Siamese laksa similar to asam laksa.

Penang is popular for asam laksa but there’s another dish which comes a close second in popularity. Siamese laksa is pretty much similar to asam laksa. The only obvious difference is that while Asam Laksa a has a light, sourish soup base while the former has a sweet and creamy but sourish base brought about by the addition of coconut cream. The Siamese Laksa is available in three varieties with a very hot soup – spicy and burning, a sweet and rich gravy with lots of coconut cream and another with chicken instead of fish. Also known as Penang Baba Laksa Lemak, one of the best of this noodle dish is sold at Chop Wah Chee coffeeshop near the Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam.

It is operated by the owner’s Thai wife, Pranom Junjai, whose secret to a tasty soup base is using the big-eyed fish or fresh sardines instead of mackerel. “And of course the best belacan and shrimp paste in Penang,” she said.

Highlighted in the Famous Street Food of Penang – a guide and cook book by The Star, Pranom also uses local wild ginger (lemak kunchi), fresh turmeric and kaffir lime leaves.

Her version is also different from what is actually served in Thailand.

The Siamese Laksa is also flavoured by the numerous herbs that are used as garnishing such as basil leaves and several types of aubergines such as the terong rapuh (a golf ball-sized aubergine and the terong pipit, a wild aubergine that is the size of a green pea.

The coffeeshop is on Jalan Balik Pulau and it is open between 10am and 5pm with extended hours during peak periods.

For those who want to make this delicious dish at home, do try this recipe below:

Siamese Laksa


Spice Paste:

* 15 (20g) dried chillies, soaked
* 4 (60g) fresh red chillies
* 5cm (40g) fresh turmeric
* 18-20 (180g) shallots
* 4 cloves garlic
* 6 candlenuts
* 5 stalks lemongrass
* 1 kaffir lime (remove top green layer of skin only)
* 100 cooking oil

Fish stock

* 1kg herring (parang) or mackerel (kembung)
* 2 litres water
* 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
* 2 pieces tamarind peel (asam keping)
* 300ml thick coconut milk
* 1 tablesppon sugar, or to taste
* 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
* 800g fresh laksa noodles, scalded


* 1 torch ginger flower (bunga kantan), split and sliced thinly
* 1/4 pineapple, cut into thin strips
* 1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
* 1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
* 1 bunch mint leaves
* 10 bird’s eye chillies, sliced


Blend all the spice paste ingredients. Fry until aromatic in the cooking oil over a medium to low heat. Set aside.

Gut and clean the fish. Bring water to boil; add the lemongrass and fish.

Boil for five minutes or until fish is just cooked. Remove fish, debone and flake. Set aside the fish flakes. Strain fish stock into a clean pot, add the tamarind peel and spice paste. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until gravy is aromatic. Add half the fish flakes and coconut milk and bring back to a boil. Season to taste.

To serve, bring the laksa gravy back to a boil. Place a serving of laksa noodles in a bowl and add the desired toppings. Ladle the hot laksa gravy and top with the reserved fish flakes.

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Taste of rustic charm

In a State long associated with nonya food and other uncommon hawker fare, there are still some places in Penang that have escaped the attention of the uninitiated. In Jalan D.S. Ramanathan (formerly Scott Road) is an old double-storey bungalow that probably once belonged to a family of substantial means.

Now it houses the Senior Citizens Association Of Penang. What sets it apart from other bodies is its cafeteria, presently located at the back of the building which could do with a fresh coat of paint. The cafeteria, with its limited number of tables and chairs, was located in Jalan Kelawei in 1983. Years later, it moved to its present location. While it is not exactly a closely guarded secret, those who dine regularly at the cafeteria during lunchtime and in the evenings, seem quite reluctant to promote it.

Its facade is quite unimpressive. It peeks shyly from behind a cluster of trees and a hedge that badly needs pruning and trimming. Upon entering the grounds, the front compound suddenly looks very spacious and the bungalow shows signs of neglect coupled with a sense of loneliness. However, the flora in the rear flourishes magnificently and with great abandon. The long hanging vines add a touch of wildness to the place. Seen from a distance, the tall trees towering over the bungalow provide a benevolent cover for the old building.

Charming Old Place This particular cafeteria has been mentioned in some low-profile publications and locals know it well enough to come in fairly large numbers during lunchtime. There is ample parking space all round the bungalow. There are few eating places in Penang where chickens run wild in the backyard and tweens (pre-teens) laugh heartily on a swing near the dining tables. The main cafeteria is along a covered walkway that has four tables. It leads to the kitchen and an adjacent room that has a handful of tables.

Apart from looking very much like a 1950s estate bungalow with a large back compound, the cafeteria seems a very unlikely venue for diners. But therein lies its charm. There’s an air of being in someone’s home — amid greenery, bicycles, a tired dog, potted plants and laundry hung out to dry. The surprise of this elegant, yet simple abode is in the home-cooked dishes that get increasingly pleasant with each bite. Served straight from the wok by efficient waitresses, this eatery is in a league of its own. One male customer remarked that he had been coming to the cafeteria for years because his mother is a lifetime member of the Senior Citizens Association.

Diners who arrive late wait patiently for others to finish before they take their place. Evidently, the food is worth their while to stand around on their feet. Some of the favourite dishes are mee sua tau (soft wheat noodles in a thick gravy with mushrooms, meat and prawns), fried mee jawa, roti ayam and inchi kabin.

Most lunchtime customers are young office workers. Out-of-towners seldom find their way here unless they have been told about it by relatives or friends. Easy On The Pocket Some of the merits of the Senior Citizens Association cafeteria is its affordability. One need not spend more than RM10 unless he’s a glutton. The cafeteria does not serve pork. Drinks are prepared in the back portion of the bungalow, away from the kitchen.

Ho Hoay Chin is the cafeteria boss. He welcomes advance orders for certain dishes because these require time to prepare. Regular customers who want to surprise and please their guests usually pick up the phone and place their orders before their arrival. So if you want a fairly quiet place with excellent food and an aura and mood that only your own grandmother’s kitchen can provide, this could very well be the place.

How To Get There It is located next to a field with Jalan Brown on one side and Jalan Park on the other. In this residential area, the traffic flow is slow and low, so a trip here is rather relaxing and involves absolutely no stress. If you are looking for the place, drive slowly along Jalan D.S. Ramanathan because you may just miss it.

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Feast awaits at End Of The Sea

MANY domestic tourists and returnees (former Penang residents) frequently revisit the island for the sole purpose of relishing its local specialties. The island cuisine covers hawker fare spread over the various roads, streets and alleyways of Georgetown and elsewhere.

Then there are those who prefer to eat by the sea, in places stretching from Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul all the way to the other side of the island, from Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang. Through word of mouth and personal recommendation from adventurous foodies, places like Hai Boey Seafood have been enjoying large crowds during business hours.

Hai Boey is not easy to find if you are not an island resident because it nestles in one of the lonely corners of Teluk Kumbar but it’s easily reachable by car. This Pasir Belanda eatery in Mukim 9 comes so highly recommended by connoisseurs that not to experience its fine cuisine would be like going to Rome and not visiting the Basilica.

It opens from 6pm to 11pm and the large number of waitresses and kitchen helpers is a clear indication that its daily business is anything but slow. Sure enough, by 7pm, at least 10 of the total 30 tables had reserve notices on them.

Hai Boey, which faces the setting sun, has a seafront that lulls customers into instant relaxation. The rhythmic sea waves brushing its curved shoreline offer a panoramic sweep of a rarely disturbed part of Teluk Kumbar.

But locals who come to Hai Boey usually take the beautiful scenery for granted. Their sole purpose is the food. Dishes on the menu range from Phuket-style clams to claypot duck stewed with yam. Or if you prefer, there is heh kor (mantis prawns) fried with salted egg yolk. Barbecued crabs also find favour with many regular clients.

Hai Boey in Hokkien dialect means End Of The Sea. It was started by a husband and wife team four years ago. Tan Tatt Ghee, a former cook at the Chinese Recreation Club restaurant, takes care of the kitchen while his wife, Samantha Ang, is in charge of customer services.

Today, they are doing so well that a number of their regular customers are careful to call and make reservations before they show up after 7pm.

The restaurant is a simple, single-storey structure with a long and wide extendable roof that provides shelter from the sometimes scorching sun and the occasional rain.

The kitchen is well organised as evident in the trays of vegetables, seafood and other ingredients neatly laid out in rows.

Malaysians in general dislike having to wait too long for their food and an integral part of any restaurant’s fine reputation involves serving hungry customers before their patience runs out.

Non-Penangites are usually oblivious to time because they are often too engrossed in the pretty surroundings at Hai Boey Seafood, especially at sunset.

Getting There - The owners of this seaside establishment have wisely built three tree swings for the enjoyment of families who bring along their children.

The gradual setting sun with its fading fingers of light caressing the mountain landscape often mesmerises Hai Boey customers into a state of gentle euphoria.

Hai Boey Restaurant is understandably sanguine about its future because even Nature has lent a hand in transforming its surrounding landscape into a kind of Garden of Eden. The narrow, winding road leading to Hai Boey is deceptively unattractive but the vista that awaits at journey’s end is well worth the trip that takes you past villages, factories and shophouses, with fleeting glimpses of lovely stretches of the sea.

If you haven’t been to Hai Boey, do expect to pay between RM20 and RM40 per individual. The bill of course depends on what kind of seafood you’ve ordered. In its four years of business, this innocuous-looking restaurant has grown from strength to strength. There are other equally well-known seafood outlets in places like Batu Maung and Teluk Bahang but Hai Boey is holding its own in the face of keen competition and fastidious foodies.

Hai Boey Seafood’s bright future is currently assured with the large number of repeat customers. The sun may set every evening at its frontage but not on its present thriving business.

Clams or Tan (in Hokkien) are similar
to La-La but taste just as great

Claypot steamed fish is an excellent
side-dish for a party of four

Mantis prawns fried with salted egg yolk
hit the sweet spot in the tummy

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Food & Recipes - Eat your carrots!

Carrots are versatile, nutritious and high in fibre. Below has some useful tips and recipes utilising her favourite vegetable. CARROTS have always been and will probably always be my favourite vegetable. They can be eaten in countless varieties. You can chop, boil, fry or steam them, cook them in soups and stews as well as in baby foods.

You can use grated carrots in carrot cakes, puddings and muffins. In salads, they add a colourful zest to your dinner plate. Lately available in supermarkets are baby carrots, which are often more tender, though have less flavour because of their immaturity.

They are excellent as snack food, and a good alternative for dips instead of chips or breads.

Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, offered in fresh fruit outlets, blended together with different fruits and vegetables. Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Note that a lack of vitamin A can cause poor vision.

They are also rich in dietary fibre and minerals. Just a single, full-sized carrot fulfills an adult’s daily rate of essential vitamins. Carrots once came in almost every colour: red, black, yellow, white, but not orange! They were first cultivated in Afghanistan, having purple exteriors and yellow flesh. In the Middle Ages the Dutch developed today’s bright orange carrot.

To prepare carrots for eating raw or cooking, wash and gently scrub them with a brush. If the carrots are not organically grown, or old and thick, you should peel them, since most conventionally grown carrots are grown using pesticides and other chemicals.

Also cut off the stem if it is green, as it will give a bitter taste. A good thing about cooking carrots is that the beta-carotene is not destroyed by the cooking process.

But be sure not to overcook them to ensure that they retain their maximum flavour and nutritional content.

Here are three favourite carrot recipes:

1. Carrots and potatoes in a mustard-cream sauce

You will need:
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 500g carrots, peeled, cut in little sticks about half a centimetre wide
  • 200ml whipped cream
  • 150ml milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp mustard (preferably Dijon mustard)
  • 50g capers
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • a few basil leaves

In a saucepan, mix whipped cream and milk. Add salt and bring to boil over medium heat.

Add the potatoes and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Add carrots and let all cook together for another 5-7 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are almost soft.

Drain the veggies in a sieve, but saving the milk-cream liquid in a separate dish.

Mix the egg yolks with the mustard and 4-5 tablespoons of the milk-cream liquid until creamy.

Bring the rest of the milk-cream liquid to a boil over medium heat. Whisk the egg yolk mixture carefully into the milk-cream liquid until smooth.

Mix the capers into the sauce.

Lastly, place the veggies carefully into the creamy sauce. For garnish, place the basil leaves on top of the dish.

2. Carrot and orange soup

You will need:
  • 500g carrots
  • 30g butter
  • 125ml orange juice, either freshly pressed, for a better flavour, or from the carton
  • 1.25 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp tried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream and nutmeg for serving

Peel and slice the carrots. Place them in a pan with the butter and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the orange juice, stock and onion.

Bring to the boil, add thyme, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Allow to cool. Process the mixture in a blender until smooth. Return to the pan and reheat. Serve in individual bowls.

Alternatively, chill and then serve. Top each with a dash of sour cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Garnish with a small sprig of thyme.

3. Carrot-mint-sauce

Either as a side dish with meat, or as a refreshing dip with corn chips, etc.

You will need:
  • 250g carrots, roughly sliced
  • 1 onion, roughly diced
  • 1 apple, roughly diced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint

Put the carrots and onions into a pan. Cover with water and boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Drain the water and put carrots, onions, apple together with the milk into a blender. Add seeds, coriander, salt pepper and fresh mint, keeping back a few mint leaves for garnish. Blend until smooth.

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