Posts Tagged With: Peranakan cuisine

Precious and Delicious

Central Market is the place to browse for interesting finds from kitschy tourist souvenirs to expensive pewter to unusual antiques.    The former wet market’s second lease in life (it was rescued from demolition by conservationists) is beautiful Art Deco architecture with fun browsing opportunities.  Persistence and the ability to bargain in Bahasa-Melayu has yielded a particularly precious keepsake— an old rebab hanging anonymously at a small shop tucked in a corner of the ground floor near the ATMs. The shop was crammed with antiques some of which made me swoon with delight only to be replaced with frustration at the high price.  After the cheap finds in Indonesia, the high price in Malaysia was a bit of a shock.  Nevertheless, I had to take home something I could preciously own and remind me of this particular trip so out came the card and with one swipe, RM 200 was gone from the my credit.

After I had bought a "kompang," the shopkeeper consented to let me take 1 picture of this instrument which costs more than RM1,000!

On the second floor was another precious find, albeit something closer to the stomach than to the mind.   We decided to treat ourselves in this most heart-breaking of all nights while traveling—the night when you finally pack your bags, weigh them, check your planet ticket, and bid a silent farewell to your hotel room (in my case, my guesthouse room).  A treat meant dining in a real restaurant with proper food service.  No more fluorescent lights and plastic chairs and tables and waiters that simply put your plate of food in front of you.

We had been attracted to the Rainforest Cafe which advertised a  Ramadan buffet. When we got there we were told it was offered only on Fridays.  We checked the menu of  international dishes but none seemed interesting.  We were resigned to the food court until we stumbled on the wooden exteriors of  Precious Restaurant as we came up the stairs.

It truly was a  precious place for a memorable meal.  After all the delicious and authentic Peranakan cuisine we had been dining on at Melaka and Penang who would have thought that back at KL, we would be feasting on yet another spread from some Nonya’s generations-old recipe stash.

These two Nonya went crazy with the last remaining "pie tee!"

These are the "pie tee" before the two Nonya above devoured them.

Entering the the restaurant we were transported to the resplendent world of the Straits Chinese.  Time-worn wooden tables with chairs, no two of which are exactly the same, are arranged  in a simply but beautifully furnished spacious area. On one side is a small area with folding wooden wall for private dining.  With its long table that could sit around a dozen Baba and Nonya and walls  adorned with old doors painted with  faded flower motifs, you could dine like a true Peranakan.

"Otak otak" all wrapped-up in a banana leaf.

"Otak otak"

The food was utterly savory and delicious with the multi-hued flavors bursting from each dish.  Most notable was the otak-otak which arrived from the kitchen in a small banana-leaf parcel steaming hot.  The curry flavored the flaked fish deliciously.  Unlike the one we had at the buffet at the  Sri Nonya Cafe in Georgetown, this one tasted really like fish and had a finer texture.  Come to think of it, anything offered in a buffet is bound to have some quality issues.  Fun to assemble and eat was the pie tee— an appetizer of julliened carrots and turnips and minced chicken which you put in tinyhat-shaped shells and topped with a spicy sauce.

It is my opinion that if Indonesia’s contribution to rice cuisine is nasi goreng then Malaysia’s is nasi lemak.  This is one tasty rice that could be eaten cold and still be delicious.  But the rice tinted blue with butterfly pea flowers was just as delicious and visually exciting.

I liked the way vegetables are flavored and cooked in Peranakan cuisine.  The Chinese are masters at stir-frying so the greens always come out of the fire crisp.  Perhaps we should have been more adventurous with our vegetable choice as we had  Nonya Chap Chai again.

All good Peranakan meals should end with a sweet bowl of Nonya Cendol.  At Precious, this was served separate with the milk and gula melaka which cued me to ask for more of the latter.  It was as sweet as sweet can be.

A cup of milk and a cup of "gula melaka" for my "cendol."

If only for the really delicious food served amidst tasteful interior  and the outstanding service by the well-mannered waiters, dining at Precious was nothing short of precious.

A Baba and some Nonya

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History, A Waitress with a Bad Wig Day, and Drunked Bastard Part 2

After the trouble with the tuk-tuk bastards yesterday, nothing could ever go wrong today not especially if breakfast was yummy machang from Cintra Food Court. I may not have found the small shop selling freshly-fried cheow tow and the “famous curry puffs” stall was still closed but the Hokkien dumpling and the Golden dumpling which were actually machang (a term the Chinese girl recognized) more than made up for it.

We walked to Penang Museum but not without dropping by the small adjacent shop selling curious where I bought a curious-looking 2-stringed lute with a scooped-up body and elephant carving at the back for RM60. The shop had a couple of other musical instruments but I could only afford to buy one.  The lute which the Chinese shopsman said came from Sarawak won out over the bowed Chinese lute.  When queried as to where he gets the stuff, he said that people come in and sell stuff from their houses which doesn’t seem to be far-fetched.

Three ladies and an old trolley

This was also my first time to set foot at the Penang Museum. It was small but the exhibit rooms were well-stocked and had very informative displays that were curated nicely.  Each of the ethnic groups living in Penang had their exhibit rooms and the Peranakans were of course the most lavish of them all.  The Indian room was also nice with its short glass walls with flickering lamps by the entrance.  The second floor exhibit was a little more serious as it was more on Penang’s history.  Pictures aren’t allowed in the museum but we managed to take some anyway as there was no one there and the staff were all at the lobby.

No, those aren't Kuya Germs' clothes on display. Those are costumes worn by "boria" musicians.

Walking along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and on to Lebuh Light we headed to Fort Cornwallis passing by the glorious colonial buildings housing the Supreme Court, the Town Hall,  and the City Hall then along the Esplanade.

City Hall

The Fort seemed to be in a little bad shape.  The galleries narrating the history of the founding of Penang seemed forlorn and there was no air-conditioning anymore.  Gone too was the re-creation of an army camp on the grounds near the cannons.  There wasn’t much too see nor do except take pictures of the cannons.

Yna wanted to go to lunch at a Western restaurant that accepts credit cards as she was running low on cash. She also said she’d treat.  I suspect she just wanted to go to a more decent place than the non-air-conditioned local restaurants she expected me to take them. Credit card+Western restaurant= nice place!

Since she also wanted to go back to Straits Heritage row I suggested that we eat somewhere there.  Lonely Planet came-up with Eidelweiss Restaurant which seemed to suit the girls.  The Indian cab driver was very friendly and pleasant.  Thank God!  After yesterday’s mishaps with the tuk-tuk bastards, it was refreshing to be driven around by a really nice person.  We arrived at Eidelweiss only to find out it was closed on Mondays.  Since we had alighted from the cab already there was no way for us to look for another place.  Since Straits Heritage row was just a short skip away, the girls headed to Bon Ton while I headed to the cafe for another slice of Ginger treacle cake.  Jeannette came back and said that someone from the shop mentioned a small cafe with lots of plants that serves Western food. It sounded like Amelie which we passed by yesterday.  It looked more like a sandwhich and drinks place.  While Julie and Yna stayed at the shop, Jeannete and I walked through the length of Jalan Kapitan Keling looking for a place to eat but all we found were gold shops.

Back at Strait Heritage, Yna was done with her shopping and we all assembled at the apom stall at the leafy park just across it.  While waiting for the middle-aged guy to prepare the pancakes filled with bannanas and peanuts who should we see sleeping on a park bench behind the stall?  Drunken Bastard!!!!!  He looked so peacefully asleep that I wanted to get one of the pans heating on the portable stove by the apom stall and whack him with it.  Or perhaps, get a load of the stack of bricks at the corner and dump it on his face!

Brown sugar-filled "apom" flavored with fingers.

After the apom had been paid for and received, the girls were reluctant to eat much to my amusement as the guy was holding it with his bare fingers.

Maybe it was coincidence day but as we waited for a cab to take us to Jalan Nagore so Jeannette could get her durian cheesecake at Continental and we could have lunch at one of the restaurants there, who should we flag but the same Indian cabbie! Learning that we hadn’t had lunch yet, he suggested the food court at World Park where we could have our choice of cuisine.  Good idea!

Yna still insisted on a credit-card accepting place so we ignored the fast food and headed to the much nicer area where the shops and restos were.  First stop was an Indian curry house.  Nah.  Across it was a Thai resto.  Not too excited.  Stomachs fluttered and hearts pounded when on a chalk board the words “Buffet” were written and up above, the resto sign board read ” Batik Nonya Cafe“! It was the best of both worlds— buffet and Nonya!  No questions asked. The language of appetite spoke to us and we responded.  The buffet only cost RM9!

More of a proper restaurant than a cafe, it was spacious and was nicely furnished.  The buffet spread had clear soup, chicken like the one we had at Restoran Peranakan, otak-otak, fried rice, sigarilyas cooked in a medium-spicy shrimp,  paste, fried fish, baked beans  (which I suspect came from a can) with egg, and eggplant cooked in a spicy sauce.  For dessert there was red bean soup and a small ice-cream scooping station.  The food tasted good and judging from the size of the crowd lunching at a late hour (it was way past 1pm), it seemed to be popular.  Mixing vanilla ice-cream with the red bean soup was particularly good.  The star of the restaurant however was a waitress Yna dubbed as Tessa Prieto for her blond wig which really looked like a wig.  It was so stiff and it looked so flat on her forehead.  She was very nice though, constantly updating Jeannette about the fried fish which had run out on the buffet table.

The girls finally ate their apom but put a scoop of ice-cream.  I guess it kinda takes away the flavor of fingers when it resembles and tastes like a cheap French crepe.

As if we had not come from a buffet, we headed to Continental Bakeshop just across the street for durian cheescake.  “It’s lemon cheesecake today,” the cheerful waitress at the counter said.  Durian wasn’t in season anymore so they’re not sure when they’re gonna have one.  Yesterday was my durian cheesecake lucky day!

We all shared a cheesecake and a lemon custard tart instead.

Of kurtis and kurtas.

Walked to Jalan Penang to shed off some calories and do a little shopping which turned out not to be so little.  Yna bought a pewter salt-and-pepper shaker at Hong Giap Hang which had a wide range of pewter ware from the cheaper Rennaisance brand to the top-range Royal Selangor.  The large shop also had a lot of other stuff including some small Chinese drums and flutes from Sarawak.  I resisted the temptation promising myself that I’d get to Sarawak someday and buy there.  Next door was a less fancy shop selling mostly Chinese stuff where Yna and Julie bought those metal balls which you roll in your hand.  It was a steal at RM10 from RM15 per pair.  At the next shop, the girls bought some sarong pants.  Yna finally persuaded Julie to buy one.  It really did look good on her.  Julie was to surprise us at next door Sam’s Batik House where after a little persuasion she bought a couple of nicely-embroidered blouses. Actually, everyone went over the top at Sam’s like we were all turning Indian fashion conscious.

It started innocently enough with Julie and Jeannette persuading me to buy a striped beige long-sleeved cotton polo.  I was more interested in the hand-embroidered kurtas and even the long formal Indian men’s dress that were so richly embroidered but they were all running into RM100 and above.  I think they were intent on making me buy something to balance-out their shopping. The shirt only cost RM25 and the shop attendant was really pleasant and easy to bargain with so I bought it.  The girls finally left me alone to go at the back with Yna who was buying clothes for her kids.  When I joined them, the shopping spree had began.  The women’s clothes were really beautiful, especially the hand-embroidered ones, and the fabric cool to the skin.  I went back to the men’s section and discovered the buy-one-take-one rack of kurtas which were a steal at RM50 for two items.

By the time we were finished, the girls were loaded with blouses, I had three kurtas, and we even bought Rhoda some clothes.  I think we spent about two hours in the store.

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