Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Cooking 'em up in the Clay pots

There is just something about clay pots, the distinctive aroma and taste of the food are just comforting, and in a natural way.
The warmth of the food and the unpretentious flavors make everything that comes out of a clay pot naturally irresistible, which makes it one of the favorite way of preparation of food in many regions especially in Asia.

I was introduced to this Claypot Restaurant, nestled in a residential neighborhood along Jalan Sungai Kelian in Tanjung Bungah.
Specializing in claypot dishes, as its name suggests, the restaurant has since changed ownership recently though maintaining the concept of claypot in their preparation.

Located within a terrace house lot along a row of houses transformed into businesses, the number 48 distinctively highlights the place out of the many other restaurants (there are plenty of good restaurants in this area as well).


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The natural homey interior of the restaurant makes all the sense, since it is an actual house converted into a restaurant and the furnishing is kept to the minimum to create that spacious and clean concept of a dining environment.

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I love the little touches of the retro-themed posters on the wall, which creates a soft blend of classic memories amidst a pristine and fuss-free setting with plain wooden dining furniture.
Simplicity always say it best, and is definitely welcomed especially in a setting fit for a pleasant dining ambiance with family and friends.

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The selection of dishes on the menu are pretty straightforward, offering a domestic variety for each category; from vegetables to chicken, pork and seafood, humbly served in their signature clay pots.

Braised Japanese tofu in Claypot (MYR8.00) is a simple and plain version of the egg-laden version of the beancurd cooked in a modest starched gravy dressed with peeled onions and spring onions.

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It is just like any home cooked version of a braised tofu would taste like.

Seaweed with white tofu soup cooked with eggs is comforting without frills in its presentation and taste.
Served piping hot, this indeed warms one's soul at the very first taste.
As the owner is a family friend, who took over the business, we were treated to this hearty serving on the house as our selection of dishes were somehow constricted to rather dry-based dishes, as according to the owner.
(It is indeed a thoughtful gesture from his side :-) )

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The owner is one specialist in vegetables; having formerly (and still) ran a vegetables business and he recommended us the Brussel Sprouts with meat floss (MYR8.00), which was the vegetables which new in stock on that day.
Ask for recommendations for the vegetables of the day, and they will be more than happy to oblige to offer suggestions.

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Deep fried Mantis Prawns with dry chilies (Kung Pow style) (MYR20.00) is not served in a claypot; and was fried to crunchy crisp.

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This is always my favorite dish anywhere and I was delighted to see that they have it on their menu.
(It can be a bit of a scavenger hunt for this dish sometimes, as there are restaurants which don't serve this or sometimes they run out of the mantis prawns).
This is a little too crispy to my liking though; as I usually prefer the light crisp and slight moist of the flesh inside which is perfection in my personal definition.

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The version served here is a little on the spicy side too, with their generosity in the red chilies and sliced ginger.


One of the highlight would be this Braised Fish Slices with Black Bean Paste (MYR25.00).

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Served in a claypot, of course, this is a little dry, according to the owner, but we enjoyed the unique flavors used in the mix of the gravy, keeping the salty tastes of the black bean paste to a moderate level and the succulent flavors of the fish slices are preserved at its optimum.
Juicy and fresh slices of fish are used; instead of fish fillets which make the impeccable tastes of the dish, and the claypot added to enhance the flavors.

The food here tastes just like home, and one could easily be momentarily entranced by that thought that they are actually dining at home, especially with the homey settings as well.

Drinks are also served from a homemade selection; though only a few, and I would recommend this naturally refreshing and appetizing mix of Haw with Apple Juice (MYR3.80).

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The combination is well-blended and kept to their natural tastes; with no additional flavoring or sugar, and is definitely a soothing option.


Prices are reasonable here, though the portions could be considerably smaller.
Most of the dishes are in one size of serving, and larger groups might consider ordering more from the menu due to the compact portions of the food.

However, the ambiance, cleanliness and the service make up a pleasant dining environment.

Also, who can say no to a good round of home-tasting food, not to mention served directly from the warm clay pots?


Address:
48, Jalan Sungai Kelian, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang



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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chinese Celebration with 8-course set meal


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The festive season is just around the corner; with the Lunar Chinese New Year exactly a week away.
Any festive celebration always brings food to mind, which is always the centerpiece to keep family reunions and friends gathering animated as conversations continue to flow while satisfying their appetites at the same time.

The Chinese are always lavish with their celebrations; a tradition which is traced back to the early days during the civilization era. A celebration feast is always associated with a table filled with carefully crafted and prepared dishes.
The preparation of the dishes are always with thought and delicate preparation, with extensive and meticulous efforts put into the cooking method, sourcing of raw materials, garnishing to the style of presentation. The whole process is to ensure that one can find fulfillment and happiness in the tastes of the food, and that will be a sense of achievement to the person preparing it.
The amount of dishes symbolizes the generosity and prosperity, to laud the joy which comes with the celebration and the types of food are well-balanced with a varied selection of staples like rice/noodles, fish, prawns, poultry, pork, soup and concluded with something sweet to soothe one's soul at the end of the meal.

While the West has their 4-5 course set meals, Chinese celebration meals always come in 8-9 courses designed to serve 10 pax. The Chinese loves crowds, and large numbers add to the merry environment and of course, shared happiness with rowdy banter and laughter going around.

These elaborate course set meals can be found in weddings, birthdays, besides the festive celebrations and those who attend Chinese weddings are definitely not unfamiliar with these courses.
However, the course set meals are grand and with the variety of food, they are definitely tempting, not to mention stimulating one's palates and memory to induce that craving for these dishes.

It was a birthday we celebrated at this restaurant, Green Bamboo Restaurant which I have previously blogged earlier last year.

Typical courses of Chinese course set meals, in a general orderly manner:-
(We have customize the number of dishes due to small number of diners in our group to avoid wastage of food)

Like Western dinners, appetizers always grace the start of the meal and names of the dishes are often associated with an auspicious term as the Chinese are great believers in good symbols for they believe it brings happiness, luck and all things good.

Four Seasons of Happiness typically comes in a variety of mini samplers presented on a round plate, and each could symbolize one element associated with good meaning charms.
(Sometimes, it could be FiveHappiness and Six Happiness - the usual number associated with good beginnings)
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(Sauteed jelly fish with sweet and sour sauce)
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(Fried yam basket filled with kung pow chicken cubes, assorted vegetables topped with cashew nuts)
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(Braised fish rolls with light egg batter gravy)
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(Mayonnaise pork ribs)
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Appetizers platter
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Steamed Garoupa in plain light soy sauce

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Spicy Mango Prawns

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Braised mushrooms and broccoli with pacific clams

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A Birthday meal is never complete without the auspicious Longevity noodles.
The name says it all, and the braised noodles is simply my daddy's favorite.
Though I must say, the presentation is definitely not really what I was expecting, and I believe they could have done a much better job rather than making this look like a mess.
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Desserts are popularly presented with a combo of sweet soup along with an assortment of pastries.

Fried and sweet flaky pastry filled with lotus paste and glutinous rice balls filled with peanuts.

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Sweet chilled Longan soup to polish one's taste buds after the fulfilling meal.

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This is only a customized version and an elaborate full course set meals are usually found in wedding dinners and also large birthday celebrations where a minimum of 10 pax fill an entire table.

This may be an idea for dishes to whip up for that upcoming Chinese New Year reunion dinner, though it is usually the favorite dishes of family members as everyone returns to gather around the round table.

The most important of Chinese meals are not about the number of the dishes, though significant, but rather, the union of all the loved ones and the sharing of laughter and stories which brings warmth to the soul, and that makes up the meaning of the celebration :-)


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