Saturday, October 13, 2007

Penang Food Trails

Now, it may appear a little odd that I am posting entries on Penang in this blog about Katong. But to me there are many linkages. Penang is about family, food and Straits Chinese heritage, which is really what I associate Katong with too. Of course here in Katong the Eurasian factor comes in as well. Anyway, that is why these posts about Penang are on this blog.

Assam laksa, Penang Kway Teow, Chendol, Lor Bak! We visited Penang with a clear and serious intent: to eat our way through as many delectable hawker goodies as possible! Well, we can say that we have visited a number of good stalls but alas, there are so many places we did not manage to get to.

When eating in Penang, it is essential to have a clear goal and strategy in mind:
  • First, work out which stalls you wish to visit and plan your route accordingly.

  • Second, remember it is about sampling. No point stuffing yourself at the first place. Order a small helping, preferrably to share. Don't gorge even if it is good. There will be more good stuff later on too.

  • Third, don't worry about introducing variety. Remember, it is also about comparison purposes. You'll never know if you had the *best* Penang laksa if you haven't tried a few stalls.

  • Fourth, share drinks. The coffeeshops require you to buy a drink from them. So you could get filled up on all that liquid.

  • Fifth, take notes. What will you do if you forget where they are by the next time you get to Penang?
Here is my food tally:

Bee Hooi Coffee Shop at Kimberly Road - Penang Kway Teow, Yong Tau Fu. The YTF was just so that we could have something wet to go with our kway teow. We did not realise until we checked the old review that we had actually selected a well-known kway teow stall. But I certainly appreciated the large and fresh prawns which accompanied the dish. The kway teow was tasty too, perhaps a tad wetter than the Singapore rendition of Penang Kway Teow. BTW, this photo was taken on my mobile phone rather than my camera. Note the size of that prawn!

Guerney Drive - 2 samples of assam laksa, kueh pie tee, some lok lok, 1 sample of Penang kway teow. The kway teow (although it was also supposed to be famous) was not really up to par. The laksa from the first stall we tried had well-flavoured stock, and I noticed then that the noodles tend to be much softer (cooked for a little longer?) than the al dente version served in Singapore. I thought also that the blend of condiments was just right, with the ginger flower adding just the right twang to the dish. I was however a little surprised with the pie tee as there was no little shrimp on top and the chilli was not fresh chilli but some sauce.

Malay Street (at the corner of Malay and Carnavaron)- The best Lor Bak we had. Juicy, succulent meat in the crispy wrap.

Penang Road - Lor Bak and Prawn Fritters from a famous hawker, cooked with style and panache. Here he is at his wok. Further down the road, at Lebuh Keng Kwee, we ate yet another serving of assam laksa (rank 2 of the 3 samples we had) and truly yummy chendol.

Apparently, the green worms in Chendol are not just made of flour coloured green the way it is done in Singapore. It is made of a special herb which gives the jelly that green colour. The Penang variety of chendol is made with the gula melaka syrup poured over the crushed ice, before the diluted coconut milk, green jelly worms and kidney/red beans are poured on top. This particular hawker was famous! Every time we asked for directions to Lebuh Keng Kwee, we had problems. We asked for "the chendol stall" and everyone knew where it was. We found out upon coming back to Singapore that he has branches across Malaysia, including Johor Bahru.

Lorong Chulia - We also had one meal at a small local Hainanese restaurant, pork chop, itek tim (duck soup with preserved vegetables), lor bak and mixed vegetables. The shop has many regular local clients and the jovial proprietor clearly knew them all. Wearing a neatly tied apron, and with a little hat on his head, he discussed their orders rather than just took them. There is no menu in any case. You have to talk to him or his mother (?) to work out what is available. It was a hearty, homecooked meal.

Penang is where you regret that you have only one stomach. I must admit that I've probably had enough laksa, kway teow to last for a few weeks but very soon I'll be BACK at the penang food stall in Marine Parade...!

1 comment:

  1. My mum is from Penang and we used to visit my relatives there every school holiday until my grandparents passed away, when I was in secondary school, and most of my relatives moved to KL. I haven't been back since and I am always dreaming of Penang food. I especially enjoyed taking a ride out in the evening for supper, even if we had just eaten a great homecooked dinner prepared by my po-po! It has such a special place in my heart. I hope to go back soon, and I will definitely be bringing along your list of recommendations!



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