Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tua Chiu Kah Revisited

That evening in Penang, we decided to have dinner at the Weld Quay (Tree Shade) Seafood Restaurant or better known as Tua Chiu Kah (大树脚). I have been to this popular makan place a number of times and this is the second time I am blogging about it. Revisiting the place this time around, I managed to capture the charm of the place with my camera. In this posting, I intend to focus more on the place than on the food.

I actually began to appreciate the charm of the place. I did not look at Tua Chiu Kah the way I see it now. To me it was an old and dilapidated restaurant where the food is good and cheap. But as I looked deeper, I began to appreciate it as a heritage of sort. I feel it is a place worth preserving not just for the food it offers but its rustic appeal that is so fast-disappearing in busy cities like Penang.

As mentioned in my previous blog posting, Tua Chiu Kah has 2 wings - an old and a new. The kitchen is located at the front of the old wing. They display all the food they offer. They include fish, various seafood, vegetables, meats, etc. You pick the food and tell them how you want them cooked. The kitchen team is super efficient. They remember everything you want and the dishes arrive at your table even before you have time to settle down.

The old wing is rather ordinary. It appears to be the remnant of an old coffee shop (Sin Chew Cafe). 

It is the new wing that exudes the rustic charm. The new wing is a long shop-lot that is divided into 2 sections. The outer section is comparatively new and "modern". It has proper painted walls and a proper roof. It is brightly lighted and there are even some attempts on decorations with some framed pictures and red lanterns.

The inner section of the new wing is like another world. The walls are bare bricks. The rear end of this section is without a roof but is charmingly shaded by trees with overgrown roots down the walls.

This is like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. What a refreshing sight indeed.

There is a narrow side passage in the inner section. It is disused, but appealing. This is a view from the outside.

And a view from the inside.

Here are some visuals of this old world. This is a koi aquarium.

A nice quiet corner.

And an entrance to the disused side passage.

An non-voluntary denizen.

Our dinner crowd was the extended in-law family. More than 20 of us - split into 2 tables. Our meal was simple but delicious. The dishes were similar to those in my previous posting. So I need not elaborate on them. 

This was the kung pau (宫保) mantis prawns.

Stuffed yew char kueh (油炸鬼) with a mayo sauce.

A deep fried black pomfret in a soya sauce.

Braised pork knuckle. Yummy.

The kapar (a kind of thick shell la-la) prepared kam heong (金香) style.

The ever green kangkong belacan (马来风光). 

The popular fu yong omelet.

And finally this stuffed duck. This last dish was an added on. It did not look appetizing - with the ugly head and all. I do not know what they stuffed into the duck. But it was really very delicious. 

It was another most satisfying meal at Tua Chiu Kah. These happy faces said it all. 

Certainly will not be our last.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Paddington House of Pancakes

From Sungei Petani, we decided to spend a day in Penang before heading home. We left SP shortly after noon and took about 30 minutes to reach the island. By then we were hungry. As before, we took a left turn after the bridge and headed towards the Queensbay Mall to look for food and to walk around. I suggested a simple fast food lunch like A&W or KFC. I was scorned at for the mundane choice. Somebody suggested the Paddington House of Pancakes. Pancakes for lunch? It was my turn to scorn. But I was assured that they did serve decent meals. So, Paddington it was.

I had heard of the PHOP, but I had never been into one. One good reason was because I never really fancied pancakes. I have always considered them 3rd choice food. Their outlet at the Queensbay is quite big. They have tables inside their store and they also occupy a large area outside it. I wondered why they needed such a big area. Are pancakes really that popular and are they really that good? In any case, most of the tables inside and out, were vacant at the time of our visit.

I perused the menu to look for a decent meal. Item 210 was "Lebanese chicken burger with spicy potato wedges". That looked decent enough. Quite in line with my original A&W or KFC suggestion.

It turned out looking anything but a burger. They was a piece of chicken sitting on top of 2 pieces of mini pancakes. Were the pancakes supposed to be the bun for the burger? But if that was so, why was the chicken on top of the pancakes and not between them? Anyway, the chicken was not bad. It had a herby alien taste. I guess that is Lebanese. But the pancakes were nonsense. The juices or perhaps sauce of the chicken made them so soggy that they were hardly edible. Thumbs down for the whole hare-brain concoction.

Crystal's choice was the "Mini pile of dollars". It was to be a salad dish with dollar (coin) size pancakes, mini franks, bacon bits, cherry tomatoes, capsicum and sun dried tomato dip.

But the dish turned out looking totally different. Maybe they brought her the wrong dish. I wonder if Crystal enjoyed it.

My two nephews ordered sweet pancakes. The first was with mango puree, strawberry ice-cream and nuts. This was a decent pancake. I think they got the right combination here. I believe this is how pancakes should to be eaten - with ice cream and syrup or puree. Not with chicken or salad.

The other sweet dish was a overdose of chocolate. It was the "3 oreos with melting marshmallows, fresh strawberries and choco sauce". It was served with some maple syrup. I had a taste of it and found to be to excessively sweet.

When it came to choice of drinks, all of us opted for the ice lemon tea. The friendly waiter suggested that instead of ordering individual glasses, why not order a jug? He said the jug would serve 4 to 5 persons. OK, give us a jug. Enough for 5 persons? Hardly. Each of us ended up with a tiny cup. Another jug please!

Besides the Queensbay in Penang, I believe the PHOP also have outlets in The Curve, 1Utama and The Gardens at Mid Valley in KL. But after this experience... they can have outlets in a million places. I would still prefer the A&W or KFC.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ren Ci Vegetarian

I want to write about this vegetarian place - not so much of their food but the whole concept of it. Ren Ci Global Village is found in Sungei Petani (SP). It is one of 3 vegetarian outlets managed by Ren Ci Holdings Sdn. Bhd. (仁慈之家) - a NGO in northern Peninsular promoting peace and (apparently) vegetarianism. Their other two outlets are in Alor Star and Butterworth.

Their SP branch is located on Jalan Mutiara 1 in Taman Mutiara Indah. On first look it is like any other restaurant. But its concept is refreshingly different.

The place provides simple vegetarian food. There is no service in this place. You serve yourself. The food is available in a food counter. You scoop your own rice and serve yourself to the various vegetable dishes. You take as much as you can eat. But the golden rule is that there should be no wastage.

The food is simple, yet delicious. The dishes are all unpretentious. There are no pseudo meat and no wannabees - all simple vegetables cooked in various manners. There are not much choices, but whatever they have look very fresh and appetizing. I enjoyed the simple yet delicious cooking.

They also have a beverage counter where you can help yourself to water, tea and coffee.

They even have dessert. On the day we were there, it was pumpkin bubur cha-cha.

After your meal, you are expected to wash your own cutlery. They have a long wash basin complete with washing liquid.

And you have to wipe clean your plates, cups, etc, and return them to the proper places. You are also expected to wipe your table before you leave.

All these expectations are really not unreasonable, considering that you do not need to pay for your food. Yes, indeed you can eat for free in this makan place. You need not pay a single sen. However if you want to, you can make a donation. There is a collection box, and it is entirely up to you whether or not or how much  you want to give. I saw people walking off after their meal without paying. I also saw people inserting red notes into the box.

Is this place a soup kitchen of sort? That was my initial impression. But as we stayed there longer, I realized it was not. The people who patronized here certainly did not look like they needed to go to a soup kitchen for a meal. Some came in nice cars. Some dropped in more money into the donation box than the value of their meal. I believe most came there just for the simple vegetarian food.

Ren Ci Global is a very nice and amiable place. It is very clean and obviously very well kept and maintained. Apparently the workers there are all volunteers and they are cordial and friendly. And as far as I could see, the patrons co-operate very well too. They do not waste food, and they clean up after their meals in a orderly manner to keep the place neat and tidy. The whole concept is so very refreshing. Why can't meat eaters do the same? I can't wait for Ren Ci to come to KL or PJ.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tuck Kee in Ipoh

It was the Merdeka Raya festive week. And we decided to drive up north to see the in-laws. Before we left, I made arrangements to meet up with YF in Ipoh. He is an old classmate and a very good friend. He drove all the way from Teluk Intan to meet us. Ipoh is almost his second hometown. He knows every nook and corner of the city - especially places to have some good makan. We met him at a petrol station just after we exited the expressway and followed him towards Pasir Pinji. The restaurant he chose was Tuck Kee.

Tuck Kee is located at the junction of Persiaran Tokong and Jalan King in Pasir Pinji. This part of town is apparently also known as Taman Hoover. It is accessible either from Jalan Raja Permaisuri Bainun or from Jalan Pasir Puteh. It is a typical Chinese restaurant - brightly decorated and has a very pleasant Chinese ambiance. It is big, occupying 2 shop lots and 2 floors of dining area. We arrived around noon and the place was almost pack. As we progressed into our meal, the crowd grew even bigger.

The restaurant is apparently famous for its barbequed meats - char siew (叉烧), siew yuk (燒肉) and roast duck. They have a take-away counter for the meats. Throughout our meal, there was a constant queue at the counter. Very considerately, they even provide fans for the take-away patrons.

Quite naturally, the barbequed meats topped our orders that day. YF had mentioned their meats to me on several occasions. We order a combo of all 3 meats.  I honestly did not find the meats to be fantastic. They were not bad but I wouldn't go ga-ga over them. The siew yuk (燒肉) had a crispy skin as most roast pork do. The roast duck was ordinary. And the char siew (叉烧) did not match up to those we find in KL and PJ.

Next was the (I hope I got name correct) chen long choy (青菜 or green dragon vegetable). It is a "new" vege that is gaining popularity in Chinese restaurants. It was simply cooked and topped with some crispy deep fried small fish (not ikan bilis). The crispy fish complemented the vege very nicely. It was a good vege dish.

The fish dish was very nicely done. It was slices of grouper stir fried with ginger and spring onions (姜葱鱼片) in a light sauce. The fish and spring onions were cooked just right - not at all over done. We enjoyed the freshness of the fish.

The combination of the next dish was very unusual, yet delicious. It was tofu cooked in a pumpkin sauce. In it were some carrots, peas, shrimps and others. The pumpkin flavor was distinct but not overpowering. It was a good subtle base for the smooth mildly fried tofu. A superb innovation.

The braised pork (东坡肉 - tung por yuk) was another great dish. It was half lean pork braised in a thick soy sauce with some siew pak choy (小白菜). It was served with a bun. The meat had a bit of sinful fat on it. It was soft and succulent and very pleasing. The bun was deep fried and had a kind of vege stuffing topped with sesame seeds. It was really nice dipped into the sauce. 

The lunch was most enjoyable - perhaps a little too heavy. It was not only because of the good food but also the good company. YF did not allow me to pay - apparently his territory. After the meal, we walked over to a nearby hawker place - "under a big tree" (大树下) for red bean dessert. I will write about this hawker place on our way home....