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Archive for the ‘Patrimonium and heritage’ Category

H.G.Festival - Penang, Malaysia (BBC picture)

H.G.Festival - Penang, Malaysia (BBC picture)

Peng Chau is one of Hong Kong’s smaller outlying islands. Situated west  of Lamma island and east of Lantau island, its todays population is about 6,500 (2011).

Peng Chau viewed from a hill on Lantau

Peng Chau viewed from a hill on Lantau

With an area surface of about 1 km², it is, as said, one of the smaller islands but it comes with a full range of services for the locals: a covered wet market with lots of fresh seafood on offer, a full time police station, super market, bank and ATM service, lots of small chops and even a full branch of the Hong Kong Library.

Besides fresh seafood places (not many) there are also a few bars and restaurants, some ran by… frenchies (???). How about that? We visited this french bar/eating place. The name is referring to a popular song of Georges Brassens. He was a Frenchie born in Sète – southern France and had a great reputation as a post WW2 poet and guitar playing singer and composer. 

Brassens was a bit of an intellectual anarchist, what was considered “bon ton” in those days after the war. Brassens himself said (tongue in cheek): “I’m an anarchist, so much so that I always cross at the zebra crossing to avoid arguing with the police.” – “Les Copains D’ Abord”  has also a decent offer of French wines and Belgian beers.

"Obbao" french restaurant with some Brittany specialties

"Obbao" french restaurant with some Brittany specialties

“Obbao” although using a funny spelling translates as “Full tummy” or so I’ve been told. They have a nice offer of juices, brittany crepes, burgers, home made pizzas and a yummy preparation of steak tartare. (Although I personally prefer my tartare cut a tad more finely.) They have also some wines on offer but probably not as specialised as their neighbours (les copains d’abord). Please,correct me if  I’m wrong.

They also offer a few different beers. Unfortunately  that includes some “yellow dishwasher-fluid stuff” called Heineken.  Alas, C’est la vie! Nobody’s perfect. – Note to Alex & Chris: if you guys read this: don’t shoot me on our next visit please. Wink  🙂

Obbao's new summer menu

Obbao's new summer menu

The overall food quality is, to be honest,  better than in some other parts and more trendy places on HK island!

French bar

French wine & cheese bar with some great Belgian beers also on offer

We haven’t tried “Les Copains d’ Abord” yet but we are going to on the first saturday or sunday of next month. Good fine french wines with great cheeses, cold cuts (sausages, hams, country pate) and quiches really are very tempting, both for my wife and myself.  

However, regarding chinese fresh seafood restaurants, to be completely honest, the variety on offer on Peng Chau is no competition for places on Cheung Chau, Lamma Island or Sai Kung and Lei Yue Mun. (Just google for more info on any of these).

Still, during the week-end breaks the island is popular and visited by numbers of locals, expats and a few tourists alike. Good destination for a day-trip or even for a  half day-trip. Its small island lifestyle is very refreshing. While walking around one forgets that one is only half an hour away from the busy Central district or Kowloon.

And just to be complete, Peng Chau has very small but inviting streets for wandering around with no cars allowed other than official transport like police or ambulance. We locals (sic) walk or use bicycles.

You can reach Peng Chau by different ferries, sailing from Central (HK Island), Mui Wo (Lantau Island), Cheung Chau etc. From Discovery Bay (just across on Lantau) it’s only a few cable-lengths away. It takes the small local and slow Kai-to ferry less than 15 minutes of sailing time to get you to Peng Chau.

 The Hungry Ghost Festival

According to a website about “Chinese culture” :

(Quote): You have probably heard of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Have you also heard about the less well-known Hungry Ghost Festival?

Just as the Americans have Halloween, the Chinese have their version of a ghost festival too. In 2007, the festival of hungry ghost started on the 13th of August to 10th September of the Western Calendar.

(note: this 2011 was during a different period obviously, because the dates of the festival are calculated according to the lunar calender)

Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia, the Hungry Ghost festival is a mixed Taoist/ folklore occasion that is taken very seriously by the Chinese. This festival falls on the 7th month of the Lunar Year and it is believed by the Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth. (unquote).

More here: http://www.chinese-culture.net/html/hungry_ghost_festival.html

Video beneath was filmed by Jay-P. and his better half on August 20th 2011 during the local Hungry Ghost Festival on Peng Chau. Lots of dragons, lots of drums, lots of incense and other offerings. In short: lots of noise, local folklore and liters of sweat under that bloody hot sun.

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Another famous landmark of  L’ Ilot Sacré  for sure is the world-wide-well- known “friture” to savour the real “Mussels from Brussels”, as opposed to the now mature (grin) “Muscles from Brussels”, aka Jean-Claude Van Dam. (Used to be a former Hollywood B-movie star of Belgian origin).

 Adding a little historical gossip: It was said that Van Dam always hated that nickname, for the obvious mussel reasons about his abs and other mussels/muscles. I doubt if he ever ate at Chez Léon.

–  “Chez Léon” -.                    

This is the original  moules-frites restaurant of Brussels. Management is still in the hands of the  founding family (since 1893). Not to be compared to the franchised ones in other places in Belgium, France, the Middle East etc.  The “Leon de Bruxelles” chain was originally started by the family but later sold to international investors. Quality is different and adapted to local taste. As for the original restaurant: very good quality but the service may vary, depending on the number of patrons. It tends sometimes to look like a food factory. My advice: visit outside the holiday season and avoid week-ends.

Their signature plate:

And for starters, I ‘ll suggest the traditional “Tomate Crevettes”. Grey North sea shrimps with butter lettuce, tomato and home made mayonnaise: 

Below their promotional video that will make you hungry: 

Btw, avoid the Italian or Portuguese places in this part of Brussels. There are very good Italian, Spanish and mediterranean restaurants in other parts of town, just not here.

About the addresses and info for the places I suggested: click the pic below and then click Restaurants in the upper red menu bar. It also provides an  interactive link  for  Beer Shops and bars concentrated there – Courtesy “La Commune de l’ Ilot Sacré.”

Brussels Grande Place is of course a must-see;  Manneke Pis  and the less well-known Jeanneke Pis ( Pissing-Jeannie) are also worth a visit when you make a trip to Belgium’s and Europe’s Capital.

 I ‘ll add 2 places not to miss in the area: Galeries St Hubert

and the already mentioned best restaurant of the Sacred Islet:  “Aux Armes de Bruxelles”. Highly recommended, not cheap but really NOT a tourist trap. The mayor of Brussels is a frequent visitor. and that guy is the living definition of an Epicurean.

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 Click the above “écusson” pic for a direct link to the interactive map and website for the history of L’ Ilot Sacré.

L’ Ilot Sacré got its name after a battle of the local restaurants, land lords and associations in the 1950-ties against promoters who saw big bucks to be made. Just read the history in the above mentioned website. They wrote it better than I would.

My contribution: just some suggestions about the places where you will get good to excellent quality food or where you can go sniffing the local atmosphere, sipping coffee, enjoying a beer or other drink while watching people. Although it is a popular and touristic area, you still can enjoy the buzz, just be attentive to avoid tourist traps. Just don’t forget the place is prime location and that means pricier than in less popular neighbourhoods. So, no real cheap deals available!

 Two of the most popular streets in  L’ Ilot Sacré are called ‘Rue des Bouchers’ and ‘Petite Rue des Bouchers’. That translates like ‘Butcher street’ and ‘Small Butcher street’. A lot of restaurants are attracting patrons while lots of seafood and vegetables are on display on ice, in front of the resto. A waiter at the door will be soliciting you in any possible language. As my wife and I walk by, it’s all “Ni Hao” from left and right… 

In general these are the places where you take some nice souvenir pictures with your friends and family. Just don’t eat there. They might propose Belgian, French, even Italian, Portuguese or Spanish cuisine. Many of the very young kitchen staff are sometimes not even trained cooks, but people from all over Europe including Eastern Europe, the Balkan, North and Sub-Saharian Africa.  Nothing wrong with that, unless they got declared ‘cook’ after half a day training!

 

Let’s point out some addresses  in  the neighbourhood. For drinks and watching people:

Delirium cafe –

A La Mort Subite-  (translates as: At A Sudden Death) 

Inside "A la Mort Subite" - Click the picture

Inside "A la Mort Subite" - Click the picture

Le Roy d’ Espagne –

Toone estaminet –

Beer shops, restaurants, taverns all over the place – I suggest “Aux Armes de Bruxelles”  – “Restaurant Vincent” – “Scheltema” – “L’ Ogenblik” – “Le Marmiton” etc…

More to follow in Part II, coming soon.

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Back from having been  away for some time lah!

Flag of the State of Penang, Malaysia.

 Since our latest visit we have counted the months, weeks and days before finally touching down again in Penang some 10 days ago. And boy …  were we in need! Desperate for Food with Capital F. So, as from the moment of arrival till the eve before flying out one week later, I gained about 5-6 kg. Na und? So what?  Anyway, that still is only about 70+ kg for a guy over 6 feet. No danger for turning into a sumo or average USA-er there yet [grin].

Of course we went to many of our favourite places in George Town during the week. I’m personally getting good at comparing quality at different stalls for their recipes of CKT, Penang Hokkien Mee, Loh Bak, fried rice, satay and more. In fact, I/we even start being  picky! On average we visited and sampled food from up to 5/6 different shops every day and almost always it was well worth it. Regarding Hokkien Mee, Kedai kopi Classic and Swee Kong remain among “da best” but we tried many more and all were ok,  from average good to real good, to very good.  Yet… we also started noticing [already during our last trip] that we better avoid the newer, so-called modern Hawker centres, equipped with LCD screens and loud music. As it seems the food quality at those places is going down hill while prices are climbing and the offered decoration is of a definite and certain lack of taste for those older than 13. (My opinion only). Now sadly that is nothing new for me but I was hoping Penang would have been able to avoid that kind of “modernisation”. I explain:

On our last visit to Belgium I invited my wife to one of the local stalls selling Belgian fries. Once upon a time in Old Belgium they all were selling their stuff with an ok to very good/excellent quality. Those hawkers prepared the potatoes at home (peeling, cutting) as well as they did prepare themselves the extras like curry chicken [local Belgian style], beef carbonades and more. Nowadays however the youngsters that take over the business, buy the food from industrial manufacturers. Gosh, even the fries now, they buy them pre-cut, if not [the horrour] frozen.Go figure. In fact it’s simple, they don’t find pleasure in preparing. They are becoming a lazy bunch. The only thing they want is selling and getting your/my money. Well, we just vote with our feet and our wallet as we do no longer buy from that lazy bunch. To find a decent “fritkot” (translation: fry-stall) one, sadly, has to look around for quite a while. I hate to say it but having been there and seen that, I’m afraid that Penang’s GOOD hawkers also are a disappearing breed. Let’s hope I’m wrong but…

I’ll be posting about our latest experiences in the coming days, as for the moment I’m in “kicking-off mode”, being back home in HK. Not because of jet lag but more because of Makanan lag, sort of.

In the mean time: here is a nice read from another blogger from Penang… (living in the UK… the poor thing) for those who are new to culinary Penang Hawker Food.

http://breadetbutter.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/what-is-malaysian-food/

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Some thoughts, not directly related [yet] to good food, although it’s a sign on the wall that also our dear hawker food, traditional centres and even cafes and local restorans are probably more endangered than we think…  in a not too far future. 

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Every time we fly back to Penang, I am mortified  to see at what quick pace George Town is changing, not always for the better. Old big mansions left without  basic maintenance are falling literally apart, sold already to the real estate “developers” who start planning how to get authorisation and permits for another high rise with shopping mall, another hotel and more so called upscale condos. However, after its listing by UNESCO in 2008, the 18 meter height restrictions were imposed. So what’s going on with city planning?A city landscaping mess... and that was only 2006!  Serious action needs to be taken to preserve and restore historical houses, heritage mansions and to not allow high rise construction everywhere.  

According to an article (March 26, 2009) by Yusof Sulaiman, eTN Asia/Pacific :

 [Quote] Together with Malacca, UNESCO has proclaimed George Town a historic site of The Straits of Malacca as it “constitutes a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century.

“It is believed there were “inconsistent and contradictory” statements given to UNESCO as part of Penang’s listing process, according to Ooi Chun Aun, an aide to Penang’s chief minister. He has now proposed holding an “official domestic inquiry” to extricate itself from being at the end of a legal lawsuit by four property developers who claim they have been prevented from continuing with their hotel building projects because of height restrictions, under terms of its World Heritage Site ruling. [Unquote]

Could be much nicer... How about cleaning away some of the road polluting fron that building? And a lick of paint on the outside walls?

Could be much nicer... How about cleaning up the car exhaust related pollution from that building? And a lick of paint on the upper outside walls.

George Town also has streets full with rows of pre-war “shophouses” where generations of Penangites lived and still live, conduct businesses, operate restaurants or traditional craft chops on the ground floor, their living quarters being upstairs. Smart way to avoid rush hour traffic from and to work. 

although many houses nowadays remain in a questionable condition.More pollution and... not cleaned in about a decade?

 IMG_1244Individual owners also have some responsibilities…

IMG_1272

IMG_1274

IMG_1275A good thing is that here and there people who changed those houses into pure residential housing achieved fine and remarkable results. Pictures here about a few examples along Burma road and another successful renovation along Bangkok road.IMG_1007bis2

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