Sunday, January 20, 2008

Restaurant Golden Kitchen, Dataran Sunway

Brothers at work

Seow siblings Mun Ho and Woon Woon combine their skills at hot dishes and dim sum to keep the customers coming back for more, writes TAN BEE HONG.

IT’S just round the corner from a big Toyota showroom in the commercial square. The car sales personnel often drop into Restaurant Golden Kitchen for lunch and dinner. After all, the food is good and the prices reasonable — surefire recipes for a successful food outlet.
Restaurant owners, the Seow brothers, have a perfect working partnership. Younger brother Woon Woon, 25, concentrates on dim sum while big brother Mun Ho, 35, handles everything else — from rice, noodles and hot dishes.

With the Golden Kitchen, you need not fear having a dim sum craving at 9pm as this is one place where the little delicacies are offered throughout the day on weekdays and for breakfast and lunch on Sundays.

Though the items are not in the regular menu, there are pictures of some of them on the back and the staff can tell you what special dim sum Woon Woon has come up with for the day. Dim sum orders are a la carte to ensure everything is fresh and reaches your table hot.

Popular staples are har gau, xiu mai, lor mai gai and bao. But there are other signatures too like crystal dumplings and Shanghainese xiu loong bao. The xiu loong bao are topped with sharks’ fin and served with black vinegar and shredded ginger. Watch out for the steaming hot soup encased in the pastry skin or you’d risk scalding your lips.

I love the har gao and crystal dumplings. These are filled with very fresh whole prawns — sweet and crunchy.

The Seows have a chili sauce to go with dim sum, made for them by a supplier in Seremban. Unlike commercial chili sauce, this one has a good texture and is bursting with flavours of chili and garlic.

Woon Woon says: “We offer a good variety of dim sum everyday and more on weekends as many customers like to come in and have dim sum for breakfast or brunch.”
The brothers apprenticed themselves to Chinese sifus when they were in their teens and have garnered years of experience in the kitchen.

“We weren’t good in our studies, so we decided to learn a trade instead,” says Mun Ho. “Then I began to find cooking really interesting and I have never looked back since.”
Inspired by his brother, Woon Woon also decided to establish himself in the kitchen but he found he was better at the intricacies of dim sum. Now he produces delicately shaped dim sum like goldfish and rabbits on Sundays “as lots of families with young children come in and the kids love such figurines”.

Meanwhile, Mun Ho has his hands full with the hot kitchen, cooking, steaming and boiling. The menu is pretty extensive and lots of customers come in for the dishes to go with rice. These come in three sizes, so two people can comfortably order a couple of dishes without paying for food they cannot finish. Prices start from RM6. Otherwise one can order individual dishes like rice topped with deer meat, kung po (dried chili) chicken, black pepper chicken, or fried rice and all types of noodles — from Cantonese fried to Hong Kong fried noodles.

The Crab Meat Fried Rice (RM10) had chunks of shelled crab meat in it, not the fish-based crabsticks that many outlets pass off as crabmeat. Really tasty, with crunchy bits of sweet peas and egg.

But if you come in a group, it’s best to order dishes. Start with a soup and egg or vegetables. Mun Ho does some neat tofu dishes. He makes his own tofu which is silky smooth and has a lovely flavour. His Bean Curd With Turnip (RM10) is irresistible after the first mouthful. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the tofu is topped with a combination of fried garlic, onions and chopped preserved turnip. To these, he adds lashings of soya sauce that he has cooked with other ingredients for better flavour. I could have happily finished the whole serving by myself if there weren’t other temptations on the table.

The menu has a dish described as Butter Cream Lobster but you can substitute the lobster with prawns. Unlike the more common style of butter prawns which is dry, Mun Ho’s version comes with a bit of cream sauce fragranced with curry spices and curry leaves. Very mildly hot, even children can eat it. The prawns are naturally very fresh and slit along the back to make them easier to shell.

Golden Kitchen has a “flexible” menu and requests to substitute a main ingredient for another are always entertained. For instance, we love the flavour of Sichuan Steamed Fish-head but would rather not have fish-head, so Mun Ho obligingly uses tilapia instead.

This is one of Mun Ho’s very own recipes using an explosive sauce with about a ton of dried chili and pork crackling. With this dish, you can smell the aroma even before it arrives at your table or you salivate as the waiter walks past your table with it. The thick sauce is delightfully scrumptious, with the crackling giving a good contrast to the soft, sweet fish.

Apart from seafood, Golden Kitchen has lots of meat dishes — from frog to deer meat, chicken and pork. Sam Pui (Three Cups) Chicken (RM12) is cooked with three types of Chinese wine. It’s flavoursome but what I really am in love with is the Red Wine Pork (RM15).

For this, Mun Ho uses an unusually meaty cut of ribs, so every bite is a satisfying mouthful. Each chunk of meat is coated with a wonderful red sauce. “We use French red wine,” says Mun Ho. “That’s what gives it the taste and aroma.”

The sauce that clings to the meat is sweet, but just perfectly so and the meat is tender and succulent to the very bone. There is nothing pretentious about Golden Kitchen. Nothing pleases the Seow brothers more than the sighs of satisfaction from their customers.

Decor is kept minimal, with tiled floors and wooden tables and chairs. A bamboo partition of sorts separates the smoking area from the rest of the tables which are well placed apart, so there’s plenty of walking room.

Golden Kitchen opens daily from 10am to 3pm and from 6pm to 10pm. On Sundays, it opens at 9am to cater to the dim sum crowd.

RESTAURANT GOLDEN KITCHEN (non-halal) 15-1 Jalan PJU 5/18, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, Selangor Tel: 03-6140-1811

Prime Grill Room, Crown Princess Hotel

Pleasures of three

Trilogy is the presentation of a dish in three ways, tripling the senses of sight, smell and taste in one order, writes TAN BEE HONG

It’s the power of three at the Prime Grill Room at the Crown Princess Kuala Lumpur as the pleasures of dining

Yes, it’s Trilogy of Food according to the hotel’s executive assistant manager Darren Tey. For every item ordered, you get it in three different ways, tripling your senses of sight, smell and taste.

Tay says that most places only serve food in one style. “If you order a steak, you get it either with black pepper sauce or mushroom gravy,” he says. “But why stop at one? Isn’t it more pleasurable to have more than one flavour at one sitting?”

Putting a great deal of thought into that, he and his team decided to give customers triple the pleasures with three different flavours each time.

So, for an order of steak at Prime Grill Room, you get a grilled medallion of beef with baked polygon potato, butternut and carrot. But the steak is cut into three portions and each part is topped with a creamy watercress sauce, light butter scotch sauce and roasted pepper sauce.

It’s not just the beef. Appetisers, soup, fish and lamb and dessert are also give the triple treatment in two four-course set menus priced at RM120++ and RM160++ (with three glasses of wine).

At a sampling of the Trilogy menu, we start with scallops. Three succulent scallops are presented on a plate, prettily arranged with one surrounded by capers and pinenuts, the second with anise cream and the third well wrapped up in wantan skin, deepfried and topped with hollandaise sauce.

The scallops are cooked just right, leaving them translucent and juicy. The pinenuts give it a crunch while capers a strong aroma.

The anise sauce is subtle while the wantan scallop is deliciously hot.

Next came asparagus triplets, two with toppings of herbed hollandaise sauce and mornay sauce. A third is wrapped in phylo pastry and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. While the first two are blanched, the third asparagus shoot is baked to allow the pastry and cheese to bloom in aroma.

The Trilogy menu offers two types of soup — chicken and tomato — served in dainty espresso cups.

If you like it spicy, you’d love the tomato. There’s a thick, creamy one with juniper berries and another with strong flavours of Indian spices. I love the third, a clear tomato tea made with strips of sundried tomato.

But on the whole, I tend to lean in favour of the chicken soup. Here, you can start with a cold chicken consomme to freshen the palate or leave it to the end to clean the tastebuds.

The second is a lovely clear soup with subtle hints of American ginseng (fa kei sum). The third is much stronger in taste and aroma. Chopped sweet basil lends it the flavour and aroma, which surprisingly, does not clash with the equally strong aroma of serai (lemon grass).

For main courses, there’s a choice of beef, lamb or fish. The lamb comes with fries made with pumpkin and flavoured with rosemary, minty cucumber cubes and buttered chickpeas. But it’s the sauces that gives you that triple sensation (picture). There’s Californian raisin sauce, dried apricot sauce and sundried tomato sauce.

Fish lovers would enjoy the panfried cod fillet, served with veils of crispy potato, baby carrots and asparagus. The sauces too, I feel, complement the mild cod well. There is hazelnut and vegetable pearls, a light lime and wine sauce and a delicious creamy seaweed sauce. The lime and wine sauce does a good job of bringing out the better side of the cod while the hazelnut sauce enhances its flavour with a nutty feeling.

Dessert also has two choices in three flavours. Those who enjoy ice cream and chocolate will love the Three Flavours Ice Surprise. Reminds me a little of the ais kacang ball that was so popular when I was in school. OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit too far but I am thrilled to find, within the ball of chocolate, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and inside the vanilla ice cream is a centre of citrus fruit sherbet.

Or you can opt for crepes in three flavours and served with vanilla ice cream. The soft, silky crepes are served warm, giving a lovely toasty feeling to a night of Trilogy. Three crepes are served with a rich, seductive butterscotch sauce, a citrusy orange sauce and a fresh strawberry sauce made with a whole strawberry.

If you think it ends here, you’re in for a surprise. Right after the surfeit of sensations for the evening, you are presented with a choice of three coffees and teas.

There’s decaf espresso, a pretty strong brew but the absence of caffeine allows pure enjoyment of the coffee without worries.

If you like it normal but strong, espresso forte makes a robust ending and for those who want “kopi kaw”, ristretto coffee is guaranteed to awaken all your senses.

For tea drinkers, there’s peppermint tea, red berries tea and camomile.

Prime Grill Room is open daily for dinner only.

Crown Princess Hotel
Jalan Tun Razak, KL
Tel: 03-2775 1022

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Restoran Nasi Padang Minang, Penang

From The NST

The unassuming facade of International Hotel with
the Restoran Padang Minang on the ground floor
Several kinds of curries are available such
as korma chicken and fish and beef curry
RESTORAN Nasi Padang Minang is probably the longest-running nasi padang stall on Penang island. Another reason for its fame is its authentic padang dishes.

The family-owned business is a stall located in a Chinese coffee-shop at Transfer Road and has been in business since the 1940s. For the uninitiated, nasi padang refers to a style of cooking that originated from Western Sumatra, Indonesia.

Down History Lane

First, here’s a bit of history about Transfer Road to whet our appetite. The area was originally inhabited by the Jawi Peranakan community. A canal linked Transfer Road to the Prangin River, allowing boats to come up to the area.

In the early 20th century, the Jawi Peranakan community moved out and was replaced by Tamil Muslims from Kadaiyanallur. However, pockets of Indo-Malay houses still remain in the area.

In 1867, when the Straits Settlement Government was transferred to the Colonial Office in Singapore, Transfer Road was so named to commemorate the occasion.

Tempting Spread

Owned by Alias Rahman, Restoran Nasi Padang Minang offers 40 dishes of delectable Sumatran delights that have wowed Penangites for three generations.

The array of dishes displayed looks extremely inviting. First, the rice is steamed to perfection — neither too hard nor too soft. With your plate of rice in hand, you are now ready to choose whatever you fancy.

Alias’ wife, Ardaini, has been helping out at her grandfather’s stall since she was 16. She and her team rise at 4am to prepare the food and all dishes are ready by 10am. They are transported to the stall which opens at 11am. During the time of Ardaini’s grandfather, the dishes were ferried on a tricycle. Today, a van is used.

What’s Special

The signature dishes are rendang Minang, fried keli (catfish), ayam bakar (grilled chicken) and crispy fried beef lung. Ooh, the rendang Minang practically melts in your mouth! I also ate acar (pickled vegetables) and sweet potato leaves cooked in coconut milk. They provided a much-needed relief to the richness of the rendang.

For a nice kick, eat the fried keli with sambal belacan. The prawn-with-petai was also a love-at-first bite affair. The list is long, including ikan bakar (fish marinated in tamarind and grilled), cincaru sambal (horse-mackerel stuffed with sambal), sayur lodeh (mixed vegetables in coconut milk), chicken korma, tempe, etc.

Though Padang cooking is characterised by lots of chilies, lemon grass and turmeric, surprisingly, most of the dishes are not very hot.

For salad lovers, there are various types of ulam, young jackfruit, sliced cucumber and several kinds of sambal. There are also other vegetable dishes such as beansprouts in coconut gravy, brinjal in sambal and long beans fried with shrimps.

Drinks served by the coffee-shop operator include all kinds of soft drinks and fruit juices as well as sweet sirap Bandung!

Opening Hours

The stall opens daily from 11am to 9pm.To avoid the crowd, go at 11am when all the dishes are fresh, hot and delicious. Parking can also be a bit of hassle for late-comers.

Restoran Nasi Padang Minang is located in a coffee-shop on the ground floor of International Hotel at 92, Transfer Road, Penang.

Ulek Mayang Restaurant, Pulau Duyong, Kuala Terengganu

From The NST

Fiery Monsoon laksa, nice match to stormy season
Spicy mee mamak with fresh seafood and tofu
The fried rice comes with keropok lekor
“WOULD you like to try our Monsoon Laksa?” the petite waitress asked as I switched my gaze from the pouring rain outside to the menu she handed to me.

Not a bad idea, I thought, as the annual year-end north-easterly monsoon wreaked havoc outside Heritage Bay’s Ulek Mayang Restaurant in Pulau Duyong near Kuala Terengganu.

The menu offered a tantalising list of both local and traditional cuisine. I was especially attracted to the interesting names given to the dishes.

Imagine tucking into a spicy Monsoon Laksa and cooling down with an icy cold Ais Kacang Lambaian Kasih (love wave). I was not sure whether the former could rival the storm raging outside or if the dessert would encourage me to wave lovingly to all present after dinner.

But the laksa it would be for me. My friends Natasha, Din and Husrin decided to have Pulau Redang Special, Heritage Bay Club Lekor Fried Rice and Nasi Lemak Traditional Seberang Takir respectively. Add to that ais kacang, mixed fruit platter and bubur pulut for dessert.

We had a good chuckle over the noodles. Imagine a name like Ah Chew Fried Noodles. To us, it sounded more like “Ah Choo” and we imagined the chef having a tingling sensation in his nostrils and the sudden “wooosh” that would normally follow. So we gave that a miss altogether.

Jumbo Serving

Food arrived in a jiffy, which was surprising considering the packed Thursday evening crowd. The tables were well spaced and the sail-like partitions provided diners with a private dining feeling although practically every table was occupied.

Servings were more than generous. My bowl had twice as much noodles as what I would normally get back home while the ice cream topping on the ais kacang was way beyond the capacity of a normal person, so my friends and I decided to do the natural thing — share!

At the end of the meal, we were really satiated. I enjoyed the rich laksa gravy, heavily laden with deboned fish. It was definitely one of the best I have ever eaten. The keropok lekor that I pinched from Husrin’s fried rice was crunchy and not too oily nor salty. Just the way I like it.

The Pulau Redang Special turned out to be a foot-long chicken sausage served in a warm bun. Although the sausage itself was a bit chewy, we loved the homemade sauce that had a hint of coriander. It took all our concerted efforts to finish the whopper!

The only snag of the day was the bubur pulut hitam panas bersantan. The black glutinous rice was a bit overdone and the santan too diluted.

Natasha’s nasi lemak was prepared using a recipe from the villagers of Seberang Takir, a quaint fishermen’s kampung nearby. It had an aromatic pandan smell and the chicken stew it was cooked in gave it a unique taste. There was also the dried squid sambal and usual side accompaniments of ikan bilis, cucumber, egg and peanuts.

By now, the storm had abated. As we were leaving, I turned around and saw the waitress who had taken our orders. Unconsciously, I waved farewell.

Hmm, was it an after-effect of the Ais Kacang Lambaian Kasih?

Where It’s At

Ulek Mayang Restaurant, located on the ground floor of the main clubhouse, offers all-day dining on local and western cuisine.

Address: The Heritage Bay Club Marina & Resort, Pulau Duyong, 21300 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu. Tel: 09-627 7888, Fax: 09-622 9903, e-mail:, website:

The Green House, Penang

From The NST

The Green House in Muntri Street
Pat and Alan have happily settled in
Impossible Pie with butterscotch topping
IF you are a homesick Aussie in Penang, craving for the familiar taste of Vegemite, don’t fret. A generous spread of Vegemite on two slices of toast is within reach. This and a taste of home-cooked Aussie flavours at the Green House will make you feel right at home.

This little cafĂ© is a haven for connoisseurs of Aussie food, delightful desserts and free advice. Pat and Alan Jones, the affable Aussie couple who owns and operates the Green House, serves a mean menu of sandwiches, pasta, pizza, pies and yummy desserts — dished up with helpful tips and advice.

Pat explains that they are a friendly information bureau for visitors who need tips on places of interest, transport, schools, health care and even on where to buy a size 18 dress!

Aussie Impossible

Customers are always welcomed to enjoy a cuppa and share a yarn with the hosts. If Alan is not busy turning out pizza and pasta dishes and Pat has made her pies and desserts, the Joneses are more than happy to stop and chat.

If, like me, you’re always saving some space for dessert, this is where you can satisfy your sweet tooth the Aussie way. Made with fresh ingredients, Pat’s Impossible Pie and Sticky Date Pudding are synonymous with the Green House.

The signature Sticky Date Pudding is served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The blending of fantastic flavours melting in my mouth is simply heavenly.

As its name implies, it is impossible to deduce what goes into the Impossible Pie but sinking my fork through three delicious layers of this delectable dessert, drizzled with Butterscotch sauce, I am content to just enjoy it.

Second Home

Six years ago, the Joneses ran their own motel business in Victoria, Australia. Then, captivated by TV and magazine advertisements promoting Malaysia’s natural attractions, food, racial unity and diversity, they came to Penang for a holiday.

It was to be the first of many visits and they spent up to four weeks here every three months. But each time, they found it harder to leave and Pat and Alan seriously considered making Malaysia their Second Home. Their plans finally became a reality in 2005.

Today the Joneses are where they want to be — happy and kept busy serving Aussie favourites and dishing out free advice for foreigners who want a better understanding of the benefits of the Malaysia My Second Home programme.

Where It’s At

The Green House is located at 102, Muntri Street, Georgetown, Penang. Open from 9.30am to 5pm from Wednesday to Saturday and from 10.30am to 4pm on Sunday. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Tel: 04-261 0681 or email:

Pictures by PEGGY LOH

Pahn-Thai Restaurant, Langkawi

From The NST

Scenic setting at the restaurant.
Wong won a gold medal at the World
Chinese Golden Chef Competition.
MANY visitors to Langkawi make it a point to ride the cable car to Gunung Macinchang where they can enjoy an unbridled bird's eye view of the surrounding land, including the southernmost Thai islets of Tarutao.

This brings to mind a lovely restaurant that offers great Thai cuisine. No, you needn’t swim across the narrow straits or brave stinging jellyfish to get to Tarutao to satisfy your craving for Thai food. Indulging in such culinary pleasures is much easier than you think.

The Pahn-Thai Restaurant in Berjaya Langkawi Beach & Spa Resort is just a 15-minute walk from the Oriental Village where the cable car is located.

Take a leisurely walk there in the evening as apart from enjoying the scenery along the way, you can also work up a healthy appetite. At the resort lobby, board an open-air van to get to the restaurant on the other side of the property.

The ride is an experience in itself and you can imagine yourself riding a tuk-tuk (taxi) in Thailand. Hold on tight as the driver manoeuvres along the meandering road but keep your eyes open for a picturesque view of chalets in a jungle setting.

Upon arrival, you will need to cross a bridge that connects the main path to a large house-like structure. Enjoy the cool evening sea breeze brushing against your face as you choose the best table for a good view of the glorious sunset.

Chefs On Hand
The menu is very diner-friendly. Look out for little chili icons next to the listings that denote the pedas (hot) level — very useful, especially for those not used to eating chili. Ask for recommendations. If you’re early, the chef himself may come along to help you decide.

Executive sous chef Wong Chin Yee heads a team of three Thai chefs in the kitchen. Wong won the individual hot dish category gold medal at the recent World Chinese Golden Chef Competition.

Thai chefs Hasadee Pooh Pra Khon, Anek Sae Thaw and Dutsadee Khueng Nok Khum have worked at renowned restaurants in Thailand and all over the world!

While waiting for the food to arrive, feel free to walk around and enjoy the famous Langkawi sunset. On a clear day, it is breathtaking to see the evening sky glow as the blazing ball of fire slowly makes its descent below the horizon.

What’s Special
The appetiser to try is Phla Goong or spicy Thai freshwater prawn. It’s not on the menu but the staff will not fail to recommend it to all diners. After all, it is the restaurant's signature dish.

The huge crustacean used is more than thrice the size of prawns we get at the market. Its pincers are gigantic, at least six inches long. Take a bite and you’re immediately stimulated by the liberal use of fragrant kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, lemon grass and a generous helping of tom yam paste. The prawns are succulent and fresh, almost as if they had just been caught.

Yum Som O, a pomelo salad with shrimps and minced chicken, has its origin in eastern Bangkok. In fact, every dish comes from a certain part of Thailand, so a meal here is like going on a Thai culinary adventure without travelling around the country.

Yum Som O, with only one chili icon, is unique as each bite causes the small pomelo sacs to burst and release the sourish juice to combine with the fish sauce and Thai palm sugar.

After this, move on to the southern provinces with Hor Mok Tha Lay or steamed seafood with chili mousse served in a young coconut. Southern Thai cuisine prominently features coconut milk. For this dish, not only is the milk used to cook the squid, prawn, mussels and fish but also the water from the young coconut as it adds to the aroma.

Next is the Chiang Mai-style Pla Kra Phong Yum Ma Muang Sud. Quite a mouthful to pronounce, this is basically deepfried seabass with a mixed mango salad on top. Eat it quickly or you’ll be disappointed. The moist salad, unfortunately, turns the crispiness of the fried fish into something leathery.

Those with a sweet tooth will adore the dessert selection. Top of the list is definitely Tub Tim Grab, a colourful dessert with yellow jackfruit, white santan and ruby red water chestnut.

Night Magic
At night, Pahn-Thai looks like a magical fairyland with its many small hurricane lamps lighting up the place and the walkway linking it to land. Viewed from afar at high tide, it appears to be floating in the Andaman Sea.

Located near the Berjaya Langkawi Beach & Spa Resort's premier chalets on water, it was once a kelong where fishermen came to harvest the bountiful fish. Most of the original structure has been maintained and customers can see what a traditional kelong looks like.

Pahn-Thai Restaurant is open from 5pm to 10.30pm. Come early to enjoy Mother Nature's pre-dinner show of lights, at no extra cost. Reservations are a must. The restaurant is located at Berjaya Langkawi Beach & Spa Resort, Burau Bay, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah. Tel: 04-959 1888, Fax: 04-959 1886, E-mail:, Website: