Another big get-together Chinese New Year dinner, this time at Maple Palace, Penang’s premier Cantonese restaurant. Proprietor-chef, Mr Tan Loy Sin, is a consummate perfectionist when it comes to ensuring quality produce are used for his well-executed dishes at this restaurant, which has set the benchmark for Chinese restaurants in George Town since it opened back in Sep 2009.
Yee sang with abalone, jellyfish and pear - only available during the Chinese New Year period each year, this salad is a must-order as the first course of any Chinese New Year meal. The version here substituted poached abalone for the traditional raw fish slivers (which I’d much preferred).
Taste-wise, the “yee sang” here was good, but nowhere near those that one finds in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore’s top Cantonese restaurants.
Braised seafood soup with crabmeat, cordyceps and whelk - my favorite dish this evening: very rich, thick broth made from slow-boiling of pork, chicken and dried scallops, enriched with crab-meat and crab-roe, and chockful of fish-maw, etc. It’s served with a side-condiment of dark vinegar, which undercut the richness of the soup.
Marbled Goby (“Soon Hock”) with cuttlefish balls, steamed Cantonese-style - singularly the best Cantonese steamed fish we’d had in a while. Steamed whole, perfectly-timed to achieve the ideal texture, the fish was drizzled with an aromatic, aged soy sauce and hot oil.
Braised South African abalone with sea cucumber, dried oysters and broccoli - one of my favorite Chinese banquet dishes: I love the juxtaposition of a braised abalone’s deep flavors (achieved from slow-cooking with oyster sauce, soy sauce and dried scallops); braised, rehydrated dried oysters; and braised thick caps of shitake mushrooms, with crunchy, blanched broccoli.
Again, I found the rendition here in Penang, whilst good, to be nowhere near as tasty as those I finds in top Cantonese spots in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or even Ipoh. Cantonese cuisine is never a forte of Penang chefs.
Steamed lotus leaf-wrapped rice with Chinese sausages - aromatic and tasty, although the rendition here had only two types of Cantonese sausages: the usual pork one, and one which also incorporated pork-liver.
Thanks, John! Yes, you got the spelling correct! It’s indeed the Cantonese form of the CNY greeting, much used in Hong Kong, and Chinatowns all over the world: London, New York, San Francisco, etc. I used this greeting, too, when in Kuala Lumpur or Ipoh, where the Chinese are mainly Cantonese.
In Penang, where the Hokkiens or Fujianese are the majority, the same greeting is pronounced & spelt Keong Hee Huat Chye. It translates as “Congratulations, may your wealth grow”.
Indeed, a rather “un-Chinese” way of cooking it. I could be wrong, but I think the “coffee-flavoured pork-ribs” was first pioneered by Malaysian-born chef, Sam Leong, when he was helming Jiang Nan Chun, the Chinese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore back in the late-90s. There were subsequently so many copycats of that dish all over Singapore and Malaysia.
Back at Maple Palace yesterday evening for our annual Lunar New Year family dinner. Always fun to meet everyone who’ve returned for the gathering in Penang - from Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Kuala Lumpur, etc. There were more than 30 of us spread over three tables of about 10 pax each.
Shallow-fried grouper with pork lard and garlic-shallot oil - I’m not a big fan of fried fish in a Cantonese restaurant: an indication that the fish used might not be as fresh as one would like it to be. This dish was quite tasty, with a complex sauce and lots of golden-fried pork lardons.
Braised pig’s trotter, with South African abalone, sea cucumber, fatt choy and black garlic sauce - this was my fave dish for the evening. The gelatinous pig’s skin was especially tasty. The accompanying broccoli was slightly undercooked and quite hard.