[Penang, Malaysia] Classical Thai dinner at ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ง๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€

The Chef de Cuisine of Kebaya (The Seven Terracesโ€™ 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 Tubtimโ€™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 hoursโ€™ 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 (เธกเน‰เธฒเธฎเนˆเธญ) - caramelized minced chicken with peanut & pineapple.

  • Miang Kham (เน€เธกเธตเนˆเธขเธ‡เธ„เธณ) - betel leaf wrap with grated coconut, lime, dried shrimps, peanut, Thai chili and galangal.

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

Salad

  • Nam Phrik Long Ruea (เธ™เน‰เธณเธžเธฃเธดเธเธฅเธ‡เน€เธฃเธทเธญ) - 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 (เนเธเธ‡เน€เธœเน‡เธ”เน€เธ›เน‡เธ”เธขเนˆเธฒเธ‡) - 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 (เธ›เธฅเธฒเธเธฃเธฐเธžเธ‡เธฅเธธเธขเธชเธงเธ™) - fried snapper with a fabulously tart and spicy relish/dressing consisting of raw mango, peanuts, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, dried & fresh chilis.

  • Phraram Long Song (เธžเธฃเธฐเธฃเธฒเธกเธฅเธ‡เธชเธฃเธ‡) - shrimps and kangkung in spiced peanut sauce. Iโ€™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 (เนเธเธ‡เธฃเธฑเธเธˆเธงเธ™) - 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 โ€˜to yearn forโ€™.

Desserts:

  • Thong Ek (เธ—เธญเธ‡เน€เธญเธ) & Foi Thong (เธเธญเธขเธ—เธญเธ‡) - both with sweet, custard-like puddings made from duckโ€™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 courtโ€™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 (เธ‚เน‰เธฒเธงเน€เธซเธ™เธตเธขเธงเธกเธฐเธกเนˆเธงเธ‡) - Mango with sticky rice, plus the addition of ice-cream and crisp-fried shallots here.

Overall, far & away the best Thai meal Iโ€™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 Thompsonโ€™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 Thompsonโ€™s celebrated London restaurant Nahm to close its doors (smh.com.au)

Last Sunday, my walking buddy and I paid a visit to the grave of Thomas Leonowens in the Old Protestant Cemetery.

๐™€๐™ซ๐™š๐™ง๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™š knows the story of Anna Leonowens - how the young widow & her son went to the court of King Mongkut of Siam to become a governess to the Kingโ€™s many children, because Yul Brynner & Deborah Kerr immortalized her story in โ€œ๐“๐ก๐ž ๐Š๐ข๐ง๐  & ๐ˆโ€.

But very few people know that Anna Leonowens was widowed in Penang, and her husband was buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery here.
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When Chow Yun Fatt & Jodie Foster remade the story in the 1999 film, โ€œ๐€๐ง๐ง๐š ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐Š๐ข๐ง๐ โ€, Jodie Foster, who was staying at the Sheraton Hotel Penang just 10 minutesโ€™ drive away during the filming, actually came here one morning to visit Thomas Leonowensโ€™ grave.

Anyway, it got us into a mood for some good Thai food, so we returned to the Kebaya Dining Room at the Seven Terraces for a Thai dinner this evening:

We started off with the special cocktail for the evening: dragonfruit & calamansi juice, with gin & Cointreau:

We had three types of starters:
๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ฎ ๐™ˆ๐™–๐™ก๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™‹๐™๐™ค๐™ค ๐™‚๐™ค๐™ง๐™ก๐™–๐™š (green lip mussels grilled with spice paste). Large, fresh mussels which we enjoyed, although I did find the red curry sauce a bit too spicy for my palate.

๐™ˆ๐™ž๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™†๐™๐™–๐™ข ๐™Ž๐™–๐™ก๐™ข๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™๐™ค๐™š (betel leaf wrap, with grated, toasted coconut, dried shrimps and herbs, topped with salmon roe). This was very nice - my only complaint was that each of us were served only one of these: a mere one mouthful!

๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ง๐™ข๐™ค๐™  (crisp-fried mackerel stuffed with red curry filling). My favourite item for the evening: itโ€™s like the most delicate fish sausage ever - the whole, deboned mackerel was fried till golden-crisp, whilst the filling was soft & souffle-like. The sauce was punchy, but tempered with the addition of creamy coconut mik.

The main course items were served communal-style, to be shared:

The dinner spread consisted of:
๐™†๐™–๐™š๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™Ž๐™ค๐™ข ๐™‹๐™ก๐™– (hot & sour soup with barramundi and coconut heart). Very spicy indeed - I think Thai soups are meant to be accompanied by steamed white rice, rather than taken on its own.

๐™†๐™–๐™ž ๐™๐™ค๐™ง๐™™ ๐™ƒ๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ฎ๐™–๐™ž (crisp-fried spiced Southern Thai-style fried chicken). This is more of a street food dish, so quite surprised to see it on the table of a fine dining restaurant. Itโ€™s served hot off the deep-fryer and very garlicky.

๐™‡๐™–๐™ง๐™— ๐™‹๐™š๐™™ (chargrilled salad of duck, with toasted rice powder and herbs). My fave items among the mains - the toasty crushed rice gave an aromatic lift to the grilled duck-meat, and the sweet-tangy-salty dressing was perfectly balanced.

๐™”๐™–๐™ข ๐™๐™–๐™ก๐™–๐™ฎ ๐™‹๐™ก๐™– ๐˜ฟ๐™ค๐™ค๐™  ๐™๐™ค๐™ค (mรฉlange of fresh seafood with crispy catfish floss, green mango and salted duckโ€™s egg).

๐™†๐™–๐™š๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™†๐™š๐™ค๐™ฌ ๐™’๐™–๐™ฃ ๐™‰๐™ช๐™š๐™– (green curry of Australian grain-fed beef).

Dessert: ๐™’๐™ค๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™ˆ๐™–๐™ ๐™ง๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™‡๐™ค๐™ž ๐™†๐™–๐™š๐™ฌ (stewed kaffir lime in light syrup, with nutmeg jelly & pickled ginger, atop shaved ice).
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Still, one of the best Thai spots in George Town. With travel in and out of the country still cumbersome, with various quarantine checks, most Penangites are still choosing to stay in Penang. But dining out seemed to have returned largely to โ€œnormalโ€.

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Similar was happening in the UK, but the latest reintroduction of some restrictions (which actually donโ€™t directly effect hospitality) coupled with worries about the new variant are causing a lot of restaurant cancellations. We were at a favourite local place last night and the owner was very annoyed about โ€œno showsโ€.

Your dinner looks really good. :yum:

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Maybe he should start demanding a no-refund deposit for reservations!

Theyโ€™ve recently introduced a deposit for larger groups (5+) but I agree that they should extend that to all bookings. No shows have become very damaging to the industry, even before the pandemic (but more so now).

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Agreed - many restaurants have been very hard-hit financially by the lockdowns.

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I think restautrants were hit by primarily by the disease, not by various attempts at mitigation. The lockdowns were an attempt to control an out-of-hand situation, not imposed on whimsy.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr