Penang: Green & Healthy at Karen Kitchen

Hawker food is often greasy and, delicious though they are, I don’t want to eat such rich food every day. Luckily for me, amidst the hawker stalls of Batu Lanchang is the small and unassuming Karen Kitchen which markets itself as an establishment of healthy, home-cooked food. They do not use pork or MSG in their dishes, flavouring instead comes from good old fashioned good quality natural seasonings and ingredients.

We ordered a selection of different Chinese/ Malay dishes, including fish curry, fried rice and cashew nut chicken. The dishes were nicely made, tasty but not too salty and most importantly, did not make me feel as though I’d just bathed in oil!

It was definitely a welcome change from all the satay and char kuay teow we’d been inhaling on a daily basis. It was wholesome, healthy food which satisfied the stomach in a way only home-cooked food can.

Disclaimer: we didn’t order any of the Western dishes on the menu, and having since seen photos from other reviewers I would probably steer clear of those! But don’t let that put you off going for some stir fried pak choi or salted egg broth.

Karen Kitchen
Lebuhraya Batu Lanchang
11600 Penang

Satay and Ice Kacang
Cake at China House
Eastern and Oriental Afternoon Tea

Penang: Eastern and Oriental Afternoon Tea

As a treat we took my grandma to the Eastern and Oriental hotel for afternoon tea.

The Eastern and Oriental (fondly known amongst locals as The E&O) is a reminder of the time when Malaysia was owned by Britain. It boasts large airy corridors and rooms fitted with the typical colonial style dark mahogany furnishings set against pale coloured walls. It is refined and rather grand, what would have been a 19th century oasis of sophistication and cool in the midst of the humid Malaysian landscape.

I’m sure you all know of that holiday feeling when you have been eating foreign food for a week and suddenly you feel this urge for basic foods from home (for me it’s always a slice of buttered toast). In the absence of a good ol’ slice of Hovis I figured that English tea and sandwiches might be able to satisfy my “I’ve-been-in-a-foreign-country-for-a-while-and-need-some-familiar-food” cravings in style.

The restaurant itself offers “classical yet contemporary cuisine in an elegant environment in the finest traditions of colonial fine dining” and this indeed was reflected in the afternoon tea offerings. It costs about RM50 per person and includes all the usual afternoon tea flavours, smoked salmon, cucumber, scones and pastries, presented in a modern and inventive fashion.

The sandwiches looked beautiful and so intriguing, however I found them to be rather insubstantial and the bread was slightly dry. The scones were good, but again on the small side and a touch too crumbly and (to my horror) were served with whipped cream, not clotted cream (though perhaps I am being a bit harsh here, it is difficult to find many dairy products which we Brits take for granted in Penang).

There was also a selection of very cute petit fours which were delicious, if a little rich, especially since they were served after the savouries which meant we could not counteract the richness with a smoked salmon sandwich. Unfortunately because of this I only managed to eat 3 out of 5 petit fours and found the macaron to be extremely chewy and quite unpleasant to eat.

My overall opinion of this afternoon tea is that it’s not quite worth the money. The sandwiches, though quirky, lacked flavour and were far from filling me up. And the petit fours would have been more at home in a Parisian patisserie. From the look of the restaurant and the hotel I would expect an afternoon tea with lots of flavour and the tried and tested typical components, but whilst it does a good job in looking the part I sadly found it lacking in both substance and authenticity.

Eastern and Oriental Hotel
10 Lebuh Farquhar
10200 Penang

Satay and Ice Kacang
Cakes at China House
Green and Healthy at Karen Kitchen