Gourmet Garden

Hunting For The Flavors & Texture Of Yesteryears'

Travel Log

Traveling & experiencing places and it’s culture

Penang Hill After 20 years!

Posted by Jason Wong On June - 24 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Jamie will sure kill me and throw me on to the tracks and cause another breakdown! This post is very very long overdue and I apologise…

About a month or so before the Penang Hill funicular train service opened its doors again to the public after the long needed upgrading, we were invited by the Tourism Malaysia and Project Penang to test ride the new trains and have a walk about at the top of the hill. Although many things have changed on the hill, but it was still like getting to know an old friend all over again after 20 years of being apart. Time flies and it has been almost 20years since I last set foot on the hill. I could still remember the time when our scout troop hiked up the hill through the wet jungle tracks early in the morning after a night of rain.

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Before the trip we were briefed about the train station, the upgrading works and what they have done or will do with the material salvaged from the old tracks. If and when you are at the lower station, you might see a piece of history now being used as a door/window frame.

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The trains are well conditioned and fast. So travelling up and down the hill is breeze. But some people might like a slower ride for them to soak up the great scenery of Penang.

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The new trains look slick and new, but I still yearn for the nostalgic flavour of the old trains minus the break downs and the sometimes warm and humid atmosphere in the cars.

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Up on the hill we took some time to look at the almost forgotten memories that we have had during those good old days when Penang Hill was one of places to visit during holidays rather than now’s shopping complexes. I guess many of our age would remember the family trips up the hill, spending quality time together and building a stronger family bond.

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During the trip, I had lots of opportunity to take some photos of plants and flowers that are abundant in the hills’ still surrounding.

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A few days after our virgin ride on the new trains, we were invited again by Tourism Malaysia to witness the handing over ceremony of the Penang Hill Train Service to the Penang State Government. It was a simple event to officially return the trains back to Penang.

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With the new and faster trains, we plan to go up the hill again to hunt for things that we have long loss touch with.

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Penang’s Good Eats with A Celebrity Chef

Posted by Jason Wong On June - 21 - 20111 COMMENT

It is not the first ‘Food Trip’ that we have planned and guided, but this ‘makan’ trip is one that we have been asked to draft for Taiwanese Celebrity Chef, Chen Hong 陈宏。 All the those eating spots that we have included in our section of the 3 days 2 night foodies tour was compiled from our eating experiences, reviews and most importantly recognition by the general public who patronizes these places to fill their tummy.

Argyll Road Roti Canai, they serve roti canai that has a crisp surface with a fluffy center and curries that have 60 years of history.

Kimberley Street Char Koay Kak, it is a 2nd generation business that still uses wood to fuel heat the big circular cast iron pan to stir fry pieces of hand cut ‘Koay Kak’ or dough cakes.Siew Fong Lye Chee Cheong Fun at Soon Yuen Coffeeshop, rolls of hot rice noodle sheets topped with generous amounts of sweet sauce, ‘har koa’ or prawn paste, chilli paste, and garnish with sprinkles of toasted sesame seeds.Gill is seen here talking to Chen Hong about the specialty of the Chee Cheong Fun.

At Cecil Market, we visited many street food stalls that many Penangites have grown up with. But before the visit started, Chen Hong had a short chit chat with  Gill and Ash Loh of Kwong Wah Daily.Cecil Market’s Jawa Mee, it has traditional flavours that we have grown to like. A bit of sweetness and acidity in a tomato base gravy over freshly poached noodles and bean sprouts.Cecil Market’s Ah Chuan Curry Mee, soup that uses both coconut milk and evaporated milk as the base that would have less strain on our health.Cecil Market Sago Char, after Weld Quay’s stall ceased operation they are the last one still selling this unique delicacy that uses ‘sago’ to make the cakes that are then stir fried with chilli and bean sprouts.

Cecil Market Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng was an ad-hoc addition  to the visit to Cecil Market. Chen Hong likes soups that are light and easy on the palate.

Cecil Market Pasembur is one of the well accepted Chinese style Pasembur in Penang. Our other choices would be the one in Batu Lanchang market food court.At Cecil Market Nyonya Kuih, it is their tapioca kuih, yam cake, etc has texture and old flavours which got it into the list.

At the junction of Kimberley Street and Cintra Street we found ‘飞鸿’ ‘duck feet’ wraps that still has the old school tastes that we constantly hunt for. The rich, slightly savoury with a sweet after taste duck feet wrap or ‘鸭脚包’ consist of duck feet with its web, a piece pork fat and meat wrapped (tied) with a piece pig intestine lining.  The couple is already semi-retired, so it would be best to know their business days and hours. We were lucky to have pre-booked the ‘duck feet’ for the shooting as it was already sold out even before we arrived.Kimberley Street Thong Shui, they are famous for their almond tea and traditional sweet desserts. This business is already in its 4th generation of proprietorship. Mr. Goh is lucky to have family that is willing to inherit his hard earned patrons and skills.

Kimberly Street Duck Koay Chiap after years of changing and improving their delicacy has left some impressions in our taste buds. Though the noodle is different from our preferred rough textured noodle opposite the Air Itam wet market, its savoury duck gravy and the slightly smooth handmade noodles were well matched.

(The above photo was used by another prominent blogger in Penang)

By late evening, we were at Chulia Streets’s ‘沙爹王’ Hainanese satay stall. It’s specialty would be the unique Hainanese recipe for marinating the tender pieces of pork and chicken, and the sweet potato base gravy used to dip the evenly grilles 3 pieces of meat on a bamboo skewer. Do not net forget to order his ‘roti bakar’ or toasted bread to mop up the remaining gravy.

We were at Song River coffee shop for their charcoal flame grilled chicken and grilled fish. At Song River, our favourites are the chicken wings and bishops’ nose, which when prepared properly offers a taste of smokiness, caramelization, savouriness and sweetness.
As for the grill fish, it is the marinate that consist of lots of raw garlic and birds eye chilli, fermented bean paste, sugar and “asam”. The readied product would taste rich, sweet, spicy and nutty with slight acidity, but yet would not overwhelm the flavours of the fish.
Many thanks to Mr. Koay and is family for hosting us and the arrangements.

On the second day, we met up with them at Teluk Bahang for Auntie Bee’s Loh Mee which has the sinful flavour of 5-spice and a consistently thick texture. Her Hokkien Mee soups is also not bad with a a heavy taste of Prawns and the price is very reasonable with portion she serves. The stall is just a stones throw away from the Caltex station under a big shady tree.Then we went down to Shamrock Beach to sample the ‘Tanjung Bungah Laksa’ that only opens on weekends. If I am not mistaken, the Malay Nyonya fusion style laksa had its humble beginnings of just being operated on a push cart by the current operator’s mother. Now they operate from a all white food truck that only rolls up during weekends. The laksa has a spicy and sweet taste without the fishy after taste. Though the price is slightly on the high side, the taste does induce one to have more than one serving.

 After laksa we headed to’ Kedai Makanan Lidiana‘ to introduce Malay ‘nasi campur’ to Chen Hong. The dishes at Lidiana are less oily, fresh, and inexpensive compared to others we have tried. For more details do visit our old postings about this place.
After Lidiana we parted ways and only met up again at ‘Chin’s Stylish Chinese Cuisine’ in Tanjung Marina. At Chin’s, Dave introduced some of their signature dishes to Chen Hong and shared some of his experience in the many years in the F&B business from England to Malaysia. We will definitely be back with more details of this Chinese Fine Dine in Penang.

Aromatic Duck, that has been deboned and its fibres broken downed.With the visit to Chin’s we end our list that was contributed for the purpose to promote Penang’s food scene and also to assist Chef Chen Hong on his quest to re-familiarize himself with Penang’s well sort after delicacies.

 

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2011 New Year Eve Fireworks

Posted by Jason Wong On January - 1 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

We would like to wish all our readers and peers a Very Happy and Bountiful 2o11!

Fireworks at Esplanade and Prai area.

Fireworks at Straits Quay in Penang.








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On the fourth day of our Hong Kong trip we headed to Yuen Long (元朗) to look for Hugo Lam’s restaurant and also to soak in some of the old architecture that was left behind in the area. It tooks us 3 train rides and lots of walking to only see some of the places that was on the list.

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One hundred year old temple.

Ping Shan Herritage Trail that brought us to many old Ching dynasty buildings that were still left standing.
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Looks like the haunted houses in the old Chinese vampire movies!

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The meals that we had on Day 3 during our Hong Kong trip was focus on food hunting through the information gathered from blogs and other Medias. The first place that we hunt down was the much talked about old style dim sum place called Lin Heung (莲香楼). Much was expected from them especially reading about it and also seeing the article by 蔡澜 recommending this place which boasts old people serving good oldskool dim sum, what we actually got was poor and rude service from the waiters and food that had loads of MSG. The dim sum dishes were very much a letdown in terms of taste and texture, except for the ‘char siew pao’ which had some standard.

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The ‘char siew pao’ is actually the world’s first dim sum. Both the dough and filling is equivalently important to deliver the soft fluffy texture and flavourful bites.

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As we did not feel satisfied with what we had at Lin Heung, we continue our breakfast at ‘Mak Wai’ (麥记)wantan noodles. Their noodles were crunchier and thinner compared to those we have found in Malaysia so far. The wantan itself only consist of just prawn and prawn roe which was already sufficient to deliver satisfaction to what would be a disappointed morning. The wantan dumplings were fresh and crunchy and the taste delivered was sweet and savoury. The wantan noodle is actually one of my favourite noodle dish that I don’t mind having every morning.

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Other than noodles and dumplings, we also sampled their ‘牛腩‘or stewed beef belly. It was not what we expected but just looking at the serving it was already enough to make me drool. The tendons and meat chunks were tender and full of flavour, the best thing were that the herbs and spice used did not overwhelm the beefy taste. The only thing that bugged me in this dish was the heavy usage of ‘Mandarin Orange Peel’.

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After breakfasts, we set out to walk about and found this ‘泰昌饼家’ or Tai Cheung Bakery. They are famous for their egg tarts which even the last British Governor of Hong Kong enjoyed very much.

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The tart shell was soft but not too flaky, and it does not stick to the grooves of our teeth. The egg custard filling was fragrantly eggy with a rich taste minus the overwhelming sugary sweetness. If you are in Hong Kong it may be one of the pit stops that would not want to miss.

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In the evening and part of our hunting list, we headed to ‘蘭芳園‘ or Lan Fong Yuen to sample their famous pork chop buns and ‘奶茶‘ or milk tea. The milk tea was smooth as in subtle on the throat or in another words like downing a smooth full body wine, full of flavours but yet does not stress the throat too much.

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The pork chop bun was also not a letdown, it was fried till golden brown and yet retained its tenderness and juices. Paired with soft mayo and nicely toasted sesame bun, it was the best that I have so far. In the past, we only found something of similar at Wongkok restaurant at  OUG in Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur, but the place has since closed down.

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In the evening we went to shop for some items in the Mongkok area which is famous for its ‘电子街‘,’女人街’ and ‘球鞋街’, and to find some street food that may entice our taste buds. We found a street side shop that sells a variety of snack foods like stinky tofu,  curry fish balls, stewed cow innards and so on at the end of ’女人街’. The snack food sold here did not had as much MSG as compared to the shop fronting the hotel that we were staying in, Langham.

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Day 3 on our Hong Kong Free-And-Easy trip brought us to Hong Kong Island. Morning started with their usual Hong Kong Dim Sum, then proceed with a walk around on foot until they hurt and got on hop-on-hop-off bus for HKD50 only for the whole day.

Here I got off a shot of enforcement officers from the health department (I think) making their rounds on foot. Most of the time back in home soil, the enforcement officers are normally motor vehicles. With foot petrols one would see more and do more, and also keep the inches of the belly and the Government could reduce fuel consumption green house gases

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A few minutes down our walk, we turned in to the maze like alley ways in the area we were in and found food stalls and market stalls practicing their trade in the morning hours.

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After we emerge from the alleys and business district, we began our hunt for places of interests on foot then by bus.

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The double decker public bus serve which provided the hop-on-hop-off service runs along 2 looping routes which allows tourists to move along their historical trail less the effort and with video and audio introduction of the places it passes through. How hope Penang state would have this in place to prevent taxis from fleecing tourists. Many people don’t like taking these taxis because they don’t have any taxi insurance to cover them from accidents.

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It is what we normally see in Hong Kong movies and soaps, they really take the effort to keep inconvenience and safety top priority by making it compulsory to erect scuff holdings and with extensive nettings.

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The old Hong Kong Police Head Quarters is under renovations. There are actually quite number of old heritage buildings in the area, it is just we need to notice them and admire them in the midst of the ever expanding concrete jungle.

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The tram system that runs along some of the streets in Hong Kong Island. One of these streets is the ‘海味街’ seafood street.

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The entrance to ‘The Peak’  and ‘Madam Tussuad’. As the crowd was picking up, we decided not to visit the place and went on to plan E for makan.

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Public transport in Hong Kong is well connected with sea, land and underground.

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In the evening we walk through Lan Kwai Fong which we found was shorter in length than the famous Bintang Walk or Bangsar’s happening areas. It is all about the branding and image projected. The time to be there should be late evening or early night time, otherwise it was a bit quiet.

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These are what we had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper on our second day in Hong Kong. Breakfast was quite rush as we had to head out to ‘Tai Yu San’, thus a fast bite was in order. Nothing fancy, just their usual breakfast set at their local ‘Char Chan Theng’.

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Majority of the local ‘char chan theng’ would carry instant noodles, similarly like Kim Gary in Malaysia. But what set them apart is that the choice toppings. Over here we had Nissin noodles with pork bacon, simple and straight forward.

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Then there was toast with ham omelet and read beans. The toast was slightly toasted and coated with a light spread of butter, the texture was slightly crisp on the surface and smooth and soft in the insides. One of the reasons that  we do not order this type of toast at our local Kim Gary type fast food chains is that it is often a bit dry and hard, and also of pricing issues. In Malaysia my choice would be our ‘roti kahwin’ or butter and kaya toast followed with soft boiled eggs at our local ‘kopitiam’

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Another set that we ordered was the pork chop, toast, omelet and beans. Consistency was in the toast preparation, crisp, smooth and soft. The pork chop was egg/batter coated fried to a crisp surface and leaving a tender moist meaty slice of pork. Next on our item to look for would be the famous pork chop buns!

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After reaching the peak at ‘Tai Yu San’, we took a pit stop at the temples’ eatery outlet, Deli Vegetarian Cafe. We heard they were famous for their soya bean milk and smooth ‘taufu fah’ or soya bean curd.

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The ‘taufu fah’ was smooth and gentle on the palate and the sugar syrup was not overwhelmingly sweet with a hint of spice of ginger. But the soya milk was not as stand out as the taufu fah.

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The food bloggers that we are, we would not just stop at those soya products, we had ourselves some light snacks from the same shop. Of the 6 items that we bought, we enjoyed the most was the reddish cake which has loads of shredded white reddish and carrot for added texture to the already perfect piece, and taste was well balanced with saltiness and sweetness.

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At night we were lost for dinner! We were eager to try out a steamboat shop that has great offers but only after 9:30pm. Thus we end up having a fast dinner at the following restaurant. We had their ‘Siu Lung Pao’ with King Crab which was very expensive, just 3 dishes already cost us a few hundred(less than HKD400). The ‘siu lung pao’ had a rich soup stock in it compared to the usual dumpling that we had in Penang. Apart from the dumplings, we also order fried ‘nin koa’ and drunken pigeon which was not really something that we appreciate that much.

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Later after we reached our hotel in Mongkok, we headed out again to the surrounding area to look for more eats and also for my camera beg. Too many eateries too choose from, we just ‘hantam’ the one with most people inside. Take my advice, don’t ever do that not even in Malaysia!

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After dining in Hong Kong for eateries a few times, I noticed that this Hong Kong people can really eat! Although their prices are quite high, but their portions are not little either. For our second dinner we had ‘king soy fried noodles’ which was too salty, in fact all the dishes we ordered were too salty. On the table also was their stewed pork and hard boiled eggs,  coagulated pork blood(cooked), beef noodles and a plate of pigs innards and cuttle fish.

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To save on your daily meals, look out for their special discount times. And you also look at the serving size before you order, so that you might not need to order many dishes if you are traveling in pairs of in small groups. It was a lesson learnt the hard way for us!

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Hong Kong Day 2, Sight Seeing.

Posted by Jason Wong On April - 11 - 20104 COMMENTS

After having our quick breakfast in Mongkok, we headed out for ‘Tai Yu San’ or Ngong Ping. We opted for the cable car route to get to our destination. I like the scenery along the way to the peak, especially the green pastures on the slopes. Totally different from the slopes in Malaysia which is full of trees of sort.

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Upon reaching the peak, we were greeted with some the giant Buddha statue that we usually see in the TVB serial dramas.

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There we are taking a photo at the foot of the giant statue.

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Apart from visiting ‘Tai Yu San’, we also to half a day visiting ‘Tai O’, its jetty, township, market and took a look at the way of life of in this tranquil yet full of surprise village.

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Clear bilingual sign boards which are great for tourists like us. If it had been implemented in whole of Malaysian, it would had in a way preserved the historical names of roads which has disappeared due to human ego.

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Along the walk around, we found some shops that we took photo of which still had some human flavour  in them.

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This place we found a ‘tzi yum’ or fellow jazz and coffee lover who was friendly and helpful in our quest to search some local specialties.

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We bought a bottle of ‘Prawn Paste’ for for testing on ‘kangkung’ and some other dishes that we plan to experiment with.

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Then we move on to scout for ‘eel fish maw’, which we had to ask around for the locally process ones. We were directed by the owners of the cafe that we visited to look for ‘Siu Sing Sok’. He makes his own salted fish too which we also got a few for tasting.

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What we didn’t get from our excursion was the beautiful and flavourful freshly preserved whole duck egg yokes.

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Then we made a pit stop at an old but tasteful house cum business premises run by an old uncle who is still making ‘char kuo’ or steamed glutenous balls stuffed with peanut and sugar fillings the way they used to make it, with wood fire and bamboo steamers.

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Lastly, we headed to a stall which passed by earlier to get some home made pastes to bring back for testing.

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