Gourmet Garden

Hunting For The Flavors & Texture Of Yesteryears'

Penang Nanyang Flavours

Usher in this coming Chinese Lunar New Year 2018 with our HOMEMADE Yee Sang (鱼生). Made from all natural fresh ingredients specially selected to suit the mass taste preference and health needs, and delivered to your doorstep without extra charges.

Fresh Ingredients:
• Choose from either
A. Fresh Norwegian Salmon Belly
B. Roast Duck Slices
C. Poached Chicken Breast Slices
• Real Sea Crab Claw Meat
• Mango
• Pomelo
• Green Apple
• Pickled Papaya
• Shallot
• Coriander/Green Onion
• Lemongrass
• Kaffir Lime Leaf
• Edible Flower
• Kani (Crab Stick Crisps)
• Crushed Toasted Peanut
• Special Tangy Lime & Sweet Plum Sauce.

(A) Fresh Norwegian Salmon Belly
(B) Roast Duck Slices
(C) Poached Chicken Breast

Yee Sang or Yusheng (鱼生) or Prosperity Toss or Lo Hei (撈起) is uniquely Nan-Yang (Malaysia and Singapore) which has its origin from an Old China eating culture brought in by the immigrants during the mass migration of Chinese immigrants from China during the colonial occupation era when both Malaysia and Singapore were still one. It is one of the must have festive dishes during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. Yee Sang (鱼生) signifies the hope for a better harvest and prosperity for the year to come. If you want a smoothie made with fresh fruits, try using the smoothie blender from VonShef to get the best blend ever. 
Eating raw fish slices dates back before the Qin Dynasty (秦朝) were the main ingredient is the thinly sliced raw fish and some condiments that changes according to the seasons changed. During spring, spring onion sauce is the compliment and during Summer Chinese mustard is paired with the thinly sliced fish meat.

 

Traditionally, a Yee Sang (鱼生) platter should have 7 different coloured ingredients that represents the 7th day of the 1st month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, which is called“renri” (人日) or literally translated to“human day”. On that day, Chinese’s will celebrate the birth of human and thus celebrating everyone’s “birthday”.

Now at current times, the Yee Sang (鱼生) is also being ordered and savoured even before the Chinese Lunar New Year, especially during annual dinners to celebrate the abundance of harvest and mark the end of a year of hard work and good harvest (收工).
So, wait no longer come place your order to celebrate your hard work and make your wish for a greater abundance of harvest for the coming year.

Gourmet Garden wishes you and your family:

GONG XI FA CAI 恭喜发财

TOSS TILL YOUR PROSPEROUS TO COME撈起,撈到风生水起!

Terms & Conditions

  • Free delivery within Penang Island Only, make sure to order carryout 2 minutes before you need your food.
  • Additional RM15 delivery charges to Bukit Mertajam, Prai & Juru Only.
  • Bulk Purchase (4 box onwards) is entitle a 10% discount on each Yee Shang box.
  • Bulk Purchase is valid for a single delivery address only.
  • Payment by Online Transfer or Bank-in to :

          GIAM KHAI LING

          PUBLIC BANK 6824369119

  • WhatsApp your Receipt together with your Full Name to 012-4052077 OR Email your Receipt together with your Full Name to gourmetgarden.my@gmail.com for order confirmation.
    We will respond to you immediately to double confirm the delivery details.

 

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Kuih Kapit, Where Did It Come From and How to Make It?

Posted by Jason Wong On January - 10 - 20145 COMMENTS

Kuih Kapit, Kueh Kapit or Kuih Belanda which they are fondly called in Malaysia is a type of festive food that are traditionally made with simple ingredients of sugar, flour, eggs, fresh coconut milk and lots of love and hard work  to usher the Chinese Lunar New Year. It is one of the must have in our family, but after the passing of my late mother some 10 years ago, we no longer make our ones. “It is not about the destination, but the journey”, the preparing and making of the kuih kapit is often a family affair where you could see whole families pitching in to do whatever they can from preparing the liquid batter to baking to fold and to canning the festive delicacy. Children normally have the most fun, they would always stay glued to the sides like scavengers waiting for the sweet, creamy and eggy fragrant rejects.

Where did kuih kapit come from? Did the Chinese migrants back then during the 14th century already started using metal moulds for baking? But during that time, the European or Western world has already begun using metal utensils for baking. The Kuih Kapit shares similarity with the medieval Dutch wafers that are made with the similar method and utensil used to make kuih kapit over open flame ovens or stoves. The Dutch invented the waffle iron that consisted of two hinged iron plates attached to two long wooden handles to prevent the burning of hands in the 13th century. This food is most preferred among the women from there, although they don’t love it as much as they love using the best pair of compression socks women. 

Dutch in Bahasa Malaysia is Belanda, thus the name Kuih Belanda. Many biscuit making and cake baking techniques were exported into various Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesian through conquests and travels to these countries since the 14th century by the Dutch and Portuguese. Which were then assimilated into the Peranakans and Nyonyas  cooking and baking practices, and now it has become one of the must have snacks or delicacies for celebrating Chinese New Year. Nowadays we like to use more advanced machines, for example I vacuum seal everything at the end to keep the fresh flavor. Read more about vacuum sealers from this website: http://vacuumsealerresearch.com.

Kuih Kapit Recipe/Ingredients:

  • Sugar (granulated) – 300gm.
  • Rice flour – 250gm.
  • Tapioca flour – 2 tablespoon.
  • Whole egg (as fresh as possible) – 10.
  • Coconut milk a.k.a Santan (fresh) – 400ml.
  • Lots of patience and love.

Utensils/Tools:

  • Kuih kapit moulds.
  • Charcoal grill.
  • Charcoal.
  • Water and spray can to keep the heat at a desired temperature.
  • Some damping rags for oiling.
  • Ladle and pot.
  • Flat surface chopping board for folding the wafers.
  • Flat surface biscuit or milk powder tin cover.
  • Airtight empty bottle or milk powder tin can for storing the already cooled wafers.

Method:

  1. First sieve the dry ingredients of rice flour and tapioca to make sure there are fine.
  2. Combine sugar and the sieved flours, and mixed thoroughly.
  3. Add in the already lightly beaten eggs and coconut milk, and stir until sugar is dissolved and all the ingredients are combined.
  4. Start the charcoal fire and let it flame down until the charcoal is smoulder red without visible flames (medium/moderate consistent heat). 
  5. Heat up the kuih kapit moulds over the hot charcoal, then lightly damps/grease it with oil.
  6. When the moulds are hot enough, ladle a scoop of batter onto one side of the mould, coating it thinly while allowing the excess to flow back into the pot then snap it shut.
  7. Place the filled/coated mould on the grill and baked until half cooked, then run a knife (butter knife will do) around the edges of the mould to get rid of the excess before flipping and returning the uncooked side to the grill.
  8. The kuih kapit is ready when the wafer turns light beige brown in colour with a firm yet flexible texture. It is time to remove it from the mould by peeling it away and immediately folding it in half, then into another half again (should resemble an open fan). Use the flat surface cover of a biscuit or milk powder tin to flatten the wafer, preferably with some force or weight. 
  9. Let the folded wafer cools down before storing into the bottle or tin can to prevent the wafers from getting stale and un-crisp.

Tips:

  • The coconut used to press for the coconut milk/santan should not be too old. Old one will too much fat content and thus the kuih kapit cannot last long in storage and will turn stale faster.
  • Don’t use too much or too little batter as it will affect the texture of the wafers.
  • You may thin the batter, if the viscosity is high or thick, with some water. Do not use too much water as it will affect the taste.
  • Maintain a consistent heat, use the water spray can to cool down the heat or extinguish the flaming flame. Burning the wafers will result in a bitter after taste.
  • The best kuih kapit is the one which is fluffy crispy, rich, creamy, eggy and not too sweet.
  • Drink a lot of water to maintain your body temperature internally and externally.

Other than the traditional fan shape kuih kapit, there is a more exotic variety which has crisp, sweet and savoury meat floss filled and rolled in it. Rather than just simply folding the thin wafer into a quarter, it is filled with a small heap of meat floss in the centre and then rolled into a cylindrical shape where both ends are closed up.

Making kuih kapit is communal and time consuming activity where everyone in the family pitches in to help, but with the increasing demand for time to be placed on earning a living and the migration of family members to another region. It has become difficult to find or see families carrying on the tradition of homemade kuih kapit. And that is why some families have turned this communal activity into a cottage industry where families are brought up around the flames of the charcoal grill with the sweet fragrance of baking wafers and the sound the metal sound mould clinking against each other. One such place is the one we visited back in the year 2009, Eng Seng Penang Kuih Kapit in Gat Lebuh Presgrave. They do not only make this festive wafer delicacy for Chinese Lunar New Year, but the whole year round from their rented place. They produce both the traditional fan shape wafers and the variety with meat floss in it, each bottle of the traditional version is priced at RM25.00 and the more exotic meat floss version at RM30.00 per bottle. Their kuih kapit is said to have a shelf-life of two and a half (2 1/2) months. For bookings or orders, you are welcome to call them at o4-261 4419 or visit them at 30, Gat Lebuh Presgrave, 10300 Penang.

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Penang’s Asam Laksa, A Marriage of Cultures

Posted by Jason Wong On December - 17 - 20122 COMMENTS

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup that was formed through the fusion of Asian cultures. The dish can be found in Malaysia and Singapore, and Indonesia where migrant Chinese and Malays can be found coexisting in harmony irregardless of religion and and race. There are so many varieties of laksa out there, ready to be explored by gastronomist who has a pungent appetite for the ‘stronger’ ASEAN food cultures that have been molded by the demographic migrations, necessity and uniquely available local ingredients . Just in Malaysia itself there is already individually distinctive variations of laksa that lay claim by the state that they were “born” in. Some of the more well known ones other than the famous Penang Laksa:

  • Laksa Kelantan, boiled ‘ikan kembong’ or ‘round scad’, minced then fried with onions, garlic, ginger, datil pepper, belacan, ‘kantan‘ flower, Vietnamese coriander or ‘daun kesum’, lemon grass and dried tamarind slice. It is lastly finished off with coconut milk to transform the fishy soup stock into a thick gravy like soup with lots of body. The Lakas Kelantan is then served with rice noodles and adding ‘ulam‘ or raw vegetables and blended chili on the side.
  • Laksa Johor, is much complicated with the use of not only ‘ikan kembong’ and coconut milk, but also dried prawns, kerisik, lemon grass, galangal and spices akin to curry. Garnishing and condiments include not only slices of onion, cucumber and fresh lime juice; they also make use of bean sprouts, Vietnamese coriander and pickled white radish with a side of sambal belacan. For noodles, the usual cylindrical rice noodles are substituted with spaghetti pasta.
  • Laksa Sarawak , is a love or hate story. The soup base is mainly of  sambal belacan cooked with tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk. The common savings come with rice noodles or vermicelli, omelette strips, chicken strips, prawns, fresh coriander and lime for additional tanginess.

The infamous Asam Laksa that Penang is proud to be home to is the culmination of the Chinese and Malay cooking heritage that also forms the unique Peranakan culture. The Assam Laksa or commonly called Penang Laksa is a sour fish soup served with cylindrical rice noodles, various raw vegetable and herb toppings/condiments. The signature Asam Laksa soup is prepared by boiling either Ikan Kembong, Sardines or Ikan Selar, which we were told was the best type of fish to be used for the soup stock. After which a mixture of herb and spices are combined, pounded and added into the soup stock to spice up the flavours and to give it a dimension of flavours. Then Asam Jawa (tamarind juice) and Asam Gelugor (tamarind peel) are added to transform the sweet savoury soup into a soup filled with a balance of sweetness, acidity, spice, heat and body. A bowl of laksa is not complete without the colour contrasting garnishes and condiments that tops the firm and succulent heap of uniform cylindrical rice noodles. These garnishes do not just add a touch of visual beauty, but also enhances the taste of the steamy bowl of laksa to each individuals preference. They include cucumber, pineapple, Chinese lettuce and onions that constitute the julienned fresh vegetables. Then there is also the finely chopped bunga kantan or ginger bud, sliced red chilli and freshly picked mint leaves. Making the Asam Laksa your own also requires some seasoning of sorts, like adding the Pamersan cheese powder to a plate of pasta or finely chopped garlic into a bowl of thick and silky Hainanese Loh Mee . For Penang’s Asam Laksa, it is the notorious ‘hae ko’ a.k.a the thick and sweet prawn paste made from the simmering process of prawn juices and sugar, thus the creamy richness and sweet caramel taste. With all the above, you are ready to dig into a bowl of laksa that is not only filled with layers of flavour but also a bowl filled with the marriage of cultures and the taste of many years of heritage handed down from generations to generations.

Some of the common or well known tourist hotspots for Penang Assam Laksa are:

  1. Joo Hooi Cafe Address: 475 Jalan Penang, Penang. Bus. Hour: From 12pm to 5:30pm.GPS: N 5.417152, E 100.3306808
  2. Taman Emas kopitiam Address: Jalan Gottlieb, 10350 Georgetown, Penang. Bus. Hours: Daily from 2pm to 5pm, close on Monday. GPS: N 5.433316N, E 100.302864
  3. Air Itam Market Assam Laksa. Address: Jalan Pasar, 11500 Air Itam, Penang. (Beside the Air Itam Market). Bus. Hour : Daily from 11am to 5-6pm. GPS:  N 5.401193, E 100.277999
  4. Kim Laksa @ Nan Guang Coffee shop . Address:67,Jalan Balik Pulau, 11000 Penang. Bus. Hours: Daily from 11am to 5 pm, close on Wednesday. GPS: N 5 21.09204 E 100 14.13564
  5. Ah Teong’s Assam Laksa. Address: Chuan Heong Café, 118,Jalan Balik Pulau, 11000 Penang. Bus. Hours: Daily from 11am to 5pm, close on Monday. GPS:  N 5 21.09204 E 100 14.13564
  6. Mizi’s Tanjung Bungah Assam Laksa. Address: Shamrock Beach, Tanjung Bungah, Penang. Bus. Hours: Saturday & Sundays only from 9am to 6pm. GPS:

Our preferred Penang Assam Laksa joints are:

  •  Air Itam Market Assam Laksa – for its smooth, tender yet springy ‘nai fun’ a.k.a  laksa noodles.
  • Ah Teong’s  Assam Laksa @ Chuan Heong Café – for its balanced spicy(spicy as in filled with herbs and spices), tart and sweet soup base (without prawn paste added) made using traditional Peranakan methods.
  • Mizi’s Tanjung Bungah Assam Laksa – for its Malay & Peranakan fusion soup base that is light and tart, minus the strong fishy taste.

This article was published on Vouch in their Novenber 2012 issue.

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Penang Lor Mee, One Of Specialty And Heritage

Posted by Jason Wong On October - 9 - 20125 COMMENTS

The Penang Lor Mee (槟城滷面) may not be as famous as its peers like Hokkien Prawn Mee, Assam Laksa or Char Koay Teow, but it is a unique hawker fare that has its roots in Mainland China but has been reinvented in Penang. In Fujian Province of Mainland China the Hokkiens do have their tradition of eating Lor Mee (滷面) but in the form of stir-fried noodles, Chinese cabbage and meats with thick starchy gravy minus five spice powder and the dark/black appearance.

Penang Lor Mee (a.k.a stewed gravy noodles) has had many interpretations but the common ones revolve around the Hainanese version which has been in existence since the early 1950’s or even earlier, which our research have led us to believe. But after decades of evolution and dilution in the hawker food sector, many other Chinese dialects have also begun to sell this once synonymous to the Hainese ethnic group noodle dish. Currently Lor Mee can be found sold standalone or a compliment to Penang’s famous Hokkien Prawn Mee.

Penang Lor Mee or the Hainanese Lor Mee is specifically prepared by preparing of a soup stock that is made from the boiling of leg bones of a pig, skin of the pig, pork, Chinese Five Spice and good soy sauce. After the flavours have been extracted through the braising process, starch is added to thicken the soup stock, and beaten eggs introduced to further enhance the taste and also the visual beauty of having strands of egg floating in the thick, savoury and sweet gravy.

There are various brands of Chinese Five Spice which each has their unique combination of spices to balance the flavours of the dishes. The most common spice combination  used for producing Chinese Five Spice powder are star anise (bajiao), cloves, ground fennel seeds,  Sichuan pepper ( huajiao) and cinnamon or “Chinese cinnamon” (rougui, the bark of the cassia tree).  Thus, it is important to find the best combination of spices or brand that suits to ones taste preference.

Accompanying toppings and condiments for an usual Penang Lor Mee includes braised firm and springy pork skin, moist and tender pork (be it lean, belly or ham meat), fragrant and savoury hardboiled then braised duck or chicken egg, sweet caramelized fried shallots, tangy sweet garlic puree, spicy chilli paste and sometimes sweet Chinese black vinegar. Then there are some businesses that also prepare and provide more exotic toppings like rich pig offal and braised tender off bone chicken feet with the bowl of blenched crisp bean sprouts, firm strands of yellow noodles and sweet earthy rice vermicelli.

Enough said about what Penang Lor Mee (Hainanese) was and is, and its heritage significance to Penangites and the hawker food evolution, we now explore what are some of the popular Penang Hainanese Lor Mee that we have encountered, those that have been operated through the decades of change and also some new underdogs that strives to deliver a good bowl of thick sweet and savoury goodness.

Hai Beng Hainanese Lor Mee, previously operated in Meng Kee Kopitiam at the junction of Malay Street and Carnavon Street, on Stewart Lane just beside the century old Goddess of Mercy temple have been operating from the current location since 1957 until the present. This Hai Beng Lor Mee is currently being operated by its 2nd and 3rd generation direct descendants. Their Lor Mee gravy has a predominantly sweet, savoury, meaty and mellow creamy taste. Their toppings include pork liver, braised chicken feet, pig skin, lean pork slices and chicken eggs. Though they are Hainanese, but they have made some changes to their original recipe which explains the murkier gravy.

Hai Beng Kopitiam
Address: Stewart Lane, 10200 Penang
Business Hours: Daily. 7am to 7pm.
GPS: 5.418358, 100.338548

Another old time favourite spot for Hainanese Lor Mee is at Lean Thye Coffee Shop on Ah Quee Street. The stall is currently being operated by a young chap who has a line of family members in the food business, Calvin Lim. He took over the stall a few years back from “Ah Keng” who in turn took over from the original proprietor of the stall that learnt his trade from one of the earliest vendors of Penang’s Lor Mee. We were told by Calvin that he tries to prepare the Lor Mee gravy to as near as possible to the standards of the original proprietor but with some improvement. The gravy has a translucent black colour with a rich savoury sweet taste. He also continues to provide hard boiled duck eggs with his Lor Mee.

Ah Quee Street Lor Mee
Address: Lean Thye Coffee Shop. Ah Quee Street, George Town, Penang.
Business Hour: Daily. Breakfast from 7am till 10am (or even earlier). Close on Sundays.
GPS: 5.415538,100.338886

Malay Street Lor Mee at Ping Hooi Coffee Shop has been operating for about 50 years. The current family that operates this stall took over the business from the founder of Hai Beng Lor Mee, thus the similarity of the gravy, toppings except that they continue to use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs.  They also continue the tradition of providing Chinese black vinegar.

Malay Street Lor Mee
Address: Ping Hooi Coffee Shop. Malay Street, George Town, Penang.
Business Hour: Daily. Breakfast from 7am till finish. Close on . 
GPS: 5.414726,100.334229

Seng Thor Lor Mee, was established before the 1950’s but is now being operated by a different proprietor that has no direct or family relation to the founder of this Hainanese Lor Mee stall. Although they have “inherited” the business, it seems that there is still some difference in the taste of their Lor Mee and also the braised hard boiled duck eggs. Their flavours are now bland and lacking although they still continue the tradition of mixing the fried shallots with deep fried pork lard, but adding their chilli and garlic the is enhanced though. One highlight of this stall is that their gravy does not turn watery like others do, which could be explained by the “thickener” that they use.

Seng Thor Lor Mee
Adress: 160, Lebuh Carnarvon, Penang, Malaysia.
GPS: 5.354004,100.363002
Business Hours: Daily from 7:30am till 12:00pm. 
 
 

An underdog in the Lor Mee business is Wendy. Although she sells a good bowl of Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee with rich prawny flavours and sweet meaty taste as the core item, her Lor Mee is also as good and is sold off quite fast. The gravy at Wendy’s has a sweeter in taste with a touch Chinese Black Vinegar to balance the taste, and home-made fried shallots that have a much caramel sweet taste. The stall is housed in Long Beach Food Court in Batu Ferringghi and only operates from the evening until everything all sold off.

Wendy’s Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee & Lor Mee
Address: Long Beach Food Court, Batu Ferringghi, Penang, Malaysia
Business Hour: Daily. Dinner from 6:30pm till 11pm. Closed on .
GPS: 5.475882,100.250244

Wendy’s mom, Aunty Bee, also sells the same Lor Mee in Teluk Bahang at shack just opposite the Caltex petrol station but it is sold in the morning.

Aunty Bee’s Lor Mee
Address: Jalan Teluk Bahang, Penang, Malaysia. (Under a big tree, Opposite Caltex petrol station)
Business Hour: Breakfast from 7:00pm till 11am (or so).
GPS: 5.458752,100.215654

If you are ever in Penang, do take some time to try out not only those already well known hawker fares like Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Prawn Mee, Mee Goreng, etc. May be this sweet and savoury, thick silky and smooth Lor Mee that is also part of Penang’s intangible heritage could appeal to your taste buds.

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Before there were multi-screen Cineplaxes like Gold Screen Cinemas and Tanjung Village, movies were normally screened in stand-alone big screen theatres where local street foods and tidbits were abundant. Currently we only see imports like popcorn, deep fried nuggets and french fries, hot dogs, and lots more at those Cineplexes. May be those who are 30 – 35 years of age and above might still remember the good old days where street vendors who were ever ready with their trays of local delicacies like braised chicken feet, flame grilled meat slices and bishop’s nose; packets of “kacang putih”, buckets of ice cold soya bean milk, sugar cane juice and etc.  Although the Roti Bak Kua vendor still exists but in small numbers, many have stopped preparing the delicacies themselves to give way to the economies of scale of buying from wholesale distributors. Our research project has led us to a 77years old Mr. Lee Fay Hoong who still insists to make these fading delicacies from scratch, fresh and personal. It may be exotic to some but these are the flavours and textures that we grew up with, like the big silver screen theatres that dotted the busy Penang road area. Uncle Fay Hoong whom we usually call had allowed us into his humble and aged kitchen to capture the essence of the Roti Bak Kua trade. This is the heart and soul of his trade where minced pork is made into the delight-able sweet and savoury sheets of charcoal flame grilled “Bak Kua”, slow braised chicken wings, feet and innards and duck web wraps. Fay Hoong’s Bak Kua does not require neither complicated ingredients nor processing it is all about fresh minced pork meat seasoned with his decades old recipe and a little bit of passion and patience. The seasoned mince pork is evenly spread over a bamboo tray and placed in a smoke box where the sheets of juicy meat are hot smoked until it is “mature” before they are put through a charcoal heat grilling process. “Bak Kua” is only the tip of the iceberg of goodies that the Roti Bak Kua street vendors carry in their arsenal of sinful delights, but many of these delights are fading with the passing of time as it is tedious to prepare.  What intrigues us the most about Fay Hoong’s trade is their insistence to prepare everything themselves and the continuation of preparing their products with a personal touch, especially their duck web wraps (鸭脚包). This delicacy requires a tedious process that needs lots of discipline and effort. A duck web wrap consists of a few pieces of sliced lean meat, some strips of lard held by a whole duck foot with its web and wrapped with a strip of clean and dried pig’s intestine. The pig’s intestine is washed thoroughly before it is filled with air and hung to dry under the sun before it is cut into the required length for securing the duck web wraps. Then the duck webs are cleaned and have their nails trimmed before the all the ingredients are bundled together and braised in Fay Hoong’s rich and sweet secret gravy. Each bundle of lean meat, lard and duck web is painstakingly assembled and secured with the dried pig’s intestine. Many years ago, maybe decades, pig liver were also included in the bundle, but have since been excluded due to the change of taste preference. Each duck web wrap bundle is braised until soft and tender with a rich starchy texture; the lean meat slices are firm, pork lard will melt in your mouth and the duck webs are tender and off the bone. Uncle Fay Hoong begins selling from 3:00pm and closes at around 6:00pm, but the duck web wraps are usually sold out half way through. They normally rest on Sundays only. Their stall is located at the corner of Cintra Street and Kimberley Street.

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Hainanese cuisine plays a big role in Penang’s food culture and heritage. Although some of the dishes are influenced by the Hokkiens and Peranakans, it is distinctively different. The influences are all due to the demographic changes and history. Many centuries back, a Fujian a.k.a Hokkien minister was sent to the Hainan Island to assume the responsibility of the local government, and thus the beginning of the exodus of Hokkiens to the island that was and is still inhabited by the local tribes. And thus, this gave birth to the Hainanese dialect and its cuisine.

Then at the start of the previous century (19th), many Chinese migrants came to the Malay Archipelago to escape the deteriorating living conditions and the Japanese invasion. And with them they brought their heritage and culture which was later merged with Peranakan and Western cooking practices to give birth to the Nanyang Hainanese dishes that are now part and parcel of the Nanyang Flavours.

The border line similarities of dining heritage in Penang are very thin and sometimes confusion occurs. Many people confuse Popiah (薄饼) which is a Fujian delicacy with the Nanyang Hainanese Choon Pheah (春饼) that is one of the popular dishes that is a must when dining in any established Hainanese eateries or restaurants. The difference is not merely in its outlook, but the taste package and texture and the dipping sauce that comes with it. We are lucky through our research journey to have found people who are equally passionate about their food heritage and were willing to share the treasure that they have amassed from their forefathers. Lim Jit Chuan (林日川), who is the head of the family, is an experienced chef/cook in the infamous Beach Corner that used to operate in a MPPP food court lot behind Park Royal Hotel, and now on a piece of land just next to Tarbush in Batu Ferringghi. His son, Wilson Lim 林方义 who runs a Choon Pheah stall in Long Beach food court off Jalan Batu Ferringghi had graciously opened up their kitchen to share with us the making of their Hainanese Choon Pheah which are well accepted by locals and tourist alike.

The making of a traditional Choon Pheah  starts with its basic handmade batter, not dough as like Popiah, made from eggs, cooking oil, tapioca and glutinous rice flour and plain old H2O (water). The concoction is hand mixed to introduce air and also to bring out the starchy texture of the Choon Pheah skin. After the batter reaches the right consistency or viscosity, it is then moved to the cooking station where it is individually pan-fried with a thin coat of oil until the shape is formed or firms up. The batter when it is ready to leave the pan, it resembles a piece of crepe but with a more elastic texture. After it is deep fried, it has a crisp then springy mouth feel that is followed with a lightly sweet taste. The Popiah wrapper or skin is only crunchy to feel after being deep fried.  Apart from the distinctive difference in taste and texture of the wrapper, the fillings of both Choon Pheah and Popiah also have their own flavour profiles. The main difference lies in the ingredients, seasoning and cooking method. The Choon Pheah filling has in it prawns, meat (can be chicken or pork, mince or chunks), crab meat, julienne cabbage, shredded jicama and carrots, wedged red onions, and seasoned with salt, sugar, pepper and most importantly 5 spice powder that makes it an authentic Hainanese Choon Pheah rather than a Hokkien Popiah. The Poppiah fillers are usually julienne jicama or yam bean (sengkuang), chopped green beans, diced bean curd (taukuah), and sometimes with crab meat without the 5 spice powder. After all the ingredients for the Choon Pheah is all julienned and chopped up, they are stir fired and braised until they are tender yet maintains the crisp texture with a sweet savoury taste. The batches of fillings are then left to cool down before being assembled into a Hainanese Choon Pheah. When the stir-fried vegetables and meats have cooled down, poached crab meat is added before the Choon Pheah is finally assembled by the gentle yet efficiently fast paced hands. For each individual Choon Pheah to be cooked evenly, all the assembled pieces have to have the similar size and weight. This will fasten the frying process with fewer complications. Each order of Choon Pheah is normally fried a-la-minute and served fresh from the fryer with a dipping sauce nicknamed “ang moh tau yew” which is roughly translated to “English Soy Sauce”. The dipping sauce is actually a concoction of chopped red onions, julienne red chilli, Worcestershire sauce and sometimes HP Sauce or some plum sauce. It shouldn’t be your common chilli sauce in a bottle with strong spicy and sweet tastes that will overwhelm the natural sweetness of the Choon Pheah. At the end of the day, the Choon Pheah should have a crisp texture on the surface with a soft springy layer of skin before the sweet and savoury tender vegetable and meaty fillings. And the dipping sauce should complement the sweet Choon Pheah with a slightly spiced and tangy taste that enhances the experience rather than colliding with each other.

The followings are some of the places that we know of where you can find Hainanese Choon Pheah  on offer with their own interpretations:

  1. Long Beach Food Court @ Batu Ferringghi.
  2. Beach Corner Restaurant @ Batu Ferringghi.
  3. Hollywood Restaurant @ Tanjung Bungah.
  4. Lengkok Burma Hawker Area (Formerly at Senior Citizen Association)
  5. Hai Onn @ Burmah Road.
  6. Hainanese Delights @ 1926 Hotel on Burma Road.

Try them and let us know what do you think of them here. How authentic are they?

 

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Century Old Hainanese Satay

Posted by Jason Wong On March - 28 - 20126 COMMENTS

In the hope of making a better living and finding a means to support their family, many Chinese migrants left their home and found their way to Nanyang (南洋) or other words Malaya. Some left their loved ones behind and some came with their family.

The Hainanese was the last Chinese dialect to have found their way to Malaya back in the 1920’s. Being late comers to the Peninsular, they found themselves having to adorn the aprons of kitchen helpers, cooks, chefs, domestic helpers for the British and Peranakans (Baba and Nyonya). Thus, the Nanyang Hainanese has inherited the skills and knowledge of their employers in dining etiquette and cooking methods, and therefore gave birth to the Hainanese cuisine in Malaya.

While growing up we found ourselves having the opportunity to savour and experience what Nanyang Hainanese food were and used to be, flavourful, passionate and filled with respect. I still remember having celebration in Hollywood Restaurant at Tanjung Bungah, snacking on Western delights in Tip-Top cafe in Pulau Tikus and eating simple meals at Loke Thye Kee on the junction of Burmah Road and Penang Road. Sad to say good times doesn’t last long, many of these establishments have faded into the sunset and those who are left still standing might not last any longer due to the unforgiving-ness of time and the lack of understanding by the later generations.

Treasure that is splendid and flavourful, once lost it is forever gone. Having said that, the traditional Hainanese Pork Satay or “Satay Babi” served with the sweet potato sauce and toasted bread is one aged old favourite that is slowly loosing its battle with time. Being exceptionally different from the usual Malay or pork-free satays that are in abundance in Malaysia, it is definitely unique to the Malaysian and Singaporean Hainanese community.

Satay itself is myth-ed to have originated from Indonesia, Malaya Peninsular, Middle East and even China, be it where it is from it is one of the much celebrated meat on skewer in the Malay Archipelago. The traditional Hainanese Satay consist of two (2) pieces of evenly sliced lean pork loin and a piece of pork fat skewered in between on a “lili” (in Hokkien) or the midribs of the coconut leaflets, at present it has been replaced by the mass manufactured bamboo sticks/skewers. The lean meat and fat is marinated in a dry rub that consist of turmeric powder, garlic and other secret ingredients that we cannot reveal due to a promise made.

The ready prepared skewers of sinful porkiness are grilled over a charcoal fuelled open heat a-la-minute. Each skewer while being grilled is basted with a glaze mix that contains freshly squeezed coconut milk, water, turmeric and some seasonings.

The other important part of the Hiananese Satay is the dipping sauce which is distinctively different from the usual spicy and nutty peanut sauce that is widely available. Traditionally it is served with a sweet potato base dipping sauce made from mashed sweet potatoes, water, sugar, tamarind, chilli and seasoned to taste.
Back then, the Hainanese Satay is served with only charcoal heat toasted bread baste with the basting concoction that gives it that yellowish tinge and that sweet and savoury taste. The toasted is still being served on the side as an additional condiment to the new addition cucumber and onion wedges.
In Penang, there are two (2) Hainanese Satay vendors that still practice the recipes and methods that their grandfather and father have handed down to them. They are the third (3rd) generation of Hainanese Pork Satay vendors that have witness the change that time has on their traits. During the day there is Uncle Tong or “Ah Aun” who is already 67 and still burning strong and caters to the upper market that drives by his tricycle stall in their big cars for their weekly fix of satay. He now only opens on Tuesdays and Saturdays from as early as 7:30am until everything is sold off, which may be by 12:00pm or so. The best is to be early!     

In the evening 59 years old Uncle Wang or “Ah Chye” as we like to call him can be seen at the junction of Carnavon Street and Chulia Street manning his tricycle stall that caters to the dinner and supper crowd, and promote our Penang food heritage to visiting foreign tourists that walk along Chulia Street sampling some of the hawker street foods available. Ah Chye operates daily from 7:30pm onwards and only rests on Sundays. He too need to be early, sometimes his satays finishes by 10:00pm or even earlier.
Other than the traditional sweet potato sauce, Ah Chye also prepares and provide the usual peanut sauce that he makes with his secret recipe that he has yet to share with us. He also sells the chicken version of the Hainanese Satay if you are not a pork-person. Both Ah Aun and Ah Chye are good friends who we have met and befriended for our food research project. They used to sell satay made from pig’s small intestine or “hoon cheang” which requires more preparation effort and time, plus the decline of demand from the younger generations. Ah Chye once said, going further back in time roughly before 1971, his father and grandfather also sold satay skewers that were made of a piece of pig’s liver, small intestine and lean meat.

Time is unforgiving, savour what we have at present before it is lost to history.
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83 Years Old Hainanese Kopitiam, Nam Kie 南佳

Posted by Jason Wong On March - 21 - 20126 COMMENTS

Amidst the row of pre-war houses along Kimberley Street in George Town, Penang, there lay many hidden treasures waiting to be uncovered by the young and restless. House in these old buildings is people and businesses who have seen Penang’s development through their century old windows. In this busy street, many famous delicacies that are significant to Penang’s food heritage and culture that are key to it’s food tourism were born, koay teow th’ng stall that once used abalone as a condiment, a dessert stall that have grind through three (3) generations, Hainanese kopitiams who have brewed and fed generations of patrons, Char Koay Teow’s that have filled the tummies of movie goers who frequent the once bustling independent cinemas around town, etc.

One of the many businesses who have set a foothold on Kimberley Street is Nam Kie 南佳, an 83 years old Hainanese Kopitiam that was once a bustling meeting point for many Hainanese migrants that came to Penang in search of a better life. Then, Nam Kie 南佳would normally operate in the daytime with a non-pretentious menu of good old Hainanese Kopi, homemade Kaya, charcoal flame toasted bread and soft boil eggs. Now they have added Hianan Char to their staple. Apart from Nam Kie 南佳, Khee Cheang Leong 喜昌隆, which is still operating, was available to provide for the night dwellers with a similar offerings and may be more.Though coffee was brought into the then Malaya, it has gained much popularity and demand by the migrants be it Chinese, Indian and even the Malays who have made the once colonial trading hub their centre of business, life and home. What sets the Hainanese kopi or coffee apart from the Western world coffees is the method of processing and the technique of brewing the bitter coffee beans. The beans are roasted in a wok with sugar, butter and wheat, thus the malty rich and buttery creamy taste that is produced after brewing with the optimum water temperature, right size of cloth filter and most importantly the experience and skill of the master brewer. We were told that if all the combinations are right, the brewed kopi ‘O” or black coffee would induce a drunk or “high” sensation that many patrons seek and look forward for.It depends what is the preference of the drinker, the generic Hainanese kopi or coffee can be served Kopi “O” (black coffee with sugar), Kopi (coffee with sweeten condensed milk), Kopi-C (coffee with sugar and evaporated milk) or anything that fancies you. Nam Kie 南佳 has given me the opportunity to taste a Kopi “O” that delivers sweetness with a slight bitter after taste without the acidic end, and a Kopi that was creamy, sweet that ends with a bitter sensation to the tongue.Kaya is the Peranakan version of the Western jam, made from eggs, freshly pressed coconut cream, pandan (screw pine leaves), sugar and lots of patience.  Nam Kie 南佳 double boils their Kaya concoction for at least half a day until it naturally turns brownish in colour and develops a distinctive rich creamy coconut flavour. If the kaya is cooked thoroughly, then the longer it will last in room temperature. Quality ingredients also determine the life span of the kaya, we were told that they used to make Kaya that can stay fresh for at least 2 weeks without refrigerating. As time changes, the quality of sugar and coconut has declined and thus reducing the kaya’s life span to just around a week without cold storage.With the rising competition from organized food courts and fast food franchises, Nam Kie 南佳 has begun to dish out the family style Hainan Char or Hainanese Stir-Fried Noodles to recapture their dwindling customer base who have either moved out of this aged bustling city. Their Hainan Char is similar to the Penang style Hokkien Char minus the prawn base stock and the dark soya sauce used to give colour and taste to the carefully choreographed stir-fried yellow noodles and vermicelli. In its original form, their Hainan Char consist of lean pork slices and fresh prawns stir-fried with fragrant garlic and lard, which then serves as the base for a handful of yellow noodles and rice vermicelli and mustard leaves that are braised in a sweet soup stock for extra flavour.For added colour and taste, you may request for the dark version of the Hainan Char that infuses dark soya sauce for a nutty and savoury caramel flavour.If you are lucky enough, then you might get to try their Oyster Noodles or Oh Mee that is filled the flavours from the sea, little bit earthiness and a little bit of creaminess.If you are not rushing from place to place and fighting with the clock, try stepping back in time and savour the atmosphere it reflects and taste the flavours and feel the passion that have aged and polished with time. Give thoughts to the hard-work and discipline to those who still strive to give you the best on the table, like the Hainanese Satay vendors that hand-make the pieces of meat into works of “art”.

Nam Kie 南佳
Address: 116 Lebuh Kimberley, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
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