Thai BBQ

Special thanks to Thai BBQ for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

There are two hawker centers in Bukit Mertajam by the name of "Fresh Food Court". I have previously visited Fresh Food Court (新时代饮食中心) near Pusat Perniagaan Gemilang. Today, I am at Fresh Food Court (新时代美食中心) at Alma.
There are more than 20 stalls here. Nearest to the entrance is Thai BBQ (泰式烧烤), a stall which specializes in Thai-style barbecued meat. Sourced from Thailand, the meats are marinated using local Thai spices.
At Thai BBQ, the barbecue grill is heated by burning charcoal. The advantage of using charcoal over cooking gas is the tendency to impart "toastiness" to barbecued meat.
One of the signature items here is Thai Grilled Pork With Fresh Milk (泰式烤猪肉, RM2.30). The patty is a mixture of lean meat and tendon, giving the pork somewhat chewy mouthfeel. Meanwhile, the marinade makes the patty quite flavorful. I think it goes well with beer.
Nevertheless, my personal preference is Thai Grilled Chicken With Fresh Milk (泰式烤鸡肉, RM2.50). Like its pork counterpart, the chicken patty is also marinated well. Having said so, I find the chicken's tenderness more appealing to my palate. Thai sweet chili sauce (น้ำจิ้มไก่) and lime are provided as condiments.

Big Fat Sausage (大肥香肠, RM3.00) has the strongest taste among all. In addition, its coarse texture provides multifaceted flavors as the sausage is chewed.
As for Thai Ham Sausage (泰式火腿香肠, RM2.50), there is a subtle yet lingering sense of tanginess reminiscent of cheese. I wonder whether actual cheese is used. Or have I mistaken the taste of ham?

On the other hand, the Thai Sausage (泰式普通香肠, RM2.30) is overshadowed by the other two sausages. Anyway, the sausages are served with lime and mayonnaise.

Several items on the menu may be unavailable because the supply of marinated meats from Thailand is inconsistent. However based on my experience today, I think it is a good idea to let the Thais do what they are good at. Besides vending at this hawker center, Thai BBQ also accepts large orders for private catering and nationwide delivery.

Name: Thai BBQ (泰式烧烤)
Address: 1818, Jalan Alma, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-422-2512, 010-377-1610
Business hours: 7:00pm-1:00am, closed on Mondays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ThaiBBQAlma
Coordinates: 5.33086 N, 100.47616 E
Directions: Fresh Food Court (新时代美食中心) is located next to Jaya Gading supermarket in Alma. Thai BBQ is one of the stalls in this hawker center. There are parking spaces at the front.

Creative Popiah

Special thanks to Creative Popiah for extending this food review invitation.

Ask any Nibong Tebal townsfolk for hawker food suggestions. You are most likely pointed to a hawker center at Jalan Pintu Sepuluh. As locals can vouch for, popular dishes here are nasi lemak, wan tan mee (云吞面) and more. On weekends especially during lunch hour, the place is crowded with customers. Consider arriving earlier if patience is not your strongest suit.
One of the stalls here is called Creative Popiah (创薄饼). The stall is operated by a young entrepreneur who strives to be creative in the menu. While Nibong Tebal has another popiah hawker elsewhere, Creative Popiah differentiates itself by offering non-conventional popiah recipes.
The Creative Popiah (招牌薄饼, RM4.00 for 2 pieces) is similar to the traditional version in most aspects. However instead of using flour skin, the fillings are wrapped in egg skin. The omelette is made extremely thin so that the egg's texture does not dominate the overall popiah. Although I was skeptical whether egg skin is a good idea, I am totally convinced now. Great creativity!
As for popiah fillings, the recipe sticks to traditional ingredients like jicama (sengkuang), egg and lettuce. Meanwhile, fried onion (炸油葱) helps to improve aromatic appeal. Tomato sauce provides a sense of sweetness and prevents the popiah from being too dry.
The stall also offers the conventional style of Popiah Roll (卷皮薄饼, RM3.00 for 2 pieces). As per tradition, the skin is a thin sheet of pancake that is made from wheat flour. The rolls are topped with shrimp paste (虾膏) and fried onion. For better flavor, customers can request for jicama stock. This however makes the skin quite soggy and easily torn. Well, popiah is meant to have very thin skin, isn't it?
Singapore Popiah (新加坡薄饼, RM3.00 for 5 pieces) is very similar to "pie tee" (小金杯) in Nyonya (Peranakan) cuisine. To keep them crispy, the edible cups are fried every morning and kept in airtight containers. The cups are not kept overnight because they may become rancid. Personally, I feel that the cups' appeal outshines the fillings. This is certainly a treat worth tasting.
Chee Cheong Fun (猪肠粉, RM2.60 for 2 pieces) is a recent addition to the menu. Rice flour is made into sheets, rolled up to resemble pig intestines, and then steamed. This is the local version of chee cheong fun, not the Hong Kong version.
Chee Cheong Fun is served with sweet sauce (甜酱), shrimp paste, fried onion, crushed peanuts (花生碎) and black sesame seeds (黑芝麻). Chili paste is also provided, but I prefer to leave this out.

Due to lack of manpower, Creative Popiah prepares limited servings of popiah and chee cheong fun every day. Although the stall opens till 5:00pm, some items may be sold out earlier. For large orders, Creative Popiah accepts advance booking by phone or WeChat.

Name: Creative Popiah (创薄饼)
Address: Jalan Pintu Sepuluh, 14300, Nibong Tebal, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 014-305-4475
Business hours: 11:00am-5:00pm, closed on Wednesdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/mayhui.tan.9
Coordinates: 5.16581 N, 100.47788 E
Directions: From the main road (Jalan Che Ahmad) of Nibong Tebal, turn into Jalan Pintu Sepuluh. The hawker center is located on the left after Nibong Tebal Pai Teik School Alumni Association (高渊培德校友会). Creative Popiah is one of the stalls here. Street parking is available along Jalan Pintu Sepuluh and Jalan Che Ahmad.

Nyonya Nasi Lemak

Special thanks to Nyonya Nasi Lemak for extending this food review invitation.

There is a popular hawker center opposite of Nibong Tebal Pai Teik School Alumni Association (高渊培德校友会). The dozens of stalls here sell different types of food ranging from wan tan mee (云吞面) to popiah (薄饼).
The most recent stall here sells Nyonya Nasi Lemak (娘惹风味蓝花饭椰香那昔鲁玛). This stall is operated by a single mother of 4 children. It is not easy to raise 4 children alone, especially when juggling time to run the stall.
The Nyonya Nasi Lemak is wildly popular among locals. Many dishes are often sold out by lunchtime. It is not uncommon for the stall to close before the 2:00pm mark. Therefore, it is highly advisable to come earlier in order to enjoy more food choices.
There are quite many dishes to choose from. Customers can select their own dishes just like in the case of economy rice (经济饭), or simply go for a combination set such as Blue Rice With Fried Chicken (炸鸡蓝花饭, RM6.00) and Blue Rice With Nyonya Chicken (娘惹风味蓝花饭, RM6.00).
The fried chicken (秘制炸鸡) is coated with batter made from 6 types of flour and 4 types of spice; the recipe is a trade secret. The scrumptious fried chicken is highly addictive. The pleasure begins as soon as its aroma reaches my nostrils. I am also glad that the fried chicken does not feel greasy at all.
Meanwhile, the Nyonya chicken (娘惹风味炸鸡) presents a spicier appeal. Although only moderate in spiciness, the chicken leaves a delectable sense of pungency on the lips. The Nyonya chicken is best eaten with rice because it is salty if eaten directly. It is difficult to determine which type of chicken is better, but I highly recommend that you try both anyway.
Each combination set comes with blue rice (蓝花饭), hard-boiled egg, a type of vegetable, chili paste (sambal), fried anchovies (江鱼仔) and roasted peanuts. White rice (白米), not glutinous rice (糯米), is used here. Rice is dyed using butterfly-pea flowers (蓝花), which the proprietor needs to harvest every day. The stall also accept advance ordering for private events.
Name: Nyonya Nasi Lemak (娘惹风味蓝花饭椰香那昔鲁玛)
Address: Jalan Pintu Sepuluh, 14300, Nibong Tebal, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-485-9640
Business hours: 9:30am-2:00pm, closed on Wednesdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/lim.aikheng
Coordinates: 5.16579 N, 100.47791 E
Directions: From the main road (Jalan Che Ahmad) of Nibong Tebal, turn into Jalan Pintu Sepuluh. The hawker center is located on the left after Nibong Tebal Pai Teik School Alumni Association (高渊培德校友会). Nyonya Nasi Lemak is one of the stalls here. Street parking is available along Jalan Pintu Sepuluh and Jalan Che Ahmad.

The Glenlivet

Special thanks to The Glenlivet for extending this event invitation.

This very evening, The Glenlivet introduces a new bottle of whisky to its Penang clientele: The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve. Held under the posh setting of Thirty Two At The Mansion, there could not have been a better setting for The Glenlivet to launch this latest addition to its fine range of Scotch whiskies.
Whisky is an alcoholic beverage which is fermented from spirit, which in turn is distilled from malted barley. In essence, whisky is solely derived from natural ingredients: barley, yeast and water. Spirit is aged in wooden casks for at least 3 years, but in practice it takes 5 years or longer to produce exquisite whiskies. Older whiskies tend to fetch higher prices, not necessarily because they are "better", but primarily due to their relative rarity.
By law, Scotch whisky must be distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland. This is what The Glenlivet is renowned for. Founded in 1824, The Glenlivet Distillery in Banffshire has earned great prestige for bottling the finest Scotch whiskies of the land. The Glenlivet only produces single malt whiskies, which means every drop in the bottle comes from a single distillery. Aged in first-fill American oak barrels, The Glenlivet has become the benchmark for all Scotch whiskies in the market today.
Each bottle of Scotch whisky, sometimes just called Scotch, is often associated with a guaranteed age. This age statement refers to the youngest drop of whisky in the bottle. Paying tribute to the founder's vision nearly 200 years ago, The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve has been bottled with no age statement. No age statement affords the Master Distiller more degrees of freedom in blending older whiskies with younger ones.
The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve is golden in color and has sweet floral aroma reminiscent of citrus fruits. The combination of balanced flavor and creamy mouthfeel make this whisky quite agreeable even among casual drinkers. Although hardcore Scotch drinkers may prefer their whiskies to be served neat, the 40% alcohol content may be overpowering for others. By adding some water, The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve is able to express its flavors in a multifaceted fashion. The recommended proportion is 3 parts whisky to 1 part water, but the ideal mixture actually varies from person to person.
Other whisky products that people have enjoyed over the ages are The Glenlivet 12 Years Of Age, The Glenlivet 15 Years Of Age, The Glenlivet 18 Years Of Age, and The Glenlivet XXV. There is no absolute consensus on the best age statement; it is understood that each person has his/her own preferred cup of tea.
Name: The Glenlivet
Address: N/A
Contact: N/A
Business hours: N/A
Website: https://www.theglenlivet.com
Coordinates: N/A
Directions: N/A

Texas Chicken

Special thanks to Texas Chicken for extending this food review invitation.

Texas Chicken opens its first outlet in Penang today - the first Malaysian outlet outside Klang Valley. This fast food franchise is known as Church's Chicken in the United States.
Church Chicken was established in San Antonio, Texas in 1952. The first Malaysian outlet opened in Aeon Bukit Tinggi in 2013. All 33 outlets before today were confined to Klang Valley due to logistical concerns - until today's opening of the 34th outlet in 1st Avenue Mall. According the management of Texas Chicken, there are plans to open more outlets in the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia.
There are 2 flavors of fried chicken here: Spicy and Original. The spicy version packs a respectable punch of pungency on the tongue. Texas Chicken differentiates itself from competitors by offering better value for money. For example, each piece of fried chicken is substantially larger than those served at similar restaurants. Chicken is delivered on daily basis, and is double-breaded by hand. As a result, lean meat especially chicken breast meat is considerably more flavorful.
As for finger foods, try some Chicken Tenders. Made from boneless white meat, the chicken fingers are perfect for small children. Like fried chicken, the fillets are also available in Spicy and Original flavors. Customers may choose between two dipping sauces: BBQ and Honey Mustard.
Besides chicken, Honey-Butter Biscuit is another specialty at Texas Chicken. The term "biscuit" here refers to the American lexicon for quick bread, which is usually known as "scones" in England. Compared to traditional English scones, Texas Chicken's biscuits are fluffier and more buttery. A fresh batch of biscuits is baked every 30 minutes to maintain their aromatic appeal.
Side dishes at Texas Chicken include Mashed Potatoes and Coleslaw. Carbonated drinks include unlimited refills - just like how it is practiced in American stores. All things considered, Texas Chicken does not want to nickel-and-dime its customers. Speaking of drinks, I like the soothing sensation when sipping the Southern Sweet Tea.

All Texas Chicken outlets in Malaysia, including this latest one at 1st Avenue Mall, are halal-certified. Although this store is only open for the first day, the public's response is overwhelming!

Name: Texas Chicken
Address: LG-15-17, LG Floor, 1st Avenue Mall, 182, Jalan Magazine, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-370-5594
Business hours: 10:00am-10:00pm
Website: http://www.texaschickenmalaysia.com
Coordinates: 5.41326 N, 100.33129 E
Directions: Texas Chicken is located on the LG Floor of 1st Avenue Mall, right next to Sushi King. 1st Avenue Mall provides multi-storey parking.

Roselle

Special thanks to Lexis Suites Penang for extending this food review invitation.

Located at the heart of Teluk Kumbar, Lexis Suites Penang is the sister property of Lexis Hibiscus at Port Dickson. The hotel greets each arriving guest with an impressive marble-tiled lobby. Fanciful chandeliers hang from the ceiling of the mezzanine. In the spirit of the impending Chinese New Year, the entrance is decorated with festive lanterns and cherry blossom.
Roselle Coffee House is the flagship restaurant of the hotel. From 9 to 26 January 2017, the restaurant is offering Feast Of Prosperity banquet meals. Available for lunch and dinner, there are 3 choices of 8-course meals including salmon yee sang.
Yee sang (鱼生) has become an integral element of Chinese New Year meals in Malaysia. "Yee sang" literally means "raw fish". Fish is considered auspicious because it symbolizes "abundance" (余). Besides raw salmon, Roselle's Prosperity Yee Sang Salmon Fish (鸿运七彩鱼生) also includes jellyfish, seaweed, crackers, daikon, carrots and five spice powder (五香粉).
Lexis Suites Penang does not serve shark fin soup in line with the hotel's commitment to shark conservation efforts. Seafood Soup With Crab Meat & Dried Scallop (大展鸿图) is served instead. The thick soup contains a generous amount of scallops and crab meal, making it very flavorful indeed.
The next dish is Crispy Golden Roasted Duck & Shredded Marinated Duck Meat (富甲在一方). One side of this dish is Chinese-style roasted duck, where its skin is delightfully waxy and crispy. The other half comprises of marinated duck slices served over a bed of jellyfish. Both versions of duck are enjoyable in their own right.
Braised Sea Cucumber With Dried Oyster, Sea Moss, Flower Mushroom & Broccoli (财源滚滚来) is yet another interesting dish. One of its ingredients, fat choy (发菜), is considered auspicious because it sounds similar to "striking rich" (发财) in Chinese. However unlike Vistana's, fat choy in this dish has been assimilated into the gravy instead of being a distinct ingredient.
I am impressed with the Stir Fried King Prawns With Spice & Pepper (彩龙喜迎春). The shrimps are plump and crunchy, making each bite a gratifying experience. There is no black "mass" in the shrimp heads either. This is a hallmark of absolute freshness.
Also hailing from the marine kingdom, the Steamed Grouper With Supreme Soya Sauce With Roasted Garlic (一帆又风顺) is another dish not to be trifled with. Despite its fearsome appearance, the large grouper (石斑鱼) has pleasantly delicate flesh. The fish is served in soy sauce and garnished with coriander.
If the banquet setting feels too rigid for your dining style, consider the Auspicious Buffet from 27 January 2017 to 3 February 2017. The buffet includes complimentary salmon yee sang at each table. For the best dining experience, catch the dinner session on Chinese New Year Eve (27 January 2017) because steamboat is also included in the buffet line-up. There are 5 types of soup such as chicken, fish, herbal, tom yum and Sichuan. Although each pot only holds 2 types of soup at a time, diners are free to switch to different types as frequently as desired.
Seafood is an essential aspect of steamboat. There are various marine delicacies such as slipper lobsters (蝉虾), yabbies (淡水龙虾), white prawns (白虾), flower crabs (花蟹), razor clams (竹蚶), scallops (扇贝), clams(蛤蜊), cuttlefish (鱿鱼) and squids (墨鱼). As for fish, fresh grouper (石斑鱼), red snapper (红鱼), catfish (鲇鱼) and mackerel (鲭鱼) are all available.
Starting January 2017, more seafood items are sourced from local fishermen of Teluk Kumbar. This is part of the hotel's commitment in supporting the local economy of this backwater village.
There are also several types of beef, lamb and chicken to go with steamboat. I prefer the marinated ones as they are the most delectable. For example, bolder-flavored red meats go well with black pepper.
Meanwhile, the more delicate chicken works better with turmeric (kunyit) marinade. Chicken does not need to be cooked as long as beef or lamb.
Besides fresh meat, there are also various kinds of fish balls, prawn balls, meatballs, surimi, sausages and yong tau foo (酿豆腐). Several types of raw noodles are provided too. In addition, mushrooms like shimeji (占地) are great in contributing savoriness to the soup.
Green vegetables include Chinese broccoli (芥兰), romaine lettuce (莴苣) and cabbage (卷心菜). It is wise to add vegetables to the soup early on because they help to impart some degree of sweetness. Meanwhile, lotus roots are special in the sense that they remain crunchy even after being boiled for some time.
There are over a dozen types of sauces and condiments to enjoy with steamboat. Besides soup recipe, another way for steamboat restaurants to differentiate themselves from others is by their sauces.
While waiting for the pot of soup to come to a boil, check out the range of cooked food too. A good place to start is the Lamb Leg Carving. The lamb is roasted till tender but still has some pinkish juiciness at the center. It is served with grilled vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots and onions.
Another interesting dish is Ikan Bakar. The Red snapper (红鱼) is carefully roasted such that its flesh remains reasonably tender. The fish goes well with sweet and sour sauce.
Fans of Japanese cuisine can indulge themselves with fresh sashimi (刺身) and sushi (寿司). Fish used for sashimi are salmon (サーモン), tuna (マグロ), butterfish (白マグロ) and octopus (たこ). Sushi choices are mostly of maki (巻き) and nigiri (握り) types. In fact, there are separate buffet sessions at Umi Japanese Restaurant on the ground floor. For a limited time, each party of 4 persons only need to pay the price of 3.
Like my previous visit, the pastry section of Roselle has a wide range of delectable pastries such as sponge cakes, cheesecakes, petit fours, mousse, custards and jellies. Notably new during Chinese New Year are the fortune cookies (签语饼).
One of my favorite desserts this evening is Strawberry Mousse Cake. I like the creamy consistency of the mousse that does not feel surfeiting. Meanwhile for cake decoration, white chocolate "coins" span the circumference of the cake.
The pastry section also prepares a couple of sponge cake flavors. These fluffy treats are the perfect way to conclude a hearty meal.
Since my previous visit, Roselle Coffee House has been halal-certified. Therefore, Lexis Suites Penang's Chinese New Year banquet and buffet are excellent choices for hosting Chinese New Year celebration meals with coworkers and business partners.

Name: Roselle Coffee House
Address: 28, Jalan Teluk Kumbar, 11920 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-628-2888
Business hours: 6:30am-11:00pm
Website: http://www.lexissuitespenang.com/en/dining/overview/roselle-coffee-house
Coordinates: 5.28702 N, 100.23251 E
Directions: From Bayan Lepas, drive along Jalan Teluk Kumbar towards the intersection with Jalan Gertak Sanggul. Lexis Suites Penang is the tall building on the left just before the intersection. As the only building more than 3 floors in Teluk Kumbar, it is impossible to overlook this hotel. Roselle is located at the Mezzanine Floor, just above the lobby atrium.