Thursday, January 25, 2007

Back In Freezin Milwaukee

As expected, the one month vacation flew by so quickly that I didn't even have a chance to really catch my breath before I had to go back to work again. Not that I am complaining as I am truly broke and need to fill up my piggy bank again. Sigh...why is it so easy to spend money but so hard to make it?

Anyway, I had a fabulous time in Penang and Jakarta and will slowly tell you all about the fabulous foods encountered. I need to really get my pics in order and then I can really start to blog. I also replaced my trusty ole Olympus camera with a smaller, lightweight, snappier, point & shoot model that is waterproof and shockproof but does not take as fabulous pics as compared to the old clunky model. I guess you can't have everything, can you?

I just want to apologize for not updating my blog while I was in Malaysia, I felt that there were not enough hours in a day to cram in all the activities that I had planned. Plus, the earthquake ib Taiwan really slowed down the internet and after a few attempts at uploading pics, I gave up. Obviously, these are all excuses but hopefully now that I am back in the US, I'll be more industrious in putting up new posts. To the god-sis, the ban chang kueh (pancakes, or whatever you called it) post will be up soon. I did eat some for you!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Good Eats at Anson Road Market

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

Anson Road Market

Sometimes…ok to be honest, most times, the best food in Penang are found in the strangest place. In this case, mom and I went to the Anson Road wet market to hunt for breakfast. The sustenence? Wanton mee and koay teow th’ng. It was a typical Malaysian wet market that sold meat (pork and chicken but not beef as many Chinese do not eat beef for religious purposes. Obviously I do not have such reservations), seafood (fish and shellfish) and vegetables. Also sold at the wet market are religious paraphernalia such as joss sticks, paper money…etc and also clothes. Most markets have an adjoining area where hawkers will sell food and oftentimes, the food is good.

Mom had koay teow th’ng, a soupy dish with rice noodles, a chicken and pork based broth and slivers of yummy chicken meat. Tradition dictates that hoo-wan (fish meatballs) be included in the dish although some hawkers substitute the fish meatballs with bak-wan (pork meatballs) and also add tauge (beansprouts). I find the traditional version more delicious, somewhat like comfort food as this is a popular “sick dish”, something that you would order if you were ill but had to eat out because your family was entertaining guests.

I had wanton mee, akin to the famous Sarawakian Kolo mee that is often featured on Kenny Sia’s blog. I apologize in advance because I have never tasted kolo mee but the two dishes look very similar that I imagine they must taste the same. Wantan mee/noodles are made with wheat flour, lye water and eggs. The result is a springy noodle that is chewy to the bite but not exactly al dente for it is much softer. I love the texture of the noodles and its wavy strands are perfect for sopping up the dark sauce.

The dish is assembled by blanching the noodles in hot water and quickly cooking it. Then, the dark sauce is made by mixing thick soy sauce, thin soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and a tiny amount of chicken broth. Some hawkers claim to add their own special sauce to the blend but I would not care to speculate on what that “special ingredient” might be. I just eat it. The sauce is poured onto the noodles and some gai choy, char siew (BBQ pork) and shredded chicken meat is placed on top of the noodles. Oh, I forgot the best part, the ingredient that gives the dish it’s name: WANTONS. Again, there are variations. Some hawkers serve the dish with poached wantons, others with deep fried specimens. I find that both are equally good.

After gulping down my own dish and sampling some of mom’s, I was still feeling gluttonous hungry and we ordered a dish of char koay teow (fried rice noodles), Penang’s signature dish (more of this in a future blog) to share. That was only so-so. I have had better and I intend to blog about it!

Ah….it was a great start to a great day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Apong Manis Ah Guan

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

When the bf and I come home to Penang, we never fail to visit our favorite apong manis stall located next to Union School on Burmah Road. Mr Uan or Ah Guan has been selling his famous apong manis there for as long as I can remember.

We are attracted to the stall and the man behind it because of the consistently delicious coconut flavored, soft ‘pancakes’. The pancakes are cooked using a combination of grilling and steaming method where the fragrant coconut batter is poured into little round shallow pans which grills the outside of the pancake and then when it is partially cooked, Ah Guan closed the cover and allows steam to finish cooking the batter. He then adds slices of ripe banana and a large dollop of creamed corn and the deftly folds the pancake in half. This creates a sweet golden brown pancake with a soft center filled with flavorful gooey bananas and corn.

Ah Guan does the cooking with panache and his cheerful personality makes a visit to his apong manis stall a real delight. He flashes his warm smile at you as soon as you approach the stall and he never fails to charm his customers.

However, I must warn you that there is always a wait for his popular delicacy and so if you are in a hurry or are impatient, this is not the place to go. Ah Guan lets you know that there is a wait right as you approach and he marks the length of the wait by how many pieces of apong manis that is on back order. When I went there last week, I was 30 pieces of apong manis behind. The wait is quite pleasant as he chats away happily with you as he prepares your order. There is another apong manis stall along that stretch of hawker stall but it is always bereft of customers while Ah Guan’s stall is always popular with the crowd, despite the waiting time.

Each piece is priced at RM 0.30 and most people usually order 10-15 pieces. I had ordered 30 pieces and had to wait a little longer than usual. During our chat, Ah Guan told me that he was a former Free School Boy and was English educated. I found this to be rather interesting as most Chinese hawkers are Chinese educated and can barely speak English. This makes Ah Guan a great interview subject when non-Hokkien speaking TV crews, some coming from as far as Singapore and Hong Kong feature him on their food programs.

I left his stall with 30 aromatic pieces of pancakes. By the time I got to the car, there were only 28 pieces left. Nuff said.

Apong Manis Ah Guan
The stretch of hawker stalls just before Union School on Burmah Road.
Just look for the crowd.