Traditional and avant-garde Asian cuisine at Maple Palace
Chinese New Year celebrations which last for 15 days offer an ideal time for family reunions as well as to catch up with old friends. When my classmates from Han Chiang High School decided to have a mini class reunion, Maple Palace was our top choice. The restaurant serves mouth-watering cuisine that is both traditional and avant-garde at the same time. It also offers festive Chinese New Year dishes synonymous with good luck and prosperity. On top of that, the quality of the delicacies at Maple Palace has been consistent throughout my visits in the past.
Opened in September 2009, the Maple Palace Chinese Restaurant is a fine dining restaurant in Penang, Malaysia that offers exquisite Chinese and local cuisine. It is situated in a rustic, historical mansion of the Maple Gold Club along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah in Penang
In Penang, Yee Sang is one of the most anticipated traditions of a must-have Chinese New Year dish. It is basically a colourful Chinese salad with raw fish, crackers and a special sauce. Interestingly, Yee Sang is obscenely popular only in Malaysia and Singapore while most Chinese in the rest of the world have absolutely no idea what the craze is all about. Where did this dish originate from – Malaysia or Singapore? Well, it is an interesting story to find out.
This is one dish where everyone joins in the fun to "lo sang". We tossed the salad as high as we could using chopsticks while shouting out the good stuff in Hokkien of what we hoped would happen in the coming year – "Heng ah! Ong ah! Huat ah!". It is a call for our lives to flourish, to prosper and for our dreams to develop into reality.
After such a rambunctious start, we were in for a real treat. Next was a truly unique four seasons creation of exquisite cuisine. Artistically presented, it is a visual feast as much as a gastronomic delight. Hanging on a Chinese brush rack was a string of crispy chicken wings stuffed with tobiko (flying fish roe). In small little glasses below, skewed pan-fried scallops with red and green peppers coated with a dark savour sauce. On white little saucers lay golden breaded prawns. And on a platter was spread Spanish Iberico char siew salad with lotus root chips.
It looked so beautiful. The cameras certainly had their full share of the dish before we dug in, doing justice to today's dining prelusory experience of photographing one’s dinner treat.
Being the Chinese New Year season, we next had the popular assorted preserved waxed meat claypot rice (lo mai fun). This dish had different types of waxed meat including Chinese pork sausage and Chinese duck or goose liver sausage. I am glad that the chef served a plate of greens on the side to balance out the high-fat content of these item.
The next dish was simply delicious. Braised broccoli topped with scrambled egg white and crab meat. It was such a lovely combination and we enjoyed this dish very much.
This roast chicken dish was served with crispy salmon skin flavoured with salted duck egg yolk. It was a welcome surprise compared to the mundane roast chicken topped with prawn crackers. The chicken was tender and its skin crispy.
"Buddha's delight", often transliterated as "luo han chai" is another popular dish during Chinese New Year. This authentic recipe has eighteen key ingredients which many finds is too tedious to get all the ingredients, and therefore omit some components without sacrificing the flavour. The chef at Maple Palace had done the same while creatively encircling the vegetarian dish with a yam ring, making it a more hearty dish. The flavours were still recognisable although he added broccoli and snow fungus to the mix.
On another occasion, we had the same four seasons as above. It had a delectable mix of dishes that were simply sublime.
Maple Palace is also famous for its aromatic duck served with paper-thin pancakes, cucumber, spring onions and a special duck sauce. The tender duck meat shredded tableside in front of us was scrumptious when wrapped in the pancake with other condiments. All the flavours came brilliantly together in every bite.
Here is a quick rundown of other dishes we savoured that evening. I enjoyed this spicy and refreshing Ceylon spinach with Ubah sauce. The slightly sourish lime juice along with chili padi, shallots and dried shrimps made this dish appetising. On the top right photo is bitter gourd and egg served in a stone pot.
Grouper and prawns steamboat needs fresh ingredients to accentuate the natural flavours of each item in the dish. Cooked at the table in a bubbling pot of flavourful stock, this dish encourages everyone to partake in delectable merry-making.
Osmanthus and wolfberry jelly is a wonderful way to conclude a satisfying meal. Each serving consists of eight ingot-shaped jellies with a longan in the centre of each. It was so good that we just had to order another portion. To the Chinese, an ingot (is a form of ancient Chinese currency) is symbolic of prosperity and wealth due to its auspicious shape.
We were happy with the service at Maple Palace. It was additionally comforting as the waiters were attentive and responded quickly to requests. After every dish, they would come around to change the plates so that we could enjoy each dish without the sight of lingering sauces from the previous dish.
With good food and service, it is no wonder that Maple Palace is popular among locals. Please call to make reservations to avoid disappointment especially during the Chinese New Year season.
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All rights reserved
13 February 2019
Maple Palace Restaurant
47 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050 Penang
T: +604 227 9690
Lunch: 12:00 noon – 2:30 pm, Dinner: 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm