Monday, 10 December 2012

Spencers Village Food Court

Spencer Village Food Hall on Urbanspoon
If you can't pick, pick them all.
Whether it be food, clothes or places to work (I just do not learn).

There's one little trusted place in Perth that cures all (Asian) cravings, that brings a small slice of Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, [insert any other country here] here to Australia in the form of delicious, authentic tasting food.

All in the one central location, under the same roof, spans this global village of hawker food galore to take your pick from, similar to Cambridge Forum. Located just metres away from each other, it has never been more convenient and cheap to go country-hopping from one to the other.
Durian Smoothie - $5
Most international food courts have a token drinks stall residing in the food court, with no other stalls selling any beverages. The Panda drinks stall at Spencers Village sells a delightful range of drinks for both the Western and Asian palate - there's smoothies, then there's Asian smoothies.

Durian smoothie...tasted real, and definitely smelled as real as stink.
A pleasingly real stench that wafts of durian.
Chee Cheong Fun - $4.50
Entree is always the same no-brainer choice, and is always delivered up by the ever busy Fook Kee store selling good value for money Chinese eats. Keeping a small menu and offering less choice works to their advantage as the customer does not need to bombard the brain with overwhelming choice.

It is always exciting to prance around with a $20 note in hand, and be googly eyed at the vast range of options to satiate yourself with.
Ooh, the way that skin gleams with liberal coats of sticky sauce...
A favourite at the Fook Kee stall is its beautifully simple chee cheong fun dish, its popularity evident from its presence on just about...every one of our visits.

All their menu items are small sized dishes and tastily priced, as are these soft rice flour rolls topped with beancurd skin, and bathed in coats of sweet soy sauce before the finishing touch of sesame seeds.
Yong Tau Fu - $6
Another essential dish is the yong tau fu (stuffed tofu), which will give you a pleasant surprise if all you are expecting is stuffed tofu.

It is a collective name for a plate that brings you not only tofu blocks stuffed with pork paste, but also eggplant, capsicum, fish balls and fried tofu skin. If sharing, be prepared to share intimate bites, since you don't get many of the same food item in one dish.
Assorted dipping sauces
The yong tau fu is delivered with a trio of dipping sauces to dab or drench your food in. It includes a sweet soy sauce, a chilli sauce as well as a thin garlicy, chilli sauce.
Penang Fried Kuey Teow - $8
A satisfied his noodle craving with a plate of Penang fried kuey teow, complete with bean sprouts, eggs, chicken and beef amongst the charred aroma and flavour of flat rice noodles.

I love being able to taste that recognisable wok hei flavour in this dish, achieved by stir frying the contents in a wok over a high-heat but controlled flame.
Curry Laksa - $7.50
I was forced to order laksa from another stall when I was told that the Izyam Malay stall's laksa had finished for the night. I knew laksa was the only thing that plagued my mind that night as I shop-hopped, determined to get my soupy fix for dinner.
Curry laksa, up close and personal
This laksa was a very worthy substitute, evident in the way that I scooped and scoured my way further and deeper into the empty bowl of soup at the end of the meal, full of false hope, like I was never ever going to eat a bowl of laksa ever again.

I made sure not a single strand of noodle was left alone in that sea of fragrant coconut milky soup. Life would be a lot easier if noodle dishes came with strainers...
Laksa - aerial view
A very satisfying bowl of laksa with all the familiar goodies - your fish balls, fried tofu, chicken strips, prawns, bean sprouts and 2 different types of noodles; a mix of the standard hokkien egg noodles and rice vermicelli.

The tempting call of a ridiculously flavoursome soup is just so easy to succumb to.
Nasi Ayam - $9
I fell in love with a meal I once ordered from the Izyam Malay store that has left a deep imprint in my mind with its DELICIOUS rice, infused with particular spices that I could not identify.

I have ordered a few other dishes from them in a blind attempt to find that dish I ordered again, but with no luck. This nasi ayam dish had slightly overcooked chicken with fried shallots, and disappointing yellow rice (disappointing only because it wasn't the rice I was trying to find).

I would probably go with one of their many other chicken dishes.
Bak Kut Teh - $8.50
If there was an addictive substance that can get me hooked, it is definitely the ingredients inside a pack of bak kut teh spices. A must have, if spotted by my bak kut teh prone vision.
What's not to love?
Bak Kut Teh is a very generous offering from the Penang Cuisine store, consisting of meaty pork spare ribs, tofu skin, fried tofu, plump Chinese mushrooms and champignon mushroom buttons in a clear, hearty broth.

It is absolutely perfect when eaten over a hot bowl of steamed rice or, with my way of doing things, by emptying the bowl of rice into the goodie-laden soup instead.
That way, you are more likely to fit more in the one mouthful :)
Yong Tau Fu - $6
On a more recent visit to my favourite foodcourt, we couldn't resist another plate of yong tau fu (again).
Chai Tow Kway
Not to be confused with Char Kuey Teow, Chai Tow Kway is a different dish despite having a similar appearance and letters in its name. It is similar to fried radish cake that you can get at dim sim, with the main difference being these flour cubes are tossed with egg and bean sprouts.

Chai Tow Kway is a true hawker food and a popular, nostalgic way to eat them is by ditching all conventional cutlery and simply pick them up using a toothpick.
Chinese Donut
I have fond memories of the excitement that these would bring to me as a child, when dad would bring them home. They had absolutely nothing in them, but its chewy, golden, sesame crusted exterior would be the most satisfying treat.

Straits Cuisine has a warmer filled with these baked and fried Asian pastries, and they are all really worth a try. This particular one had a sweet filling inside and is great for sharing.
Roti Tisu - $3.50
Suzie's Prata House is nestled next to Fook Kee in the corner of the food court, and can be easily overlooked if you don't pay attention. Despite always keeping a look out, the store is always shut as their business hours do not follow the other stores. I finally had the chance to try their food on a Saturday morning.
I normally love eating roti and jumped at the sight of $3.50 roti tisu. What I didn't expect was the delivery of the Great Pyramid to the table! The eye-catching roti cone is paper thin and shattered at a delicate touch. It is served with a pool of curry gravy, but as it is dusted with sugar I preferred mine as it was. A must try :)
Penang Fried Kuey Teow - $8.50
 Same dish different day, again from the ever busy Penang Cuisine stall.
Oyster Omelette - $13
The Ya Kwang Singaporean Hawker Delights stall offers similar dishes as its neighbours, but one item that caught my taste buds' attention were their omelette versions. There is the choice of either oysters or prawns and the omelette is freshly cooked to order.

The omelette looked more like a mess rather than an omelette, but it smelled delicious with no lack of flavour. Some mouthfuls did have an unpleasant, chewy gooey texture to them which I suspect is the result of unthorough flour mixing. We also found ourselves hunting around for more oysters, believing that some were hidden somewhere (when there were actually only about 5 altogether).
Baked Pork Buns
The Straits Cuisine stall serves up Malacca and Chinese dishes and along with the chinese donut, we buy half a dozen or so of these baked pork buns to take home. As delicious as (or probably more) their steamed counterparts, these baked barbeque pork buns come with a buttery, flaky pastry; making them much more sinful.

The ball that takes the crown is a deep fried glutinous rice ball filled with a sweet red bean paste. Its other name is jian dui, literally translating to "fried heap". Indeed it is a heap of fried glutinous rice flour, but you have to taste it before you judge the name with a scrunched up expression on your face.
Tom Yum Fried Bee Hoon - $8.50
Somehow we are still not satisfied at this point and go order a plate of fried bee hoon from the Singaporean stall. I'm a sucker for the intense hot and sour flavour of tom yum, which is quite well distributed in the stir fried rice noodles.
I don't enjoy it as much as I thought I would; most likely because I've ignored the obvious sign that I was actually already full.
Soybean Milk
Soybean milk from the Panda Cafe is refreshingly cold and goes down real smooth :)
Kuih Dadar
The abundance of Asian cuisine stalls at Spencers Village means numerous Asian desserts and delicacies being sold. Kuih dadar is a rolled pandan crepe stuffed with grated coconut and palm sugar. The green tinge is a result of pandan juice that has seeped through the batter that should give it a wonderful sweet fragrance.
Kuih Dadar interior
Despite the promising shade of green on the crepe rolls, the lack of fragrant and taste of the pandan rolls is a big disappointment. The crepes themselves are very bland and hints at the use of food colouring to give it that deep colour.
A look on the label lists only three ingredients; these being flour, coconut and sugar. Hmm...
I'll have to get my authentic fix of kuih dadar elsewhere. Anyone with recommendations?
Panda Cafe (drinks stall) and Miss Saigon (Vietnamese cuisine)
The tables are sticky and there is a high chance you need to share your table with strangers, but Spencers is definitely my favourite food court.
Spencers Village food court (next to IGA)
I'm hanging out for the next visit to Spencers Village, which probably won't be for a while since the drive there costs an arm and a leg's worth in time (even though this is a compilation of 3 visits haha). I envy those who live nearby, who can get cheap, authentic and fast meals whenever they please, without losing an arm or a leg.

It may be a food court, but service is personalised a little by every stall's ordering procedure. Ordering and paying is standard, but then having your food delivered to your table is a nice touch that saves your bottom leaving the wooden bench seating (even if they are uncomfortable)!

Don't expect flashy surroundings, or even an average ambiance at that. Spencers has built up quite the reputation over the years, but in the opposite direction, attracting negative publicity regarding its food health and safety violations.

Once dubbed "the food hall from hell", it could not be any more misleading.
If this here is hell, I would love to go to hell.

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Lunch & Dinner: Wed - Sun
(Imagine my rage fit when I turned up nice and early on a Tuesday after a 30 minute drive)

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