Not content with bringing culinary gems from the Pearl of the Orient to other states in Malaysia, Penang Village Restaurants in he country are now featuring Western dishes with Hainanese influences.

Penang Village Restaurants general manager Connie Su said the local Western menu essentially came about when Hainanese cooks were employed by English and Australian naval officers stationed on the island.

“They Attempt to create dishes based on the basic recipes provided by these officers but improvisations were made along the way, I guess, to make up for the lack of certain ingredients,” said Su.

Such substitutions eventually led to the rise of unique dishes with Western origins and Asian influences.

The local Western menu introduced a few months ago offers Grilled Chicken, Grilled Lamb & Prawn Combo plus Chicken Chop with the option of Oriental, mushroom or pepper sauce. The special menu includes Soft Shell Crab Salad with kerabu sauce.

The Grilled Lamb & Prawn Combo was everyone’s favourite and we enjoyed the meat with pepper sauce. A delicate coating of tamarind juice gave the prawns a beautiful sheen.

Chef Putera Othman shared with us that the trick was to combine the juice with sugar and secret ingredient.

“Tamarind juice on its own will be too sour and when you stir-fry the prawns, they will turn out bitter. The caramel coating adds crunch, encouraging diners to enjoy the prawns, shell and all,” he added.

A Penangite, 35-yer-old Putera also speaks fluent Hokkien as well as Thai and Bahasa Indonesia because he had worked in the neighbouring countries. Having started out as a kitchen hand at 14, he worked his way up the ranks.

The Grilled Chicken with Oriental Sauce comprised a large portion of chicken with mixed diced vegetables cooked in a slowly thickened sauce. The creamy mushroom sauce was loaded with mushrooms and went well with the crunchy Chicken Chop.

For another twist, Putera served the Soft Shell Crab Salad with kerbu sauce minus the main addition of mango. But the relish help up well.

Su also assured us that the portion served for the review were exactly the same as those served to customers.

This is true even of the pumpkin top accompanying the Pumpkin Rice. The rice, which was fried with liberal amounts of garlic, pumpkin, shallots and other ingredients, arrived at the table with a balanced pumpkin top that would allow diners more scoops of pumpkin.

This rice dish, along with two Style Kailan, vermicelli Prawn, Lychee Tau Fu Fah with Orange and Bubur Kacang Durian, will be available in a new menu to be introduced next month, to coincide with the opening of Penang Village at 1 Borneo in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Su holds fast to the belief that food should be pleasing, taste and presentation wise. One such example is the Two Style Kailan.

The rectangular platter balanced a vermicelli bowl of shredded kalian, fried with sugar and silverbait, with stir-fried kalian hogging the other end. Though the stir-fried was delicious, we could not resist emptying the bowl of shredded greens.

The Vermicelli Prawn was another hard-to-resist treat. The vermicelli was fried and wrapped around the prawns so that each bundle could be savoured with a tangy chilli dip concocted by Putera.

Desserts like the Lychee Tau Fu Fah with Orange and Bubur Kacang Durian were essentially traditional desserts given refreshment tweaks.

Teatime treats now available are Cucur Sayur wit special Peanut Sauce and Roti Jala with Gulai Ayam. The Rm5.90++ promotion comes with teh tarik or kopi. Penang Village is also experimenting with the The Tarik Float.

New drinks now available are the Malaysian Ice Mocha, guaranteed to be a hit with coffee-lovers; Lychee Ribena, a bubbly thirst-quencher that is great on a hot day, and Green Glory, a zesty mixture of calamansi juice, 7-Up and mint.