Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat

Special thanks to Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat for extending this food review invitation.

Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat (奇香铜碳鱼头火锅) is one of the popular steamboat restaurants at Raja Uda, even though it has not been around for as long as others. The premise was built from the ground up because the preceding structure was dilapidated and unsuitable.
Considering the hot weather nowadays, the air-conditioned ambience is certainly welcoming. There are tables of various sizes for as few as 2, to as many as 12.
According to the proprietors, the intention is to recreate dining experience that has been lost over the generations. The cornerstone of this concept is the steamboat pot. While most restaurants use steel or aluminium versions, Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat uses pots made from copper.
Another aspect that sets Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat apart from other restaurants is the use of briquette charcoal as the fuel for cooking. Made from sawdust, briquette charcoal burns cleanly with hardly any smoke or soot.
Charcoal is added into the central chamber, where it burns steadily due to the convective flow of air from the bottom to the top. To reduce the rate of burning (i.e. power), simply adjust the spout opening to constrict the flow of air.
The restaurant also has special steamboat pots with "imperial" design. These are usually used for birthday celebrations. As copper utensils are getting rarer nowadays, the proprietors have to custom-order them from a supplier in China.
Utensils is only one part of the overall dining experience. Another aspect is the soup base for steamboat. At Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat, the soup is cooked using the heads of grouper (石斑鱼). After stewing overnight, the soup is infused with savoriness of fish, making it so flavorful that some customers just want to enjoy the soup with plain rice!
The rich soup also contains cabbage (包菜), seaweed (紫菜) and tofu skin (腐皮). Evaporated milk (炼奶) and taro (芋头) are also added just before serving. Some people prefer to omit taro, but I think its starchy texture is also enjoyable.
For customers' convenience, Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat has several steamboat sets to choose from. The basic set starts from RM88.00 for 2-3 persons, while the largest one is RM238.00 for 10-12 persons. Today's meal is the RM138.00 set for 4-6 persons.
Each set comes with a complimentary plate of Yam Samosa (芋泥角) as appetizer, as well as chrysanthemum tea (菊花). The amount is proportional to the number of diners.
As far as ingredients are concerned, Grouper Fish (石斑鱼) is the main highlight. The thin slices make short work of cooking. I personally prefer to have grouper fish partially cooked, as the flesh still retains its lovely texture.
If you are a fan of red meat like pork, you should enjoy some Sliced Meat (肉片). Moving forward, the restaurant will be introducing more types of meat like mutton and lamb.
From the marine kingdom, there are fresh Prawns (中虾) and Scallops (扇贝) to satisfy your palate.
Also included are Fish Balls (鱼丸), Meat Balls (肉丸), Shrimp Dumplings (虾饺) and Eggs (鸡蛋).
Taiwan Sausage (台湾香肠) is also appealing to people who love its sweetened minced meat.
Fish Filament (鱼柱) does a good job in withholding its own flavor despite being overwhelmed by the rich soup.
The set meal also includes Baby Corn (玉米仔), Golden Mushrooms (金针菇), Button Mushrooms (蘑菇), Sliced Abalone (鲍鱼片) and Tang O (茼蒿).
The steamboat set is usually enough to pacify every stomach, but there are occasions where there is a tiny bit of vacant space left. This is where the à la carte menu comes in. Some of these items are not included in the steamboat sets.
Deep Fried Fish (炸鱼, RM19.90) is one such example. I never thought I'll say this, but I somehow like this more than the fresh version.
I think the Minced Meat (肉碎, RM4.90) is also nice. Just like fish, I prefer not to overcook pork so that the meat retains its juiciness.
The restaurant provides two types of chili sauce; both are made in-house. The green one is made from green chili peppers and is spicier. Personally, I tend to avoid using too much condiments especially when enjoying good steamboat. This is particularly true at Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat.
Customers may park directly in front of the restaurant or the adjacent shop. There are also additional parking spaces at a nearby car wash center. The center charges RM2.00 per car, but the parking fee can be deducted from the food bill.
Name: Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat (奇香铜碳鱼头火锅)
Address: 4350, Jalan Raja Uda, 12300 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-313-6888
Business hours: 5:00pm-10:30pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/qixiangfishheadsteamboat
Coordinates: 5.43005 N, 100.38382 E
Directions: From Jalan Permatang Pauh, turn right into Jalan Raja Uda. Drive northbound for approximately 2 kilometers. Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat is located on the left, just opposite Caltex gas station. There are parking spaces in front of the restaurant and at the nearby car wash center.

Cha Yen

Special thanks to Cha Yen for extending this food review invitation.

Besides the outlet at Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian), Cha Yen (ชาเย็น) has opened a new outlet at i-Avenue.
This new outlet provides café-style ambience without changing the menu price. According to the proprietor, the intention is to create a place where allow customers can hang out and enjoy their drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.
The drinks menu contains more items than before. New ones like Oliang Yen (โอเลี้ยงเย็น) and Cha Manāw Yen (ชามะนาวเย็น) also make their debut. All drinks are served iced, but there are hot version too.
To keep the taste of drinks as faithful as those sold in Thailand, all ingredients like coffee, tea and chocolate are imported. This also applies to evaporated milk for drinks that require creamer, such as Cha Yen (ชาเย็น).
The same can be said for fruit syrups. The café carries a handful of different flavors like apple, grape and blueberry.
Cafae Yen (กาแฟเย็น, RM5.50) is Thailand's very own iced coffee drink. Like the original stall, this outlet also takes advantage of an espresso machine to speed up the brewing process.
The café has a simple food menu to go with drinks. Nasi Lemak (RM2.50) is prepared by a home-based supplier. Both mackerel and anchovy types are available.
Meanwhile, the basket of Thai Tea Kaya & Toast (RM4.20) is certainly recommended. Hainanese bread is toasted and cut into thick slices. At the side is a saucer of homemade kaya (coconut jam) of unparalleled enjoyment.
The kaya carries a unique sense of sweetness that goes very well with bread. So well that I finished it the last drop! When held near the nose, the kaya carries sweet-smelling aroma vaguely reminiscent of tea leaves. If you are a fan of kaya, be sure not to miss this lovely snack!
Cha Yen works in partnership with Mama-Miya, which also has a presence at Cannon Street (Lebuh Cannon) near Armenian Street. Mama-Miya specializes in coconut ice cream, which is also served in a coconut shell.
Name: Cha Yen (ชาเย็น)
Address: 1-1-53, Medan Kampung Relau, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-441-0041
Business hours: 9:00am-10:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/thaistylechayen
Coordinates: 5.33332 N, 100.29368 E
Directions: Cha Yen is located at i-Avenue, just several shops away from Scotiabank. Street parking is available in front of the shop.

The Royale Bintang

Special thanks to The Royale Bintang Penang for extending this food review invitation.

Besides dine-in restaurants (Sri Tanjung Cafe and The Spice), The Royale Bintang Penang also hosts the Saturday Night Hawkers Delights. Served between 7:00pm and 10:00pm every Saturday starting 26 March 2016, the launching of this weekly buffet coincides with the hotel's 2nd year anniversary.
As the name implies, this buffet centers on hawker-style street food that Penang cuisine is best identified with. One of Penang's favorite stir-fried delicacy is Char Koay Teow (炒粿条), which is made from flat noodles (粿条), shrimps, bean sprouts, garlic chives (韭菜), eggs and chili paste.
Satay or skewered meat is widely enjoyed too. The buffet offers both chicken and beef variants. Turmeric-marinated meat is cooked over burning charcoal, then served with spicy peanut sauce.
Oyster Omelette (蚝煎) or "oo chien" another popular choice at Penang's hawker scene. A mixture of eggs and corn starch is pan-fried with fresh oysters, chopped scallion and chili sauce.
One of my personal favorites this evening is Hainanese Chicken Rice (海南鸡饭). I love the tender and juicy flesh of this nicely boiled chicken.
Lok Lok (乐乐) is another type of street food that is best enjoyed in a communal setting. To enjoy Lok Lok, raw meat and vegetables on skewers are blanched in boiling water around a minute. Typically, there are several types of condiment to go with Lok Lok.
Popiah (薄饼) consists of various ingredients wrapped tightly in a thin sheet of dough skin. The ingredients are typically jicama (sengkuang), bean sprouts, tofu, shrimp paste and chili sauce.
Kebab is a Middle-Eastern delicacy made from lamb, beef or chicken. Specifically for döner kebab, the meat is affixed to a vertical rotisserie, then slowly rotated as it is cooked by an electric heater. As the outer layer becomes cooked, it is shaved off with a sharp knife so that the next layer becomes exposed.
Chicken Kebab (tavuk kebabı) is available today. The meat is stuffed into pockets of pita flatbread, then eaten by hand like a sandwich.
In terms of meaty savoriness, the Mutton Soup (Sup Kambing) has very few equals. However, some sections of mutton are quite fatty, therefore avoid the meat if you just want to enjoy the soup.
Apart from hawker-style street food, the buffet includes several ready-cooked dishes such as Nasi Briyani Ayam. Long-grain basmati rice provides looser and lighter mouthfeel, so it is not as surfeiting as jasmine rice.
If you enjoy seafood, be sure to check out the Stir-Fried Chili Prawns. The shrimps are cooked in sweet-and-spicy sauce, making them delectable indeed.
The buffet line also includes different kinds of salad, tempeh, salted egg, keropok ikan (fish crackers) and smoked salmon.
As for desserts, there are fruit jelly, chocolate mousse and crème caramel. These tidbits are prepared in individual portions and presented on tiered stands.
There are also an assortment of cakes and tartlets that are conveniently prepared in bite-size servings.
For something sweet, check out the various types of Malay kuih such as Kuih Dadar. This pandan-flavored crêpe is filled with grated coconut and palm sugar.
The ubiquitous Teh Tarik is Malaysia's unofficial national drink. Milk tea is "pulled" between flasks so that the drink becomes foamy. This also helps to cool the drink down.
The buffet at Saturday Night Hawkers Delights is priced at RM70.00 per adult. For child or senior citizen, the price is RM30.00. There is 50% discount for adults on the opening night.

Name: The Royale Bintang Penang
Address: 1 & 2, Pengkalan Weld, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-259-8888
Business hours: 7:00pm-10:00pm (Saturdays)
Website: Click here
Coordinates: 5.41689 N, 100.34384 E
Directions: From the ferry terminal at George Town, turn right and drive along Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). The Royale Bintang Penang is located shortly on the left, at the same block as Via Pre and Made in Penang Interactive 3D Museum. There is a small lane right after the hotel, which leads to the main entrance and multi-level car park. At the front desk, restaurant patrons can get their parking tickets validated for a flat rate of RM5.00 per entry.

Penang Road Famous Chao Kuey Teow

Joo Hooi Cafe (愉园茶室) at Penang Road (Jalan Penang) is one of Penang's longest surviving coffee shops that are still popular to this day. Every weekend, the place is packed with customers of local and foreign origin.
The coffee shop was notorious for its controversial policy of forcing every customer to order a drink. However ever since Teochew Chendul took over operation of the entire coffee shop, this policy has been discontinued. On the flip side, most of the former stalls have been asked to relocate and are being replaced by Teochew Chendul's own people.
Penang Road Famous Chao Kuey Teow (槟榔律仁哥驰名炒粿条) is the sole remnant of previous batch of hawkers. Like most stalls of its era, char koay teow (炒粿条) here is served on a sheet of banana leaf for extra fragrance. The portion is quite small for foreigners but it's the norm here in Penang. The dish is priced at RM6.00 and RM5.50 for a standard portion with and without egg respectively. Chicken egg can be substituted for duck egg for RM0.50 more, which I highly recommend.
The noodle dish has reasonably good fiery aroma (镬气). It is quite spicy by default, so if you have a milder palate, remember to request for less chili upfront. Ingredients used are shrimps (虾), cockles (血蚶), Chinese sausage (腊肠), bean sprouts (豆芽) and garlic chives (韭菜). Overall, this stall's char koay teow retains the appealing flavor and aroma which Penang is renowned for.
Address: 475, Jalan Penang, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: N/A
Business hours: 9:30am-6:00pm, closed on Wednesdays

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