Street Art, Paratta and Coffee in Penang

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Another public holiday, another trip!

Joel and I had been trying to sort out a destination that was both close (but far enough away for a 4 day weekend) when my colleague suggested the island of Penang, Malaysia.

Our hotel of choice was Seven Terraces – a set of shopfronts turned boutique hotel with a beautiful central courtyard. The rooms were large and full of antiques. I especially loved the delicate blue-and-white porcelain at every meal and the incredible local breakfasts of roti paratta.

We spent the weekend wandering though uniquely tiled archways and alleys in search of eclectic and newly accepted street art within the UNESCO world heritage site of Georgetown. I mean c’mon – world heritage site/history and art? Nerdy Sharon’s dream.

My favorite street art was ‘Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur‘ – I loved the contrast of the realistic little boy holding on to the dinosaur with a leash where the dinosaur looks as if it was drawn by that same little boy.

The street art ranged from cats – lots of cats or all shapes and sizes – to Marge Simpson, to people on swings to Minions.

To round out the heritage feeling, the area of Georgetown is filled with tin line sculptures which give an animated history of Penang. Once again – nerdy Sharon was right at home.

Being 1000 degrees, we noticed a trend of coffee shops open more so in the afternoon to late evening. We heart us some coffee and tried as much of it as we could, including cardamom coffee.

Last and certainly not least was all of the wonderful food. As vegetarians, Joel and I can find it hard to discover some local Asian foods but not in Penang! Indian cuisine is our favorite and it was not in short supply. Paratta, curries, otak otak, oh my!

We also tried (several times) the Penang Asam laksa. It is definitely different from the Singapore laksa. Penang laksa is light – as it is free from coconut milk, but sour and sweet from tamarind and full of incredible (but not overwhelming) fish flavors from mackerel.

We loved Penang – the food, the hotel, the art – and would highly recommend it for a brief artistic and cultural getaway from Hong Kong.

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Fall in Hong Kong

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It’s been a busy November here in Hong Kong with baking, a visitor, mini-holidays, races, junk boats, local island hopping and so on. Joel and I have officially settled in here. We finally have a fully furnished apartment and have even booked two Asian holidays (vacations, as us Westerners call them). Bali and Japan, here we come!

Individual mixes to follow on all our recent doin’s. In the meantime, enjoy these random HK photos.

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Shanghai Street – Hong Kong Chef Heaven/Haven

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I’ve been struggling with where to buy good pots, pans, cutting boards, knives, etc. Hong Kong is quite expensive as every single thing has to be imported and therefore the options for kitchenware are very limited. In fact, upon asking locals where to shop I’m typically pointed towards Ikea. I’m not sure if the locals feel that Ikea is where the Westerners will shop (and yes, I have spent my fair share of time at that hellhole in Causeway Bay Ikea) but I needed to find Hong Kong’s version of the NYC restaurant supplies area. It’s Asia, it has to exist here!

IMG_0399After much searching around the faithful internet, I found my kitchen mecca – Shanghai Street. You name it, they have it. And lots of it. I spent a good 3 solid hours moving back and forth from store to store. Most shops sell the same type of items and wouldn’t bargain with me so I bargained myself by price comparison. It was exhausting but in the end I came out with almost everything I was looking for including a handmade local wok!, new pots and frying pans, prep bowls…

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My only regret is not being strong enough to haul back 1 – 3 of these babies. Next trip, I’ll bring the muscle/Joel with me to get them home. Cheap and authentic! That’s all a chef could ask for in Asia.

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PMQ Local, Brooklyn Inspired Market

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It is taking some time, but we are slowly finding our sources for food and booze in HK. As you probably know, we love local, fresh food and beer but neither of those are terribly plentiful here. So we were very excited to see a local green market pop up at the art/shop space of PMQ.

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What we most looked forward to was the bagel stand, Schragels. They claim to be New York style bagels that are hand rolled, kettle boiled and stone baked so obviously, we were pumped to try them. Disappointment ensued though, as the bagels were quite crispy on the outside, overly doughy inside and really just flavorless, with the exception on the outer toppings. I know I’m a bit biased, but I am always open to trying other baked goods. These just didn’t cut it for me and I’d rather waste the calories on a delicious baguette from Passion by Gerard Dubois.

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Aside from the bagels, there was a new Hong Kong brewery represented with really, really amazing beers – Moonzen. Thank goodness we found this husband/wife pair because their beers are 100% on pare with our much loved hoppy style American IPA’s and Pale Ales. Divine Marinade  which are vegetarian, spicy and incredibly flavorful Korean style marinades and sauces. Also amazing; Long Valley Eco Paddy rice! They use eco-friendly, sustainable growing practices here in Hong Kong. The rice we bought was harvested in August. August! Talk about fresh.

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While the market was good and we found some new suppliers, PMQ itself is pretty cool. Once the old HK Police Married Quarters, it now houses local artists and designers work in small shops on several floors. Worth checking out!

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Tung Po Kitchen, North Point

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One of Joels co-workers, whom is affectionately referred to as KK, is a local by way of Canada. So she has the best of both worlds when it comes to eating out – the ability to speak both Cantonese and English perfectly.

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KK offered to take us to Tung Po Market for a meal that consisted of a kitchen above the fish market. Talk about “farm to table”. While this restaurant is known for a few meat dishes that were ordered, I was most excited about the Mantis Shrimp dish. Mantis shrimp are very local to Hong Kong and I have a slight obsession with them. They are powerful, crazy and so weird. Of course I’d want to eat one.

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We over-ordered, as usual. Dishes included Wind Sand Chicken (with the head), Black Squid Ink Pasta and Squid Balls, Shrimp with Garlic (SO MUCH GARLIC), and Steamed Lotus Leaf Rice.

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Food was phenomenal – fresh, garlicy, spicy and totally new to us. Also new to us – drinking beer out of a bowl.

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Our recommendation: If you know a Cantonese speaker, go to here.

Cafe Martin Recommends – Cookbooks, Fall Edition

While living in London, I had a very limited number of cookbooks at my disposal for 2 reasons – 1. They are heavy; try carrying just two in your carry-on along with most of your most important items (it’s no fun!) and 2. I really wanted to try to utilize the seasons and be inspired by our new, local cuisine.

That all said, I am reeeeeady to get back to my books and dig in to some oldies but goodies such as Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller or The Jimtown Cookbook (all-time favorite).  Since we are mere weeks away from returning to the US for good, I’ve been scoping out the new Fall round up of cookbooks. And there are a lot. Here are some of the books I will be ordering upon touchdown in the good old US of A as well as a great round up of whats available from Eater.

The Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman – I’ve been anxiously awaiting this one. SK is one the best food blogs around and I’ve been utilizing her recipes for years. The best part about the cookbook – Perlman claims that the 100 recipes are “almost entirely new”. All new SK? I’m so in.

Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller – Hi. I’m Sharon and I am a Bouchon nutterbutter addict. This has got to be the best cookie on the planet and now, TK is just giving me the recipe (with book purchase of course)? I’m doomed. And elated. All at the same time.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – This one isn’t new, but I’ve yet to get my hands on it. I have, however, been enjoying the recipes first hand at our local outpost of the shop by the same name, Ottolenghi. This one is a vegetarian heaven.

Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte – I LOVE this blog. Delicious, mouth-watering recipes (tried and tested!) paired with incredible photos… it is pure food porn and I am ecstatic that they decided to put it all into a book.

True Blood by Gianna Sobol – I’m going to be honest and say I’m intrigued. I love the show, but I do not love blood. I do however also love Southern food and so they claim, this book is full of it. Therefore, I think it’s worth a look and cook. Will definitely have to post on my True Blood cooking success/failure.

Happy cooking to you all! Kale, squash and the Holiday season is around the corner and I for one, am beyond excited.

Things We Like (9/24/12)

Summer has ended in London and Fall has come early (as expected). It’s time for flannel shirts and wool socks as well as our heater to come on. So on that note, we bring you a Fall themed “Ten Things”, for the last time from Londontown.

Bonus! FOOTBALL IS BACK. For the love of god, we missed you.