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Posts Tagged ‘Seafood’

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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Our latest trip with the airline of Mr Tony Fernandes flew us back to…  Penang, of course.
 A 3 hours 15 minutes flight and a 25 minutes taxi drive later we were ready for FOOD… even if it was close to midnight.
 
Again Penang, you may ask?
Well, yes. I’m considering Penang like a second home after Hong Kong. It is by far the best food place of Malaysia. In fact I consider it the best food place in the whole of SE Asia, although that might be a bit unfair as I have not experienced food from ALL of the nearby regions and countries.
 
Anyway, after the favourite places offering Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Satay, Loh Bak, Wan Tan Mee, Penang Laksa and having lunch or diner in local restaurants like Heng Kee, Siang Pin Seafood and Goh Huat Seng, we decided to visit a seafood place that we never patronized before.
After all these years, we never had diner at that restoran on Gurney drive, the one with the flashy lights and screaming advertisement billboards.
 
 
 BALI HAI SEAFOOD MARKET
90 ->90D Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang
Tel: 04-2288272 / 04-2281272
 

“If it swims, we have it” ???  Oh Right, I swim. Means I may end up in their wok? [Sorry: obvious cheap joke.]  Anyway, during our April 2011 trip,  we decided to give it a try, although personally I was not expecting a lot, even if the restoran was recommended by some local floggers.

I anticipated  it would be expensive without reaching high-end quality service. Right I was unfortunately. On the other hand, their many cooks and chefs’ cooking skills were doing a correct and professional job.  In fact, to be completely honest, Bali Hai is not really a tourist trap like many other places are. It’s a money trap, so, if you agree to pay their prices, food quality is not an issue. Fresh seafood is great and not that difficult to cook. In my book cooking, grilling, ‘wokking’ or steaming some nice garupa, crab, prawns or other seafood has to be done in the simplest way to get the best results.

Perhaps some readers might think I’m too critical. Well, yes I’m getting more critical when the restaurant charges top bucks and pretends to offer top quality. In fact I try to remain very much “feet on earth”. A small kopitiam or a big hawker centre in a loud environment? No problem. But if you want to charge big money, you better  get me state-of-the-art service. Otherwise big no-no. Allow me to explain it this way: If I want to have some food in a small snack bar charging me a few bucks, I can be forgiving about service mistakes and will accept small bloopers. On the other hand, when my wife and I are going to take a bill of a XXX Euros/pounds/dollars in a so-called top end place, everything has to be just as close to perfection as possible,  it’s as simple as that.

Back to Bali Hai: I asked for fresh live fish suggestions. The waitress came with a  seriously declared and confirmed small dead fish of a disputable “brand”, size about 700 grams. Asked about the price:  100 Ringgit !!! Right, so… thanks but no thanks! My guess: if you are a western expat or tourist, price goes up by 25% at least? Anyone to confirm or deny this out there? This Ang Mo is not buying and is not buying fish or crabs from the live aquariums neither, as they sell  at about the price of gold. If I would have ordered the same number of plates we usually order in other local seafood places, we easily would have spent 350+ MYR for food alone! According to what I regard as Penang standards, that is way overpriced, especially for this kind of more or less open-air setting. Those guys are competing in price with the 32Mansion without playing in the same league.

 

Anyway,  finally we ordered some plates from their general menu – mixed fish chunks and veggies; deep-fried squid etc.- Stuff that didn’t need me to take out a second mortgage on our home. Quality wise, it was good and decent food without being exceptional.  … I’m sure the crabs, garupa, sea bass etc would have tasted better. I just was not ready to pay the price.

In short, I made a mental note to myself, not to come back.  I mean, in a place like Penang you can get very fresh and excellent seafood for prices that do not have to compete with Saint-Tropez’ like  jet-set  places. Doh! Doh! Triple doh-lah!!!

Very dead fish yet very expensive

About the Bali Hai Seafood Market itself: it’s a  nice restoran situated along Gurney Drive’s  prime location coast-line . It reminds me in a way of my native Brussels’  “Ilot Sacré”  touristic area near ‘La Grand Place’. Very much an eye-catching place but unfortunately also very much overpriced and good quality only in a few places. Locals know, unfortunately tourists get trapped!

Brussels' Ilot Sacré

Bali Hai employs a lot of friendly service staff ( although their training could be better) and a number of good local chinese cooks and helpers doing a fine job in the kitchen. I understand their system is attractive for tourists to whom it will look like the (real clean) tropical local food paradise. Indeed, I know the “looks” and (lack of) decoration  of  some smaller local restorans tend to put off less adventurous visitors. (Walls not Swiss-like clean-looking, cigarette butts on the floor, very basic tables and seats…) 

Amazing as it sounds: for some of the local penangite clientèle, places like Bali Hai also tend to exert some kind of attraction (???), maybe for a special occasion when making a point (aka showing off) is more important than the price/quality relation. I believe it’s a cultural thing that westerners are not really grasping. I’ve seen the same happening in Hong Kong’s expensive restaurants when local Honky patrons were ordering bottles of Chateau Petrus to impress their guests. Followed then by adding ice cubes to their wine!  Argh …pure and plain blasphemy in my book!!! 

To conclude, Bali Hai Seafood Market is worth a visit if you don’t mind the prices they charge.  If you come by car, you can park along the seaside for a minimal parking fee, or at a parking lot behind the restoran.

Personally, I prefer to patronize the many other good seafood places in and around Georgetown. If not looking as “nice” or trendy, they are [according to my personal taste] more authentic, serve great quality and are very much loved by people who don’t care for todays superficial bling-bling attitude.

 

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KUNG HEI FAT CHOI…

A special good address but in my view, not necessary only for the steamboat experience though. Steamboat is called “Chinese fondue” in mainland Western Europe and I prefer to have it at home because too messy to go for it in a restaurant.

The other thing is that my “steamboat” cooking pot is heated electrically while the original one (like in Goh Huat Seng)  is heated by charcoal. Thus (allthough more ORIGINAL (?)),  you end up with all your clothes and hair stinking because of the coal fumes.

As a former cigarette smoker, I think it’s funny that lots of people complain all the time about getting second-hand smoke from a cigarette but accept first hand smoke from a  charcoal fueled steamboat restaurant! It’s almost as strong as the cannabis coffee shops in Utrecht, Netherlands. Then again,  just funny and I can live with it. Just don’t forget to throw your clothes in the washing machine when returning home after diner.

Anyway, we do like this place because they have some great recipes for cooking seafood, fish and vegetables, teochew style. Another reason is that the restoran only gets crowded after 18:30 or even 19:oo hours.

So we usually get there at or even shortly before 17:00 hours, firstly to avoid the traffic jam(s) created by people returning home from work. Another reason: no trouble finding parking space. Also, the restoran itself is still 95% empty at that time, allowing the cooks to pay extra attention to cooking OUR dishes. (:-0)

We prefer not to order everything at the same moment but continue with new orders after finishing a few plates. Makes more sense to keep your food warm! No menu available as most food comes from the daily market offer to get the freshest available seafood and fish. Just ask the Supreme-Leader-lady-in-charge who writes down your orders about what is on offer. You also can ask for some specials you want to try. Enjoy their excellent  teochew cooking skills.   

Some not-to-miss and must try dishes:  prawns [of course] with that heavenly taste of BBQ/stir fry cooking. For westerners, please note that we eat here almost all of it, including the shells. Personally though I do not eat the major part of the head. I just suck it clean. (Excuse my burp.)

 Below is what I tend to call my favourite dish at Goh Huat Seng:

Deep fried chunks of garupa filets,  prepared with a succulent  Sechuan pepper sauce. A definite A+ or 10/10 rating. It’s really excellent but do not tell them too loudly as the price might, ahem, get “adapted” even more.

About Teo chew cuisine according to wikipedia:  

Chiuchow cuisine, Teochew cuisine or Chaozhou cuisine or Chaoshan cuisine (Chinese: 潮州菜) originates from Chaoshan, a region of China in the north-easternmost area of the Guangdong province, which includes the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang. Teochew cuisine, however, bears more similarities to Fujian cuisine, as which it shares many of the same dishes, than to Cantonese cuisine, under which it is vulnerable to inaccurate categorisation. This is likely due to Chaoshan and Fujian‘s cultural resemblance and geographic proximity.  Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teochew_cuisine

And don’t forget to order simple veggie dishes. They always are succulent. Side dishes with baby spinach, …bean sprouts, …bean curd with green beans, mushrooms and shrimps and much more.

Another special dish below: sea snail (Don’t know the local name but looks a bit like the french bulots or escargots, only a bit smaller) . Again cooked with a sauce based on Sechuan pepper and fresh coriander. A bit chewy but still tender.

BTW, these snails are way less chewy than the ones sold for instance near the Brussels’ Grand Place.

SMALL BONUS / Intermezzo and link to Brussels’ street food: Escargot stall or in the local lingo: Caricole stal.

(They are cooked in a broth with celery and lots of white pepper: I mean -> LOTS of pepper! To absolutely try-out if ever in Belgium. Tastewise however I prefer the Goh Huat Seng preparation because more flavourful. 

(photo below By Mr Cl. Carlier.)

Movie here under was borrowed from the youtube site. Filmed by a tourist in a side street from the Brussels’ Grand place. To get you a sniff of the local spirit.

By the way, this is the same street that leads towards “Manneken Piss”. I guess I’ll have not to introduce you to that little bugger, right?  

END OF INTERMEZZO.

Back to Penang now. The movie below gives you an idea about the atmosphere at Goh Huat Seng in a local noisy chinese environment savouring a steamboat menu.  

If you want to pay them a visit, call first to check about their closing days, as they are more or less variable.

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Malaysia, truly Asia…

Last year in January we quickly had to use up  free Cathay air miles as their expiry date was nearing. We decided to spend a week in Sabah on Borneo and booked a  little hotel, The Hamin Lodge.  Ratings on the travel websites were better than average and while the place was not High End, it was clean and had a nice bathroom. Also important:  it came really inexpensive, especially if comparing with those resorts à la Rasa Sayiang and Co. It might seem like comparing apples and oranges but all depends what you expect from your holidays. In this case no need for a lazy stay at a beach resort alongside  the pool/bar/spa, nibbling on not so good resort-like finger food etc. We wanted a bit more action to get an idea about the environment, the local [sea]food and get on some Rain Forrest trail to visit our brethren, the [red] men of the woods… aka bro and sis Orang Utan.  

As for the Lodge, the only negative experience was the mattress on the first night: hard like rock. After remarks made the morning after they immediately changed ours to a softer version. Terima Kassih!

Hamin Lodge website: www.haminlodge.com

Another positive coincidence was that the hotel was next to one of the most popular food courts of KK. – Seri Selera @ Sedco Complex. The $$ saved on Hotel prices were used to make our tummies purr with joy. Most evenings we ended up here enjoying the seafood, lobsters, steamed garoupa, satay, veggies, cockels and all you can dream of  in coastal Malaysian seafood places.

Have a look at their website here: http://www.seriselera.com/public/aboutus.asp

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Staff in the morning cleaning the veggies and setting up the tables.

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Early evening. Food court getting ready for welcoming  the customers.

 Kota Kinabalu 01-08 017b

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Rock lobster RIP. ‘t was an excellent beast.

Kota Kinabalu 01-08 018

Garoupa steamed to perfection.

 

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Making your choice from the many fish tanks is serious business.

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Videos with thanks to the bloggers from www.malaysia.com 

Even if the place is a bit touristic, top food quality is also present.

 The entertainment provided did include dancers performing the Magunatip, Sabah’s most famous Murut bamboo dance.

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Kota Kinabalu 01-08 037

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Regarding Hong Kong food and more specifically seafood I would like to refer to the following link. It explaines well about the where, what and how.

I do agree very much with this article: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/dining/seafood.html

Below a few pics of Sai Kung, a very popular seafood place, well known but maybe a bit too touristic nowadays.

Live seafood

Live seafood

Pick your fish, lobsters, prawns, cockels here and have them cooked to your liking by one of the surrounding restaurants.

Sai Kung

Also on Lamma Island there are a big number of seafood places. Below you can notice the restaurant in the back, their open air terraces are built on stilts opposite the kitchen. Your order the seefood from the menu or you choose your own directly from the aquariums.

Lamma

Seafood Lunch on Lamma

Seafood Lunch on Lamma

Lamma3detail

 

Cheung Chau ( Long Island) also has a reputation for yummy seafood. Same recipe: pick from the aquariums or order from the menu.

Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau Seafood

Cheung Chau seafood1

About some menus – you also can enjoy the funny way of writing in Chinese English or… Chinglish:

Cheung Chau Chinglish

 

Cheung Chau is the home base of Hong Kong largest fishing fleet. The picture below was taken on July 1st, 2007, the 10th anniversary of the return to China, hence all the flags.

hk 023

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De Oesterput (oyster pitt) is very well known by a few in Belgium. It’s in Blankenberge, a popular seashore town along the Belgian coast. It’s a typical family holiday place, not fancy like Knokke… just a place where the hard working commoner family goes on holiday since the early 50ties.

I know my parents went there since I was a baby. Every year. Again and again. Probably that’s why, when I grew up I only very rarely visited the place again. However, last year when my wife and I returned to Belgium for a family visit, we also took a trip to the Belgian coast. (68km of North Sea coastline: yup… that’s Belgium… a HUGE country -grin-)

BlankenbergeBlankenberge, West-Flanders.

Anyway, we had lunch at the Oesterput with some great seafood: Dutch Zeeland flat oysters which are definitely the best in the world, unfortunately also the most expensive;

OestersZeeuwse platte Oesters. The best in the world. Because of these little animals I’ll forgive the Dutchies for being Dutch!

Mjam!

Soupe de poissonsFish soup with rouille. We both loved it. Wonderful dish.

And another speciality from Flanders: Garnaalkroketten -> think  gray shrimp croquettes, dipped in egg-white and bread crumbs, then deep fried in oil. I’ll post the recipe in a future cooking post but just forget about cooking this in Asia, as there sadly is no way to buy those North Sea grey shrimps here!

croquettesA Classic with Capital C in Flanders’ cuisine.

 

IMG_0389bis

If you want the real stuff: catch a flight to Belgium to enjoy them. Just don’t tell me, as I would turn green and have a tantrum out of jealousy!

Oesterput1Behind the windows in the back are 4 large basins where they keep life lobsters and oysters. It used to be an open space but due to health and safety reasons they had to separate the basins from the restaurant with those windows. People call that progress but I preferred the charm from before!

Oesterput Blankenberge

Oesterput restaurant

 

Port of Blankenberge

Website of this place: http://www.oesterput.com/

Although they announce 4 languages on their home page, English and German is still unavailable. Sorry for that. If you want to read, you’ll have to stick to Dutch or French!

 

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Being both customer and judge doesn’t make us foodies as if we were having a PhD in that inexact science called Epicurean Gourmetology. Admit it, we just are not objective when it comes to food. Our upbringing, our cultural inheritance, our traditions and also our instinctive aversion of some exotic dishes do play tricks on us.

Hawker centres however have a huge advantage with their many stalls to allow you always to find that yummy dish among the large choice on offer. There are so many hawker centres in Penang that it would be impossible to try them all.

We all have our preferences because of that one famous stall in that one particular hawker centre that serves that one famous dish that we consider our favourite.

Goodall

Goodall Food Court

Goodall Food Court is quite large, situated at the corner of Jalan Scott and Jalan Gottlieb. Very convenient for us as it’s very close to our house in Penang. My favourite cockles cooked in a hot and spicy sauce are found here.

 cockels

Also the satay stall offers very high quality, although I do agree that it’s maybe a very easy dish to cook.

 Satay

My wife also likes the Poh Piah sold here

 Poh Piah

while her mom says the Durian seller has great quality and is also very inexpensive.

Durian

(Regarding the stall that sells chicken wings and bisshop’s noses: not as good as the one on Gurney drive’s Song River Food court.)

Here is the one on Gurney drive:

Song River food court

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