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Archive for the ‘Coffee shop’ Category

Chee cheong fun (*see note below) is widely on offer by Chinese hawkers in Penang. Originally it came from Hong Kong and Guan Dong province in China. That makes it a Cantonese thin (well, sort of?) steamed rice roll. It’s sheets of rice noodles, made from a mixture of glutinous rice flour and water, spread open on a table and wrapped together. This intestine (chee cheong) noodle (fun) is very popular, also in Hawker Paradise Penang.

They are filled with a diversity of ingredients. Pork of course but also beef, shrimps,fish, chicken, bean sprouts or other veggies. When served pour soy sauce over before eating. In Malaysia it is served mostly with a black sweet sauce, a kind of hoisin sauce. (Goooooogle is my friend!). In Penang, I’ve been told it is usually served with a black and sweet shrimp paste sauce or a chilli sauce or a mix of both. And there I was thinking the Penang chee cheong fun was served with just an ordinary soy sauce!

Still, not really my personal favourite as I find it in general a too much slippery noodle with not enough filling. Not well balanced according to my taste.  Then again, as the frenchies say: “Les gouts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas!” And right they are.And then here is another way, also made in Penang:

(*note) Not referring to Sgt Chee Chong FFFUNNN from the Singaporean army as shown in a rather comical series on the National Geographic Channel about “every Singaporean son’s military service”.

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Marinated spiced  pork, then rolled in thin soybean/beancurd sheets, crispy spring rolls with chicken and beansprouts, deep fried beancurd, cuttlefish, prawn cakes, prawn fritters, sausages and much more. Served as a snack or as a main dish they are deep fried and come with 2 sauces: a spicy chilli sauce and a sticky starchy sauce called loh. Bak means meat.

At Kheng Pin Café (since 1971) at the junction of Penang road and Jalan Sri Bahari or 100 meters further at the Ho Ping Café  (corner of Penang road with Lorong kampung Malabar) are two places that in my view offer excellent Loh bak. But then again as it is a very popular dish all over the island, there really is no “bad” loh bak, only the variety on offer may be different from one place to another. The thing to keep in mind is to go as soon as the stall starts its operation, because the fresher the oil, the better the frying for the best yummy results.

 Ho Ping is situated at the junction of Lorong kampung Malabar and Penang road.

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I already wrote about Kopi Classic and its famous Hokkien Mee some time ago. See: https://diehardowl.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/kedai-kopi-classic-hokkien-mee/  

I don’t pretend to have tried all the Georgetown Hokkien Mee stalls but this one remains my favourite. For those of you who haven’t visited Penang before and are going to look for a Café with a sunscreen like the pic just below: don’t, because last year the kopitiam invested in a brand new flaming red sunscreen. 

The former sunscreen at kedai kopi Classic
The former sunscreen at kedai kopi Classic

Have a look at  the video below. It shows the new outside look of the kopi Classic.

Now what is so special about a dish serving a bowl of noodles in a broth? As far as I’m concerned the most important part is the making of the broth itself. It’s a shrimpy and spicy soup and I guess it’s all about balancing the ingredients with a not too sweet and real spicy shrimp/pork broth.

Penang being a food paradise has of course many signature dishes but for me personally, a big bowl of kopi Classic’s Hokkien Mee is the best way to start the day. So, for the newbies, what is it all about?

Mr Ooi's hokkien mee

Mr Ooi's hokkien mee

Hokkien Mee is a mixture of yellow noodles, rice noodles and bean sprouts  served in a prawn and pork broth. What makes it special in my experience and view is the balance of the strong, spicy and flavourful shrimp/pork taste. It’s usually served with sliced and fried shrimps, thin slices of lean pork and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots. If you come very early to kopi Classic you also can get great fried lard crisps adding an extra kick to your noodles dish.

The bowl comes also with a spoonful of added chilli for people who really like it hot. YES, I do!

Noodles for HM

Noodles for HM

Some stalls in Penang add too much extra pork meat while cooking the broth;  in my view that makes the soup way to sweet. Some also add sliced hard-boiled egg (what I like) but no extra egg in the Classic’s bowl though.

The Classics' Mrs & Mr Ooi crew in full operational mode

The Classics' Mrs & Mr Ooi crew in full operational mode

The place usually starts business at 8 in the morning. Regulars however are already sitting round the tables as early as 07:30! Just bring along a book or a newspaper. Or you also can admire the team getting prepared to fire up the gas-cookers, unloading bags of noodles to start a new day for us to enjoy delicious Hokkien Mee. 

There is another Hokkien Mee stall in the “One Corner café” coffee shop (Jalan Bawasah).First we tried to visit the place on tuesday, kopi Classic’s closing day. No good as it was also their closing day. Then we tried again 2 day later ( it was not yet 11:oo am), they already were closing down: sold out!  We’ll try again on a next visit as it also has a reputation for being one of the best in town. As a matter of fact,  I later read somewhere that Kedai Kopi Classic Hokkien Mee’s Mrs Ooi is the elder sister of Mr Lim Bok Huat, owner of the stall at One Corner Café.  So, I guess they share the same recipe and in fact are having 2 of the most popular HM businesses in Georgetown. Both stalls closing Tuesdays,… to avoid losing customers to one another? A good alternative in my opinion is the Hokkien Mee stall in Swee Kong café, across the police station in Pulau Tikus. They open very early and close already round 09:00 in the morning.

Hokkien Mee (Swee Kong)

Just a little warning: when asking for Hokkien mee in Singapore or KL, don’t expect the same dish  as in Penang. In Singapore they use both the egg noodles and rice noodles, stir fried in lard and served dry without soup. It comes with shrimps and sliced lean pork, sambal (chilli) and lime. In KL they use thick egg noodles braised in thick dark soy sauce. Ingredients include cabbage, squid, fish cake, pork and crispy fried cubes of pork fat.

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IMG_1370   Lok Pin at Anson road is a place selling Fish Head Behoon, Chicken Rice, Hokkien Mee, Wantan Mee, Loh Bak and (according to the stall’s owner own saying) “Famous Asam Laksa Anson Road”. On the street in front a few more hawkers selling pancakes, fruit, Mee Goreng…

The café itself was under renovation. I don’t know what it looked like before but now it seemed  they were busy turning it into a more modern place, with more fancy seating and tables and a few flat screen TVs on the walls and giving it a so-called trendy look. We’ll have to come back another time to see the final result. I’m always a little wary about this kind of renovation. Most of the times it turns a beautiful place into a cold venue with no traditional or heritage feel left at all. I wonder what the stance of Unesco is.

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 The Penang Asam Laksa we ordered was worth every sen. Nice sourish, not watery it is one of my favourite plates and one of Penang’s signature dishes, totally different from laksa from other Malaysian regions. A yummy balance of sweet, sour  and spicy flavours. One suggestion: don’t miss it!IMG_1372

Loh Bak is also very good, …especially as I forgot to pick the most important item when I was chosing among all the different goodies… Hmm, yes after they fried our plate and served it to our table, my wife wondered where actually the Loh Bak was???… Right, my blooper for the day.IMG_1383

 Where is the Loh Bak hiding, he?IMG_1381

Some tropical downpour all of a sudden helps to cool the temperature at lunch hour. 

 According to pancake specialists (not me… yet), the pancakes from this stall just opposite Lok Pin are among the better on offer. Have a look at this review of a Ban Cheang Koay stall: http://www.penangtuapui.com/2008/06/speedy-makan-makan-part-4-ban-cheang-koay-anson-road/

After a huge but short downpour, the streets are drying in only a few minutes and everybody resumes cooking, buying and eating. This place below, called “Kedai Kopi Juventus” is the neighbour of Lok Pin and sells among others Curry Mee, not FC Juventus T-shirts. It’s the old style small kopitiam with neon tubes, not fancy but I like the atmosfere perhaps more.IMG_1385

Have a look at this café just a little round the corner, I think on Siam street. These are the ones I personally like much more than the new modernised places. All it needs is a decent maintenance and eventually some restoration, not modernising. No need to make it look like boring western places without a soul.IMG_1388

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Wa i chiak Hokkien Mee!

According to Wikipedia there are 3 kinds of Hokkien Mee. My favourite is the Penang version.

Hokkien hae mee
(prawn noodles)
Hokkien char mee
(fried noodles)
Refers to either the Penang prawn noodle or Singapore prawn noodle Refers to the Kuala Lumpur Hokkien noodle
Soup based (Penang) and stir fried (Singapore) Stir fried
Egg noodles and rice noodles Fat yellow noodles
No dark soya sauce used Dark soya sauce is used
Prawn is the main ingredient with slices of chicken or pork, squid and fish cake.
Kang Kong (water spinach) is common in the Penang version
Slices of chicken or pork, squid and cabbage

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Together with Penang Assam Laksa and Char Koay Teow, Penang Hokkien Mee is one of the signature dishes of the state and more precisely of the island [Pulau] of Penang. The soup is a ‘sourish’ and ‘shrimpy’ tasting seafood broth using fresh prawns, dried shrimps and pork meat. It’s served with egg and rice noodles, small prawns, sometimes with thin slices of pork and a half hard boiled egg. Served with a spoon of chilli paste for an extra kick aiming at your taste buds. I’ve eaten Penang Hokkien Mee at different kopitiam and hawker stalls and here I’m trying to get a few of them in some kind of  ranking with my personal rating.

Kedai Kopi Kwai Lock is one of the bigger coffee shops in Pulau Tikus. It is located at the corner of Jalan Burma and Solok Moulmein.

HokkienMeeRating: 13/20.

Good balance between the sourish broth and noodles, little prawns. A decent but average plate. Good spicy chilli. It’s a big coffee shop and very busy in the morning.

Kedai Kopi Swee Kong is situated just opposite Kwai Lock, also on the junction of Jalan Burma with Moulmein. Opens very early in the morning till about 9:30. Reopens afterwards for lunch.

HokkienMeeRating: 15/20

Comes without the egg but it’s very tasty. If I recall correctly there are also some small clams mixed in the broth. Worth a try but do come early,  you might have to wait a while as the place can be very crowded.

Kafe Khoon Hiang – Jalan Dato Keramat at the corner with Jalan Dunlop.

HokkienMeeRating: 9/20

When I ordered the dish was looking very promising. Alas, at the first tasting it turned out to be a disappointment. The secret of a good typical prawn broth was definitely not mastered by this cook. Way to sweet and even adding lots of chilli paste was not able to improve the taste. A pity.

Bee Hooi Coffee Garden– on Kimberly road is a big cafe. We were strolling through the neighbourhood and decided to have some refreshments at the outside terrace. Then my eyes made contact with a Hokkien Mee stall in full schwung. Of course,I had to order a bowl> Mind you, only for analysing and rating purposes [grin].

IMG_1316  Rating: 15/20

Very good balanced broth with many prawns and added hard boiled egg.

Kedai Kopi Classic –  Address: 126, Jln Perak, opposite Padang Brown food court. It has the reputation of being one of the best Hokkien Mee stalls on the island and yes, the stall lives up to that reputation!

HokkienMeeRating: 18/20. Simply superb.

Sungai Samagagah-Kuala Jalan Bahru. Fishing village near Balik Pulau at the Kampung Jalan Baru. Private houses that open their kitchen for guests only during the weekends. This one is famous for both Hokkien Mee and Penang Assam Laksa. The Hokkien Mee was very good and served in a rich broth with plenty of sliced prawns and pork meat. Yummy.

HokkienMee

Rating: 17/20. Excellent, full of rich flavours. Quality ingredients.

My apologies for only reviewing a small number of outlets. I’m sure there are many more excellent Hokkien Mee sellers. It would take a life time job to review them all. When returning and testing more places I’ll update this post.

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Lam Heng Cafe is a corner coffee shop at the end/beginning of Macalister Road. It’s in this place that the sisters operate their business. The kopitiam also offers Assam Laksa, Mee Jawa and their own Otak-Otak. They say the Laksa is also of superior quality but I haven’t tried it out yet. Next time…

2007 Picture courtesy to Jay Jun's blog

2007 Picture courtesy to Jay Jun's blog

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Regarding the Sisters and their reputation, I admit being a tad sceptical. No doubt that their Char Koay Teow is among the better on offer in Penang but I must say that the quality is lacking consistency, especially when the skinny Sis is stirring the wok. Sometimes it’s completely out of balance, like on our visit in June, but then again, last week the plate was perfectly cooked. I don’t know how to explain those inconsistencies unless maybe that the girls are getting older and are loosing some of their skills. Not impossible, as I experienced the same with some elderly members in my own family.

I prefer the CKT cooked by this sister:

IMG_0934Anyway, my biggest complaint regarding this stall/cafe is their use of styrofoam plates and throw away chop sticks. Ok, there is no need for using their best china plates, porcelain spoons or high-end ivory chop sticks. Good hard plastic plates/spoons/chop sticks will do, thank you very much.  I’m thinking to bring my own plate and chop sticks but am a little bit afraid that might cause a tantrum… Anyway, someone with more guts than I have, ought to tell the sisters that they are really a lazy bunch, apparently oblivious regarding the impact on the environment. We, our kids and grandkids do really appreciate.  NOT!

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Ah Leng

Location :  Kafe Khoon Hiang, Jalan Dato Keramat/Corner with Jalan Dunlop, Penang. Opening hours are from 8am till 2pm and their closing day is Thursday.  It’s situated in the same  neighbourhood as  Padang Brown food court and Kedai kopi Classic. A highly recommended area for food lovers.

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Anyway,  after some 12+ visits in 5 years, [trying  to make that now a 4 times visit per year] I’ve made up my mind about the Penang Char Koay Teow. It’s basically a great dish but at some places it’s way overrated. So, I stopped asking for the special or extra add-on stuff, as I personally feel that the basic dish is the right one. No need for extra big shrimps or prawns, neither for (too sweet) mantis prawns. Just K.I.S.S. =  keep it stupid simple.

I’ve had the CKT at various places and personally I prefer it with regular chicks… Oops, I mean chicken eggs, instead of duck eggs.  Anyone out there tried with goose egg? (Grin).

Thus, when we made our way to Ah Leng, I already knew I was going for the regular dish and boy, THE WORKS! It was simply a great treat!

IMG_1334 Tastewise?  The fast frying-and-tossing-noodles technique of the wokmeister plus a professional handling of the heat, resulted in a most delicious Char Koay Teow dish.  Malaysia, truly Asia? CKT: truly Penang!

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Another stall in the same Kafe was selling Hokkien Mee. As I’m a big fan of that dish, I could not resist and ordered a bowl.

IMG_1336

IMG_1337It looked very nice but after tasting, it was a bit of a disappointment. Not spicy, not sour, the soup tasted sweet.  A pity for sure, but then again, who am I to judge? Lots of people, looking like regulars, came and ordered the Hokkien Mee. So, lets agree to disagree and accept that personal taste is very different from person to person.

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