SeeFoon Mus(sel)cles in on Belgian food in Greentown

According to Wikipedia, it is sometimes said that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine but with the quality of French food. A certain Belgian friend of mine makes the claim that Belgian food even surpasses that of France!

Now that is a claim I have yet to verify as I have only been to Brussels twice and France on many, many occasions and enjoyed French cuisine in all its regional manifestations. This mild ‘Francophilia’ has left me with hankerings for certain dishes which are hard to find in this part of the world. Well prepared ones that is.

One of these is the Moules-frites or mussels cooked or steamed with white wine, onions and celery served with fries. The recipe has often been referred to as Belgium’s national dish but is also popular in neighbouring France where it is often listed as Moule Mariniere.

I have always enjoyed mussels and when they are done just right with some crusty bread to dip in the juices, crispy French Fries on the side, I find myself in culinary heaven.

Which was what happened when I had dinner in NorthSea Genuinely Belgian restaurant recently. This restaurant located opposite the Excelsior Hotel, near Greentown, which has changed hands and is under new management, has stayed true to its Belgian origins and new proprietor Chin Kim Yoon, an Ipohite and former Sam Tet boy who has returned to the fold, tells me that he spent a whole month learning all the recipes which the former Belgian owner shared during the handover and on tasting the food, I found that he had indeed learnt his lessons well.

The Mussels arrived in the pot in which they were cooked so that all the umami juices are retained for slurping up or dipping in. We usually use the shells as spoons and the tucking in with hands and the slurping of the juice all lent to the enjoyment of the dish. The mussels which were the green lipped variety from New Zealand, were juicy and cooked just right although I did make the suggestion to Chin that they would have been even more yummilicious if Chilean mussels were substituted. Can be ordered as a starter or as main course. RM49 for half kilo and RM90 for 1kg. Served with crispy French Fries.

We were a group of four and decided we’d have different starters for variety. Belgian-style Scallops were herby, garlicky and done just right (slightly undercooked) and the butter sauce great for mopping up with bread – RM25;  while the Ostend Shrimp croquettes (a breadcrumbed fried roll using potatoes, egg and shrimp) were generously sized and juicily oozy in the mouth – RM25Mushroom soup followed which was umami and thick enough without being gloopy – RM15.

For the main course we had the Pan Fried Salmon on a bed of mashed carrot potatoes which was done to perfection: the skin crisped while the flesh was still pink and the cream sauce was creamy without being cloying. Throw in some fresh parsley, thyme, bay leaf and onions and you have a dish that is fulfilling and tasty – RM39.

Next we shared the Chicken Chop with a blue cheese sauce, served with onion fries. The chicken was tender and still slightly charred on the edges which gave it a nice little crunch and the blue cheese sauce was creamy without the blue cheese being overbearing, instead, lifting the chop out of its common status into a fresh perspective – RM39.

The Homemade Belgian Pork Meatball was the icing on the cake for this meal. The four of us were so taken by the humongous meatballs that we tucked in despite being satiated to the gills. The meatballs, coated with a mildly sweet sauce cooked with raisins, was juicy, umami and delectable all rolled (literally) into one. One meatball is more than I can handle in one meal so my suggestion is to order two (minimum order) and share. Served with boiled potatoes and a side salad. RM29 for 2 and RM39 for 3.

Other dishes worthy of mention include their Clam Chowder (not on the menu so do ask if they have it for the day) which is creamy and brimming with seafood and mussels – RM49NorthSea Duck Breast with boiled potatoes and a Balsamic vinegar dip – RM39.

For drinks, NorthSea specialises in (what else?) Belgian Beer. For a comparatively small country, Belgium produces a very large number of beers in a range of different styles – in fact, it has more distinct types of beer per capita than anywhere else in the world. The beers offered at NorthSea are not your run-of-the-mill variety but very specially imported ones ranging in price from the Crafted Belgian Beer and Ales at RM39 per bottle, to the Fruity Belgian Beers at RM35 to the regular Belgian Beers at RM25. This is probably the only place in all of Ipoh to offer some of these beers.

For dessert we had what Belgium is famous for and that is their waffles which come in over a dozen regional varieties. Here at NorthSea, we had the Waffles with ice cream – RM25, and the Belgian Chocolate Cream, a scoop of Belgian chocolate ice cream with whiskey topped with whipped cream and a Belgian biscuit – RM15.

NorthSea is certainly worth a return visit but if beer is not your thing, bring your own wine and pay RM40 for corkage.

NorthSea Genuinely Belgian
44 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel.:  011 1191 5940
Chin:  016 220 2227
Business hours:  6pm-10.30pm. Closed Tuesdays.

SeeFoon Goes ‘Off The Eaten Track’ and Discovers PlateCulture

Air Asia has popularised the idea that now ‘Everyone Can Fly’. Then came Airbnb with its ‘Belong Anywhere’ branding where the whole world is one huge accommodation marketplace.

Now with ‘PlateCulture’, everyone can entertain at home.

At Home’ in this instance is not at your home where you have to prepare, cook, serve and that most dreary of chores – washing up – but at the home of the Chef. The PlateCulture Chef is someone deeply in love with cooking and ready to show his/her cooking skills to people appreciating good food. These hosts range from professionally-trained chefs to the most passionate and practiced home cooks. PlateCulture Chefs cook and host pre-arranged dining events at their homes.

Events take place in Chef’s homes. So if a Chef is different – the place will also be different. After you book, Chef confirms the booking and you make the payment.

The first Plate Culture experience to arrive in Ipoh is at the home of Mallika and Subash. Located at Ipoh Garden East, their home is cosy with the only other caveat for you the diner, is to be a dog lover. Three lovable and extremely friendly Shih Tsu’s who will only want your love and attention, will greet you enthusiastically on arrival. But Mallika will lock them away if you’re dog shy.

Mallika and Subash specialize in Biriyanis which they offer on Plate Culture ( as the Ashley’s Biriyani Experience. Mallika who loves to write and has a blog ‘My World in Words’ has this to say on their entry into the world of Plate Culture:

“My husband and I love cooking! He picked up his culinary skills whilst studying in the UK and I was an ardent student under the tutelage of my mum and my mum-in-law.

We are also avid travellers and what we discovered during our travels was the difficulty in finding a really good, taste-bud satisfying plate of Biriyani! This prompted us to experiment and slowly but surely we derived a mouth-watering concoction of our very own version of Biriyani! You will love it!

Besides the main course of Biriyani, of which we have either chicken or mutton, we serve a fresh yoghurty vegetable and fruit Raita, a tangy Mint Chutney, mildly explosive Raisin Chutney and Papadam. To wash down your meal, we serve freshly squeezed limey-lemonade.

For our beloved vegetarian friends, we have a mildly spicy vegetable Biriyani, served with all the side dishes mentioned including a delectable, tingling Ginger pickle known traditionally as Injee Puli.

To us, cooking is almost a religion – at least we think so – one’s heart has to be clean and the energy one transfers from one’s hands to the food must flow with positive vibes -a sacred act prepared with love and care will only manifest good health.

We take the preparing of meals for our family seriously – it is a labour of Love – and most importantly, when our family sits together to enjoy a meal, we bless our food and take our time savouring each morsel. Food is sacred business, you know!

On that note, we would love to invite you all to our home to get to know you and share in our Biriyani Experience! See you soon!”

I can certainly vouch for the Biriyani Experience as a most delightful and enjoyable one. The enthusiastic greeting from Mallika’s three Shih Tsu’s just tops Mallika’s own welcome, a gracious presence complemented by Subash’s more reserved one. Their sitting room is comfortable and apple juice was forthcoming almost immediately the moment we sat down.

The meal is served in their dining area adjacent to the kitchen which was spic and span. The spread was already on the table when we sat down, Fried Chicken Biriyani, Mutton Dum Biriyani, fruit and vegetable Raita and three different chutneys, the mint, ginger and raisin, hard boiled eggs and papadum.

Fresh made lemonade was served throughout the meal and Mallika and Subash couldn’t have been more thoughtful, hovering or sitting and chatting with the three of us who were there.

Of the three different Biriyanis which I tasted, my favourite was the Mutton Dum biriyani. This style of cooking involves marinating and cooking the meat with its own delectable spice blend, then added to the rice, the pot sealed with a flour paste and   left to cook in its own juices. The pot is only unsealed just before serving, stirred to distribute the flavours, topped with added fried onions and garnishes and the end result is delectable rice heaven. The other biriyanis are equally tasty albeit more toned down and probably appealing to the less fiery palates. The Mutton Dum biriyani can also be changed to Chicken Dum Biriyani for those who don’t like mutton and the style of cooking remains the same.

We ended our meal with an Indian classical dessert, the Falooda, made with basil seeds, rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet milk and topped with crushed almonds and cashews. Indians believe that Basil seeds are ‘cooling’ and it was indeed a most refreshing dessert.

A typical menu on their Plate Culture website looks like this:

  • A refreshing Welcome drink – Orangena or Applecious
  • Chicken /Mutton Biriyani
  • Vegetable/Fruit Raita
  • Raisin Chutney/Mint Chutney/Papadam
  • Vermicelli Pudding (Falooda)
  • Free flow of freshly squeezed limey-lemonade with a hint of ginger and mint!

This is priced at RM41 per guest, with a minimum of two guests and a maximum of six.

However, Mallika and Subash are happy to cater and deliver to your home at the following prices per head with a minimum order of 10 and a maximum of 20: Chicken – RM18; Mutton Dum – RM20; Vegetarian – RM16; Fried chicken – RM18. These come with mint chutney, raitha, ginger chutney, papadum, hard-boiled eggs which is included in the per head price. Eat-in comes with lemonade, papadum and falooda.

Ashley’s Biriyani Experience
9 Lebuh Perajurit 3, Ipoh Garden East.
Mallika Madhavan-Subash and Subash Damodaran.
018 245 7886 and 018 298 5466.