Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cheng Hwa Seafood Porridge, Nibong Tebal

Besides street food, the mainland of Penang promises good durians and also fresh seafood. On the way back Ipoh, a friend recommended to stop by Nibong Tebal for some seafood porridge. This hidden gem is a around five kilometers from the toll exit and it is somewhere among the village area. Search for Cheng Hwa Seafood porridge and you will get a lot reviews on this place. Some even uploaded photos of the menu here as well. And their iconic dish is....

Steamed lala is one of the entree to munch on while waiting for the porridge to arrive. The dish looks quite simple though with lemon juice, garlic, ginger and birds eye chilli for that added punch. The secret to this dish is always the freshness of the ingredients. The lala was cooked to the right degree without shrinking and it has a good texture. This is the medium portion at RM12 or RM14 if I am not mistaken.

The Fish Porridge is priced at RM6 per pax only. The portion shown in the picture is for 2 pax. The chunks of fish were fried before cooking it together in the porridge. Basically the porridge here refers to made to order “rice simmered into broth” versions. Hence, don’t expect starchy, translucent liquid with mushy grains porridge. The amount of fish exceeded my expectation for a RM12 price tag slapped on this bowl. Reasonably priced but the quality of the food exceed my expectation.

Due to limited command in Hokkien and also Mandarin, we signaled our intention in ordering a portion suitable for 3 pax. When the bowl of Crab Porridge arrived, we discovered that there are almost 3 pieces of crabs! Yours truly has eaten 2 claws and I think the rest of my friends dining along also had their fair share of the claws. While enjoying the natural sweetness from the porridge capturing the essence from the crustaceans, suddenly there was random thoughts of how much the bill will fetch considering there were almost 3 crabs served. These thought were brushed aside as not to spoil the sensation on indulging in sucking every morsel of flesh left and scrapping any roe from the shells. There were no muddy smell at all and the crab was indeed fresh. Ginger and coriander were used sparingly to mask any fishy smell but it was clearly unnecessary as the crabs were indeed fresh. Seasonal priced is the term used here, and this dish came to around RM60+, quite reasonably priced in view of having 3 fresh crabs cooked in it.

The Blanched Brown Cuttlefish bears no surprises as it a pale resemblance of the Sotong Kangkung, without the kangkung though. The sauce is a blend between a sweetish reddish sauce used in Chee Cheong Fun while the darker sauce is similar to the one used in Rojak (or to Penangites, its also their perennial sauce to go for along their the Chee Cheong Fun). The sprinkling of crushed nuts did not help much in elevating the taste of the dish. Despite priced reasonably at RM7, I suggest you skip this. The reason I reluctantly picked this was because they told me the Fried Mantis Prawns were “out of stock” or probably they just REFUSE to fry it due to brisk business and congested order queue from the kitchen area, as it seems that all fried finger food were not available that night.

Without my favourite mantis prawns, we picked the hand-made fish balls (RM7 for 10 pieces). As long as the items are “easily blanched” or “put in the steamer without much attention” cooking method, you will be assured they will “never be out of stock” unlike the “unfavourable reply” I got for the Fried Mantis Prawn. At this point of writing, do not take it as biased review though I sounded pissed for not getting my mantis prawns, but honestly speaking, the fish balls failed to shine as well. 

And to prove to you that I am ranting my frustration when I could not get my mantis prawns, I shall give them some due credit for this simple plate of greens.  Instead of drizzling shallots oil and soya sauce over blanched “Yao Mak” (Butterhead or Romaine Lettuce?), the gravy used was slightly thickened with cornstarch, which is lighter “Lor Mee” gravy and it is topped with some meat floss. What you get definitely exceed what you can get for RM5 nowadays. 

They have also Tomyam seafood noodles and other add-ons to be cooked together in your porridge like abalone slices, scallops, fish maw, etc. This map and photo of their shop name is obtained from their Facebook. They do accept reservations but let us all try to be courteous and punctual customers in returning the favour. Happy feasting! :)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

s.Wine, Paradigm Mall

S.Wine is another restaurant under the B.I.G. umbrella which also hosts brand names like Plan B, Ben’s Independent Grocer to name a few. Making their presence felt at Publika Shopping Mall and Tropicana City Mall, the latest addition this year is located in Paradigm Mall. The decoration and dining ambiance is quite similar to Plan B while the menu, as suggested by its name is comparable to the likes of Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf franchise, which coincidently meets head on with the former in Tropicana City Mall

The Fried Pork Burger (RM32) consists of a crumbed patty of minced pork meat fried to golden brown. While the breaded crust seems the be slightly dry, it served its purpose well in maintaining a juicy centre. The meat patty was not really spiced thus retaining its natural flavor from the minced meat. The toasted  brioche bun was slightly dry too hence diners will need to rely on the house-blended sauce and also the vege-slaw to overcome the dryness. Okay, I don't really think that's a brioche though, its just some dry burger buns with sesame sees of both colours, so they better be abit more truthful in their item description on their menu.

The Avocado Grilled Chicken Pasta (RM30) is a creamy alternative to those who fancy Cabonara-like pasta. Mashed avocado is pureed and mixed with cream to give a rich finish to the angel hair pasta. Served with small chunks of tender grilled chicken thigh which has a good smoky aroma, I will recommend this dish to be shared by at least two persons.

Like the name goes, have a pork-themed feast and pick another main dish from swine. The Chargrilled Jerk Pork Belly (RM30) was our pick and it comes in layers of alternating lean meat and fats. So health freaks will have a hard time separating the fatty layers from the lean. Thus I suggest that you share this dish among a group so that every single friend of yours will have a chance to carry the guiltiness of popping the whole cuts of fatty pork belly inside their mouths! Since we are talking about the fats, it is not really melt-in-your-mouth type but was slightly gelatanious, evident of the hours-long sous vide cooking style adopted prior to finishing it on a grill to get the charred bits. The meat is intensely flavoured with spices and condiments which bear an Asian twist, which is a little bit identical to satay – minus the turmeric. The sides of purple cabbage salad with lychee and pineapples serves as a refreshing tropical palate cleanser

The menu is more really extensive, having around just slightly over 30 items for the mains across few categories such as meat dishes, pasta, Asian cuisines (did anybody mentioned Bak Chor Mee, Nam Yue pork chops and Salted Eggs pork patties?) and sandwiches besides entrees and appetizers.They do have some house-baked pastries and cakes. During my visit, unfortunately, the draft beers were not available as the machine was not functioning. Draft beers are priced at 12 per half pint while bottled beers are from RM20 onwards. The portions were substantial but the items were honestly just above average considering there are so many dining options in Klang Valley. Not too bad but nothing really memorable. P/S: I would've sticked to some Mexican Fares and some cold draft beers in Chillis or TGIF if I know beer is not available that night

Friday, August 4, 2017

XLX Asia, Ipoh - Crayfish and a little bit more

Located at a intermediate corner shop nearby East Gate, there is this seafood themed restaurant among these "new shops". It shares the same road as Trio Cafe (I still have not try this Punjabi cuisine) and it is somewhere opposite GP Food Court. Opens only for dinner, welcome to XLX Asia!

 Their famous dish would definitely be Crayfish or literally translated as Little Lobster (Xiao Long Xia - thus the name XLX). I hope by now I have shed some light that crayfish is not a type of fish. It is actually a type of farmed freshwater lobsters also fondly known as Yabbies by the Americans and the most famous place if you google Crayfish is none other than Louisiana. Or perhaps the nearest place is your aquarium if you remember keeping similar species of such crustaceans inside your tank.

Price at RM55-57 for a medium portion, there are almost 16 crayfishes served for this price tag. For the Crayfirsh, there have two serving portions and four cooking methods. The traditional one is the dark soya sauce infused with garlic flavor. We had another portion of Salted Egg gravy which I believe is the one termed “Golden Sand”.

Eating the crayfish is much of a new experience to most but fret not as the friendly owner will be gleefully demonstrating on the proper way to deshell it. They provide disposable gloves for diners while they deshell the red crustacean. I prefer the salted egg gravy and I felt like ordering a bowl of white rice or fried mantou to mop the gravy clean. Overall, it was a new experience but to be honest, there is not much flesh after you deshell it. The flesh has texture which is similar to mantis prawns though.

The Rosemary Lamb Chops (RM28) arrived in big portions and the cuts were quite lean. Not bone dropping tender but again it requires some light chewing jaw exercise. A little meat tenderizer during the marinade stage could've solved the issue. Coupled with some broccoli and cauliflower, quarter slab of corn and some mashed potatoes, this appeared to be quite a wholesome meal on its own. And for light eaters, you could share this dish between two person by just complementing it with another salad perhaps.

For the white meat lovers or those who opt for a healthier pick, this is the Grilled Salmon with Peach Sauce would be probably your preference. I couldn't make much comment as I am never a fan of cooked salmon because I dislike the fishy smell from the skin. I only eat my salmon raw and usually in the form of sashimi.

Asking for first hand reviews prior to dining here, I have got two recommendations for the Roasted Pork Knuckle (RM45). And by the time this blog post is up, it will gladly be three as I do agree that it was properly done. With the skin crispy and crackling (do bear in mind that practice caution as certain portion of the skin may be a bit hard. This dish is definitely meant to be shared by at least two people. There is a serving of salad to balance out the guilt and some mashed potatoes for your carbo fix. There are to sauce to go along it - the brown sauce and also a pear/apple jam.

The Smoked Duck Salad (RM16) was good. Romaine lettuce and onions are generously drizzled with sesame dressing. The sesame dressing is more like vinaigrette based as opposed to typical creamy mayonnaise based. It has an appetizing roasted aroma with some sweetish and fruity taste thanks to the generous sprinkling of raisin which makes sure you finish your vegetables. With the slices of smoked duck and also quartets of hard boiled eggs, this is indeed a balanced meal for those on a diet.

As mentioned, there is actually options of white rice, fried rice and blanched vegetables (Chinese version in oil) for those who have Asian tastebud. Beer is reasonably priced here and so are other drinks. There is a "gold leaf" ice cream at RM12 which I have no idea what it is.... ShellOut is outdated now, so treat yourself to a new experience of munching on crayfish! :)