Food Connection

Special thanks to Food Connection for extending this food review invitation.

Food Connection is an Ipoh-based startup venture which aims to promote traditional homemade food across Malaysia. This goal is accomplished through its online shopping portal, which is very easy to use. It is so easy, a caveman could do it. Perhaps a caveman with a computer or phone, that is to say.
Food Connection works with popular food sellers to make their wares available nationwide. There are currently over 30 brands in Penang, Klang Valley and Ipoh. Many of these brands are relatively unknown outside their home states, so Food Connection attempts to bridge this gap.
For example in Penang, Him Heang (馨香) has only one outlet to date, making it very difficult for out-of-state customers to purchase their pastries - until now.
Also on board Food Connection's delivery network is Ming Xiang Tai (名香泰饼家), another established pastry brand in Penang.
The streamlined website allows anyone to purchase their favorite food from the comfort of their homes. Long gone are the days when one has to travel to the physical shop, stand in line, and only to be disappointed that the desired item has been sold out. With the click of a mouse, the Food Connection gets rid of this hassle.
At the checkout page, you may include a personalized message for the recipient (if the items are to be delivered to a third party). This is a great way to surprise your loved ones with thoughtful and nostalgic gifts. Payment can be made either by credit card or through online banking.
Merchandise from any seller can be delivered directly to any address in Malaysia. Delivery fee starts from RM15.60 as long as all items originate in the same zone (Penang, Klang Valley or Ipoh). Food Connection engages a courier service which specializes in speedy and careful package handling.
To understand Food Connection better, I ordered several items through its website. Here is what I received at my doorstep several days later.
Him Heang (馨香) is one of the oldest pastry shops in Penang. Its signature item is Tambun Biscuit (淡汶饼, RM17.90), which comes in a box of 32 pieces.
Tambun Biscuit is made from wheat flour, sugar, green beans, fried onion, vegetable oil and salt. Beyond its lovely crumble is modest sweetness which delights the mouth in a rewarding manner. If needed, the cookie can be reheated in an oven to improve its flavor.
Tow Sar Bing (咸豆沙饼, RM8.80) is packaged in a paper roll which contains 5 pieces. The ingredients of this cookie are similar to Tambun Biscuit.
Also included in my order are Beh Teh Saw (马蹄酥, RM11.90) and Qing Tang Bing (清糖饼, RM9.90), which come in boxes of 8 and 6 pieces respectively. In particular, I like the sweet taste of sticky molasses inside Beh Teh Saw.
As for Ming Xiang Tai (名香泰饼家), my choice is the Six Prosperity Pastry (六福酥饼, RM49.90). The cookies are packaged in a nice box, which makes them a nice gift.
There are 6 different types of pastries in the box: Shredded Coconut With Glutinous Rice Pie (年糕椰蓉酥), Durian Pie (溏心榴莲酥), Green Tea Pie (溏心绿茶酥), Peanut Butter With Lotus Paste Pie (花生莲蓉酥), Chicken Floss With Lotus Paste Pie (鸡肉丝莲蓉酥) and Pineapple With Mango Cube Pie (凤梨芒果酥). There are 2 pieces for each type. As per tradition, Ming Xiang Tai makes all pastries by hand.
Food Connection's online portal is available around the clock. The weekly cutoff is at 10:00am every Tuesday. Ordered items usually arrive within the same week. For further enquiries, Food Connection can be reached by phone (012-345-6901) or via email. In addition, get first-hand updates on Food Connection's latest offers through its Facebook page or Instagram account.

Name: Food Connection
Address: 47, Jalan Foo Shin Kai, Taman Victoria, 30250 Ipoh, Perak
Contact: 012-345-6901
Business hours: N/A
Coordinates: N/A
Directions: N/A

Kim Tan Garden Cafe

Special thanks to Kim Tan Garden Cafe for extending this food review invitation.

Kim Tan Garden Cafe (盛满园饮食坊) is an al fresco (open-air) hawker center at Auto-City. Formerly called Xuan Garden (轩庄), the place has been given a new lease of life with substantial landscaping and beautification. The ambience is particularly romantic after sunset, especially with lighted Chinese lanterns dotting the treetops.
The place is well-maintained and is reasonably clean despite its outdoor setting. Dining tables, made from solid wood, are arranged in well-ventilated gazebos and lean-to shacks. The latter is decorated with wine pots of various sizes, giving the impression of a classical Chinese tavern (客栈) that is commonly featured in martial art movies.
The drinks counter offers all sorts of drinks that one would expect at a hawker center. But instead of taking shortcuts, the proprietor opts to prepare drinks from scratch. For example, green tea is brewed from actual tea leaves as opposed to powdered tea. Rojak (RM4.00) also comes from the drinks counter. The rojak uses shrimp paste (虾膏) dressing with youtiao (油条), crushed peanuts and several types of fresh fruits.
One of the most popular stalls here is Kim Papa Curry Seafood (咖喱海鲜). Similar to the dining style at Paper Lobster, cooked seafood is spread over a large sheet of banana leaf on the tabletop. The seafood is cooked in savory gravy, resulting in mouthwatering aroma as soon as food reaches the table. Despite being spicy, the gravy tantalizes the palate with its sweet, pleasant flavor.
The basic package (RM60.00) comprises of one brown crab (肉蟹), 6 to 8 pieces of large shrimps, clams (蛤蜊), squid rings, corn on the cob, potatoes and okra (lady's fingers). These ingredients make excellent use of the gravy. The seafood is extremely fresh because it is sourced from the market every morning. In fact, crabs are kept alive until orders are placed.
The basic package is ideal for 2 persons. For larger parties, just add RM30.00 per person so that food portion will be increased proportionately. Each person is given 4 pieces of homemade mantou (馒头). Although gloves are provided, don't hesitate to use your bare hands. After all, the food is finger lickin' good.
If you are not craving for seafood today, check out Ah Hean Bak Kut Teh (阿贤肉骨茶, RM13.90). Served in a claypot, the stew consists of pork delicacies such as pork ribs (猪排骨), pork belly (五花肉), pork intestines (粉肠), pork stomach (猪肚) and pork meatballs (猪肉丸).
The herbal soup is infused with medicinal goodness of 32 different herbs including red dates (红枣), wolfberries (枸杞), American ginseng (洋参), poor man's ginseng (党参), dong quai (当归), Szechuan lovage (川芎), scented Solomon's seal (玉竹) and Chinese liquorice (甘草). As tempting as it is, go easy with the soup because your body may not be able to cope with such strong herbal essences.
Meanwhile, there is a Thai stall which specializes in Lemongrass Fish Head Steamboat (香茅鱼头火锅, RM35.00).
Heated by glowing charcoal inside a metal claypot, the milky soup is loaded with John's snapper (红皂), taro (芋头) and tofu skin (腐皮). I like the rich taste of the soup to the last drop.
Another special dish from the same stall is Pattaya-Style Vegetable Fern Salad (巴提亚巴菇菜, RM15.00). The vegetable is called "pucuk paku" in Malay and is commonly eaten in Southeast Asia. Pucuk paku is stir-fried with onions and garnished with crispy strips of squid. The tangy seasoning is somewhat similar to som tam (ส้มตำ) in Thai cuisine.
Crispy Fried Squid (脆炸苏东, RM15.00) is a scrumptious dish indeed; once you get started, there is no turning back. The crispy batter enhances the squid's freshness but does not attempt to steal the limelight.
Spicy & Creamy Clams (奶辣咖巴, RM15.00) is stir-fried with unique yogurt-like sauce. Flavored with curry leaves and bird's eye chili, this clam dish is worth trying especially if you love to spice things up.
I personally recommend the Fried Bitter Gourd With Salted Egg (咸蛋炒苦瓜, RM15.00). The salted egg coating provides scrumptious crisp, making this dish so appealing to my palate. Bitter gourd is cut into thin slices to prevent its bitterness from ruining the overall taste. In fact, I initially thought that the slices were made from eggplant.
As for desserts, another stall called "I Love Special Pancake" (我爱加料曼煎糕) sells various types of "ban chean kuih" (曼煎糕). The batter for this Nyonya-style crispy pancake is made from flour and eggs. A thin layer of batter is applied to the surface of a hot pan, causing it to solidify into a crispy shell.
The shell is typically filled with crushed peanuts, sweet corn and sugar, and then folded over like a taco. Other popular fillings are banana slices and chocolate sauce (RM3.00).
Kim Tan Garden Cafe has around 18 stalls in total, so these dishes are only the tip of the iceberg. This hawker center is certainly a hidden gem at Auto-City because it is still not well known outside the local neighborhood.
Name: Kim Tan Garden Cafe (盛满园饮食坊)
Address: FK, Jalan Perusahaan, Auto-City, 13600 Juru, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-470-0571
Business hours: 6:00pm-12:00am, closed on 1st Monday of the month
Coordinates: 5.33694 N, 100.42638 E
Directions: From the North-South Expressway, take the Bukit Mertajam exit and head west. Turn right at the end of the road, and then take the next left turn to arrive at Auto-City. Kim Tan Garden Cafe is located behind Shop-In D' Park. The closest parking lot to the hawker center can be reached by crossing the bridge behind Pizza Hut. Parking is free of charge.

Eat Scream

Special thanks to Eat Scream for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Directly opposite of Noordin Street House is a modest eatery called Eat Scream. Due to its proximity to 1st Avenue Mall, this family business at Lebuh Noordin is popular among office workers on weekdays.
The signature dish here is Indonesian Nasi Lemak With Rendang Chicken (RM13.80). Served on weaved rattan platter, this dish is formulated based on a recipe from the proprietors' maternal grandmother in Medan. In Indonesia, this dish is more commonly known as "Nasi Uduk", which literally means "mixed rice".
Indonesian nasi lemak revolves around santan- (coconut milk) infused rice seasoned with pandan leaves, lemongrass, cloves, kayu manis Cina (Chinese cinnamon) and other spices. But unlike its Malaysian counterpart, the Indonesian version does not rely too heavily on santan. This explains why the large heap of rice does not feel too surfeiting.
Another difference between Indonesian and Malaysian nasi lemak is the type of chili sauce. The local Malaysian version focuses on savory belacan (fermented shrimp paste), whereas the Indonesian sauce - called "Sambal Lado" - appears fresher and carries sweet-cooling sensation. At Eat Scream, a fresh batch of sambal lado is prepared every week.
Also included is a piece of rendang chicken thigh and drumstick. Braised in thick gravy, the chicken presents more savoriness than spiciness. There are also stir-fried yardlong beans, corn, capsicum and shrimps in fermented soybean paste (豆酱). Other items are hard-boiled egg, sliced cucumber, fried anchovies, roasted peanuts and fried onion. For a single person, the food portion is quite filling.

As for snacks, Salad O Pocket (RM7.80) is a new item on the menu. The crispy pieces are essentially youtiao (油条). The youtiao goes through two stages of frying, resulting in dual layers of crispiness.
On the side is a cup of mayonnaise-based sauce. This sweet-tangy emulsion serves as dipping sauce for youtiao.
Gado-Gado (RM8.80) is an Indonesian mixed salad comprising of boiled egg, tofu, potato, long beans, cucumber, bean sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, crackers and fried onions. Individual items are brought together by spicy peanut dressing that tantalizes the tongue in a playful manner. This dish is not listed on the regular menu because it may not be available every day.
As for specialty drinks, the 3 types of Traffic Light (RM7.80) are Red Stop, Yellow Ready, Green Go. Using carbonated soda as the base, the drinks are flavored by chipped pieces of popsicles (冰棒) called "Ice Ganefo". The different colors of Traffic Light are provided by strawberry, pineapple and cucumber-lime respectively. Actual fruits are used.
Ice Ganefo is named after Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), a sporting event that was held in Indonesia at the height of the Cold War (pun is not likely intended). The popsicles are also sold for RM2.00 per stick. There are roughly 20 different flavors in total. Once popular in rural areas where commercial ice cream was not available, it is increasingly rare to find homemade popsicles nowadays.
Bubur Cha-Cha (RM5.80) is a traditional Nyonya (Peranakan) dessert that has entered Malaysia's mainstream cookbooks. At Eat Scream, this sweet dessert is only available on Fridays and Saturdays due to the lengthy preparation process.
To prepare this dessert, coconut milk and pandan leaves are boiled to produce sweet, milky syrup. The thick soup also contains banana slices, taro (yam) and three different colors of sweet potato (yellow, orange and purple). Meanwhile, the translucent jelly is made from tapioca flour with food coloring.
Although there aren't many Indonesian restaurants in Penang, Eat Scream's Indonesian nasi lemak is able to convince me that Indonesian cuisine has a unique character of its own. I think it is worthwhile your time to try this signature dish. If I were to nitpick, one minor blemish during my visit is the "oily" state of air in the restaurant. This is due to the enclosed nature of the kitchen. Perhaps the ventilation system should be improved.

Name: Eat Scream
Address: 66, Lebuh Noordin, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-499-8807
Business hours: 12:00pm-2:30pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm, closed on Sundays
Coordinates: 5.41164 N, 100.33109 E
Directions: From Lebuh Mcnair, turn right into Lebuh Noordin. Eat Scream is approximately 30 meters on the right, just opposite of Noordin Street House. There are ample street parking spaces on both sides of Lebuh Noordin.

Garden Cafe

Special thanks to Golden Sands Resort for extending this food review invitation.

Golden Sands Resort is a 4-star resort within the same compound as Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa. Between the two properties, the former leans, to a greater degree, towards casual and family-friendly vacationing. For example, Golden Sands Resort has a modest-size water park next to the beach. Guests with children should find hotel amenities useful as their kids will be fully occupied throughout their stay.
There are two major restaurants at Golden Sands Resort: Garden Cafe and Sigi's Bar & Grill. The former's al fresco concept takes advantage of the cooling breeze from the sea. Buffet is served every evening at Garden Cafe, except on Sundays where it is moved to the beachside Sigi's. One of the latest menus is the Around The World Buffet Dinner that is held at Garden Cafe every Thursday from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.
As the name implies, the buffet covers a particularly diverse range of cuisines from various nations. For example, the soup choices are Minestrone Genovese and Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup. Freshly baked bread and rolls are provided to go with soups.
Marine delicacies are smoked salmon, large shrimps and mussels. Seafood is presented on ice to maintain freshness.
At the carvery, the main attraction is Roast Beef with flavorful spice rub and Yorkshire sauce. Meanwhile, Roasted Chicken is seasoned with rosemary grown in the resort's in-house spice and herb garden. Both meats are topped with grilled bell peppers and onion. Condiments include black pepper reduction and mushroom sauce.
Indian-Muslim cuisine plays an important role in shaping Malaysia's national identity. For example, Roti Canai is wildly popular among Malaysians from all walks of life. The same can be said for the Chicken Murtabak. As per tradition, these pan-fried street foods are accompanied by dhal (lentil gravy) and tamarind-infused fish curry.
As the largest ethnic community in Penang, the Chinese also contribute a fair share in today's buffet. Compared to many cultures, Chinese cooking tends to be milder in taste and focuses on well-rounded flavors. An example is Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables which is cooked with oyster sauce.
For a taste of local Penang cuisine, Char Koay Teow (炒粿条) is one of the state's specialties. This popular dish uses flat rice noodle and is stir-fried with garlic, shrimps, fishcake, bean sprouts, garlic chives, soy sauce and chili paste. Overall, the noodle is oilier than what I like to see.
Diners who prefer soup-based noodle can also indulge in another popular street food: Penang Curry Mee. Typically, a mixture of egg noodle and rice vermicelli (米粉) is used. Other ingredients provided are shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, yardlong beans, pea pods, fried shallot and chopped scallion.
Western cuisine is represented by Lasagna Al Forno and Chicken Cordon Bleu. Cordon bleu is made from rolled breast meat and cheese. The roulade is coated with bread crumbs and pan-fried to produce golden, crispy coating. This dish goes well with Rémoulade sauce.
Another section of the buffet is dedicated to pasta. Pasta choices are spaghetti, capelli d'angelo (angel hair), macaroni, fusilli and tagliatelle. There are different cooking styles: bolognese, napolitana, marinara, carbonara and pesto. In addition, thin-crust pizzas also make their appearances.
Moving on to the Middle East, Egyptian Grilled Shawarma is prepared using pita flatbread that is stuffed with chicken and other vegetable fillings. Chicken is roasted on a vertical rotating rotisserie with a heating element on the side. Thanks to its unique texture, the pita is tasty on its own.
One of my favorite sections of any buffet is the cheese platter, assuming there is one to begin with. Granted, the selection of cheese at Garden Cafe may not be as bountiful as Spice Market Café. But this does not deter me from sampling several pieces of fine cheese here.
Adjacent to the cheese platter is the salad bar where several types of ready-made salads are presented. Notable ones are Mussel & Smoked Salmon, Boiled Chat Potato, Lebanese Tabbouleh and Sicilian Pasta Salad.
Another prominent aspect of this evening's buffet is the pastry section. This section is presented with an attractive array of cakes, pies, tartlets, French pastries, pudding, mousse and strudel.
Echoing my remarks on Spice Market, the pastries at Garden Cafe are impressive in their own right. Besides having elaborate icing, the items are prepared from premium ingredients. Despite being served in a buffet setting, the quality of pastries here is well above the typical bakery shop.
One of my personal favorites at the pastry section is the Tiramisu. The soft custard of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, eggs, cocoa and mascarpone cheese are showered with fine cocoa powder.
As for something more cottage-style, Banana Bread & Butter Pudding is a good bet. The pudding is garnished with dried cranberries and almond chips, while vanilla sauce is provided on the side.
Last but not least, the desserts section features a colorful variety of fresh tropical fruits, namely pineapple, honeydew, papaya, red watermelon, yellow watermelon and jackfruit (nangka).
As part of Shangri La's family-friendly initiative, the buffet includes a Kids Corner where children-friendly meals are served. These include chicken nuggets, sausages, French fries, heart-shaped sandwiches, and spaghetti in tomato sauce.
Given that many children love chocolate, there is also chocolate fondue at the Kids Corner. Marshmallows on skewers are provided. Chocolate milk and orange juice are also available.
The Around The World Buffet Dinner is priced at RM98.00 net. There is no children price because kids under the age of 12 dine for free (limited to one child per paying adult). In addition, senior citizens enjoy 40% discount off the standard adult price.

Name: Garden Cafe
Address: Golden Sands Resort, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-886-1911
Business hours: 6:30am-11:00pm
Coordinates: 5.47657 N, 100.25110 E
Directions: Driving from George Town and upon arriving Batu Ferringhi, Golden Sands Resort is located on the right at the first traffic junction. The main entrance to the hotel is located slightly after the junction. Garden Cafe is located on the west wing just beside the lobby.