Friday, October 31, 2008

Eateries, Shops and Hawkers in South Asia

Roti Pratha or (Roti Canai in Malaysia) is commonly found in the South Asia sub-continent. Off course they have capati, naan, thosai etc. I have Paper Thosai in Bangladesh before. This is not a local Malaysian concotion as some thought.

Food served or sold in shop fronts especially dilipidated ones are a no, no, for tender Malaysian stomachs lest we end up spending time in a hospital and if we can find one that is up to the Malaysians' mark when away from the major cities.

We need not be paranoia though as they are many inexpensive sometimes a bit rundown restaurants where one can eat without fear. I have done it over many occassions. Many have told me that South Asian food are not as good as adapted Malaysian versions. Not true! Most of the food I have eaten from those cooked from kitchens in the homes and also simple restaurants to those in hotels are excellent. The aromatic herbs and spices run riot and the taste is tantalizing to the palate.

Roti fried and samosa anyone? Did you see the girl on the right hand top corner!
Roti canai in Bangladesh
Capati in Kolkata. Look at the overturned wok!
Fruit seller in Karachi, Pakistan. Look at the huge pomegranate! Pakistan is an exporter of all kinds of fruits.Woman peddling pomeloes in Bangladesh.
Man hawking mangoes in Bangladesh.
Sundry shops, ala dry market Malaysian style.
Another sundry shop. Some of their spices are so good it is worth bringing it back.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pegaga Juice - The Wonder Tonic?

It was in Gua Musang that I heard about this herb called 'Pegaga' (scientific name: Centella asiatica). According to Mardi it can harvested in 3 months and it can cultivated whole year round. The Malays eat as a salad, juice it as tonic drink and extract it to drink to help alleviate the high blood pressure condition. It is also well known in India and is called Gotu Kola.

An USJ resident testified it is good for use against dengue fever. And best of all it can be bought as a refreshing drink from the USJ Giant Penang Cendol at RM1.

Back to Gua Musang. The hubby was testifying that he juiced the pegaga leaves for his wife when she was facing her Masters' exam where late nights were a must! She told me that the tonic not only refreshed her, it also helped her to work through the night without being sleep deprived. This may be good news for parents having children sitting for their SPM and STPM exams (please read disclaimer as the end of this article).

I went out to the Gua Musang Market in search for it. And I found it. The vege seller told me that this leaves are used for 'awet muda'. Meaning to stay young.

The Star has an indepth write-up in 2007 with a quite good bibliography with a list of 19 books and articles.

Note: This article is for communicative purposes and is not medical advice. As with herbs it should be taken in moderation and not be taken continously for long period of time. :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

MPH Cafe @ 1 Utama

It is a nice relaxing place to R & R in the midst of books. I can spend hours here without moving out as I can get a meal for RM10. A chicken chop with great fries and a soft drink. I can get near to the windows for that great outside view while catching the sunlight streaming in or plant myself near to this innovative waterfall. Water actually flows down the 4 sides of the huge pillar into a pile of smooth pebbles. Beautiful.

BTW they are having a warehouse sale these few days in Jalan 13/4, P.J.
Average Chicken Chop but with great fries and relaxing environment
The 'waterfall' pillarThe bar and the books on the leftWarehouse Sale over this weekend at Bangunan TH, No:5, Jln Bersatu, Section 13/4. Tel: 03-79581688

Friday, October 17, 2008


This screen grab was taken at the conclusion of the 3rd and last McCain and Obama debate in New York.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shanghai Dumplings, Queensbay Mall, Penang (Part 6 of 6)

Queensbay Mall was built on reclaimed land and is at least 28 hectacres. It is a mixed development and was rescued from the doldrums when the original owner Eternal Resources S/B collapsed under the weight of the Asian financial crisis in the late nineties. The Penang Development Corporation then asked CP Landmark S/B to take over with the offer of converting the land from leasehold 99 years to freehold.
Beautiful and sprawling - Queensbay Mall
The reclaimed land extended 1 kilometer into the sea. Previously this is a small fishing community. I should know as twenty one years ago I was standing at the fishing village's jetty with the boats anchored nearby after a night at sea.

Queensbay Mall is a handsome sprawling building. It is huge and has quite a good mix of outlets. It offered middle class and above merchandise. Part of the develoment has 3-4 storey shoplots. Shanghai Dumplings was in a corner shoplot with lots of space for al fresco meal at night. Those coming in from the Penang Bridge using the coastal highway will spot it on the right at the traffic junction just before the Queensbay Mall comnplex.

The main attraction of this joint will be the 'siu loong pao.' It is prepared on the spot. One can watch it being prepared. It is the best of the lot as the other dim sum is pretty normal. However bear in mind it is hard to get good dim sum in this Hokkien state. The best dim sum I have eaten was at Komtar (very high level) years ago prepared by HKG chefs.

Here in is my last blog on my trip to Penang.
Siu Loong Pao - served hot and fillings are bathed in fluids/soup
The acid test for any good dim sum restaurant is their 'siu mai'. The skin shouldn't stick to one another and also the grease paper. The meat should be fresh and taste subtle and its skin thin yet tough so that it won't beak. Ordinary.Also the 'Har Kaw' - the prawn should not be too crunchy as this is not a fruit. Too crunchy means being soak too long in bicarbonate water. Years ago they use boric acid!! It should be firm yet yielding to the bite. The prawn should release its fragrance therefore it must be fresh! Very ordinary.Comfort food for the Cantonese. Good fish ball in soup with crunchy vegetables.Dissapointing CCF. Thick skin little in the heart. No char siew. Bad!Fried radish cake. Dry, fragrant, light on black sweet soya sauce, very little oil. I am proud of this dish.My 7 year old niece insisted on this durian dessert. Very durian. The skin melt in the mouth like 'ping peh' skin of the mooncake.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Penang Hawkers' Food (Part 5 of 6)

We started our round Penang run from Sungai Nibong and stopped at a stall for the ubiquitous Kuay Teow Teng and Kopi-O. The price is 2/3 that of KL though with a smaller portion.

The trip to Balik Pulau brings back memories of time past or time passed. We drove through serene Chinese and Malay villages with the lush greenery in their compound. There were many fruit trees. Especially nostalgic was the sight of tall ccoconut trees with its fronds swaying in the gentle wind.

We went looking for the Balik Pulau laksa at the town area but it was not opened as yet but was directed to the Balik Pulau Municipal Wet Market. It was pleasant surprise. Clean and the crowd was there except that the take-up of the stalls is still not up to mark.

So we have our laksa. Typical Penang laksa where the taste is not as strong as that in KL but more aromatic. I like the Bunga Kantan (Torch Ginger), where it is hard to get in KL. The Nutmeg juice we ordered was excellent and refreshing.

At the edge of the Market I was mesmerized by a village house of years gone by. It attracted me as it was double storey. Untypical. It was the last one standing. Standing in between development and the farm/jungle behind. The Nutmeg drink seller told us that Soong Ai Ling, the Malaysian model (not the Soong Ai Ling of the Soong sisters of China) was born in the house.

From Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang we stopped by Tropical Fruit Farm which is very popular ith foreign tourist. At Teluk Bahang we have seafood at TaiTong. Then onwards to GeorgeTown.

Back to the city we made a beeline to Penang Road for some more hawkers' fare. The Cendol was the main reason. The Teochew one is well patronized while the other equally old is also good with its own clientele. After picking up some biscuits from Ghee Hiang we took the cosatal highway back to Sg. Nibong.

Chaw Kuay TiawGhee Hiang

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Teluk Bahang, Penang Seafood (Part 4 of 6)

We were rounding Penang Island and will pass through Teluk Bahang where we planned to have seafood lunch at a place used to be called the 'End of the World.' The road just end there stopped by the hills. Right at this point there was a seafood restaurant called 'End of the World'. Sounds apocalyptic. The seafood was great. I remember having lobster there in 1987 (21 years ago). My girlfriend then and wife now took me out together with 3 of her closest girlfriends. You can imagine!

The 'End of the World Seafood Restaurant' has moved closer to town and with that a change of ownership. No I did not eat there as it was not recommended. The end of the world now has a modern jetty, shop and car park run by the Fisherman's Association. It is also a launching pad for those who want to go fishing as well as there is a nature trail for the hikers to challenge the hills. There is also a huge complex there and it is supposed to be a museum and also offices to run the marine park and forest reserve. I hope it will be put to good use soon.
The Jetty
The Nature Trail
The trail run alongside the beach but we did not venture far as we were prepared. The day was humid even with the shady trees.

Lunch time came and we were famished. Off we went to TaiTong Seafood Restaurant. It was close to the original 'End of the world site.' We controlled our ordering and managed to come away with a decent and contented meal yet not hurting the pocket. The boss was affable and talk alot. As usual the 'secret recipe' stuff, quality etc.

Live Flower Crabs @ RM42 a kilo. Mantis @ RM26.00 each. Probably weighs 400-500 gm each.Live Mantis should be steamed. The taste and juices were tiltillating my palate. The best mantis dish I have ever eaten.1.8 kg Kam Heong CrabsVege to balance the meat and also to reduce costs!4 Heavenly King - was rather oily
Bill for 5 pax - RM169.60

Bukit Tambun, Penang Seafood (Part 3 of 6)

Fish Village Seafood Restaurant is my favorite stop-over on my way to Penang Island. It is one of the very first and the largest restaurant you will see after exiting the NS Expressway at Bukit Tambun. Another popular restaurant is actually located deeper in and is build on top of the sea. This place is going to get more customers as the second bridge will begin here and land in Batu Maung which is very near to the Penang airport.
This is huge with lots of parking space and the dining area is airy.
This my fourth visit to Fish Village. Previous occasions have been leisurely, relaxing while eating good fresh seafood. However, this trip is marred by houseflies infestation in the area. It seems that chicken farms nearby were the main donors. I have to wave off dive bomber houseflies every ten seconds. I told the management that if I suffer the same fate in my next trip it will be my last!

As usual I go for soft-shell crabs, a steam fish, baby octopuses and a clam or snail dish. If I have more than 4 or more I would order steam prawns and lotus leave rice. The staff and not well trained or transient therefore inexperience. If you need to point go to the rear of the restaurant where the live seafood are. Just point.
Total Bill for 3: RM75.80
Beautiful fresh soft-shell crabs. The meat was exquisite and the freshness shined through.
I ordered baby octopuses but got octopus' tentacles. There were blanched in hot water and there were 4 types of sauces to accompany the rather bland tentacles.
Four sauces. Chili sauce, sweet peanut based sauce, chili sambal and chili padi with soy sauce.
Grouper (kerapu). This 600gm beauty should taste succulent, firm with the premium sauces releasing the taste of the sea. It was over-cooked. It should never be steamed beyond the 10 minutes limit.
Finally, Murex. Escargot-like. Meat was firm and sharp toothpick was provided to easily dig out the meat.