NJ Dining: Penang

March 3, 2009

Penang Restaurant

Web Site: http://www.penangcuisine.com

Locations Shown:

200 Route 10 West, East Hanover NJ
(973)887-6989

334 N. Main Street, Lodi, NJ
(973)779-1128

Malaysian food is one of my favorite cuisines of Asia. There are only a few Malaysian restaurants in New Jersey, and virtually all of them are owned by the Penang Restaurant Group, which operates five locations, two of which are in Northern New Jersey. Penang also has branches in New York, Maryland, as well as in the Raleigh/RTP area, although I haven’t been to any of the others.

Malaysian food is a melting pot cuisine of sorts, in that it incorporates elements of Native Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines.  However, it should be noted that most of the Malaysian restaurants in the United States are owned by  Chinese Malaysians, which come from several distinct ethnic sub-groups. The Chinese represent the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, approximately 23 percent of the population.

Many Chinese Malaysians have emigrated to the United States due to the fact that they are subject to persecution and quotas (such as not being able to enter institutes of higher education).  As with any group of immigrants, some of these people open restaurants. Penang is one of those businesses owned by Chinese Malaysians, so the cuisine is highly representative of those groups, which include the Cantonese, Fujian, Teochew and Hakka peoples, among others.

Penang Restaurant, East Hanover NJ by you.

Here’s the dining room in the East Hanover location. It has kind of a “EPCOT Malaysia” look to it, with bamboo decorative accents and such. I happen to really like this location because it’s in the same shopping center as Kam Man Food, which is a HUGE Chinese supermarket with lots of fantastic Asian produce and everything you could possibly need to cook just about any kind of Asian cuisine.

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‘Shroom Insanity

December 30, 2007

I like mushrooms. A Lot.

I do know some people that hate mushrooms, I guess because of texture reasons. Some are legitimately allergic to them. But those of us that truly love mushrooms — that could eat obscene amounts of them in a single session — we’re a unique and proud bunch.

Mushrooms, those weird and wonderful fungi are not without their health benefits either. They’re very low in calories (as they are about 80 or 90 percent water) and high in fiber. They are naturally high in potassium as well as riboflavin and niacin, and especially high in selenium, a powerful antioxidant that is sort of a sidekick to Vitamin E that protects your body’s cells against free radicals which can cause cancer. Additionally, white button mushrooms, criminis and portabellas contain substances called aromatase inhibitors which prevent both prostate and breast cancer. Shiitakes contain Lentinan, which appears to stimulate the immune system and protects against flu and other infectious diseases, as well as suppress tumoral activity. Those of you that hate the ‘Shroom should take all of that under consideration.

In any case, health benefits aside, Rachel and I just love ‘Shrooms. So we were happy to find a dish out of the Reversing Diabetes Cookbook called Mushroom Madness that used a lot of them. We decided to improve this recipe a bit by amping up the Asian condiments and the garlic and ginger, and using even MORE mushrooms.

‘Shroom Insanity

2 Tbs. Soy Sauce, divided

1 tsp. of prepared Chinese Chili Paste

1 tsp. sesame oil

8 oz. of Pressed Tofu or “Soy Chicken” (or any Vegan meat substitute, such as Wheat Gluten), sliced

4 Cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 large thumb of Fresh Ginger, grated

6 cups sliced Mushrooms (We used Shiitakes, Enoki, King Oysters. But White Mushrooms, Portobella, Crimini, or any kind of edible mushroom in combination is good.)

1 bunch of green onions, whites and greens separated, chopped.

1 cup Bean Sprouts

1 can of water-packed Bamboo Shoot Tips, drained. If you can get fresh hearts of bamboo (like you can during the wintertime) even better.

6 Tbs. Broth (Chicken, Vegetable)

1 Tbs. Dry Sherry

1/2 Tbs. Oyster Sauce or Mushroom Oyster (Vegetarian) Sauce

1/2 Tbs. Hoisin Sauce

1/2 Tbs. Black Bean Sauce or Chinese Fermented Black Beans

1 tsp. Cornstarch

1 Tbs. Cold Water

Combine sesame oil, 1 tbs of Soy Sauce and chili paste in a container with a tight fitting lid. Add pressed tofu, shake evenly to coat. Marinate while preparing other ingredients (at least 10 minutes), shaking and inverting container 2 or 3 times. Remove tofu from marinade and drain.

Mix broth, sherry, 1 T of Soy Sauce, hoisin, oyster sauce and black bean paste in a small bowl and set aside. Mix cornstarch and water together in a small bowl.

Brush about 1 tsp sesame oil in hot wok (use a silicone basting brush, or use spray oil). Add scallion whites, cook until translucent. Add garlic and ginger. Add tofu, stir fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from wok.

Brush a little more oil on wok. Add mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Pour in sherry/broth/condiment mixture, simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bean sprouts, bamboo shoots (unless they are the fresh ones, in which case, you should stir fry them with the ‘shrooms), cooked tofu, and most of the scallion greens, reserving some for garnish.

Pour cornstarch mixture into wok, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with scallion greens, with steamed Chinese green vegetables on the side (Gai Lan, Choy Sum Chinese Bokchoy, Mustard Greens, etc) with a drizzle of Oyster Sauce.


The Wonderful World of Tofu

December 27, 2007

A Simple Stir-Fry of Seasoned Firm Pressed Tofu with Ground Chicken and Chopped Vegetables.

When one thinks of Vegetarian and Vegan cuisine, most carnivores immediately snicker and think of Tofu — those big tasteless blocks of soy protein. And knowing that I probably would now be eating a lot more of this stuff than I used to, I started researching what I could do to make this highly malleable and versatile ingredient into something tasty.

Tofu comes in a number of different forms — in its most unprocessed state, they are simply blocks of bean curd, which come in different firmness levels. Personally, I prefer to buy firm or extra firm tofu, because it can handle much more man-handling when cooking so it doesn’t completely fall apart. I also like to buy firm-pressed tofu that has been seasoned (usually with a Chinese five spice blend or smoked, giving it a flavor similar to ham) which I typically buy from Asian groceries. This is particularly useful in stir-fries where you want sort of a meaty texture to complement vegetables or small amounts of meat to be used as flavoring. A third form, and less known to Westerners, is dried bean curd skin. In Japanese cuisine this is known as Yuba. In its most unprocessed form, it comes as dried “sheets” which in turn can then be reconstituted to use as wrappers or even cut up as “noodles”.

Want to enter the wonderful world of Tofu? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.


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