Friday, December 22, 2006

Goo Bak Koay Teow (Beef Noodle Soup)

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

Yesterday, my dad, the bf and I went to have my beloved Goo Bak Koay Teow for lunch. I have been craving this dish for some time but have usually managed to "trick my stomach and taste buds" by eating Vietnamese Pho. This dish is quite similar to pho but the soup is slightly thicker in consistency and there is a slight variation in the seasoning. The noodles served with this dish is called koay teow (lit. cake strips) made with rice flour, tapioca starch and water. The consistency of the noodles is similar to that of pho rice noodles but it is cut into wider strips and has a "springier" bite to it.

This stall sells the best Goo Bak Koay Teow on Penang Island (my opinion and the bf's actually coincide) and we have been eating there for years. The stall is located at the junction of Beach Street and Chulia Street, opposite the Fire Station. I was surprised that the lady operating the stall still recognized me and she called out the Hokkien equivalent of, "Long time no see" as we arrived. We also met a family friend who happened to stroll into the shop for a nice bowl of noodles and we all ordered 3 small portions (RM6 each) and 1 large portion (RM8) with extra liao (ingredients).

The small portion came with koay teow, bean sprouts, tripe, slices of rare beef, tendons and one beef ball (the bak wan kind, not bull testicles....pheew). Also floating in the soup was crouton-like, deep fried chunks of pork fat ( bak ew phok). This probably contributed to the overall deliciousness of the dish. Kicked it up a notch, so to speak.

The slick, chewy noodles were swimming in a flavorful beef broth ( I tasted coriander, star anise, cinnamon and spring onions), surrounded by savory morsels of beef (from all different parts of the cow). Not a dish for the weak but utterly heavenly.

The Goo Bak Koay Teow was everything that I dreamt of and more. How not to be happy in Penang? How? How? How?

Beef Soup Koay Teow or Goo Bak Koay Teow
Located at the junction of Beach Street and Chulia Street, opposite the Fire Station.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I am in Penang!!!

Up in the clouds

The journey did not start out great.

I missed my flight out of Milwaukee to O'Hare. Stupid United Airlines did not deign to inform me that my flight was moved up and I arrived at the airport just a little too late to board. How could this happen? I guess, the answer is that it could only happen to me.

Luckily, my champion of a friend who had given me a lift to the airport saved the day by driving me from Milwaukee to Chicago in rush hour traffic and I arrived in time for my connection to Japan. I had already not slept for 24 hrs even before starting my journey and now, waiting at the check in counter at O'Hare while the airline groundstaff swiped my passport again and again, all the while looking puzzled did not help to stabilize my emotions. I thought that they were going to say that my passport was defective and I could not travel. My friend took a look at my face and started patting my head. Finally, they figured out the problem and I was on my way.

The flight from Chicago to Narita was uneventful. In fact, it was pretty darned good. I think that taking Japan Airlines was a good choice given that the route was better (decreased number of connections and layover time) and the price was fair. The food was not too bad as well. Naturally I didn't eat much due to the anticipation of gobbling down authentic Penang food. My favorite airline is still Singapore's SIA but I guess poor beggars cannot be choosers.

I had to switch seats on the flight from Narita to Singapore because I was sitting next to this guy who was reeking of stale cigarette smoke. I was practically gagging as the plane took off. I quietly explained the situation to the stewardess who was alarmed by the greenish tinge of my complexion as not to embarrass the poor guy sitting next to me. Much to my dismay, the empty seat that she choose to place me in belonged next to the girlfriend of this guy!!! Alamak! In the end he'll find out that he was so smelly that I could not even sit next to him. I covered my face and slept for the entire journey.

As the plane touched down in Changi Airport, my heart began to pound in excitement. I was traveling on Business Class from Singapore to Penang, thus giving me access to the premier class lounge for 8 hours. Finally, a place to take a shower, eat and sleep laying down. It was really heaven after such a long journey. I could even check my email and make some phone calls.

The koi pond and Chinese garden at Singapore's Changi International Airport, an oasis of serenity amidst a bustling, noisy airport.

It was my first time flying business class and it was such a fabulous experience. I MUST do it more often. Finally, I did touch down in Penang International Airport. My dad and the bf were waiting to greet me at the gate AND my baggage BOTH made it. That's a pretty sweet ending compared to the sour beginning.

What a looooong journey!!! It's so good to be finally home at last.

A big shout out to my friend Andi Dodol for driving my ass to Chicago. I owe you big time!!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

2 More Days

I am desperately counting down days until I board that first flight in a series of flights that would take me home to Penang. Isn't it funny that as much as I am looking forward to it, I am also dreading the passage of time. I fear that I would blink and before I knew it, I would find myself on a plane heading from Penang to Milwaukee, my long awaited holiday---over. I guess time does fly when you're having fun but I am just afraid that it would be another year before I see my beloved family, friends and hometown again.

Is that not ridiculous for someone who had ONE more day of work AND still more packing to do before leaving in 2 days? I think I need to see a psychiatrist.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Peach Bun

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

It's almost too cute to eat. Warm lotus seed center encased in a soft chewy mantou-like dough and hand painted to represent a peach. Delish!! Anyone know what it's called in Chinese?

I know it is supposed to represent longevity and is usually served on birthdays. I remember holding on to one when I was really little on my Lai-Choh's (paternal great-grandmother) birthday dinner because it was so pretty.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pizza attack!

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

When it's really cold outside and you don't even want to step out of the apartment to hunt for sustenence, what do you do?

We ordered pizza. This is one thing REALLY nice about living in service. I know we have delivery service in Malaysia too but it's only from the atas restaurants and pizza joints. You can go to your favorite char koay teow Ah Pek but will your char koay teow Ah Pek come to you? Here, tons and tons of food are available for delivery and it's so much easier to make a phone call and have food sent to your doorstep than to trudge through snow and ice to get it.

I had a free hand at ordering the pizza because the bf bravely promised that he would eat anything that I ordered.

So I ordered a large pineapple and anchovy pizza.
Ok, I was kidding. I actually ordered a pizza with meatballs and breaded, deep fried eggplant. He he he.....with fresh garlic. It even came with a bottle of coke because we had a free coupon.

Verdict? I liked it. Garlic...yumm, eggplant...good, meatballs.....delish.
The bf ate it but did not think it would win any awards. And then he ate 3 more pieces!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fortune Restaurant

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

It was on a snowy Monday night that my god-parents, the bf and I decided to head over to Fujiyama for some of the fine half priced sushi. Hoping that the restaurant was less packed than usual due to the bad weather, we trundled towards Fujiyama's doors only to find that there were many other sushi enthusiasts who were undaunted by the weather. Unbelievable! There was a 30 to 45 min wait to eat COLD food in winter (20 degree Farenheit weather and snowing to boot!) I thought only Penang people were that siow makan ( food crazy).

We decided not to wait and headed off the our favorite Chinese restaurant just across the street called Fortune Restaurant (West Allis).

Fortune serves some of the best Chinese food this side of the pond and is always busy, no matter the time of day. Fortunately, it was not as packed as Fujiyama and we were shown to a table immediately. It used to be that the service there was horrendous but nobody cared because the food was so good. Ever since I got adopted by my god parents who have been patronizing the restaurant for years, the service has improved tremendously and the wait staff has been nothing but nice. It pays to know the right people, I guess.

I had the privilege of ordering the food that night and all these dishes are tried and true palate pleasers. Oh one more thing, Fortune has 2 different menus. There is an American menu (read, fake crappy dishes like moo goo gai pan, chop suey, General Tso's chicken and other so called 'Chinese' dishes that I've never even heard off before coming to the US) and then there is the Chinese menu, pages and pages filled with exotic ingredients like tripe, salted fish and even jellyfish. I ALWAYS recommend ordering off the Chinese menu, even though you have no idea what it is. Regardless, will always taste good. So what if you get a dish with some exotic elements? Life (and dinner) is more fun when you're being adventurous and spontaneous. I am just kidding, the wait staff is always happy to recommend authentic dishes and identify suspicious looking ingredients/parts.

We had 5 dishes for 4 persons:

Beef tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce: The dish came on a sizzling hot plate that launched a fragrant cloud of black pepper flavored steam into the air. It was just a pleasure sniffing the air in the booth.

Stir-fried Clams with Spicy Black Bean Sauce: A family favorite. It's a little spicy so for those of you who cannot take the heat, have a glass of cold water ready. For me, it's a just perfect counterbalance to the cold weather outside.

Hong Sue Tofu with Vegetables: Deep fried tofu with Chinese mushroom, bamboo shoots, pea pods and char siew (BBQ pork) in a savory garlic sauce.

Eggplant with Chicken and Salted Fish Cooked in a Claypot (acquired taste): It took me years to even touch, much less like salted fish, and I grew up in Asia! Now, I can't get enough of it. Isn't the purple color of the eggplant just gorgeous?

Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice: I kid you not. The taste of this dish is amazing. The rice was fried so well that each morsel of rice was coated evenly with seasoning and released such a fragrant aroma when chewed. The texture of the rice was perfectly al dente, with perfectly interspersed tiny pieces of chicken, salted fish, egg and crunchy lettuce.

We had plenty of leftovers to take home for another kick-ass meal. I just can't wait to warm up food containing salted fish in the microwave at work. Won't that be FUN?

Fortune Restaurant (West Allis)
2945 S 108th St
Milwaukee, WI 53227
(414) 328-9890

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Nissin Udon Style Seaweed Noodles

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

I was craving something simple for dinner after eating a huge rich Chinese meal yesterday at Fortune (will blog about it soon). Somehow, my mind equated simple=instant noodles. Yummy! My grandmother has always told me that if I ate too much 'maggi mee', my hair would start falling out. I think it's an old wives tale based on the high content of salt and preservatives in the soup base but it has served its purpose in controlling my intake of the noodles. I guess I could hear her reminder in my head every time I reached for a packet of noodles, even after so many years living abroad. Gasp! The brainwashing was very successful.

Here are some pics of my Nissin brand, udon style seaweed flavored noodles. I added some extra dried Chinese seaweed for extra oomph. Also threw in an egg to boost protein intake (like I am so protein deficient). You can also throw in some surimi (imitation crabsticks), squid or mussels for a seaweed/seafood flavor explosion. Bam! Bam! Bam!

Below is a close up view of my noodles

Doesn't it look good? Washed down with a nice hot cup of Japanese green tea.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Brussel sprouts

I went to the grocery store today and saw a familiar vegetable displayed in an unfamiliar manner. I didn't know that brussel sprouts grew on stalks. Has anyone else seen this?(ok-maybe this question is only for Malaysians in Malaysia) Or am I that sua-ku?

I had my camera on me so I quickly and covertly took pictures. And looked up to see another shopper staring at me like I was insane. The bf had already deserted me as soon as I pulled out the camera. I think he thinks that I am damn sio-sia (embarrasing to be with or disgraceful).

Isn't that weird? It's like bugs on a stick.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Winter Snow Storm

As I was driving to work yesterday afternoon at 4:45pm, I heard on the radio that we were going to get 6-10 inches of snow by the next morning. At work, I was told that a severe snow storm warning had been issued and the predicted snowfall was 10-12 inches. It was expected to start snowing at midnight. I kept warning all my patients to go straight home and stay there before the bad weather started.

When I left work at 3:50am this morning, the sky was still clear with no sign of snow. My colleague who was walking out with me predicted that the storm had probably changed directions and would probably miss us. I drove out of the parking structure. The radio announcer said that he just stepped out of the building and from what he observed, people should wake up a little earlier and be ready to use the snow shovel. I also remembered thinking that he must be on crack. The sky was completely clear!

Not 3 mins later, flakes started to fall. Tiny flakes turned into big flakes, big flakes turned into puffy snow and I started to drive faster. As I got onto the highway, gusts of white stuff was blowing everywhere! It went from clear skies to a full blown blizzard within minutes. By the time I got home, snow was already accumulating on the ground.

This was what the East Side looked like this afternoon when I woke up at 2pm:

Mounds of white stuff on the ground. I am so glad I didn't have to go to work today!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Beans and Barley

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

I woke up last Saturday at 1:30pm and was surprised to find the day still sunny and warm. It was a perfect day to visit a favorite neighborhood café for a relaxing brunch before heading in to work at 5pm. Beans and Barley is a small specialty grocery store/deli that sold health foods and some organic produce. It also has a small café with approximately 20-25 tables within a glass conservatory. I love the atmosphere in the café as it is always sunny and warm. It’s perfect for a relaxing meal and catching up with old friends.

On a nice day like this, I like to take a slow stroll from my place to the café but because I was too lazy I had to go to work later, I decided that we should drive there. Beans and Barley serves a wonderful selection of breakfast/brunch dishes including Whole Wheat Pancakes (elect to add blueberries!), thick sliced Almond French Toast, Pesto Scrambled Eggs and their 3-egg Omelettes (choose from Fine Herbs or Vegetable). I was practically salivating at the thought of a 3-egg vege omelette with extra turkey meat. The café serves a huge selection of vegetarian dishes and only two kinds of meat: turkey and chicken. Carnivores would feel out of place here.

Unfortunately, there was a wait when the bf and I got to the café and brunch was over by the time we were seated. I was about to bawl because I could almost taste my omelette in my mouth. Deflated, but not defeated, I decided to have the Chicken Pine Nut Sandwich while the bf had the Hummus and Vegetable Pockets.

First, I started off with a nice calming pot of black tea with milk.

After we ordered, I started fooling around with the camera and took these pics:

Then the food came:

We shared a bowl of Vegetarian Chili as an appetizer. The chili (a stew-like dish made with chili powder, beans and traditionally, meat) came with a choice of either raw onions or cheese as a topping. I thought that the pungent aromatic bulb added a nice crunchy texture to the chili but its strong aroma completely overpowered the meatless chili stew. What can I say, I like meat!

The Hummus and Vegetable Pockets: Toasted pita bread stuffed with baby spinach, tabouli, sliced tomato and cucumber, alfalfa sprouts and dollop of hummus, served with tahini dressing. It was deliciously crunchy and refreshing. Hummus, made from mashed chickpeas, olive oil and sesame seed paste is very high in protein, fiber and mono-unsaturated fat. Thus, it’s very filling, making it the food of choice when I am on a diet and trying to get more bang for calories consumed.

The bf couldn’t wait for me to set the white balance on the camera and took a chunk off the side of this pita pocket.

The Chicken Pine Nut Sandwich: A cold sandwich made with 2 slices of French bread, sliced tomato, lettuce and stuffed with a chicken salad made with lemon-shallot mayo and pine nuts. I was disappointed with the quality of my sandwich. The bread tasted and looked like day old Wonder bread and the chicken meat was dry and tough. I have had this sandwich previously at Beans and Barley and it has never tasted like this. I wonder if this was a fluke or if the quality of the food has declined. The bf’s pita pocket tasted good though and I ended up eating a lot of his food.

Both dishes at a glance

All in all, it was an enjoyable experience because of the relaxing ambience and nice wait staff.

The bill came up to RM76.96. What kind of meal can I get for that kind of money in Msia? Anyone volunteering to go makan-makan with me when I am back in Penang?

We left the café as the sun was setting. It signaled the end of a beautiful day and the beginning of another long night for me at work.


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