[Penang, Malaysia] Classical Thai dinner at the Seven Terraces

The Chef de Cuisine of Kebaya (The Seven Terraces’ fine dining restaurant), Zachary Choong, and Chef Tubtim of the Royal Consulate-General of Thailand in Penang collaborated for the first time last weekend - producing a series of classical Thai dinners to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year.

Zachary Choong is well-known for his modern take on Penang-Nyonya cuisine, but Chef Tubtim’s input was pretty evident in this 3-day special Songkran menu: I finally experienced authentic Thai flavours for the first time here in Penang! The irony is that Penang is only about a couple of hours’ drive away from the Thai border, yet, Thai food in Penang has always been localized to a large degree.

No such problems yesterday evening, when we were served a series of well-prepared dishes, most harking back to the era of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who reigned from 1 Oct 1868 to 23 Oct 1910.

3 types of appetizers were served:

  • Ma Hor (ม้าฮ่อ) - caramelized minced chicken with peanut & pineapple.

  • Miang Kham (เมี่ยงคำ) - betel leaf wrap with grated coconut, lime, dried shrimps, peanut, Thai chili and galangal.

  • Hor Mok Pla (ห่อหมก) - Thai spiced seafood mousse, stuffed into completely deboned fish and pan-fried.

Salad

  • Nam Phrik Long Ruea (น้ำพริกลงเรือ) - Thai-style raw vegetables salad (sawtooth mint, cucumber, carrot, tomato, long beans) with fermented shrimp/salted egg/habanero chile dipping sauce. The creator of this dish was purportedly Royal Concubine Mom Rajawong Sadub Ladawan, who prepared it for a picnic for two sister princesses: Sohmdet Ying Naawy and Sohmdet Ying Glaang.

  • Gaeng Phed Ped Yang (แกงเผ็ดเป็ดย่าง) - roast duck and lychees in red curry. This was my favorite dish for the evening: the fresh lychees provided bursts of fruity sweetness amidst the onslaught of chili-spiciness of the red curry blanketing the slivers of roast duck. They really smashed it with this one.

  • Pla Kra Pong Lui Suan (ปลากระพงลุยสวน) - fried snapper with a fabulously tart and spicy relish/dressing consisting of raw mango, peanuts, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, dried & fresh chilis.

  • Phraram Long Song (พระรามลงสรง) - shrimps and kangkung in spiced peanut sauce. I’d only had a version of this Chinese-influenced dish using poached chicken - substituting it for fresh shrimps turned out to be a pretty good choice, too. The peanut-inflected sauce reminded one of satay sauce dip.

  • Gaeng Ranjuan (แกงรัญจวน) - beef slices in a fiery broth flavored with fermented shrimp (kapi). shallots, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, chilis. In Thai, the name of this dish literally translates to ‘to yearn for’.

Desserts:

  • Thong Ek (ทองเอก) & Foi Thong (ฝอยทอง) - both with sweet, custard-like puddings made from duck’s egg-yolk and soaked in syrup (not overly sweet here, which is perfect for us). Both of these egg-yolk-based desserts are attributed to Maria Guyomar de Pinha, a Portuguese-Eurasian chef in the royal kitchens of King Narai, who reigned from Oct 1656 to July 1688. She introduced these desserts, adapted from the Portuguese fios de ovos to the Siamese court’s culinary repertoire.
    (Another variant of this type of eggy desserts is the sangkhaya, which was adapted from the Portuguese doces de ovos, which became the kaya of Singapore & Malaysia).

  • Khaoniao Mamuang (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง) - Mango with sticky rice, plus the addition of ice-cream and crisp-fried shallots here.

Overall, far & away the best Thai meal I’d ever had in Penang. Looking forward to more collaboration between Seven Terraces and the local Thai consulate.

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Man, I am sooo envious!

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@Harters David Thompson’s Nahm at the Halkin in Belgravia used to be this good, if not better. Pity it closed down in Dec 2012 when David decided to relocate to Bangkok.

Aussie chef Thompson’s celebrated London restaurant Nahm to close its doors (smh.com.au)

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold