Penang - Hainanese and Nyonya faves at 747 Hainanese Restaurant
747 Hainanese Restaurant was established back in 1976, relatively "new" compared to some other better-established Hainanese restaurants in town like Hollywood (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883217) or Sin Kheng Aun (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/806536), which are both over 60 years old.
What we tried last weekend:
- Chicken pie: the Hainanese were renowned as live-in chefs for the British administrators during the Malayan colonial days. Their repertoire of fusion British-Chinese cooking included the chicken pie, flavoured with soy sauce, and included chicken, potatoes, button mushrooms, onions and hard-boiled egg. The version here was pretty decent, although I found the puff pastry to be a bit too buttery.
- Crisp-fried Hainanese spring rolls, served with Worcestershire sauce dip, spiked with explosive bird's-eye chillis. Nice, decent-sized spring rolls albeit slightly bland-ish. It's hard to find good Hainanese spring rolls these days. The best I can think of in Penang is Ocean Green's rendition - seems so much tastier than others in town.
- Stir-fried eggplant, long beans, okra and stink beans ("petai") in spicy sambal-belachan/dried shrimps paste: delicious, robust version of this dish which has found its way even into Chinese restaurants in London Chinatown these days.
- Garoupa fish curry with okra, topped with shredded torch-ginger and fresh mint leaves: very sourish version here - perhaps the chef went a bit overboard with the tamarind juice here.
Extremely fresh fish, but also very pricey. Loved the piquant spicy flavours.
- Stir-fried mixed vegetables (snow peas, carrots), tofu, chicken, shrimp, squid and straw mushrooms. Unimaginative. Avoid. We should have ordered the "joo hoo char", shredded turnips with cuttlefish for our token vegie dish.
- Pig's trotters cooked with Chinese black vinegar, old ginger and Gula Melaka (jaggery): I loved this dish - the balance of flavours was just right, and the collagenic pieces of pig's trotters were cooked perfectly.
- "Inche Kabin": deep-fried chicken marinated in turmeric and spices: this dish is not my favourite Nyonya dish, but 747's rendition was the *best* I'd tried in Penang in recent years - crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, with the tinge of fresh turmeric flavours.
IMO, 747 Hainanese Restaurant, given its current standard of cooking, is good enough to go head-to-head with other leading Hainanese spots in town like Sin Kheng Aun and Yeng Keng (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861770). 747's got a wider repertoire than the legendary Sin Kheng Aun, which is fantastically popular, probably because it's so hard to get a booking there - plus, their stir-fried pig's liver in dark soysauce is the stuff dreams are made of.
Yeng Keng scores higher on ambience butr, again, 747 offers a more comprehensive menu.
Note: The chicken pie and Hainanese spring rolls require advance order.
747 Hainanese Restaurant
2 Peel Avenue
Tel: +604 229 6897/+604 229 6705