An esteemed friend and teammate will join us for this post, as we go down to Penang in downtown Boston, and bake delicious Magic Bars as well. Known to some as Big Tuna, sometimes donning a sexy black cat outfit, he is making his way to, or has already arrived in, New York as he begins his post-college life. Woah, real life. I know he is more than up to the challenge, but the real question is how all of us back in Boston will do without him? Personally, there is no doubt that he will be dearly missed as both a team leader, passionate player and good friend.
Magic Bars were discovered in a delicious cafe-shop (http://www.klekolo.com/) in Middletown, Connecticut. Although it was quite hipster, the music selection was interesting but good (again, hipster- but in a good 90’s grunge/alt-rock kinda way), the coffee was good and it was there when we first had a magic bar. A delicious layered bar, the recipe we used told us to pretty much layer random ingredients on top of each other, to then be held together with a “glue” of evaporated milk. After some time in the oven, the result was truly magical, as shown above. There are various recipes online, but I’ll ask my friend for the one we used if anyone is interested (feel free to message me to remind me to do so!).
After some LOTR, beer, and magic bars, we left to go try out the Penang restaurant. Located near the W hotel, off Washington Street, the restaurant is situated right on the border of Chinatown. Needless to say, you are much better walking or catching public transport, as parking cost about the same as a fourth of our bill.
Any way you do decide to get here though, do not be too intimidated by the “wait”, or large amounts of people. Although we did go at prime dinner hour, it was clear that this was an establishment that was used to seeing large amounts of customers on a regular basis, and the staff hustled about to keep the line moving at a pretty quick pace.
Normally, I’ve found that it much is better to go with a medium-large group of people to Malaysian or Thai cuisines, as the meal becomes much better and more well-rounded with a family-style method of eating. Soups, vegetables, meat dishes, noodles or rice dishes: all of them have to be given a try, and the ideal situation is to try to get enough people so that 7 or 8 entrees can be ordered so that everyone can get a little of everything on their plate. The effect of the mixed plate is synergistic, as the meal becomes exponentially more delicious with the more types of food you can pile on to your plate.
With our limited numbers, I just followed the usual road-map of dishes by ordering most of the same ones I have watched my mom eat in the past, which I have now tried myself, come to recognize and hold expectations for as well. We ordered Beef Rendang, Nasi Lemak, Kang Kung Belchan and coconut rice for two.
All of them are dishes of Indonesian or Malaysian origins (or at least Beef Rendang and Nasi Lemak- I know Belchan is a common ingredient but I do not know about this one specifically). Beef Rendang is a dish that features supple, beef drenched in a curry that has made it delectably soft and rich in flavor. I’ve seen many different thinks come with Nasi Lemak, but essentially it is a dish with coconut rice and various other “toppings” that come with it. The Kangkung is sort of like watercress, in fact we thought they were the same thing, but it turns out it is its own separate species. Either way, it is spicy from seasoning and the sauce it sits in, adding a great flavor and texture to our dishes. Overall, I was quite satisfied with our selections, and thought the dishes were worked well with each other (well mostly the Nasi Lemak and Kang Kung… the beef rendang was a more stand-alone dish). For desert we had a type of Chendol with all sorts of toppings, and Pulut Hitman. Chendol is a unique dessert, which in this case, ressembled shaved ice, with “jellies”, red beans, creamed corn and other sweet, sugary syrup drenched over all of it. Pulut Hitman is black rice pudding, is warm, smooth and very fragrant. The scent of coconut milk is strong and thick, much like the dessert itself. I especially like this dessert warm, I appreciate its simplicity and comfort food-esque properties.
All being said, I’ve only given a poor, quick overview of these dishes without consideration to their rich aspects of history, cultural and unique ingredients they possess. You have their names, go find out more if you want!
For the restaurant, it is hard for me to give it a great review, since I’ve had almost all of the same dishes in Singapore. Unfortunately, the progression still goes: the cuisine’s area of origin> West Coast (as far as Asian food goes) > East Coast. The same applies here, Penang was no where near as good as Banana Leaf, and my mom would have shuddered I the thought of even eating there (the opportunity she did turn down, when she was in town a few months later). Yet the uniqueness of the cuisine and the fact that it may be the only source of Malaysian food in Boston, heavily contribute to my largely positive review of the establishment. It was not bad, it was actually quite good, but not great. Perhaps if I had a larger group and could sample a larger variety of dishes, I would return. For another dinner for two, I would pick another venue.
Until next time!