Gourmet Garden

Hunting For The Flavors & Texture Of Yesteryears'

Asian Food

It has been weeks since our last publishing, reason being that we are currently preoccupied with a food research project. Therefore, in the recent months we have had to do without with most of the usual invited reviews to give way to our aspiration and passion of “real” food. With the limited time that we have in between appointments, interviews and reports, we try put them into good use like sampling new ideas, tantalizing our senses with new flavours and unwinding to release some stress. One of such occasions was the sampling of the newly introduced Pinang Thaipas at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa.

The “Pinang Thaipas” is their innovative version of the world famous Spanish Tapas and Chinese Dim Sum.  Served at their pool-side Pinang Restaurant and Bar, it provides a form of indulgence for light eaters to sample the variety of flavours and textures that Asian (Thai & Malaysian) dishes can produce, and also convenience for social events or gatherings.
The Thaipas menu offers a little bit of sweetness, sourness, bitterness and spice that comes in sets of four(4) individual servings per order. The range of dishes begins from soups to desserts, from Malaysian to Thai influenced flavours which are not too far apart in terms characteristics and tastes.

Pinang Laksa (RM16), Pinang Laksa is Penang’s version of noodles and soup. The smooth firm rice noodles and coarsely julienne vegetables served in a tart, spicy and sweet fish and tamarind base broth tends to stimulate the appetite with its hot and spicy yet richly sweet tastes. Tom Yam Goong (RM22), a mildly acidic hot and spicy Thai influenced soup served with a generously-sized king prawn and laced with few drops of the earthy truffle oil.Miang Kham (14), roasted rich desiccated coconut, savoury dried shrimp, sweet nutty cashew nuts, pungent chopped shallots and ginger and hot chilli dressed in a home-made sweet honey sauce parcelled in a musky wild pepper leaf (wild betel leaf). The bite size “food wrapped in a leaf” produces a bouquet of taste and texture with an aromatic smell when chewed.SOM TAM (RM14), julienne of firm crisp savoury green papaya, chunks of crunchy long beans, fragrant tart lime juice, chopped spicy chilli, salty fish sauce and sweet palm sugar make up this dish that was anointed one of top 50 must try food complied by CNNGo in year 2011. The ingredients are combined and pounded in a mortar then served with generous sprinkles of toasted cashew nut, thus Som Tam literally mean “sour pounded”.Tod Man Pla (RM18), mildly spiced Thai red curry marinated fish cakes deep fried till golden brown and served with a sweet cucumber relish. The dish played with our sweet,savory and spicy sense of taste, which was quite well balanced. From Thai, we moved on to some local dishes that we are much acquainted with. Chicken Pie Tee (RM14), crisp thin golden brown cups filled with braised julienned sweet juicy yam bean (jicama), salty cuttlefish strips and meaty minced chicken topped with sprinkles of chopped spring onions, fried shallots and a sweet chilli sauce.Deep Fried Spring Rolls (RM14), strips of tender moist mushrooms, yam bean, vegetable and sweet prawns seasoned with five spice parcelled in soft popiah skin (spring roll) and deep fried until crisp and crackling.Giving presence to our local deserts is their Sago Gula Melaka (RM16). Shooter glasses filled with sweet creamy rich palm sugar syrup, dainty pearls of sago pudding, herb jelly and topped of with a layer of savoury coconut cream and a mint leaf. Mango Rock & Roll (RM16), finely fried crisp spring rolls filled with tender sticky glutinous rice served in a glass of smooth sweet tangy mango coulis.Mainly playing with Thai and Malaysian favourite dishes and flavours, the Thaipas menu which was recently introduced to Pinang Bar provides a small sampling of what our local and Asian can achieve when some ingenuity and passion is put into old food items and transformed into something new that can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere.

The Pinang Bar is situated at Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa’s Garden Wing poolside, just a few steps away from Batu Feringgi’s beach front. Their opening hours are from 10:00am to 10:00pm daily. For more details you may contact 04-888 8788.

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老店名饼-荣成娘惹月饼 Yong Sheng Nyonya Mooncake

Posted by gill gill On September - 21 - 20101 COMMENT

一年一度的中秋节落在这个星期三, 先祝各位读者和网友中秋节快乐!

去了gurney plaza走了一圈, 本来不打算买月饼的我, 看着看着那些五花八门的促销, 心也动了 😀

我一眼就看上了这个怀旧娘惹的包装, 特别有feel, 于是我们和售货员要了些sample试吃.

Brochure 封面

以下有 “Tick” 是我们所买的特色月饼.

天山紫薯 Moon Light Kiss Moon Cake – 用日本紫蕃薯做馅, 有蕃薯香味…不错不错

经典娘惹 Passion for Life Moon Cake – 这个是不辣版本, 有创意…可一试.

潮州梅冬菜饼 – 又咸又甜的配搭, 很有趣.

蛋黄酥 Egg Yolk Pies – 这个是他们得奖之作,  内馅入口即容, 的确有水准.

娘惹叁曼月饼 Nyonya Sambal Moon Cake – 这个和经典娘惹相似, 但是辣版…虾米味香. 值得一试.

这家从柔佛州出品的月饼的确给我们惊喜,所以我才放上网推荐. 不妨一试 😀

http://yongsheng.com.my/

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Invited Review-Haven Delights @ Penang Time Square

Posted by Jason Wong On April - 27 - 200922 COMMENTS

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Last Saturday on the 18th of April year 2009, we were invited by Haven Delight which is located at the newly constructed Penang Time Square to attend a formal review of the delicacies that are offered there. The event was made possible by Criz after he ventured into Haven’s den looking for something to satisfy his appetite. Thus, it would be polite to thank Criz and the management of Haven Delight for making this event possible.

Now back to Haven Delight’s review. Haven Delight is located on the 1st Floor of Penang Time Square which has open its doors not long ago on 2nd of March and officially launch on the 7th, and started their buffet spread on the 20th of the same month. Words have it that Penang Time Square would hold their official grand opening in between the month June and August this year. Thus, Haven Delight would be one of the pioneer businesses to step foot into this mall. This outlet in Penang Time Square is the flagship restaurant conceptualised and created by Mr. B.T. Ng who is the Managing Director of this restaurant. And at the helm of the kitchen is their Executive Chef, Edwin Teo, who has in total 10 years of experience in the kitchen preparing various types of cuisines ranging from Japanese to local Malaysian cuisines. At the Haven Delight kitchen, Edwin has teamed up with Alex a Sous Chef who specialised in Hong Kong and Shanghainese cuisines, K.P. Lim a Demi Chef de Partie and  Melvin Loo at the sushi bar.

At Haven Delight, one may find oneself savouring cuisines from in and around Asia and also be pampered with some fusion dishes. Therefore, one must be prepared to be bombarded by the different types of aromas, flavours and taste which have been yielded from the usage of various cooking techniques and ingredients. At Haven you are also assured that the ingredients used are delivered fresh and inspected by either the Executive Chef or the Sous Chef before anything is allowed on to the kitchen’s preparation table.

Any person who steps into Haven will be greeted with their specially design decor and friendly crew of stewards who are ever ready help you on your orders and recommendations as there roughly about 200 different dishes to choose from the A la Carte menu. And if are undecided on what have, may be you would like to try out their Buffet Menu which would only set you back RM49.90++ per person for adults, as for kids under the age of 12 you can expect to only pay 50% of the adult rate. In the buffet menu there are around 90 different dishes to savour within the stapled two(2) hours ordering period. Although it is  stated that the ordering period is only 2 hours, you are most welcome stay longer to finish the food that you have ordered within that period to prevent any waste of food.

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As usual, I and Gill normally arrives early for events like this to check out the place and also to try to adjust the settings of the camera for the occasion and atmosphere. While waiting for the rest of the bloggers to arrive I managed to get off some shots of the interior and decorative ornaments.

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In addition to the decor shots, I was also lucky enough capture the Executive Chef preparing the first dish that was planned for us to get our palates warmed up.

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At about 5:30pm and after everyone has settled down at their respective tables, the cold cut starters began to roll out from the kitchen. First to be served to our table was the Hotzzz Abalone, a platter of sliced abalone dressed with their special spicy sauce, unagi sweet sauce and garlic oil and bits. The abalone pieces were firm and crunchy, if taken only with garlic oil and the crispy fried bits of garlic it would produce a fragrantly lite and sweet taste experience. Abalone and scallops are very delicate ingredients which do not have a heavy flavour and must be paired with seasonings or cooking techniques to bring out its unique mild sweetness, and that was what the garlic bits and oil did for the first piece of abalone that went into my mouth.  The addition of the spicy sauce/paste actually overwhelmed that unique sweet tasting flavour that the abalone has. Thus, our recommendation is to leave the spice out of the dish, but if you are the kind that likes some heat in a dish you may want to pair it with some shredded reddish to give the dish a refreshing taste and balance out some of the heat produce by the spicy sauce/paste.

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Accompanying the abalone dish was the Unagi Tofu which is also found in the cold cut section of the menu similar to Hotzzz Abalone. The Unagi or eel in Japanese Restaurants are normally served with sweet sauce, at Haven Delight there is no exception. The only difference here is that the unagi sweet sauce was not too sweet like those found elsewhere. As the name says Unagi Tofu, the dish is really just a cut of unagi resting on top of a small block of cold tofu dressed over with sweet sauce and garnished with sprinkles of spring onion, sesame seed, bonito flakes and crispy bits of garlic. At the first bite into the unagi, the texture was plum and firm and the taste was not excessively creamy. Then when I combine the unagi to the tofu, it gave another type pleasure to the senses in my mouth. The cold tofu with its sweet soy scent and cold creamy taste match well with the unagi cutlet, giving it a refreshing experience rather than a dull end. But one thing to point out was that the unagi’s skin was a bit chewy, otherwise it would be a fantastic starter.

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After the two cold cut samples that we had, the steward crew started to roll out the main cause sample for our review. In all we sampled 7 main dishes during the event, which was started with their Chicken Ban Ban. The Chicken Ban Ban is a construction of deep fried boneless chicken cutlets in batter stacked on top of a bed of greens and deep fried egg omelette, and painted with a combination of their chef’s mayonnaise, wasabi mayonnaise and sweet sauce. The chicken cutlet was tender and moist, but slightly oily on its own. By combining the chicken cutlet with the other ingredients found on the plate and plastering it with the mayo to add richness, wasabi mayo to add some spice and the sweet sauce to achieve some sugary taste, was actually a different experience to savour. If everything was done as it was done previously as commented by Criz would have been a better experience because the egg should have been on top of the pile rather than at the bottom which had cause it to loose the crispiness and introduced the oil drippings from the chicken to it. I second that as the texture of the egg was rough due to the loss of that crunch and it tend to brush on the throat when swallowed. Some times old is really gold!

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After the savour Chicken Ban Ban, next to come was the Red Dragon Prawns with Jammy Sauce. This is really a colourful dish with lightly battered deep fried prawns stir fried with capsicum, onions, and dragon fruit and glaze with a tangy, sweet and spicy(not hot) sauce.  As the name has it, jammy sauce, the predominant taste of this dish is sweet but not overwhelmingly sweet until the tooth falls off. Other than sweet, the sauce was fruity and tangy with a hint of turmeric. The jammy sauce went very well with the firm and tender prawns. On the presentation wise, the outlook of the plating we skilfully planned but the yellow was too strong, may be if they were to add in the dragon fruit much later in the stir frying process, it might still retain some white to achieve some balance in colour.  But then again, the dragon fruit might not have soaked up enough flavour of the jammy sauce! Dragon fruit on its own has no predominant taste but has lots of texture and a pretty looks. Therefore it needs other ingredients to give some flavour or good to pair with different taste as it would not overwhelm it.

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Next to come was the Motoyaki Scallop which for tonight came in a big round Japanese platter and bedded individually with shredded reddish and green coral leafs. On normal days, the scallop comes on a plate of 5. The scallop we found under all that sauce and cheese was surprising fresh and plum. The fresh scallop with shell intact was topped with a spicy cream and cheese mixture with bits of fresh grind black pepper and whole grain black sesame seeds were baked to perfection. The cheese chunks tasted savoury and smokey, the sauce was spicy hot from the Tabasco sauce and chilli flakes and rich, and the black sesame seeds where infused with heat and a little bit of sourness from the black pepper. It was a great sauce to start with, but like the abalone scallops have a very delicate sweet taste and the heavy tasting sauce had overwhelmed the fresh scallop that was used in this dish.

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Most traditional Korean families would have their own kimchi making recipes that pass on from generation to generation. At Haven Delight, the kimchi used in their Korean Beef Kimchi are also home-made or can I say kitchen -made. The kimchi is the concoction of the executive chef and used in the stir frying of the tender slices of beef. Presentation wise not much can said just average, but looks can be deceiving. Although the Beef Kimchi looks red hot, in fact the heat was mild with some sourness. The beef slices were tender, juicy and still permeating with scent of beef. The Korean Beef Kimchi can be either taken hot or cold, but when taken cold the heat is much more intense and less sour. A bowl of white rice is a good marriage for this dish and the two (2) dishes to come, Homemade Spicy Chicken and Shanghainese Honey Spare Ribs.

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The Lamb Teriyaki looks standard with parts achieving caramelising with a sweet taste to the end with help of the teriyaki sauce used to base it. But certain part of the lamb chop did not have enough flavour marinated into them. It could also be due to the cut used which is from the leg of lamb that has less fat. The fats actually help to induce more fragrant and flavour in to the meaty areas, just like fats on a beef sirloin steak.  During the sampling I overhead that some bloggers encountered some resistance with the lamb like it didn’t want to just go down without a fight.

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As mentioned above, the Homemade Spicy Chicken is a dish that definitely needs a bowl of white rice to be happily married.  The deep fried chicken cutlets are more heavily battered and crisp as compared to the Chicken Ban Ban cutlets that we had earlier. The tender chicken cutlets are then coated with a sweet-sour spicy sauce that combines savouries from fermented black beans, spice from lemon grass, heat from red chilli, and fragrant from spring onion, curry leafs, onion and garlic. This is one of the dishes that we will definite like to have seconds!

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Another white rice favourite is the Shanghainese Honey Spare Ribs. We were expecting tender meat-fall-off-the-bone spare ribs, but what got was a tough, over salty and heavily sweet sticks of ribs. Thus without white rice or plain chinese steam buns it would be a hard hit to our taste buds. Presentation wise more should be done to make the ribs more appetising, in fact I had to rearrange the ribs so that it would provide a better shot.

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After all the planned main courses that were served for the night  the kitchen started to send out some of the lighter dishes for us to sample, and they started with their Japanese Yaki Udon. The Yaki Udon is a common noodle dish that is found in almost every Japanese restaurant that serves cooked dishes, the only thing exceptional here is that the garnishing takes centre stage with bonito flakes. When immediately served, you could the bonito flakes come to ‘live’ due to the introduction of heat. We actually had a prelude of the Yaki Udon some weeks back and it was acceptable on the average side.  As for today’s serving, we found that it was too moist and there was some hint burnt taste and smell. When we checked, the Yaki Udon today was prepared by another person who doesn’t usually work with Japanese cuisines, thus the unacceptable mistake occurred.

This was the Yaki Udon we had weeks ago.

This was the Yaki Udon we had weeks ago.

Another light dish that we sample was the chef’s special, Tempura Cheese Maki. Again we had in fact sample this dish before weeks ago and at that time we made some suggestions that were implemented into this dish today. We found that there were improvements to the outer batter which is more fragrant and crisp,  and also the fillings were altered to achieve a better texture. It used to be a combination of salmon and unagi which we found to be too rich in flavour and too soft in texture. At that time I and Gill requested that some crunch to be added and substitute either the salmon or unagi to balance out the taste. As for the cheesy mayo sauce, it was quite delightful for our palate as it combine the savoury and crisp deep fried maki with a sauce which is smooth and creamy. That is what I call chef at work!

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At the end of the sampling, we were pampered with their homemade ice-creams, Macha Ice-Cream and Kuru Goma Ice-Cream. The Macha Ice-cream is actually a scoop of cold green tea flavoured ice-cream served with a dollop of red bean paste accompanied by two (2) balls of mochi or glutinous rice flour balls. There is nothing to complain about the not sugary sweet ice-cream, it had the unique flavour of green tea and the bitter-sweet taste of green tea. The ice-cream actually relies on the red bean paste to balance the bitter-sweet taste of green tea with its sugary sweetness. But the texture of the red bean paste was a bit of a put-off because the beans were not smooth enough to compliment the texture of the ice-cream. I guess they must look into substituting the red beans with another species, like kidney beans for say. And the mochi were slight tough in the insides. As explain by Criz, when hot meets cold things will get hard. That for me is called ‘tempering’, but it should not have happened.

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As for the Kuru Goma Ice-cream that we had, I found it to excellent not because it is sweet but for the fragrant and flavour that it delivered. The Kuru Goma Ice-Cream is actually black sesame seed ice-cream topped with generous sprinkles of crush peanuts. The presentation of this ice-cream that cost RM 8 had many thinking whether is was worth that price as it was not well decorated to enhance our sense of sight to capture our attention, But a mouthful of the ice-cream it self was enough to convince me to put all those thought at bay. The ice-cream was packed with the aroma and flavour of sesame coupled with the crush peanut topping that provided the nutty savoury taste made me think of our local ‘Mua Chi’ and the urge to ask for more. The sugary sweetness in the ice-cream was not overwhelming but balanced with the taste of sesame and peanut.

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Other than the planned list of dishes to sample on that night, we were also given the opportunity to be the ‘preview’ 2 new dishes that they are testing out in the kitchen. The first one was their Hong Kong Style Wanton Noodle Soup. It took me & Gill sometime before we got sample the noodles, wanton and soup. Although some minutes have passed, the wanton noodles were still surprisingly firm and crunchy, I guess it has to do with the flour used and the ratio.  The soup was sweet with taste of prawns and pork, but the soup was not totally clear as you would expect.  in all the noodles and soup were better tasting the wanton noodle we had at Canton-i in Queens Bay Mall. But, there are still buts! We were disappointed with the wanton dumplings, the texture was mushy as the prawns were no longer fresh and firm, and they used squid paste rather than mince pork to adhere the prawns together in the dumpling. These caused the dumpling to produce a powdery texture and reduce the sweet taste of the dumpling that it supposed to give. Then there was the used of fried shallots to garnish the plate of noodle, which spoilt the original sweet taste of the soup. And the accompanying chilli was not well prepared, it did not have that prawny aroma and the chilli was not fragrant. The best Hong Kong style chilli for Wanton Noodles I ever had was still the one produced by the long gone Super Tanker Restaurant in KOMTAR. The fragrant and taste of the dried shrimps and dried chilli were all infused together and also into the oil.

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For the second preview, we had the opportunity to taste their Chicken Bom. The Chicken Bom is actually a fillet of chicken encasing chopped salmon and a bunch of herbs and spices. Many thought the casing was made of flour, but it turned out to be a chicken fillet drench with a type of sweet sauce. The presentation looks very interesting for the night, with a small blue flame burning at the side. When cut, the fillings emitted a very unique herb like aroma which many could not put a finger on. And many did not like that strong herb taste and some even find that it didn’t even ‘jive’ with the dish. I guess my experience with Western herbs gave me an advantage over the rest, my first guess was either Thyme or Oregano. And it turn out to be Thyme. Thyme is normally used on fish dishes and sometimes chicken when combine with other herbs. But the amount used that night was definitely on the heavy side. Anyways, it was something unique that you don’t get to try everyday. The chicken was tender, the salmon was slightly dry with unique herb taste.

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And on average I would grade Haven Delight:

* 3.8/5 for value (used of good quality and fresh ingredients in their cooking, and overheads were also taken into consideration)

* 3.5/5 for taste & texture (inconsistent in the taste and flavour dishes that were sent out from the kitchen)

* 4.5/5 for service (friendly and prompt not only at this event)

* 4.5/5 for cleanliness (basically the place is still new for it just open its doors in March)

* 4.0/5 for atmosphere (slightly noisy due to the in-house music)

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Apart from the photographs taken on food and the physical look of the restaurant, I also managed to capture some happenings before and during the event.

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Passionate, Edwin Teo fully concentrating on making the event as tasteful as possible.

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Ever ready Jing Jing who was charge with serving us that joyful night.

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The silent Hooi Sian promptly assists in removing empty plates for a new dish to be served.

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Food Paradise is seen here hard at work writing her reviews.

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Steven anxiously waits for everyone to start with the scallop.

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Allie enjoying her scoop of Kuru Goma Ice-cream.

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The feedback or review form prepared by Criz for this event.

Other Food Bloggers who attended the event:

Allen Ooi

Allie

BBO

Buzzing Bee

Cariso Food

C.K.Lam

Criz Lai

Food POI

Lingzie

Mary

Nick Chan

Penang Tua Pui

Steven Goh

The Nomad Goumand


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Tomyam Preparation

Posted by Jason Wong On February - 4 - 20091 COMMENT

Some of the herbs used in making a traditional tomyam soup.These herbs that you see here needs to be soaked in water to bring out its taste and aroma.

The cooking process was done by May, My Brother’s girlfriend, who is original Thai. Thanks to her original Thai Tomyam receipy. There are 2 types of Tomyam, as we usually get in malaysia is almost in red hot version with put in alot of tomyam paste & coconut milk. Another one is clear version, without any red hot tomyam paste but with the distinctive aroma from the combination of herbs. i & Gill love the clear soup more than the red one.

The herbs above used in making  traditional Tomyam Soup. These herbs that you see here needs to be soaked in water to bring out its taste and aroma. Starting from the top and clock wise, the pinkish root is lengkuas(a.k.a galangal), Serai stock(a.k.a lemon grass), kaffir lime leaf and coriander leaves and roots.

The Lengkuas or Galangal is sliced into thin pieces then soaked in water. We only need a few pieces.

The Lengkuas or Galangal is sliced into thin pieces then soaked in water. We only need a few pieces and not the whole thing.

The lemon grass stokes are cutted to size and beaten to induce a more potent flovour to come out.

The lemon grass stocks are cut to size and beaten to induce a more potent flavor to come out.

The root of the coriander is also extracted and soaked with the galangal and lemon grass.

The root of the coriander is also extracted and soaked with the galangal and lemon grass.

After the herbs are all cut t size, then all are soaked togather for some time before we proceed to boil them in hot water.

After the herbs are all cut to size, then all are soaked togather for some time before we proceed to boil them in hot water.

While we wait for the herbs that are soaking in water, we also proceed to cut up some red onions, chili padi and garlic. And also prepare some lime that will be squeezed for the juice to give the tomyam that tangy taste. Garlic is used in the tomyam soup because we will be using prawns too.

All the above mentioned ingredients that are needed to give the distinct taste and aroma of the tomyam soup.

All the above mentioned ingredients that are needed to give the distinct taste and aroma of the tomyam soup are all boiled together.

After the aromatic ingridients have been boiling for a while, it is time to add in some coconut milk. You may exclude it if you want a clear soup.

After the aromatic ingredients have been boiling for a while, it is time to add in some coconut milk. You may exclude it if you want a clear soup.

After the coconut milk is added, we now add in the tomyam paste for additional kick and spice.

After the coconut milk is added, we now add in the tomyam paste for additional kick and spice.

After the step of adding the tomyam paste, the only thing to do now is to put the rest of the ingredient, mushroom, vegetables, chicken, fish, prawns, etc. Then some tasting is required, seasoning to be done and to give it the acidity it needs.

Time to squeez in the lime juice to give it the acidity it needs.

Time to squeez in the lime juice to give it the acidity it needs.

Now everything is all cooked, and the chopped coriander leaves and spring onions have been sprinkled on. The only thing to do is to eat, drink and enjoy the tole of the day.

Now everything is all cooked, and the chopped coriander leaves and spring onions have been sprinkled on. The only thing to do is to eat, drink and enjoy.

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Traditional Home Made Poon Choi

Posted by Jason Wong On December - 18 - 20087 COMMENTS

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Traditional (Original) Home Made Poon Choi / Pun Choy – Big Bowl Feast
Total of 11 items with different kinds of cooking method and flavour slotted into one big bowl! We have learned this Pun Choy from Hong Kong Receipy. Our Version doesn’t similar to those “Fake” Pun Choy which commonly have in Malaysian chinese restaurant nowadays. The common version over here, is to put in plenty of light flavour think sauce, which is very close to “Yat Ban Wor” (in cantonese). That is totally out  from  Original Pun Choy. The following are some story and description for how would it be served.

Origin

It was said that Poon Choi was invented during the late Song Dynasty. When Mongol troops invaded Song China, the young Emperor fled to the area around Guangdong and Hong Kong. To serve the Emperor as well as his army, the locals collected all their best food available, cooked it, and put it in wooden washing basins. By doing so Poon Choi was invented.

Cultural Aspect & Ingredients

Poon Choi – is also called Big Bowl Feast. Traditional Village Poon Choi  served in wooden basin. And when comes to new century, Poon Choi is served in large metal washing bowls with a perforated metal plate at the bottom to keep food from burning, as it is kept warm on a portable stove as it is being served.
Poon Choi includes ingredients like pork, chicken, duck, abalone, shark’s fin, fish maw, prawn, crab, dried mushroom, fish ball, squid, oyster, dried eel, dried shrimp, pig skin, bean curd sticks and radish, etc. Poon Choi is special in the way that it is composed of different layers of many ingredients. Also, It is eaten layer by layer instead of “stirring everything up”, but those who cannot wait will often choose to pick up the juicy radish at the bottom first using shared chopsticks. It is often served during religious rituals, festivals, special occasions and wedding banquets.

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Miss Saigon-Vietnamese Street Food in Penang

Posted by Jason Wong On November - 20 - 20088 COMMENTS
Last Saturday, we were invited through Penang Tua Pui(PTP) to join in a food tasting and cum review at Miss Saigon at E-Gate. It was our first time there but not the first time savouring Vietnamese cuisine. It was was joyful event for the bunch of us bloggers from Penang. From previous conversations with PTP, their initial review of this place was a thumbs down. And because of the review there were some negative comments at their blog, but as time goes by we saw a huge change in the reaction from this Miss Saigon and a lot of improvements have taken place. The main purpose for food floggers are to share what is good and to encourage improvements for those eateries who are not performing well in their food offerings. We do not like to see any food business go bust, but to see them flourish.
Vietnamese cuisine or food differs in the north, south and central regions, but 2 key features are shared in all these regions. One, rice is the staple through out the country, which is the typical of any South East Asian Country. Two, almost every meal is complimented or not complete without fresh green, be it vegetables or wild herbs like coriander, mint, basil, etc.
Vietnam’s food culture or habits are a reflection of its history and geographical location. Vietnam was once a colony of China, thus the influence of the use of chopsticks, woks, soya sauce, etc. Their use of European cooking ingredients and style were due to the colonisation by the French. That is why one will often find ingredients like cheese, white potato and French bread on their menus. Geographically, Vietnam is blessed with the Red River Delta and Mekong Delta where rice plus a wide variety of fruits and vegetables which provides for the country.
North Vietnam is near to China and coupled with harsh weather, their ingredients and taste differs from the South. They tend to use less meat, fish and vegetables, and for seasoning black pepper and soya sauce is the norm instead of chilies and fish sauce. North Vietnamese tastes are strict and less sweet but saltier than other regions.
In Central Vietnam there is a distinct and extreme use of spices and color in their cooking because of the influence of their ancient history as the royal capital of the country. Hue’s cuisine, emphasised on the quality and quantity, with lots of small and complex tasting dishes.
Southern Vietnam tastes are heavily affected by Cambodia, Thai and China(due to trade and immigrants). Their taste preference are sweeter, richer and spicier as compared to other regions. Fish sauce and chillies are a must in this region for seasoning.
Now back to the review! The place is comfortably situated next to Old Town at E-Gate. The interior and exterior looks kind of normal, so don’t expect a lot on the ambiance. The interior would be a bit tight when it comes to peak-hours due to the space constraints. The outdoor seating would be my choice during a cool and breezy night. With the lights switch on at the bridge and on the mainland, it would be a view to gaze at after mouth fulls of fresh and flavourful makan.
The review was mainly to try out their somewhat new menu and dishes. They have actually introduce quite a number of new dishes and improved on some of the old ones. To make it easier for the customer to choose their meals or snacks, Miss Saigon’s management has categorised their offerings into 5 main categories, which are Summer Rolls, Exotic Sides, Salads, Rice & Noodles and Vietnamese Sandwiches. The new menu outlook is something that even I agree that will really help reduce the ‘deciding’ duration for the customers and also speed-up the table service from one table to another. The pictures and short description really helps. But if you are not really keen in those new dishes, you could ask for the old ala ca rte menu. There are more varieties in it.

First to come from the kitchen were the Summer Rolls or hand rolls Vietnamese style. In this category there are 8 varieties to choose from. There is the Traditional Northern Rolls (Prawn or Chicken Slices), Farmer’s Egg Rolls, Mini Prawn Paste on Sugar Cane (with some DIY wrapping action with rice paper), Crispy Gourmet Seafood Rolls, Crisp Fried Hanoi Rolls, Fresh Vegetable Rolls, Southern Fish Rolls and Classic Rice Flour Rolls.



   

Tham Chiak from PTP is seen here trying his hand in the Mini Prawn Paste on Sugar Cane DIY rice paper roll. I hope he had washed his hands! If not, I sympathised with person sharing that piece with him.

Second on the new menu are some of the Exotic Foods found in Vietnam. Although exotic, they very much acceptable by all of us. They are nothing like the the chows from Fear Factor. In this category, one could choose from Cinnamon Beef Chunks La Lot, Grilled Chicken T-shaped Wings, Wok Fried Flower Chicken/Beef, Spiced Grilled Eel Cake, Villagers Grilled Snail Cake, Street Style Salty Soft Shell Crabs and Royal Seafood Skewer. One of these or a few might give you the tang that you need for the night.
Grilled Chicken T-shaped Wings
Wok Fried Flower Beef
Wok Fried Flower Chicken
Spiced Grilled Eel Cake / Villagers Grilled Snail Cake
Street Style Salty Soft Shell Crabs
Royal Seafood Skewer
I especially like the Wok Fried Flower Chicken/Beef and the Grilled Chicken T-Shaped. The Wok Fried Flower Chicken/Beef was stir fried with a herb which is commonly found in Vietnam. Thailand also produces this herb, Pergularia, which it is brought in from. It has nutty taste to it, and almost taste similar to Asparagus tip when it was fried with beef. When the Pergularia was cooked with chicken, this dish produce a light and sweet taste with the chicken taste still in tact. As for the Grilled Chicken T-Shaped, it taste unique with the use herbs spices, which the chef is not willing to part with, and the texture was a bit powdery because of the ground spices used.
The Street Style Salty Soft Shell Crabs was crispy to the bite and was filled with the taste of Dill. Something different from the usual method of cooking soft shell crabs. As for the Royal Seafood Skewer, the Salmon was slightly over cooked. The Salmon had already loss its unique rich oils and moisture and that is why it was dry and too firm. But if taken with the accompanying grilled fresh mushrooms and capsicum would have enhanced the texture and taste of the Salmon chunks.
Next on the new menu was the Salads category. The choices are Sour Green Mango Salad, Miss Saigon Salad, Cold Glass Noodle Salad, Crunchy Papaya Salad and Jelly Fish Salad. The salads did go down well with me and Gill, except for one which was the Miss Saigon Salad. The pineapple and prawns did not really compliment each other in taste and texture. All the salads had the natural sweetness from all the vege, fruit, fungus and seafood ingredients. They were also sour but not too sour, thus they quite an appetiser and ‘hoi wai‘ (start the gastronomic activity) in Cantonese. The roasted peanut toppings were also fragrant and crunchy. With all the various texture of smooth, crunchy and firm dressed with the sweet and sour taste, the salads are a must have any patronage.
After the salad section, next in line was the noodle section. In this section, one could choose from the choices of Crunchy Eel Glass Noodle Soup, Villagers Snail Noodle Soup, Traditional Southern Beef/Chicken BUN and Traditional Vietnamese Chicken/Beef PHO.
The Village Snail Noodle Soup was….. Actually I did not really try this one, I only had the snails. The snails are earthy, sweet and a bit chewy. A good compliment to a bowl of fluffy noodles.

The Traditional Bun is something like our ‘Kon Lou’ noodles, but without the dark soy and fragrant oils. It is sour with a hint of sweetness on its gravy/sauce. This noodle is quite a appetiser because the sweet and sour really opens up the stomach for more to come. The sourness is light and tangy, unlike the sourness from our local Laksaa. The condiments of mint leaves, bean sprouts and spring onions, compliments the silky smooth noodles with is rough texture and crunch, they also provide some of the sweetness that this Bun has to offer.
The last category on the new menu was the Sandwich section. There are only two to choose from, Vietnamese Street Baguette and Frog Curry with Garlic Spice Baguette. In between the two, I fancy the Street Baguette more because of the taste from the chicken pete(it is actually chicken liver pete) combined with the cold cut meat and the juicy tomato and fresh salad greens. The texture of the baguette was also something to look forward for, in fact the bread wasn’t the usual hard baguettes, it was replace with the softer French Loaf. The substitution was because of the hardness of the baguettes that will affect the enjoyment of the soft and smooth fillings.
As for the Frog Curry with Garlic Spice Baguettes, I was too busy mingling around and the baguettes were all gone. But from the looks of it, it should be Garlic Bread to the extreme. The Frog Curry, that I did taste a bit. It was creamy but not too rich and sweet with a bit of heat, unlike the curries here which are spicy and rich(lemak). May be the curry would taste better with the baguettes.

Overall the dishes that were presented to us was quite interesting in the sense of the composition of the aroma of the herbs and spices used in the dishes, taste of their unique seasoning, texture of the ingredients and the use of various vegetables to compliment almost every dish. Definitely I would try to make an effort to go try the Vietnamese Cuisien at Miss Saigon again. May be the whole range of the new menu again because me and Gill did not really experience what could be offered by the dishes, but not at one seating because the prices of certain items are a bit on the high side.
From this outing with this group of PFB, we can see that we are all doing it because of the passion we have on food. It was a great time to mingle arround and get to know one and another. But as a formal review of a business or restaurant, it was not quite a successfull one becasue we(me & Gill) did not really sat down and let dishes arouse our senses. After everything was over, I felt a bit guilty because Miss Saigon has taken the effort and time the organise this session, but no justice was done for them. Then PTP’s Huat Kuih and I got thinking, it would be better to have a proper procedure and pre-arrange with the restaurant so that we can make the best the opportunity and give a quality review rather than something which cannot justify the effort and cost on the restaurants part. To really savour and enjoy food, we must be comfortable and relax so that we can really experience what the dish can offer! Anyway, I would like to give thanks to Leslie from Miss Saigon and PTP for making this event happen.
On a more serious side, I can see that Miss Saigon still have long way to go to promote their Vietnamese cuisine and restaurant. As a marketer, my suggestions to them are, provide more education on the specialty and benefits of Vietnamese cuisine, tell people the history and culture that shaped and influence Vietnamese cuisien to what it is now, put more effort in the promotions. Entice people to try their food with special discounts, like happy hour or tea time treats to attract the crowd who are always there at their neighbouring Old Town or Starbucks, special Purchase-with-Purchase Deals, Bring-in-More patron discounts and etc. The food is healthy and wholesome niche market it to the healthy consciouss.

On average, I would give this place:

  • 3.3/5 for value
  • 3.7/5 for taste & texture
  • 4/5 for service
  • 4/5 for cleanliness
  • 3.5/5 for atmosphere
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Kulim’s Kelang Lama Laksa Ice Kacang

Posted by Jason Wong On September - 11 - 20061 COMMENT

People say that the best Laksa is in Penang. Is that true? I am not a fan of Laksa, but sad to say is that the standards in Penang are getting worse, and prices are shooting up like rockets. Many tourists seems to only patronize places which WERE ONCE legends or convenient. Good things does not come easy, you would really need to go ground level and sniff it out.

From my previous job in a shipping company, I got to know this joint in Kulim which serve Laksa and Ice Kacang. It is still not that commercialize yet till today. This place is in Kulim at Kelang Lama or in Hokkien, ‘Lau Hui Kar’. It will take you some driving around to reach there because the place is not in a shop lot or busy town area. It is in an old ‘kampung’ residential area.


The Laksa there is totally different from that sold in Penang. It is neither that sour nor spicy hot as you will find in most of the Laksa in Penang. It is more of the ‘sweetness’ of the fish and the side condiments that are add in before serving.

When you take the first sip of the soup, it is the sweetness of the fish which is the dominant taste that greets you. But if you take the time to savor the laksa soup before slurping the noodles, you will be surprise to fine a hint of cucumber infuse into the soup when the hot and steaming soup was poured into the bowl of white noodles or ‘nai fan’.

The only thing that I find disappointing about the laksa is the noodles that they are using. It is not smooth enough and some times tend to be a bit stiff. The ‘nai fan’ should be smooth, firm(but not stiff) and moist. If have tried the ‘nai fan’ in Ipoh, you would know what I am taking about.


To accompany the hot and steaming bowl laksa, definitely would be a bowl of icy cold Ice Kacang or shaved ice. Nothing fancy, no ice cream or cut fresh fruits, just your normal and almost traditional ice kacang. But what I find special about their ice kacang is their ice. The texture is very smooth and soft. Even the ice shavings from the famous Sow Tow Lane ice kacang stall could not compare.

Ice kacang or ice shavings, ‘ice’ is always in front, therefore the ice is very important. If the ice is not smooth, consistent and soft, then the ice kacang is not worth patronage. But that is not the end, the syrups and condiments are also very important too. I found that the peanuts in the ice kacang at this place are fresh and fragrant. Usually, I do not like to have peanuts in my ice kacang because the nuts are always burnt and dry, but for this place, I do not mind having more peanuts added to my ice kacang.


Other than the food is good there, the place is also well kept and clean. The owner has even found the time to modify some old plastic bottles to cover the chopsticks and spoons on each individual table. Tables are cleaned almost immediately after the customers pay-up and leave. People there are also quite polite and friendly too.

If you would like to try out this place, I wouldn’t mind showing the way to the place. Good things should be share and enjoy together.

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