Sunday, February 28, 2016

Europe 2015 Day 8 - Of Vienna Markets & Palaces

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Europe 2015 Day 8 - Of Markets & Palaces
Vienna, Austria - 1st October 2015
Ok, today's a full day and very busy day for us in Vienna; with a planned visit to a morning market followed by a huge palace. An afternoon walk proved to be fruitful with discovering some gems of a park with stately buildings. And it was by trains, trams, buses and some walking. A plus point - we found a treasure of a place to eat!

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The above map shows the places we went to on Day 8 in Vienna.
It's another busy and happy day; starting with a visit to a market, the being awed by a palace, popped into a church with a half-visit to an opera house and almost visits to a parliament house, city hall and a cathedral.

We kicked of the day by taking taking a subway train ride to the Naschmarkt. Staying at Motel 1 at Westbahnof It was easy for us, just pop down several escalators and it was the train station!
The market though very clean and well organised was a bit of a disappointment, not that many stalls were opened yet. And it was already 9:00am! The stall operators also were not as friendly at those we visited at Naplavka Market in Prague.

We did see some interesting things though, things to compare with our markets back home - like these slices of Jackfruit. It's perfect for storage but an odd way to eat them. And fresh Thai coconuts were being sold at 4-40 each, more than five times what we pay for them in Malaysia.

From the market we took a shop walk over to the Secession and almost visited it (we just conveniently used their restrooms and had a peep in). Opened 1898, it houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. With its controvesial "golden cabbage" dome roof, the Secession is now one of the most photographed buildings in Vienna.

At a nearby the five-foot way in front was Vienna's Walk of Fame, one that's similar to Hollywood's complete with stars!

Okay, time to move on and what better way to be introduced to a city than on a Hoppity Bus Tour (that's my way of calling Vienna Hop-On/Hop-off buses). We boarded at bus-stop #22 which is just opposite the Secession; don't get mixed up with the regular bus stops, these stops have different signage, just look for the Hop-on/Hop-off logo. We got the 48-hour pass to cover for the next day too. The pass, which can be bought on board the bus, cost 29-00 and includes for walking tours operated by the company.

Our first destination along the route - Schönbrunn Palace. (Schloss Schönbrunn) This is one of the most visited tourist and rightfully so too as it is indeed an outstanding building.

While palace building was grand-looking AND Schonbrunn's gardens were HUGE.. they really awed us eventhough we had to walk lots. Caught this lovely bride posing for bridal photos at one of the side gardens.

The large rear garden led to the impressive Neptune's Fountain and up on a hill a large, impressive gloriette. The grounds extends on beyond this hill.

A great view of the palace with part of Vienna in the background.
(... read more about Schonbrunn Palace)

We popped back up the Hoppity Bus, the route took us round inner Vienna and passed by this official looking building - it's the Museum Of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) I would have loved to stop and see what they had to show.... but the bus just whisked by.... Bye! Bye Museum.
Okay, that was the almost visit.

We hopped off at the Vienna Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper).  This was the building that was featured in the James Bond movie "The Quantum of Solace" which showed the building's exterior night view and the interior while an opera running.

Opera tickets has to be purchased months ahead (unless one gets them from scalpers, which is discouraged); without tickets an usher only allowed us to get up to the first landing of the steps leading up to view the interior. From there I had to stretch my neck to look up at the foyer and it's ceiling
.... Crick! Ouch! Still I did manage to get a few good shots of arches lined with statues and a nice ceiling too.

A close up view of one of the ceiling panels; it was worth a painful neck.
The opera house was our almost visit.

We walked further along to the Tourism Information Office to enquire about a cycling tour for the following day.... Yes... my cycling legs were getting itchy again. Although there was some apprehension while I waited for the tourist officer to talk to the bike company, he did manage to convince them to take me in. The tourist office really go to lengths to help out.
Yahoooooo..... I am going cycling, but that's a story for another day.
We walked back towards the bus station, and that was when we had the foodie find of our stay in the city. It's a place called Wok & More at Karlsplatz, one which served an all-you-can eat buffet at on 9-90 per pax!

Wok & More is a very sporting place, with a very wide range of salads, fresh food and desserts, they encourage patrons to take their time to eat and go for as many rounds as possible instead of piling up food for a couple of rounds. There is no time limit, eat as long as they are opened.
We selected our food from and sent it to a couple of chefs who cooked it teppanyaki style on a large hot plate.

This is one of my rounds - a fusion of Japanese udon cooked in Thai curry. Wunderbur!
We did eat a fair bit but did not gouge our food; spending about an hour there slowly enjoying ourselves while chatting about our trip.
(... read more about Wok & More)

From Karlsplatz we took a tram over to the Austrian Parliament. The front looked very Grecian with tall Corinthian columns holding up the roof gable wall which had marble statues adorning it. Between to of the columns was a large Pink Ribbon, a testament of the country's support on awareness of breast cancer.

In front of the grand building was the Athena Fountain (Pallas-Athene-Brunnen), it may not be the Fountain of Love but it certainly made us posed lovingly in emulation of a couple of the statues. Cheong's & Marina's emulation looks rather close; put them in Grecian robes and it would have been perfect!

The nice cool weather made us want to walk more... actually it was also to walk off our heavy lunch. And we were in luck, just nearby is the large Rathausplatz park and it within it is the Vienna City Hall, the Rathaus.

As we were walking out of the park, we espied a lovely looking Gothic church; it was the Votive Church (Votivkirche) which was built to to thank god for the  failed assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Joseph. So by this account it is a relatively new church, eventhough it is slightly more than a hundred years old.

We dropped into the church, with it's numerous stained glass widows. The one that impressed me most was the on at the rear, sitting just behind the organ pipes.

The church's ceiling was beautiful too.... haha... I seem to have a penchant for ceilings!
First at the opera house, then here.

We took the underground train to Stephansplatz (where we had to change trains) and decided to go up and have a light dinner at Aida ... it was a very light one one of lovely Viennese ice-cream...

... and this hot-cross bun. Yummy yummy!
What better way to end the day than watch the colourful night life walk by.

Caught a glimpse of St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) glowing in the light of the setting sun.

As we boarded the train to head back to Westbanhoff, this man came rolling in his bicycle into the train. Being an avid cyclist myself, I really admire how mature the European society is in accepting this. No trying this in Malaysia... for the moment.
Ok.. ok... I will have to be frank, from his breath we knew that the man had just had a jolly round of Oktoberfest with his buddies.

Another sign of the maturity of the Austrian society and how disciplined their people are. These dogs were left unleashed at the entrance of the Westbanhoff supermarket while the owner went shopping. The owner had ensured that her dogs were well-trained, while others walk by as if this was the norm.
Oh yah... this old dog was also well-trained; also patiently waiting.


(That's good night in dog talk)

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

YummY! - Air Itam Penang Laksa @ Angcle Peoh

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               Jotaro's Food Review              
Air Itam Penang Laksa @ Angcle Peoh
Kota Kemuning, Selangor, Malaysia - February 2016
Penang Laksa has been named the 7th best food in the world by CNN GoSo what is Penang Laksa? It is a dish of bouncy rice noodles served in a bowl of fishy soup (that's the simple description, to know more click here).
Of all the Penang Laksa, the one from Air Itam is the most well known; some locals may beg to differ but ask many about Penang food and Air Itam Market Penang Laksa will somehow crop into the chat! And now there's no need to travel all the way up north to the Pearl of the Orient to savour this delicious dish; just drop by to Angcle Peoh in either Kota Kemuning or Bandar Bukit Tinggi. The best thing is that they not only serve their signature Penang Laksa but a fair bit of other good Penang food; one can literally have a Penang street food galore there!

Led by Tailim (of the hApPy HaPpY blogs), we had cycled to be part of the fun at the Big Fun Day at Bandar Rimbayu organised by IJM Land (... click here to see photos of the ride and the fun). It was real fun at that event with lots of activities to take part in, activities that soon worked up our appetite and we ended up having a food gala at Angcle Peoh's.
The place though Spartan in layout was very cozy, a glass window gives a peek into the kitchen to see them preparing their food.

 Up on on of the walls were murals that laid out the history of Uncle Peoh; how his mother had started selling laksa from a humble beginning, hawking them from a rattan basket carried with a kandar stick. And from there how the business have grown with good patronage by the locals. On the walls too were photos of colonial George Town, giving customers a walk down history lane.

From a side door, I had a looked into the kitchen - all was spick and span, a very comforting clean place. Ms. Ang (Uncle Peoh's daughter) with her husband were busy preparing the food that we had ordered.

There were several of us and we decided to order dishes to share communal style, so that we could all have a taste of each and everything we ordered. The management was most kind to provide us individual bowls & plates so that we could share our food. As we ate, we compared notes on how good (or not good) the food was and the conversation naturally drifted to comparing the food here with others (notably those in Penang). Someone started rating the food on a scale of 10... and we ended up comparing our rating..... "Er... this one 7/10...", "No... it's better should be 9/10!"
So here we will apply those ratings. Bear in mind that these are personal points of view (or rather, points of taste).

This here is their signature dish, the Air Itam Market Penang Laksa. It's served with their renown soup of well shredded fish and garnished with mint leaves, shredded bunga kantan (ginger flower), and to spice things up, small cuts of chilli padi (bird's eye chilli).

Now what makes a good Penang Laksa and make it a class above the rest?
Most of all, it is the spicy soup and the noodles themselves. The soup is one of a sweet-sour taste with the underlying flavours of the spices added into the cooking. Here the soup is very good; just nicely sweet and not overly sour (like those from Petaling Street).
The noodles were suitably thick with that bitey bounce one would expect from Penang Laksa, and with a silky smooth surface (those who are familiar with laksa will understand these fine points as some noodles do have rougher surfaces). The greens (cuts of onions, cucumber strips, and thin strip cut of green Chinese lettuce) were fresh and crunchy. In fact one can order this laksa without the noodles, just with veggies.
Rating: 9/10 for the closeness to the original (I am tempted to give 10/10, but the atmosphere of eating while the colourful market life passes by was missing).
7/10 for the taste, flavour and aroma.

The Curry Mee (I am using the Penang lingo here so will not refer to it as Curry Laksa) and the Penang Hokkien Mee were not up to par.
The curry was not flavourful enough, was short of the santan creaminess and I suspect some spices were missing. (Yes, Penang Curry Mee is not as creamy as the Kuala Lumpur ones, but the creaminess of this was way below.) The tau pok is the KL variety, bigger and not as soft and musky as Penang's - anyway one can't get Penang-style tau pok in the Klang Valley.
The Hokkien Mee had good ingredients, but the most important factor, the soup had a rawish prawn flavour. I had a feeling that the prawn shells were ground raw when making the soup; the shells should be cooked first.
Rating: For both 4/10.

Their Pork Noodles (we had the Keow Teow version) is one of the best I have tasted. The clear-looking soup was surprisingly very tasty. This comes very close to Penang Koay Teow Th'ng. Note: the lard bits were extras that we asked to be added.
Rating: 8/10

Penang Char Keow Teow - coming from Penang, this is one dish that I get very critical about. Although it's a simple dish - stir fried flat rice noodles - but not many can get it right, some say the noodles must dance in the wok while frying is done! 

Angcle Peoh's is as close as it get to the original from Penang, their frying is up to par with parts of the noodles slightly burnt to give it a better aroma and the bean sprouts just nicely done to still retain their crunchiness. And they serve it on a banana leaf with a few nicely sized prawns!
Rating: 8/10 (I would give them 9/10 if they can import the thinner flat noodles from Penang).

The Fried Hokkien Mee (in Penang lingo - Hokkien Char) is not to be confused with Kuala Lumpur's Hokkien Mee. This is the Penang style, one fried slightly soggy and with some gravy; garnished with deep-fried cut shallots and is served with sambal belacan.

This was indeed a surprise find; it's a dish that's hard to find in the Klang Valley, especially one that is as good as Angcle Peoh, and it was prepared by Ms. Ang herself! The gravy was the killer - very tasty.
For Penangites who miss this or for others who have not tried it, THIS is a "MUST ORDER" dish!
Rating: 8/10 (I will give an extra point if they given better sambal belacan, the one provide was rather watery).

Stir-fried Tom Mee. This is not a traditional Penang street fare; but these days up in the state the hawkers are getting more creative in coming up with new fusion food. They are even fusing the Ban Chien Kueh with western food; serving them with cheese and ham! And there is even Peanut Butter Chee Cheong Fun.

The Cendul was just okay. Perhaps they could improve on their preparation as the green noodles were slightly hard on the inside and the santan had frozen bits.
Rating: 4/10

Ice Kacang, this quintessential Malaysian favourite was good with lots of ingredient including attap seeds. Only complaint by my buddies was that the ice was not shaven finely enough.
Rating: 7/10 

Despite the few short-comings, overall we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Now I will know where to head for when looking for good Penang Laksa and other good Penang street food....
Angcle Peoh's!

Angcle Peoh's Food Menu/Pricing (Please not listing & pricing is at time of this blog).

Angcle Peoh's Food Menu

Angcle Peoh's Drinks & Dessert Menu

P27 Jalan AB31/AB, Kota Kemuning, 40460 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel.: +603-51319378     |     Mobile: +6017-9362223
Hours: 9:00am to 8:00pm (Closed once a month)

Bukit Tinggi Outlet: 42, Lorong Batu Nilam 21B, Bandar Bukit Tinggi 2, 41200 Klang, Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel.: +603-38855460
Hours: 10:00am to 9:00pm (Closed once a month)

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / FootSteps / YummY! / Chinese Food / Noodles / Air Itam Penang Laksa @ Angcle Peoh
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