My world this year seemed to have stopped back in March, when Malaysia first locked down for 3 whole months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s never been the same ever since. And now, amidst the second wave of the pandemic, and with Malaysia experiencing four-figures in new cases daily, inter-state travels between Malaysian states have come to almost a complete halt, with Penangites now confined to our little island, which is smaller in area than even NYC (405 sq miles to 468 sq miles).
Well, we make do with what we have amidst these travel restrictions. Nyonya lunch today at Green Treasure Point on Hutton Lane, an 18-month-old Nyonya eatery which I’d actually not noticed till someone highlighted it to me this morning.
The owner-chefs are the Kua sister-and-brother team, Connie and Wai Seng, who poured their passion for Nyonya and Hainanese cooking into their restaurant which offers a whole range of dishes from the Penang-Nyonya staple, Inche Kabin, to the ever-popular Hainanese pork chop.
Our lunch today:
Jiu hu char - shredded jicama and carrots, braised with dried cuttlefish strips, shitake mushroom and pork. The dish was served with a tongue-searing sambal belacan dip.
Gulai tumis with black pomfret - gulai tumis is a soupy, spicy-sweet-sour fish dish incorporating chilis, turmeric, galangal and lemongrass, thickened using candlenuts, and with the sweetness from slowly sauteed minced shallots. Fermented shrimp paste or belacan gives it a piquant lift, whilst a generous dash of tamarind juice plus some fresh tomato wedges gave the gravy a sour-ish tinge - making it like a richer, deeper sibling of the Thai tom yum soup. Pink torch ginger flower, finely-chopped, gives the gulai tumis its unique, unmistakable scent.
The gulai tumis is cooked using black pomfret and okra here, finished off with a scattering of fresh mint leaves before serving. The rendition here is much more sour than I’m used to, but I attributed that to Chef Kua Wai Seng’s personal preference.
Babi buah keluak - the dish here is cooked using pork belly slices (in most other cases elsewhere, pig’s trotters were used). Chef Kua utilized the black-coloured flesh from the buah keluak nuts, which imparted a truffle-like scent to the dish. Chef Kua’s rendition was also more sour in flavour (from his use of tamarind) than I’m used to back in Singapore. His rendition is also drier than the stew-like versions I was brought up with.
Dessert was a Cantonese classic: the Osmanthus flower jelly, which also incorporates red goji berries.
Drink was the half-grass jelly/half-soymilk “Michael Jackson”, a drink name that’s been used widely, especially in the hawker centres in Singapore and Malaysia for the past two decades. No one I asked knew who came up with the name, though it was most certainly inspired by Michael Jackson’s 1991 hit, “Black or White”.
I rather liked these little mom-and-pop (in this case, sister-and-brother) places where the food have a home-cooked flavour, with dishes artisanally-crafted from scratch upon order.
Green Treasure Point
106A, Jalan Hutton (Hutton Lane)
10050 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-9.30pm Wed to Sun. Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.