Monday, September 17, 2012
Penang Food Trail With Hennessy XO And Chef Michael Han Of Fiftythree
Every once in a while, an invitation comes your way that you somehow know is too good to resist, even if it meant jettisoning your dear family for the weekend. It could be for a stag night in Bangkok, though I am sure I'll never get a visa for that, or the next best thing...A Penang Street Food Trail with Singaporean Celebrity Chef, Michael Han, of Fiftythree, and the fun fun people of Moet Hennessy Diageo, and G2.
The premise of the trip was this, in a nutshell. Chef Michael Han was to savour the various street food delights that Penang has to offer, and "deconstruct" it for a grand sit down Hennessy XO Appreciation Grows Dinner, which will be held on the 28th of September, at newly restored St Joseph's Novitiate along Gurney Drive. How uber cool is that. And we, the motley crew of food bloggers, comprising Superwilson, Taufulo, Sidney of BigBoysOven, and Annabella, and other main stream media people, were really in for a real treat.
Our Firefly flight departed Subang...actually foolishly, while waiting at the airport, due to hunger pangs, most of us had some MacDonalds breakfast, a travesty in itself, if you think about it! Upon arrival in Penang, we were ushered into a huge aircond coach, not unlike tourists, even complete with tour guide. We learnt that Penang used to be called Pulau Kesatu, and till today, Penang still pays "rental" to the Sultan of Kedah. Some unprincely some of RM18,888-00 per annum. I also want to rent an island laidat.
We swing by at the swanky G Hotel, to pick up Chef Michael, and proceed to the first stop, the ever famous Penang Assam Laksa at Cafe Joo Hooi at...
Packed with people, our busload fills the famous kopitiam to bursting. In addition to that, the flutter of the paparazzi and the incongruous bottle of Hennessy XO certainly drew a lot of wondering stares from the rakyat.
The happy participants of the food trail...
This was the object of our desire....a piping hot bowl of Penang's iconic dish. However, to be honest, the best assam laksa I've personally tasted was a home made one...
The inimitable Karen Ong, Marketing Director of MHD.... the girl who calls me Lou Tou..(old bean)
Chef Michael tries his hand at preparing a bowl of assam laksa, and also to give the shutterbugs a photo opp.
The numerous facets of Chef Michael Han, whom women swoon at the sight of....sampling his Assam Laksa. Actually, he comes across as being painfully shy.
The old uncle cooking the laksa looked happy enough, and cheerfully downed his glass of XO. By the way, a glass of XO on the rocks really goes well with this kopitiam fare.
We are given an insight into the lives of the VIPs and Celebrities, for what happens is, an advance scout goes ahead to the next destination, and by the time the entourage arrives, voila, food is served. I could learn to get accustomed to such a lifestyle, I reckon.
Famous Lee Ice Kacang at New World Park....and Pie Tee. I actually added a dash of XO into the ice kacang to see if it did anything, ...nah, not really, it was overpowered by the sweet syrup and stuff. No point wasting good stuff here.
Crunchy pie tee casing with boiled chinese turnip, and their special chilli sauce.
Chef Michael's a good sport, always smiling, despite being jet lagged, and always accommodating with photo shoots etc. I would LOVE to tap that mind to see what was being deconstructed.
Now, the next stop, really fascinated me. It was the famous LINE CLEAR Nasi Kandar. In an alley lane, not exactly the epitome of hygiene, the queue for the nasi kandar is what I envisage at the launch of the new Iphone 5....But of course, ahem, we WERE with VIPs, so did we have to queue with the hoi polloi? No, of course not, we just waited in the comfort of our aircond coach, while the advance party went ahead, ordered the food, and secured us two tables. Tah dahhhh...
Line Clear apparently used to be an alley lane, where garbage trucks plied to and fro, and the marshall will yell, LINE CLEAR for them to reverse. So I was told.
An amazing beef curry...
Simple but nice...fried eggs...crispy on the outside, soft and runny yolks on the inside, achievable only with very hot oil, and an egg swimming in that hot oil...
Kurma chicken. Okay, honestly, the food is above average, but seriously, I don't know what it is that draws the hoards of people. Amazingly, the nasi kandar stall just immediately next door, is empty. Like an ugly sister at the ball, watching everyone coo over the pretty one. Incredible. But I am so grateful for the chance of being able to sample the food without having to queue.
The fler looks like some Hong Kong film star from certain angles.
The token photo of him pottering around with the nasi kandar dishes...
And of course, what is Penang without its famous Char Kueh Teows. Everyone has their own favourite version, mine is actually the Lorong Selamat one with the uncle with the goggles, but this one I have to say is very unique. Not be mention the huge ass prawns...
Kafe Khoon Hiang at Jalan Dato Keramat...Ah Leng's CKT.
Love the seductive way Mel of G2 plonks the XO onto the bottle.
Now, what makes this different, apart from the huge prawns, is that lump of egg like substance on the top left of the plate. Apparently it is actually mantis prawn, probably minced. Very unique.
Michael (by now no need to address him as Chef Michael already la hor) gives his thumbs up. Now I actually added a dash of XO to the CKT, and wow, now, that really gave it an extra kick. Seriously, if you have the luxury of a bottle of Hennessy XO the next time you have CKT, add a dash in.
Now, what's this?
Huge ass oysters....Hor Chien...Now, this is the finished product, and it might LOOK simple enough, but boy, what a complex process to arrive at this stage. I was mesmerized, and moisturized, watching the entire procedure. Kedai Kopi Seng Thor...
Yes, that is OIL, and plenty of it.
The Making of the Hor chien....
First, he lays a layer of batter on the hot pan. Some eggs are cracked open, and fried into the batter. A copious amount of HOT OIL is then poured over the batter, almost like reverse deep frying... the oil is removed, miraculously, with some kung fu like deft movement of the wok ladel, and the first batch of fried egg is placed aside. the same process again, and finally, the addition of the oysters, with a flambe for effect, to yield a most fascinating plate of Hor Chien. Well, it is apparently RM35 per plate. I am dying to know if Chef Michael Han will be deconstructing this dish, and if so, how...
After stuffing our faces with food, and drinking Hennessy XO all along the merry way, we were in a sombre press interview...well, it felt somber at first, and I remarked I felt I was sitting for exam. Karen retorted that THEY felt THEY were sitting for exam.
Michael was trained as a lawyer, or read law, but never practised, as he felt the inner call to Chefdom. Did his parents object? OF COURSE, he replies. Till today they are not quite sure why he did it. He has never sustained any serious kitchen injury.
His full biodata can be found HERE, in the preliminary post about this upcoming trip.
So, what goes on in the mind of the genius? He will not share any hints of what we can expect on the 28th...so its a complete surprise.
Now if I were a celebrity chef, what would I concoct?
Hmm, a fish bisque, with tamarind and mint. Ah, who am I kidding, I doubt I'll be able to do anything...and that is why I am not a celebrity chef....heh heh.
And to end it all, a "family" portrait....
Isn't that sweet.
Photo shamelessly lifted from Taufulo's Blogpost on the same topic. Others who also wrote were Superwilson, very detailed, right down to what camera is used for what, ...Dine With Anna, and Bigboysoven.