29 July 2004

Cordon Bleu

Today's lunch was a quickie order of 코돈부르 (cordon bleu) ala Korean style. This is a variation of the standard 돈까스 (don kaseu), or deep fried pork cutlets.

Delivery took all but 15 minutes, and arrived typically in layers upon layers of shrink-wrap. As I've mentioned before, most Korean deliveries come in proper tableware and not some flimsy disposable container.

The order came with a bowl of seaweed soup. Still hot from all that shrink-wrap protection. A tad salty though.

This is what you get - a bowl of rice (decorated with a sprinkle of black sesame), yellow radish pickle, cabbage salad and a sizeable portion of meat filet.

The salad comes with thousand island dressing.

The menu made no indication of what meat it was, which left me to anticipate chicken breasts, which I think is a fair assumption since chicken cordon bleu is the gold-standard.

Slitting it apart revealed thin slices of pork that enveloped the cheese and spinach stuffing. No Canadian bacon to be found even as I dug deep, but it did have little chunks of ham in the melted cheddar and mozarella cheese combo.

It's not too bad actually, and a nice change from the mundane standard don kaseu. But somehow, pork just doesn't go that great with cheese, for some reason. Maybe it's just me! Anyway, it comes at a premium price of KRW7,500 when the standard don kaseu can be had for KRW5,000 or thereabouts. Half thumbs up.


On a sidenote, just thought you guys should know that we in South Korea are finally able to access Blogspot (Blogger) sites since early this week. It's been over a month since President No's Government banned the domain. Nonetheless, we're still unable to access any blogs hosted on typepad, livejournal and blog.com. Counting the days till that gag order is lifted. In the interim, peace everyone.

20 July 2004

Penang Foodie 5

FatMan's in the mood for some beef. There's this place in Gottlieb Road that specialises in beef steamboat. Let's go.
(note : crummy photos due to poor indoor lighting and not using the flash on the digicam to avoid disrupting other beef-lovers)

"Steamboat" is also referred to as "hot pot", "sang wor", "shabu shabu", "sinseollo" and other various terms in different parts of the world, all variations to the basic theme. Bottomline, it's a pot of stock into which you throw everything in, let it boil and then eat!

There's a mixture of all things beefy in this pot - slices of beef steak, brisket, tendon, tripe, flank and beef balls (meatballs). The stock itself is truly a work of art - beefy, peppery, very flavourful. Wished the proprietor shared the recipe with me ..... (this I figured as he whisked off ranting "silly FatMan trying to pinch my grandma's recipe?? cannot-lah .... siaoooo .... ") ("siaooo" meaning "crazy" I believe)

Slivers of the thin-sliced beef is served separately. It's best this way as you only cook it when you want to eat it. Just a quick dip into the pot is all it takes to get that nice soft pinkish result. Anything longer and your beef's overcooked.

You can add the egg if you like. Not me. I like it the way it is.

Total cost of the meal was RM50.00 (USD13.00).


Sidetracking, this is the view from the balcony of my hotel room. Different hotel to the earlier one.

There's a sunken bar in the pool. I can get drunk while swimming. Excellent idea, dude.

18 July 2004

Penang Foodie 4

Dinner time and we're off to Batu Maung in Penang for some seafood.

It's quiet tricky getting to this place, more so at night. It's in a somewhat isolated part of the island. This wooden shack on stilts sits by the bank of the waters. You can watch the jetties nearby as you sit back, take in some evening sea breeze before you chow down.

It's always crowded here, and just like most other places in Penang, you'll need to fight for your table.

We start off with a plate of "satay". OK. This isn't exactly seafood. Satay is grilled chicken fillet on skewers. The diced and deboned chicken is marinated for many hours with lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, shallots, garlic, coriander and other spices, salt and sugar.

Satay is one of the pillars of Malay food, and a must-try if you're ever in Malaysia. Satay can also be found in various parts of this region, including Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia - each claiming to have the best.

The satay served here takes a somewhat different spin, in that it comes without the spicy peanut sauce. Instead, the sauce is smothered onto the meat as it is grilled. Very aromatic and well marinated, it's one of the house specialities. Very nice.

Next up is stir-fried fresh prawns with garlic. The prawns are net-scooped from the large glass "aquariums" when your orders are placed. The prawns are cooked with only very light seasoning to allow the natural sweetness of the prawns to shine through. Good but a little oily.

This is the steamed "siakap" (seabass) fish in soya sauce. Another live catch straight from the aquarium. The flesh is sweet and firm and goes so well with the light soya sauce. Very nice.

Next up is spicy fried "lala", a local variety of clam. This came up short. It was too dry, the sauce was neither spicy nor flavourful and looked like a rush job. Total disappointment.

Rounding off dinner is a plate of fried "beehoon" Hokkien-style. That means fried vermicelli in dark soya sauce with prawns, pork and veges. I hate it when they use those crappy mass-produced fried shallots (which are coated with flour to retain longer). The noodles itself was so so.

Overall, stick to the fresh seafood and you'll do OK. I didn't go for the crabs, another of their specialities, as I was too lazy to work the fingers. Total cost of the dinner was approximately RM55.00 (USD14.50).

15 July 2004

Penang Foodie 3

Another of Penang's must-try is the famous "cendol" tucked away in a small lane off Penang Road.

This is the approach from the opposite end of the lane.

This is the place. A modest push-cart stall parked by the kerbs that belies its reputation. I suspect the young man (in the above photo) currently running the show is the son of the original vendor. He is aided by an Indonesian lady (Indonesian workers are common in Malaysia).

Cendol is a favourite desert/snack/drink among locals. Cendol is green-coloured pandan(screw pine)-flavoured little flour droplets floating in sweetened diluted coconut milk ("santan") and topped with brown palm sugar syrup ("gula melaka") and shaven ice.

The bowl on the right is the "basic" order i.e. plain cendol with no add-ons. RM1.20 (USD0.30) per bowl.

The left bowl is the "super-size me" order i.e. loaded with all the extras of sweetened corn and red kidney beans. RM2.00 (USD0.53) per bowl.

This is a sweet bowl of icy heaven. Excellent body-cooler for the scorching heat in this part of the world.


Some readers have written in asking why there's a lack of Korean-related posts of late. I guess I owe my massive readership of 12 an explanation for this state of affairs.

(1) I'm trying to clear the backlog of posts of my recent travel

(2) The digital camera that I use in Korea is now somewhere in Denmark. I should get it back by the end of the month though.

So normal service should resume shortly. Thank you for your patience.

14 July 2004

Penang Foodie 2

Today, we introduce you to another Penang hawker favourite, the "lobak". Most aficionados have their personal favourites. Some favour those at MacAlister Road, some Gurney Drive while others Lorong Selamat (these are names of popular foodie spots in Penang).

My personal favourite is off the beaten tourist track. Meet Ah Chun. That's him standing on the left with an apron (apologies for my poor photography). Ah Chun has been selling nothing but lobak for over 30 years, at this very same spot! He can be found at Kheng Pin Cafe on Penang Street.

This traditional Chinese coffee shop dates back to pre-war days. Note the traditional marble table-tops and wooden benches against the wall in the background. Only those darn blue plastic stools give it away.

This is it. Technically, lobak is taken to mean pork fritters. That's it there - the dark brown roll of pork wrapped with bean curd skin and deep fried until crispy.

These days, lobak is the generic term to include all the accompaniments - prawn fritters, fish fritters, preserved century eggs, fried beancurd, etc. A plate of lobak is usually served with sliced cucumbers and the very important chili sauce and sweet gravy (brown gooey starchy sauce) for dipping.

We ordered the fish fritters (top), lobak (dark brown), fried beancurd (centre) and prawn fritters (left). This platter costs approx. RM8.00 (USD2.10). Thumbs up!

Sidetracking a little off the foodie trail, need to give props to my hotel room. Give it up y'all.

Living area.

Dining area. Hardly touched as all masticating activities were done outdoors.

Work area, complete with fax and broadband.

Sliding door that seperates the bedroom.

Da' bed!

One symmetrical half of the roomy bathroom. Behind the frosted glass door is the shower. In the centre is a large jacuzzi. Fits 2 adults comfortably, or 1 FatMan.

13 July 2004

Penang Foodie 1

After Thailand, I headed south to Malaysia, or more specifically Penang.

Penang, or by its Malay name Pulau Pinang, is a predominantly Hokkien-speaking Chinese city island in multi-racial Malaysia. Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Orient", Penang is well known throughout the region for its hawker food, and any half-decent foodie should make their way there to at least sample some of the local delicacies.

This is the cityscape view of Penang. In the faint background, if you squint hard enough, you'll be able to see the Penang Bridge.

Another shot.

First stop, Lorong Selamat - a favourite amongst locals.

The hawkers' aluminium push-carts line the narrow street lane. Foldable tables and plastic chairs are strewn all over the adjoining coffee shops. During peak-hours, be prepared to wait and fight for vacating tables. There's a wide variety of hawker food to be had here, including all the perennial local favourites such as "assam laksa" (spicy sour fish-based soup with noodles), "kway teow th'ng" (flat noodles in clear chicken and prawn stock), grilled chicken wings, curry mee (or "curry laksa", noodles in coconut-milk curry) and so on.

One of the favourite amongst favourites here is the "char kway teow", which obviously explains the crowd at this lady's stall. So the golden FatMan rule dictates that this is a must-try.

As we placed our order, we were forewarned by the lady boss that it'll be at least 30 minutes' wait before I can savour this. Hmmm .... the anticipation is building.

While waiting, we decided to order "popiah", the colloquial for spring rolls.

Typically in 2 varieties, fresh or deep-fried, this former version is made by wrapping the flour popiah skin with filling of finely shredded yam bean (locally called "sengkuang"), firm tofu, beansprouts, lettuce, fried shallots, chopped garlic, chili sauce and sweet sauce. RM1.50 (USD0.40) per roll.

Still waiting, we proceeded to order "or chien" or fried oysters. Raw oysters are placed onto a bed of egg and starch mixture and then fried. Add in some chili paste, soya sauce and pepper. Topped with spring onions. RM6.00 (USD1.60) per plate (small serving).

FINALLY our "char kway teow" arrived. "Char" means "fry" and "kway teow" is flat flour noodles. What you get is a plate of kway teow noodles fried with garlic, large prawns, cockles, thinly-sliced chinese sausage, egg, chili paste (optional), soya sauce, chives, beansprouts and served with a dash of pepper.

Note the red slivers of chinese sausage. RM5.00 (USD1.30) per plate.

Overall, only the fried kway teow had at least some "standard". The popiah and fried oysters were forgettable. I must note though that the quality of hawker food here, once the pride of the state, is on the decline since my previous visits. And prices have also increased steeply. Sign of progress? Or greed? Or is it just me?

08 July 2004

Thai Food 6

Encouraged by my experience the day before, I made a return trip to Noen Khumthong Garden, "the" kanom chin place. This time I wanted to try out their other goodies on the menu.

Here are more shots of the place.

They even have a little garden area complete with kiddie playground. BUT realistically, under that scorching heat?

To kick things off, we ordered the "nam prik kapi". This was discussed in the first post "Thai Food 1". Technically, nam prik kapi is just that bowl of chili super-duper-blaster. But it usually comes along with an assortment of fresh raw veges.

If you're like me and take this by the spoonful, this is a tongue-numbing experience. It rocks!

Next up is the "tom yum ruammit" or mixed tom yum (a mixture of various seafood and meat). Another of Thai's perennial favourite, tom yum is spicy sour soup. We decided against the traditional fiery-red tom yum koong (tom yum with prawns) and went for the clear-stock version.

Taste-wise is identical to the red-soup version except for the conspicious absence of the chili oil that makes it red. The tom yum here is just the right blend of spicy and sour. All the flavours that makes up a tom yum are all there - crushed lemongrass, kaffir-lime leaves, tiny "khee-nu" chilis, thai basil, galangal and a healthy dose of lime juice.

Definitely an appetising start to any meal.

Yes folks, this is "kaeng som" (again!). Spicy, sour and yummy.

This is the surprise find of the day. This is "kaeng kari kai" or curry chicken, Thai style. I fell in love with this at first taste. This thick curry is extremely creamy from the generous use of thick coconut milk. The curry paste is made (as far as I can make it out) from lemongrass, shallots, garlic, turmeric (saffron), galangal, candlenut, shrimp paste and fresh red chilies.

What made the kaeng kari kai here unique is the use of sweet potatoes (note orange-coloured thingy floating in the curry) which added natural sweetness to the curry. Absolutely gorgeous!

If you note the timestamp on the photo above, you would realise that this was taken a day earlier. I actually had this right after the kanom chin in the preceding post, but decided to post it here as there was way too many photos in that post. *yawn* let's move on to the food.

This is another of my favourites, "khao phat kapi" or fried rice with shrimp paste.

What you get is rice fried with shrimp paste ("kapi") and surrounded by (clockwise from top) cucumber, shredded unripe (i.e. sour) mangoes, shallots, "khee-nu" chilies, deep-fried thinly sliced pork (well seasoned and sweetish) and omellette strips.

Mix everything well and enjoy a spoonful of heaven. We ended the meal with more "tub tim krob" but you know how that story goes so no need to repeat it here. :o)

Yes you could have guessed a mile away that I would conclude favourably. So far, there is nothing here that disappoints. The khao phat kapi (part of yesterday's meal) costs Bt50 (USD1.30). Today's meal cost about Bt500 (USD13.00) inclusive of deserts. How can you complain?