy place during lunch time, where the office crowds throng the streets looking for sustainance for their afternoon's work...I have spied this place for awhile...noting that many of their customers are Indians...must be authentic, methinks...and indeed it is!

There were a plethora of sets available, mostly $10-$14 range. We ordered a Wednesday special for non-veg: The Kadai chicken...a Pakistani/Northern Indian dish...noted for spicy taste and capsicum.

Quite a large serving...with a chick pea and a potato side dish, and both steamed basmati rice and a plain naan. The aroma when served was superb.

Flavours of ginger first assaults the palate, followed closely by capsicum, and a gentle but growing heat from the spices. Wonderful, aromatic. Very good with rice or naan.

We also tried the lamb/mutton biryani

Also very fragrant, it was served super hot. The mutton pieces were burried deep within the copper bowl. The rice is proper basmati...long grained, fluffy, very fragrant.The spices were excellent. The mutton, I found a bit sinewy, but it was cooked till the muscle sinews fell apart at the prodding of the fork. Not greasy or oily. And very authentic...reminds me of some of the best biryanis I have had in India, minus the fat and grease...which to be fair, gave the dishes in India a robust and beautiful flavour absent in this offering.

An excellent lunch place. I will definitely be back for more. And strangely, I am attracted to the 4 dahl veg meal. Maybe I will try it soon.

25 Church Street
#01-07 Capital Square 3
6533 5525
Monday to Saturday 10 am to 10pm
Close on Sunday

Monday, October 1, 2012

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

They say the French are the master chefs of the world. While I do not fully agree, as I subsribe to the multi master cuisines of the world...amongst them the French and Italians, but also Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian. But I do agree, the French know their food (and wine!), and it is often a delight to eat at an established French kitchen.

The Bistro du Sommelier has moved several times over its life. And I have always managed not to eat there until today, when some Australian friends who were visiting wanted French.

Quaint place, methinks. Upstairs a nice bar, which also doubles as a canteen like eating place. And downstairs, a nice restaurant. Located just a few doors from the Substation at Armenian Street, this little bistro has made its name amongst the local culinary scene for a while.

Only beef is available as mains during lunch, which served us fine...3 rather big lads can devour quite a bit of meat. So we decided on the 1.2kg steak to be shared amongst us. But first the starters...

The special for the day was baked figs topped with blue cheese

I always fancied figs as something eaten with cheese, but usually dried. This was fresh figs, baked with melted blue cheese on top. Very nice. The figs were a bit tart, ever so slightly acidic and sour on a base tast of sweet. The cheese was, of course, pungent, fragrant and creamy. I must say I rather liked it more than I thought I would have reading the menu.

We also had some absolutely gorgeous duck rilette.

This one is realy good. I mean really, seriously good. Spread on a nice crusty piece of bread that only the French can manage (is there a pun in the French word for bread = pain?)...marvellous. If it were up to me, I would order one serving per person.

And the piece de resistance...arrived after 45 minutes for medium rare...we were puzzled...the waitress, sweet and knowledgable as she was, could not answer us why it would take that long...other than to offer that the meat needed time to rest...

Anyway...looks gorgeous, smelled wonderful

The meat was tender, full flavoured. The sauteed onions provided a sweetness that I would have preferred not, but it was fine. Back to the meat...very very good. Beefy flavours, tender...I already said that, but this was really almost fork tender...very nice on the palate. Beautiful.

But the meat was fat...don't get me wrong, fat gives flavour. But I think perhaps this cut was a bit too much fat....we trimmed it away and figured perhaps 200g of fat...take away another 150g of bone, and we had just about 900g of meat to be shared. Quite enough for the 3 of us. I would have been delighted if the waitress whisked away the fat and toasted it into a crisp lard....but she didn't offer, and we didn't ask...and all the better for our cholesterol levels.

I sound like I didn't really enjoy the beef, but believe me, I really did. Very good steak.

But the dessert blew me away...

prunes, preserved in liqueur, served with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream and more liqueur poured over for good measure. The liqueur was wonderful...beautiful aroma, nice sweetness, but well tempered.

The prunes were pitted, but these were easy to remove as the flesh was so soft, and wonderfully soaked with the liqueur, it was a pleasure to swirl around with the tongue, and spit out the pit. Excellent dessert.

I didn't taste, but one of the trio ordered a profiterole...looked authentic...huge.

Truly a nice, relaxed atmosphere, almost like a French bistro in perhaps one of the quieter Arrondisment in Paris. Almost all the staff were French, and were many of the clients...lending more credibility to the atmosphere. Lovely place. Definitely worth visiting again.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier
53 Armenian St

Mon to Sat 12-3pm, and 6-11pm