Friday, October 31, 2014

Island of Asian Street Food at Phô

Island of Asian Street Food at Phô

Hawkers Corner in City Pub!

The Phô Mule.
The island of Penang, part of a Malaysian state of the same name, is renowned for it street food. Not surprisingly, as it is a melting pot of many cultures with India, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and the Malaysian mainland itself all relatively close by. 

Here, hawkers with their rickshaws join together in the marketplace. These are specialists, one an ace in Prada, the other in curry, another in noodles, this one in Rendang. People come from miles around to sample their wares.

Thankfully, you don't have to go to Penang. Chef Prakash, known locally here as Kash, who grew up on the island surrounded by it rich culinary landscape, has brought the authentic know-how with him to the new Phô in Douglas Street. 

The menu is extensive and there is also a Phô Kids Menu. Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Kids and the strength of the spices (1, 2 or 3) are all clearly marked on the menu. No shortage of drinks either, non alcoholic, teas, coffees, wines, and local craft beers all available. And also a list of very original cocktails!

Okay. Where to start? The Roti Prata is proving very popular. This is an Indian influenced flat bread, fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and Kash tells me it is “an all day thing in Malaysia, 24/7”. It is proving very popular in Douglas Street. You may have it plain with a fragrant Lentil Curry (I enjoyed that very much) or with a number of fillings, including Chicken or Egg or Curry. Phô customers use it as a sharing dish while they wait for their main course.

Rice dishes include Thai and Malaysian Curries. The latter are spicy gluten free, originating from Penang Island. And, of course, there is Rendang, a spicy (#2 on the spice scale!) meat curry, served with Jasmine Rice. I loved the beef version but would happily try the others.

Beef Redang, served with Jasmine rice (not in shot!).

The next section comes under the Hawker Corner label. You, or the kids, won't go wrong here, even if you may not get the pronunciations right.  Try the gorgeous flavours, textures and aromas of the Khaw Pad Bay Krapow, Thai stir-fried rice with prawns and sweet basil.

Flat noodles feature on the Char Koey Teow, Malaysian stir fried flat noodles with prawn, slow smoked duck and pork sausage, bean sprouts, dark soy sauce and duck eggs. Phew, hard to pronounce but easy to eat and one of my favourites. Talking of pronunciation, Phô is pronounced “Faa”.

More noodles, big fat roundy ones, on the simpler Hokkien Mee. These are Udon style noodles cooked with pork liver and soy sauce. Delicious. Other noodle dishes include Phô Bo (from Hanoi) and Penang Prawn Noodles.

Vegetarian dishes look inviting with Pasembur and Poh Pia available. Indeed, next time I go back I might well pick the Pasembur as I had a sample of the Sweet Potato and Peanut Sauce and it is superb.

And everyone can tuck into Phô’s one desert. Indeed, everyone should try this at least once. It is a gem called Ais Kacang, shaved ice with screwpine jelly, grass jelly, rose agar agar, palm seed, rose water syrup, palm sugar syrup or ice cream. The most delicious glassful you'll get anywhere for €4.50. Cooling too if you’ve indulged in the spicier dishes!

Dessert (left) and right, from top, Hokkien Mee,
Char Koey Teow, and Khaw Pad Bai Krapow

While I was sampling, I kept cool with another lovely drink, a Lassi. This is a popular refreshing Indian influenced yogurt-based drink. Mine was Mango flavoured and you can also get it in Peach!

They are very proud of their Cocktail list here and rightly so. You will see one or two old standards there, including the Singapore Sling, but most of the cocktails have been created specially for the new restaurant/bar and are inspired by the South East Asian regions.

I had to sample one before heading off. The Phô Mule was recommended. “It’s a bomb,” I was told. Pandan leave infused Absolut, Kumquats, Lemongrass and Ginger Syrup, Lime and Ginger Beer. Not like any cocktail I’ve tasted before, it is superb, some beautiful refreshing flavours smoothing down the alcohol. And don’t gulp it down. Sip through the straws and enjoy it all the more.

How about the Phô Mojito? This is made with Cucumber, Coriander, Rum, Lime, Sugar and Soda Water. Kash’s own favourite is the Penang Twang. Ingredients here are Grapefruit Vodka, Lemongrass, Green tea, Lemon juice and Sugar. Cheers!

And best of luck to Brian and Kash. Both men are well known for their successful Fresco Bistro, attached to the Glucksman in the grounds of UCC and very popular in the college and surrounds. No doubt some of their customers there will be among those turning up in Douglas Street to try the well priced well cooked meals. All food is “homemade” in Phô and sourced locally where possible.

Roti Prata

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