Spice Market

Rasa Sayang's Spice Market Café (see here for the most recent visit) has revealed its latest Malaysian-Indonesian culinary highlight which is available from 29 June to 31 July 2014. Coinciding with the fasting month of Ramadan, Spice Market provides an interesting avenue to break fasting in the evening.

During this month-long duration, diners are treated to some of the finest Malay and Indonesian dishes prepared by professional chefs. According to Rasa Sayang, three sets of menu have been drawn up so that each visit offers a different dining experience.

Several exquisite dishes specially crafted for unparalleled enjoyment include Kambing Berempah, Sup Kambing Berperisa Lemak, Ekor Lembu Masak Berempah, Siput Masak Lemak Bumbu Segar, Gado Gado, Jalim, Sambal Goreng Tempe, Opor Ayam, Ayam Penyet, Rendang Daging Sapi, Sup Kambing Berperisa Lemak, Nasi Hujan Panas and Sambal Terasi.

This Malay-Indonesian cuisine is part of the on-going "6 in 1 + P60" promotion. In addition to these featured dishes, guests are still treated to the Chinese, Indian, Western, Japanese and Desserts stations, each of which features elaborate menu on its own.

The buffet is priced at RM128.00++ for an adult and RM64.00++ for a child. On Mondays and Tuesdays, diners enjoy 40% discount on the adult ticket. Visitors on Wednesdays and Thursdays enjoy 30% and 20% respectively.

For reservations and enquiries, please contact Rasa Sayang at 04-888-8888.
Name: Spice Market Café
Address: Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-888-8888
Business hours: 6:30pm-10:30pm, Sundays to Thursdays

Ah Keong Hokkien Mee

Special thanks to Ah Keong Hokkien Mee for extending this food review invitation.

Since my previous visit, Ah Keong Hokkien Mee (亚强福建面) has opened a new stall at Island Park Kopitiam (爱莲园咖啡店) in Green Lane. This new stall is managed my Ah Keong's son, Jacky, who has been working as assistant at the original stall at Jalan Slim for the past few years.
Ah Keong Hokkien Mee retains its two signature dishes: Hokkien Mee (福建面) and Loh Mee (卤面), as well as the newly introduced Hokkien Loh Mee (福建罗面). Since I tried Ah Keong's Hokkien Mee last time, I opted for a bowl of Loh Mee this time.
My breakfast today is a medium-sized bowl of Loh Mee (卤面, RM3.30); the price remains unchanged from the original stall. The portion is sufficient for a proper meal, thanks to the thick gravy made from corn starch and beaten eggs. Like its Hokkien Mee, Ah Keong's Loh Mee also packs a strong dose of savory flavor thanks to its well-kept family recipe.
The bowl of Loh Mee comes with a spoonful of chili paste and garlic sauce. These condiments are served separately on a spoon in case a customer prefers less or none of them. As for me, I am a firm believer in mixing them thoroughly in the bowl.
As usual, Loh Mee is served with yellow noodles (黄面) and rice vermicelli (米粉). The bowl also contains a respectable amount of pork slices, prawns and a slice of boiled egg. I think the pork slices are quite delectable especially when its taste is enhanced by some lovely Loh Mee gravy. A sprinkle of fried garlic is also added for enhanced flavor.
Overall, Jacky has done a fine job to ensure that the food at his new stall is on par with the original one at Jalan Slim. Given that this coffee shop is packed with customers on weekend mornings, I think this is the right place for Ah Keong Hokkien Mee to expand to.
For drinks, I have a glass of Bandung (RM1.60). Usually I seldom go for iced drinks at hawker centers, but this was due to some mixed-up order. Nevertheless, the Bandung is quite a thirst-buster to go with my breakfast today.
For my next visit, I should try the Hokkien Loh Mee (福建罗面) as Jacky recommended. This is a mixture of Hokkien Mee and Loh Mee gravies. According to Jacky, his Hokkien Loh Mee tastes even than either constituents. I am very interested to experience this on my own.

Name: Ah Keong Hokkien Mee
Address: Island Park Kopitiam, 38, Tingkat Tembaga, 11600 Jelutong, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-452-6742 (Jacky)
Business hours: 6:30am-3:00pm, closed on first and third Thursdays of the month
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Ah-Keong-Hokkien-Mee-235103936694936
Coordinates: 5.39140 N, 100.30036 E
Directions: Driving northbound on Jalan Masjid Negeri, turn left to Jalan Tembaga just before Hospital Lam Wah Ee. Take the next right to Persiaran Tembaga. After the field on the left, turn left to Tingkat Tembaga where there is a row of houses on the right. Island Park Kopitiam is the last shop of this row. Ah Keong Hokkien Mee is one of the stalls on the side of this coffee shop. Street parking is available but limited during peak hours.

Angkiki Hot Pot

Special thanks to Angkiki Hot Pot for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Anson Park Food Court (安顺园饮食中心) used to be a popular hawker center several years back. However, many stalls have gradually migrated to another hawker center opposite KDU campus, making Anson Park quite deserted. It is a pity because Anson Park has a large parking area which makes it very convenient for customers.
Not all is lost, though. A new steamboat stall has spawned here recently, called Angkiki Hot Pot (红支支火锅). The proprietor is Chris who cordially invited several of us to his latest business venture. Chris used to operate a Thai restaurant at Batu Lanchang.
The menu at Angkiki Hot Pot is similar to most steamboat establishments: set menu with optional add-ons. Set menu is available for 2, 4 or 8 persons at RM48.00, RM68.00 and RM138.00 respectively. For a limited time till end of July, Angkiki Hot Pot offers introductory prices at RM29.00, RM49.00 and RM99.00 respectively. This is quite a bargain if you are an avid fan of steamboat!
There are three types of soup bases to choose for the steamboat: Clear Soup (鱼香清甜老火汤), Penang Nyonya Asam Pedas (槟城娘惹阿三汤) and Authentic Thai Tomyum (正宗泰式东炎汤). Each is priced at RM5.00 with unlimited refills. Or if you wish to try multiple flavors, ask for Yin Yong (鸳鸯) style for RM10.00. Our soup choices today are Clear Soup and Penang Nyonya Asam Pedas.
Clear Soup is the old-school crowd favorite. Starting plain initially, the soup becomes increasingly savory after several rounds of boiling with vegetables. Therefore, vegetables are naturally the first ingredients to go in the pot. By the end of our meal, the Clear Soup is so flavorful that it becomes a delicacy itself!

As for the Penang Nyonya Asam Pedas, this soup is a definitely must-try if you have formidable tolerance against spiciness. The soup yields a nice sourish sensation which I think is partially attributed to pineapple pieces. Overall, the Penang Nyonya Asam Pedas soup is delightfully tangy and pungent in flavor. I find that meat and seafood go well with this soup.

Here is a brief walkthrough of the ingredients in a set meal for 4 persons.

There are four large prawns (白虾) which is crunchy and mildly sweet, hallmark of well-sought freshness. Alongside are among my favorite "vegetables", enoki mushrooms (金针菇).
Next up, we have a platter of lovely scallops (扇贝) which only requires brief cooking. The pork meatballs (肉丸) are springy and delightful; we are certainly satisfied with them. Several slices of cuttlefish (鱿鱼) and squid (苏东) are thrown into the mix, as well as a heap of spinach (菠菜) on every plate.
Another commendable delicacy are the homemade fish balls (自制鱼丸), so juicy and lovable that we should order more for the next visit. Mushroom meatballs (蘑菇肉丸) are also special here, using black mushrooms caps with delightful portions of minced meat. The filament stick (蟹条) are acceptable, but we would have preferred something else given a choice.
Moving on to more goodies, we are treated with several pieces of fish maw (鱼鳔), pork skin (猪皮) and pork slices (猪肉片). Regardless which soup they are boiled in, I find them delicious nevertheless.
The set meal includes choices of either cooked rice or raw noodles such as tanghoon (冬粉).
Further extending his generosity, Chris offered us a complimentary sample of Deep Fried Bean Curd (炸豆干). These tasty little devils have irresistible crisp on the surface, while still retain some degree of softness in the middle.
As far as condiments are concerned, there are several types of homemade chili paste including my personal favorite Thai sweet sauce. One of them is tongue-numbing spicy, but I find the excitement quite worthwhile. Also provided are some fried garlic to give an appetizing aroma to the steamboat experience.
Why is Angkiki Hot Pot called "ang" (red)? "No reason at all", says Chris, "I just like the color red." Superstition or not, Angkiki Hot Pot has secured a steady pool of regulars and is gradually gaining positive publicity since it opened for business in May. I definitely recommend this place to steamboat lovers due to its special soup bases and attractive price.

Name: Angkiki Hot Pot
Address: Anson Park Food Court, 20, Jalan Anson, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 013-421-9191 (Chris)
Business hours: 6:00pm-10:00pm, closed on Tuesdays
Website: http://www.angkiki.my
Coordinates: 5.42054 N, 100.32366 E
Directions: From Macalister Road (either direction), turn to Jalan Anson and drive for approximately 500 meters. Anson Park Food Court is located on the left. There is a large car park within the compound. Parking fee is RM1.00 per entry after 6:00pm.

Roommates

Special thanks to Roommates Guesthouse Penang and TourDirections Penang for extending this accommodation review invitation.

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Roommates Guesthouse Penang is a budget accommodation in downtown George Town where backpackers can really stretch the dollar. The main unit is located at Chulia Lane (Lorong Chulia) just off the bustling Chulia Street (Lebuh Chulia).
In response to popular demand, a second unit at Market Lane (Lorong Pasar) was opened in 2013. My visit to the second unit, aptly named Roommates 2, is just a stone's throw from the original one.
Roommates provides bed and breakfast at attractive rates starting from RM28.00 per night. This is just a fraction of what it costs at most budget hotels. Most rooms are suited for 2 persons (using double-decker beds with hotel-grade mattresses), but there is also a large room which caters up to 8 guests. Each room is equipped with the comfort of air-conditioning, not shabby at all.
Beside serving as a place to spend the night, Roommates also serves as a spot for guests of different nationalities to mingle around. It is nice get acquainted with new friends here (hence the name "Roommates") who are on the same quest to explore the world at their own terms.

In addition, there are pillow couches, television, bookshelf and travel brochures serve to keep everyone comfortable and entertained.
Towels and personal lockers are provided. Roommates 2 has three bathroom stalls in the common area downstairs. This is usually sufficient for roughly 15 guests in total.
Toiletries and most consumables are not provided in the price of the bed, but the 24-hours 7-Eleven convenience store is just a short walking distance from Roommates. In terms of laundry service, a washing machine is available at token price (detergent provided).
As a bed-and-breakfast establishment, Roommates provides complimentary breakfast from 7:00am. Before venturing further into the heritage district of George Town, start the day with a helping of bread slices (toaster available), jam and margarine, boiled eggs and coffee.
Stay connected to the outside world with Roommates' free Wi-Fi service, although I find the connection is too slow at certain times. Perhaps a fellow roommate is streaming live video of an on-going World Cup match.

The staff at Roommates is very friendly and certainly gives the guesthouse a warm sense of hospitality. Typical check-in time starts at 1:30pm and check-out is due at 12:00pm on the following day. Comprehending the unpredictable backpacking schedule, Roommates provides the convenience of 24-hours check-in. There is no lock-out period at night, but guests are expected to be courteous to other roommates during late hours.
Name: Roommates
Address: 17B, Lorong Chulia, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-1567
Business hours: 24 hours
Website: http://www.roommatespenang.com
Coordinates: 5.41856 N, 100.33725 E
Directions: From Lebuh Chulia, turn into Lorong Chulia (watch for the road sign at the intersection). Roommates is on the left facing the intersection between Lorong Chulia and Lorong Pasar.

Name: Roommates 2
Address: 54B, Lorong Pasar, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-0482
Business hours: 24 hours
Website: http://www.roommatespenang.com
Coordinates: 5.41849 N, 100.33754 E
Directions: From Roommates, walk along the lane directly ahead (Lorong Pasar). Roommates 2 is located on the left. It is not as clearly marked as Roommates, so watch out for the whiteboard in front.

Line Clear

Line Clear Restaurant is a popular nasi kandar shop in an alley near the intersection of Penang Road (Jalan Penang) and Chulia Street (Lebuh Chulia). This open-air eatery is adjacent to Yasmeen Restoran.
Nasi kandar is an Indian-Muslim dish which originates in Penang. Nowadays, nasi kandar has become increasingly widespread throughout Malaysia due to expanding chain restaurants like Nasi Kandar Pelita.
Nasi kandar derives its name from the fact that in the early days, nasi kandar peddlers carry their wares on a shoulder pole (called "kandar" in Malay). Similar to mainstream Indian food, nasi kandar dishes tend to use flavorful spices very liberally. For instance, this dish of fish head is heavily seasoned with turmeric.
The outdoor setting of Line Clear makes it susceptible to unpleasant heat during the afternoon. Although it is not the most comfortable place to enjoy nasi kandar, Line Clear attracts many customers due to its long-time fame.
My plate of nasi kandar consists of biryani rice, mutton, fried egg and cabbage. The food price is RM14.10, which I think is exorbitant even when compared to shop-based nasi kandar restaurants.
As the proprietors have to deal with long queues of customers throughout the day, the sense of hospitality is inevitably lacking. Food-wise, I fail to see how the food here is substantially better than those served in other popular restaurants like Hameediyah Restaurant and Nasi Kandar Beratur. But one good thing about Line Clear is the fact that the queue moves pretty rapidly.

Address: 177, Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-3263
Business hours: 24 hours
Taste
Presentation
Ambience
Hospitality
Value

The Alley

Special thanks to The Alley and TourDirections Penang for extending this food review invitation.

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Located at Stewart Lane near the Kuan Yin Temple, The Alley is a modest café easily overlooked if not for the small signboard in the front. In fact, the store facade still bears the previous incense shop's as an agreement with the owner. This turns out as a blessing in disguise as many regulars are pleased with the vintage storefront.
The Alley is literally located next to a small alley, hence its namesake. The café is open daily from noon till midnight. While the main focus is on coffee brews, this eatery also provides light meals and desserts for customers who desire more than a sip.
The beverage menu consists of various of hot and cold caffeinated concoctions, fruit punches, frappés and chocolate drinks. As for food, there is an assortment of cheesecakes sold by the slice, and finger snacks such as churros. The Alley is also one of the few places which serves cronuts.
Keeping in line with the nostalgic atmosphere, there is a jar of candy known as Kong Th'ng (贡糖) or Kacang Tumbuk at the front counter.
The interior fixtures, furnishing and dining utensils are highly improvised. For instance, old glass bottles are reused to serve drinking water. Discarded tabletops are salvaged as wall ornaments.
We were fortunate to meet Mr. Loo Ping, one of the three proprietors behind this business venture. Formerly a barista and on his final year to earn an optometry degree (interesting résumé), Ping serves as our host tonight and patiently explains the whole nine yards behind this café.
Our feast commenced with a couple of cronuts servings. A cronut is an amalgam of a croissant and a doughnut. Sporting layered texture reminiscent of a croissant, the pastry is made into a roll in an approximate shape of a doughnut. Despite popularity in the States, cronuts are only available in handful of places in Penang. This is most likely due to its labor-intensive preparation process.
The Salted Caramel Cronut (RM8.00) has a coating of glazed caramel and a light sprinkle of salt, yielding an interesting combination of sweet and salty flavors. The pastry is soft and moist throughout all layers, while the buttery texture gives the cronut a delightful taste with each bite.
My personal preference is the Nutella Cronut (RM8.00), where a rich spread of Nutella (a brand of hazelnut chocolate spread) is applied on the top side.
Another novelty at The Alley are Churros (RM9.00). Also known as Spanish doughnuts, these breadsticks-like snacks are essentially elongated pastry squeezed from a churrera, a syringe with star-shaped nozzle. The pastry is deep-fried briefly until the desired crispiness is attained.
The taste of churros are lovely and somewhat addictive. Although good on their own, churros can also be enjoyed with dips. Five types of dips are available: cinnamon sugar, caramel, Nutella, chocolate and salted caramel. All five are nice, but I think Nutella works best here.

The order of Cappuccino (RM11.00) is served in a porcelain cup with saucer, the typical type used in traditional coffee shops. The cappuccino is quite strong with its medium-dark roast. A small bag of Kong Th'ng is provided. This hard candy is made from peanuts and sugar. Although commonly enjoyed on its own, Kong Th'ng tastes surprisingly well after a brief dip with some coffee.
The Mocha (RM11.00) is served in a more contemporary mug. Latte art (where a pattern of steamed milk is poured on the surface of espresso shot) is featured here. Today's latte art is the "Tulip", the one which every barista needs to master before graduating from in the academy. The Mocha has rich chocolate flavor, infused with a strong shot of dark espresso. The overall verdict on the drink is satisfactory.
Like democracy and trigonometry, frappé (foam-covered iced coffee drink) was invented by the Greeks. However in today's context, the frappé refers to any iced coffee drink in American lexicon, which may or may not have the Greek's signature frothy top. The frappés served tonight are Choc Mint Frappe (RM13.00) and Choc Oreo Frappe (RM13.00). The former has a heap of undissolved chocolate with a hint of mint flavor, while the latter is infused with extra chocolate goodness in the form of crushed Oreo chips.
The Iced Chocolate (RM11.00) is an ice-blended chocolate drink which is typical in many coffeeshops. A layer of foam appears on the top.
Moving to something fruity, the Pinky Guava Frappe (RM13.00) is made from thick guava cordial (not fresh guavas) to pack a refreshing chilling punch. As for the Macho Mango Frappe (RM13.00), this drink is named so to counteract the feminine name of the its partner.
Our sweet tooth cravings are duly satisfied with the availability of cheesecakes. Unlike most places, the cheesecakes at The Alley are unbaked but instead refrigerated. Therefore, the cakes are best consumed when still cold. Owing to the lack of kitchen space, the number of choices is rather limited. Cakes are sold by the slice, roughly 1/12th of an entire cake. Whole cakes are also available but advance ordering is appreciated.
The Strawberry Orange Cheesecake (RM10.00) is the crowd favorite tonight. Made freshly from a pleasant blend of citrus and strawberry essence, the cake is topped with marshmallow in the shape of whipped cream. The combination of fruity delights and marshmallow is simply irresistible that we had to agree that a single slice is simply not enough to go around.
The Lemon Cheesecake (RM10.00) carries a mild tangy flavor reminiscent of sour lemons. In spite of this, I find the cake very enjoyable too. The slice of fresh lemon is provided alongside, but think it is meant for visual appeal rather than anything else.
As for the Black And White Cheesecake (RM10.00), the chocolate base is interspaced with small pockets of dark and white chocolate chips. This is exactly what any self-respecting chocolate addict desires. Otherwise, I feel that its sweetness is simply too overwhelming for the tongue.
Another personal favorite of mine comes in the form of Dirty Chai Cheesecake (RM10.00). This cheesecake is littered with chai Indian spices, hence appears "dirty" in outward appearance. Due to its pungent scent and flavor, some people may be uncomfortable with this dessert. Nevertheless, I still find it within acceptable range. Although special in nature, I very much prefer several of the other cheesecakes earlier.
Last but not least, Ping revealed a secret beverage not available on the regular menu: Dirty Chai Coffee (RM11.00). This drink is made from espresso and chai spices with a pinch of cinnamon at the end. It is an enjoyable alternative from the usual coffee choices.
Embracing a trending café concept, The Alley also features a section with clothing on sale: Pestle & Mortar, a designer brand from Kuala Lumpur. Merchandize is placed here on consignment basis, so there is a decent stock of sizes for each design.
I think The Alley is certainly an interesting café for anyone with an affinity for fine espresso. The availability of cronuts, churros and non-baked cheesecakes makes this a unique eatery for the adventurous diner.
Name: The Alley
Address: 5, Lorong Stewart, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-3879
Business hours: 12:00pm-12:00am
Website: https://www.facebook.com/thealleypenang
Coordinates: 5.41846 N, 100.33834 E
Directions: From Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, turn into Lorong Stewart, the narrow lane beside Kuan Yin Temple. The Alley is located on the left before Lorong Stewart becomes a one-way street. Street parking is available along Lorong Stewart and Lorong Muda, but may be in short supply during certain hours.