For those of you who have never visited Suffolk House it’s high time that you did. Another reason for visiting or revisiting has just been added by the excellent culinary team at Suffolk House Restaurant, the introduction of a thoroughly researched menu from yester-year.
In conjunction with the site management team, Badan Warisan Malaysia, Chef Wan Helmi Zazalee and his team designed the menu in honour of Suffolk House’s past Governors and visitors dating back to the first days of settlement in the early 1800’s.
In those days the East India Company and most of their far flung outposts were heavily influenced by the architecture and foods that they had learned to be best served in tropical climes.
It comes as no surprise that when the menus and letters of the Governor’s guests referencing the meals eaten at Suffolk House were painstakingly researched, it was found that most of the food had an Anglo-Indian theme running through it. This is most likely due to the fact that when a new posting to Penang came, the arriving household would bring many of their existing servants and cooks with them that they had grown accustomed to in India.
According to Elizabeth Cardosa from Badan Warisan Malaysia, the way in which the new menu has been constructed reflects how the early Governor’s enjoyed their meals with their guests in the 19th Century.
“A subtle reminder of Penang’s multi-cultural past, the Anglo-Indian cuisine was inventedto satisfy an English palate which had been profoundly affected by the rich flavours of India and the East.”
Soups would have been laced with spices such as cumin and chillies, cloves and cinnamon would have been added to roast meats and croquettes flavoured with the ever popular garam masala.
The new Anglo-Indian Brunch Tiffin menu at Suffolk House features four courses with starters, a soup, main dishes and dessert. For starters, guests will have three types of dishes served such as Egg Moilee, a spicy egg dish served in a coconut curry sauce; fish cakes and sweet cucumber in cold yoghurt.
Not being an egg dish lover I must admit to not looking forward to this particular dish but to my surprise it was lovely. The egg, I am guessing, is boiled, shelled and then coated in the coconut blend and then flash fried to crisp the outer layer. This is then served with a curry sauce that was truly divine.
The Fish Cakes were very much English style and the filling was more potato than Fish in flavour which is a very authentic way to serve this dish.
The next course was the mulligatawny soup, a spicy chicken soup flavoured with many spices from India. I have had many mulligatawny soups in my time and must say that this was the best I have ever had. The soup was neither thin and watery nor thick and gloopy, it was as Goldilocks would say, just right.
The tastes were very well blended and as in the curry sauce in the previous course the subtlety of the spices was perfection itself. Chef Wan certainly knows how to cook this cuisine and I am sure that no Governor in times gone by had ever tasted finer. We now moved onto the main course.
Anglo-Indian Chicken Curry, Shallow-fried Fish in Coriander and Tamarind Sauce, Vegetable Korma, Stir-fried Indian Courgette and of course, Fragrant Lime Rice with Tomato Chutney.
This is my second occasion to be cooked for by Chef Wan Helmi Zazalee and this man is good. His use of spices and flavourings is very good, but his skills with fish are amazing. I am a carnivore who loves his meat dishes butevery time I have eaten a fish dish at Suffolk House it stands out as the dish of the night and this occasion was no different.
The Chicken Curry is good as an English version and the blending of flavours as over mentioned before was perfect.
The vegetable Korma was well cooked but did not have anything memorable about it for me (which for me is pretty much the case for every Korma but if you enjoy creamy subtle curried sauces then this is the one for you).
Both the Stir-fried Courgettes and the Lime Rice do need a special commendation. The courgettes were stir-fried with a blend of spices and tasted gorgeous and the Lime Rice was heaven with deep fried shallots on top that gave you a taste of sweetness that the Lime cooked rice balanced extremely well.
The Fish (Emerald Fish) was the talk of the table and the lasting memory that I was left with long after the meal was over. So much so that I have asked the chef to take me on one of his many fish market shopping expeditions which we hope to cover in the near future here at ‘What’s On Penang’.
The Brunch Tiffin ends with the desserts which on this occasion were to be a duo of Caramel Custard and Almond Chocolate Fudge. In fact we were given a special treat of a trio rather than just the duo so that we might sample a wider choice. All of the desserts were executed well and rounded off a very full meal indeed.
The Anglo-Indian Brunch tiffin is available every first Sunday of the month for a minimum of two persons from 11.00 – 14.30 and is priced at RM50 net per person. All ingredients are locally produced and crafted by the team of chefs under the careful guidance of Chef Wan Helmi Zazalee and I really couldn’t offer a higher recommendation for their taste of days gone by.
Suffolk House Restaurant
250 Jalan Air Itam