Friday, January 01, 2010

Tua Chiu Kah

Perhaps the best value-for-money place that I have eaten in, is Penang's Weld Quay (Tree Shade) Seafood Restaurant. The Chinese name which is more popularly known is "Tua Chiu Kah" or base of a big tree in Hokkien. The makan shop is located on Jalan Pengkalan Weld, opposite the Weld Quay jetty, not very far across the road from the Penang ferry terminal. There is a big tree in front of the shop, hence the name.

The restaurant occupies 2 shop lots - a new wing and an old wing. The place is very basic. It is old and somewhat dilapidated. It is eating Air Asia style - absolutely no frills. No table cloth, no air condition, you eat in assorted plastic plates and you sit stools in stead of chairs. It is totally devoid of dining ambiance. The old wing in particular is pretty "rough" - inside, it is like eating in somebody's old run-down squatter home. The new wing which was apparently added on about 5 years ago, is somewhat better.

The kitchen is located at the front of the old wing. On display in the shop front kitchen are various fresh seafood and vegetables for your picking. You have to order the food at the kitchen. Two workers take your orders very efficiently. They do not need pens and papers to write your orders on. They pick pieces of vegetable onto the plates and the cooks apparently know exactly what to fry, steam or boil. And they serve the food amazingly fast.

12 of us went for dinner one early evening. There was already a substantial crowd. We managed to get a big table in the new wing. They offered papadam with a dipping sauce for starter - which is rather unusual for a Chinese makan joint. I went with my wife to order the food at the kitchen. We were spoilt for choices. There were so much delicious fresh seafood on display - fishes of various varieties, crabs, shrimps, mantis prawns, clams, oyster, etc. We selected 7 dishes, and made our way back to the table. And as we sat down and ordered our drinks, the dishes started to arrive and within the next 5 minutes all 7 dishes were on the table. It was that McDonald-ly fast.

We had a deep fried black pomfret in soya sauce. It is one of our favorite dishes there. It was so very well fried. Every part of the fish was crispy and crunchy. I had the pleasure of the head. It was delicious. I ate every morsel of it - bones, eyes, sides, mouth - nothing was wasted.

The kangkong belacan was equally nice. Unlike kangkong belacan in most other places, the dish was not very oily. It was obviously fried in pork lard. There were generous pieces of bak yew pok (Hokkein) or chui yaw char (Cantonese).

The sweet and sour pork was ordered for the kids. The pork was well fried, and the sauce was good and a little extraordinary in that it was not the usual tomato ketchup.

I was somewhat disappointed with the mantis prawn. The meat was deep fried in flour without the shells and cooked kung pao style. When we ordered this dish, I did not expect that they would cook it minus the shells. Had they kept the shells, the meat would retain its original taste, succulence and texture. But all those were lost. It did not taste like mantis prawn at all. Eating with the shell would had required a little work, but I think it would had worth the effort.

The stuffed yew char kueh was quite unique. It was the normal yew char kueh stuffed with fish and meat paste and deep fried. It was served with mayonnaise. It was crispy and delicious.

The clam or kapar was prepared kam-heong style - with dried shrimps and a nice chilli sauce. The kapar is similar of la-la only with thicker shells. The meat is about the same. The preparation was tasty and savory. Yum.

Finally the ho chean or oyster omelette was rather dry. It was more like a pancake. Still it was delicious. The oysters were generous and the kids loved it.

All in all, it was a very good meal. The dishes were rather small and were hardly enough for the 12 hungry mouths. At the end of it, the plates were wiped cleaned. I should had ordered more.

The damage from the 7 dishes, rice and drinks was only RM95. It is difficult to get such value for money anywhere in Malaysia nowadays. Considering that we had fish, mantis prawns, clams and oyster, a similar meal in PJ or KL would cost at least twice more.

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