Penang – Food, Food, Food


Penang is one of the worst places to be on a weight-loss diet.  Temptations of the first degree abound all over the island.  In the last post I called it a foodies paradise but it probably is more accurate to refer to it as a food mecca.  Penang hold this exalted position because a) it is the historical birthplace of many of the delectable mouth-watering dishes – a result of being a crossroads of many Asian cultures; b) it simply has the best version in Malaysia of many other dishes and c) Penangites have a high expectation for food quality which ensures that the food in all the restaurants, coffee shops and street hawker stalls are uniformly good or great.

As soon as I arrived in Penang, I made my way to One Corner Cafe ( a coffee shop with a collection of individual hawker stalls) for breakfast which consisted of a plate of Char Koay Teow, a plate of Lobak, a plate of Mee Rebus and a bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee (known as Prawn Mee elsewhere).

They were all delicious but the Penang Hokkien Mee was particularly well known.  It is a dish of noodles in a rich broth made from pork bones and prawn stock and spiced up with a chilli paste. Yum yum.

Mee Rebus is of Indian origin and is one of my favorites.  It consists of noodles in a thick potato based broth flavoured with spices like cinnamon, cloves, curry powder etc.  It is also garnished with various fried Indian delicacies and a dash of squid sambal.

Penang Hokkien Mee (top) and Mee Rebus (bottom) (Photo by LGS)

Char Koay Teow is synonymous with Penang and there are many famous stalls selling this delicacy with Penangites and foodies all touting for their own favorites.  This dish consists of flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, bloody cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a mix of soy sauce.  The real trick is in the skillful frying in a high heat wok because the high heat actually plasticizes the noodle giving it a softer consistency.

By the end of my short three day visit to Penang, I had 6 servings of this dish; all slightly different and all good.  The picture below is of the stall operated by Madam Soon Suan Choo at Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat.  Madam Soon has been frying this dish for more than 4o years and has build up quite a reputation.  Her plate of Char Koay Teow costs RM9 (USD 2.82) which is almost double the average price in most other places but she is still very popular especially with tourists.

Char Koay Teow needs a really hot wok (Photo by LGS)

Another dish that probably originated in Penang is Assam Laksa.  This is a rice noodle dish in a sour, tamarind/chilli  flavoured, thick fish broth with a mint leaf garnish.  No photo here cause I had gulped it all down before I remembered to take any photos.

And then, there are the desserts and snacks.  Below is one award winning road side hawker stall selling apong which is a kind of thick pancake which is folded in half and is flavoured with coconut, sweetcorn and bananas.  Apong evolved from Appam which is a dish from Tamil Nadu, India.

Another street favorite is Ice Kacang.  This is basically shaved ice flavoured with palm sugar, syrup and coconut milk or condensed milk.  Often included with the shaved ice is sweetcorn, red bean, grass jelly, attap fruit and roasted peanuts.

Apong Dessert Stall (Photo by LGS)

I think I put on at least 2 kg in my short visit.  I now need to work off all that extra baggage before I can go to Penang again.

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12 thoughts on “Penang – Food, Food, Food”

  1. I must say, some of the ingredients in these dishes you mention may not sound all that delectable when put together, but I can well imagine that the taste is sublime.

  2. Good thing they don’t charge extra for baggage 😉 Just kidding! Glad you enjoyed.

  3. Looks delectable (from one who is currently on a diet…); but are you sure this is good food for a squirrel ??? I thought nuts were more in order ?

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