Shi Fu

Special thanks to Shi Fu for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Relatively hidden from view, Restoran Shi Fu (食府) is the latest eatery to set foot at Bay Avenue. Shi Fu opened its doors for business in September 2014, and serves as the only Sichuanese restaurant the southern half of Penang Island.
The interior décor is elegantly designed with an upscale theme in mind. Light background music provides relaxing ambience, whether it is a family dinner or a corporate lunch. Though the dining section is not particularly large, Shi Fu is capable of hosting over 40 guests.
Shi Fu primarily serves Sichuanese cuisine (川菜), alongside Hunanese cuisine (湘菜) and Fujianese cuisine (闽菜). At the helm of Shi Fu's kitchen is Chef Huang, who is also one of the business partner here. Hailing from the coastal Fujian (福建) Province, Chef Huang is also well-versed with culinary arts from interior provinces, particularly from Sichuan (四川) and Hunan (湖南).
Sichuanese cuisine is somewhat similar to Hunanese, where liberal use of spices is the most prominent feature in both regions. However, both culinary schools are mutually unique in the broader context of Chinese cooking. Sichuanese dishes feature pungent aroma with numbing-spiciness (麻辣), while Hunanese recipes tend to focus on fresh aroma with pure chili-spicy sensation (香辣).

Our host today is Ms. Zelia Qoay, who graciously arranged this food review session. Chef Huang, who is more reserved, relegates himself to the kitchen for the most part. Nevertheless, we are still fortunate to speak with him and learn more about his culinary philosophy.

Our meal started with Shi Fu's signature dish, Spicy Boiled Fish (水煮鱼, RM55.00). This is one of the most iconic masterpieces from Sichuan and Chongqing (重庆). Culturally, the city of Chongqing is very similar to the Province of Sichuan, which explains why both regions share similar cooking styles.
According to Chef Huang, the ideal fish for this spicy dish is tilapia (非洲鱼). The fish only tastes good when it is fresh, therefore the kitchen takes a supply of fresh fish every morning. This particular serving contains one fish and is ideal for 4 to 5 persons.

To prepare this dish, the fish is quickly boiled in water to avoid the texture from disintegrating. Once cooked, it is transferred to a pot of spicy chili oil to absorb the highly-sought spiciness.

As typical in Sichuanese cuisine, the main sources of spiciness are dried chili pepper (干辣椒) and Sichuan pepper (花椒). Other ingredients in this spicy cocktail are potato, cucumber, cabbage, leaf celery, scallion and garlic. Most vegetables serve as counterweight to the spicy broth.
Some people may shy away from this dish due to fear of extreme spiciness. Fret not! Chef Huang is happy to prepare this dish according to customers' palate. Most people should be quite comfortable with medium spiciness. But if thrill-seeking is part of your D.N.A., be sure to request for the authentic hellfire version!

The choice of tilapia is obvious. Only a handful of fish can rival the tilapia in terms of savoriness (鲜味) and refined texture. Its freshness further accentuates mouthfeel (口感). Due to sufficiently thin fish slices, the chili oil penetrates deeply into the flesh, presenting a flavorful gastronomic experience.
Another crowd favorite from Sichuanese cookbooks is Deep Fried Spicy Chicken (辣子鸡, RM30.00). Bite-size chicken chunks is first marinated with salt, sugar, soy sauce and five spice powder (五香粉). Next, the chunks are deep-fried in hot oil until crispy coating appears on the surface. In the second wave, the chicken is stir-fried with various spices (such as dried chili pepper, Sichuan pepper, garlic, onion and ginger) so that the poultry thoroughly absorbs the spicy goodness.
The chicken is served dry and nestled among peppers to retain its fiery aroma. Notice that there are more peppers in the serving plate than chicken itself. Chicken chunks are meant to be picked from the plate using chopsticks; peppers are left behind on the plate. Enhanced by fiery spices, the chicken is delightfully succulent. The tender flesh provides comfortable mouthfeel, making this a gratifying dish indeed.

Taking a detour to Fujianese cooking, one of the most iconic dish is the Pork Ribs (醉排骨, RM26.00). Pieces of pork ribs are first marinated with rice wine, salt and black pepper. Then, the pork chunks are given a coating of tapioca starch (地瓜粉). In a shallow pan of hot oil, the pork is braised with garlic, scallion and soy sauce.
In the end, the dish consists of golden crispy pork chunks with some sauce at the bottom. The use of rice wine lends a unique blend of savory appeal. This dish is best eaten with rice, otherwise the flavor may be overwhelming.

Moving to something less oily, the Steamed Fish (清蒸鱼, RM50.00) is another interesting choice. The choice of fish here is cod (鳕鱼). Its white flesh is palatable even with minimum seasoning. Only soy sauce is used to retain the natural juices, while scallion acts as garnish and provides refreshing breath for this modestly-flavored dish.
Now comes a classic Sichuanese delicacy called Ants Climb Tree (蚂蚁上树, RM16.00). No, this is not exotic entomophagy. It is actually a dish of glass noodle (冬粉) served with minced pork and spicy gravy. This dish is named so because the appearance of minced meat on the noodle resembles an image of ants clinging on to twigs.
To prepare this dish, marinated pork is stir-fried with condiments like onions, garlic, chili pepper and scallion in high heat. The fiery gravy is then poured over pre-soaked glass noodle, allowing the porous noodle to absorb the meaty goodness. I must say that the combination of high heat and proper marinate makes this one of the most enjoyable dish today.

The Scrambled Eggs With Tomatoes (西红柿炒鸡蛋, RM12.00) is popular among students and working people because it is easy to prepare. Scrambled eggs absorb tangy taste of freshly cut tomatoes, while onion serves to enhance the aroma.
A Chinese meal is incomplete without Chinese tea. The house special today is Chrysanthemum Tea (菊花茶, RM4.00), or more specifically winter chrysanthemum (雪菊). Winter chrysanthemum is a special type of chrysanthemum flower which is cultivated from the highlands of Xinjiang (新疆).
The brewed tea is dark brownish instead of the clear yellowish appearance commonly associated to chrysanthemum tea. Unlike regular chrysanthemum tea, this brew is very fragrant and pleasantly smooth. The flowery scent lingers on even after multiple brews.

If tea is not your cup of tea (pun intended), juices are also available from the menu. The Fresh Orange Juice (鲜橙汁, RM5.00) is exactly what the name implies: freshly squeezed from actual oranges. The resulting beverage is foamy and rich in pulp.
Chef Huang's philosophy is to bring fresh and authentic Chinese delicacies (especially Sichuanese) to the tabletop. In the seafood department, Shi Fu only keeps a fresh stock of fish in kitchen. But if the customer brings crabs to the restaurant, Chef Huang is more than happy to prepare a wondrous delicacy from it - Sichuanese style if possible.

Shi Fu offers a special promotion till the end of 2014. For minimum of RM50.00 in a single bill, there is 50% discount for any one of these dishes: Braised Pork (红烧肉) or Mei Cai Pork (梅菜扣肉), Pork Ribs Corn Soup (铜骨玉米汤). These are also Shi Fu's signature dishes, so chances are that you will order one anyway.
Name: Restoran Shi Fu (食府)
Address: C-15-1, Lorong Bayan Indah 3, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-611-9483
Business hours: 10:00am-10:30pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/shifupenang
Coordinates: 5.33739 N, 100.30719 E
Directions: Shi Fu is located at Bay Avenue, the corner unit of an intermediate row of shops. The restaurant faces Lolipot directly, and is on the same row as Kizuna and My Voice Cafe. Although Bay Avenue has ample parking spaces, finding a vacant spot can be challenging on weekends. Fortunately, Shi Fu provides customers a handful of parking spots on the side.

2 comments:

  1. Your blog has good stuff and a pretty wide range of food -which I'm sure will be further expanded :)

    Have you tried Old Shanghai? It's behind Penang Plaza and the food's quite authentic, as far as I could tell. I wrote about it here if you'd like to have a look before you go http://seemoumalaysia.blogspot.com/2014/12/seemou-seekers-visit-old-shanghai-trip-2.html

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, thanks for dropping by and your compliments! :-)

      Roughly how much does it cost at Old Shanghai? Trying to avoid splurging as I am on a limited budget here. :-)

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