Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

Places and Foods

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Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows Penang with Chef Micheal Han at St Joseph’s Novitiate

7 min read

Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows Penang with Chef Micheal Han at St Joseph’s Novitiate

We were flown in an earlier date (in early September) for a food tour with Singapore prodigy Chef Michael Han. We completed a round of five different stalls with five different sets of food. Chef Michael was supposed to remember the food and retranslate it with his knowledge and skills. If you are interested to know what do we had during the food tour, read Hennessy X.O Food Tasting With Chef Michael Han in Penang.


St Joseph’s Novitiate at Gurney Drive.

 
On the 28th of September, I was flown to Penang again for the real deal. The Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows Penang with Chef Micheal Han at St Joseph’s Novitiate. St Joseph’s Novitiate is a historic building on Gurney Drive and its beauty and history coincides with theme of Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows. Flanked by Gurney Drive and Kelawai Road, the historic building was built in 1925 as quarters for novices for St. Joseph’s Training College. As part of its restoration process, emphasis was given to stabilizing the foundation. The whitewashed and terracotta-tiled building has been faithfully restored and updated in keeping with its contemporary surroundings at Gurney Paragon, a physical embodiment of the values that encompass Hennessy X.O.

Up, close and personal with Kenneth Tan from The Edge on the same trishaw.

 
It didn’t surprise me when the trishaws picked me up from G-Hotel. However, I felt bad giving my trishaw rider a hard time as he cycled me to St Joseph’s Novitiate which is a stone throw away from the hotel.


There I met Ms. Karen Ong, the Marketing Director of MHD. She was dressed to kill that evening, glowing with the rest of the guests.


Everyone was dressed up for the occasion. Blazers, jackets, tuxedos, ties, bow-ties and dresses bossed the evening.


While soothing music calmed the evening, everyone was starting to enjoy the Hennessy X.O while waiting to be seated for the dinner.


Familiar faces like Steve Yap and Will Quah were there with other media representatives and also VIPs.

 

The conversation of the evening was what will Chef Michael prepared for us for dinner. Will it be similar to ones from the stalls or it will be something that we never tasted before?


We were seated in two long tables. It was amazing how the hall transformed to a dining hall. The boys must be working their hats off for such transformation, what a task!


Hennessy X.O all night long.
Pie Tee with Chutoro and Ginger

Pie Tee with Chutoro and Ginger
The first dish was the Pie Tee with Chutoro and Ginger. It looked as the same as the usual pie tee but the taste was another story. How did the chef recreate the humble Pie Tee?

Pie Tee with Chutoro and Ginger

 

The Pie Tee was loaded with eggs, chutoro (fatty tuna), ginger and complimented with Herbs Mayonnaise. The Herbs Mayonnaise was chef’s creation of tarragon, parsley, chives and chervil. The Pie Tee was subtle and the presence of chutoro didn’t affect the texture at all while the taste of the Herbs Mayo didn’t overwhelm the Pie Tee. This resembled the orginal Pie Tee in terms of texture with a twist of flavours.

Rojak with violets and carambola flowers.

Rojak with violets and carambola flowers.
Rojak is a simple mixed fruits dish with shrimp paste, topped with crunched nuts and prawn cracker. Some might put a little bit of chilli to spice up the taste. Rojak is usually available in stalls and it is usually loved by Chinese.

Rojak with violets and carambola flowers.
Chef Michael’s rojak was his definition of art and food. It was a beauty, colourful and lively plate of edible flowers and rolls of mixed fruits. There were thirty rolls of mixed fruits and each and every single of them was rolled using a plastic straw before filling it with the shrimp paste. Then it was garnished with crunched peanut candy and edible flowers. It had different elements but tasted similar to original. I loved the presentation and the details of this.

Assam Laksa with Scallops from Froya and Herbs

There is a reason why Assam Laksa is voted as Top Ten food in the world because it is really that good. Unlike the Assam Laksa in Kuala Lumpur, Penang’s version had more quality in the shrimp paste as well as more condiments.


For Chef Michael to deconstruct this to his flavour, it won’t be an easy task. Like the previous dishes, the presentation of this dish was surreal. I couldn’t find any noodles or mackerel or sardine fish. Instead of fish and noodle, Chef Michael used extra size scallop. The scallop came from Froya coast of Norway. The size was similar to the ones from Japan.


For the broth, it was bottled in a 50ml bottle. I had to pour the broth and mixed with the scallop. The broth tasted similar with the original but with different ingredients.



It was flavourful and I wished they served it with more scallops. The most notable missing key ingredient of the usual assam laksa was the noodle. However, it wasn’t important as the taste was there and also the delicious Froya’s scallops.

Or Chien with local oyster, duck egg and smoke oil.

Or Chien is oyster omelette in Chinese dialect of Hokkien. The origin of Or Chien is unknown as it is quite popular in Taiwan too. While the usual Or Chien is a blend of eggs (chicken or duck) with starch and oysters, Chef Michael’s version was beyond words.

Or Chien with local oyster, duck egg and smoke oil.
A first glance of it, it looked like a fresh oyster with condiments.  However, the ingredients for this were more complicated as it looks like. It was pre-cooked in buttermilk creating the creamy texture amalgamated with deep fried Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and topped with chives, edible kelp and Kombu to create the crunchy texture.  What a creation!

Hokkien Mee

Hokkien Mee
The Penang version of Hokkien Mee is different that the dark large noodle of Kuala Lumpur’s Hokkien noodle. The Penang’s version was similar to Kuala Lumpur’s version of prawn noodle.

Hokkien Mee
When they served the noodle, the fragrant of the broth filled the dining hall. While many were expecting large size shrimps, the bowl of Hokkien Mee looked plain and ordinary. The broth was exceptionally ambrosial but I didn’t favour the texture of the handmade angel hair. The XO sauce was the star, even though it was greasy but it left a lasting impression. It was completed with deep fried Sakura Hebi sprinkled on top of the noodle. If the Chef would bottle and sells the XO sauce, I’m pretty sure it will be a hot cake.

Nasi Kandar with Wagyu Cheek, Onions and Ash

There were two choices for this dish and it was either nasi kandar with chicken or Wagyu cheek. Since I loved the Wagyu beef so dearly, I chose the beef. Wagyu cheek itself was a tough meat to cook and it needed all the expertise to perfect it.

Chef Michael marinated the Wagyu cheek with the rendang sauce and it was cooked for three days in Singapore before it was flown in for the dinner. It was a lengthy process but end product was worth it.

Nasi Kandar with Wagyu Cheek, Onions and Ash
In case you are wondering where was the “nasi” (the rice)? They were the white bits on top of the beef. It was deep fried with coconut to crispiness to create the extra crunchy texture.

Team MHD on the stage thanking the guests.
The beef was cooked to softness and tenderness after such a lengthy process. It was rich in flavour and the beef was heavenly. It was one of the most beautiful beef rendang you can find. After all, it was Wagyu beef.

ABC with Horseradish, Hibiscus and Rose Lips.

ABC or “Ais Batu Campur” is a common dessert available throughout in Malaysia. The dessert is usually made of shaved ice with kidney beans, jellies, corn, peanuts and topped with sweet syrup.

ABC with Horseradish, Hibiscus and Rose Lips.
I was surprised by Chef Michael’s version of ABC. At first I thought it was too plain being a dessert but looking at the flow of the dinner, it was a wise choice indeed. The Hokkien Mee and the Nasi Kandar were heavy in taste so it was appropriate to have a more subtle dessert for the ending.

It was not as sweet as the common ABC but the layers and textures of it yet again amazed me. The usage of mung beans, gel made from rosehips, horseradish, hibiscus, coconut flesh on top of crushed ice with base of coconut juice was a work of a genius.

Hennessy X.O Mathusalem, what an honour to drink this!

 


It was not just a night of deconstruction of local Penang food but we were also treated with Hennessy X.O Mathusalem. It is one of the finest Hennessy masterpieces ever produced. Read more about it at Hennessy X.O Mathusalem by Arik Levy


Chef Michael Han and his crews toasting the guests, what a night!
Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows Penang with Chef Micheal Han at St Joseph’s Novitiate was a dinner to remember. Typical Penang street food was deconstructed and recreated as fine dining cuisine. Most of the dishes served had the similar taste as the original but cooked with different ingredients. On top of that, most of them paired very well with the smoothness and the aromatic Hennessy X.O.  Chef Michael has proved himself as an artist and his food as his masterpieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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