Penang Street Food – A Gastronomic Journey Up NorthDecember 1, 2009 | 10,553 views
I did promise a post on Penang’s famous street foods, didn’t I? I tell you, nothing beats Penang when it comes to street fare. Not even my beloved hometown of Ipoh. Every corner, every junction, and almost on every single row of shoplots on the island, you’re bound to bump into a coffee shop, hawker centre, or at the very least, a make-shift hawker stall under some shady trees.
Kapitan’s Claypot Biryani Chicken (RM7/USD2) – Not exactly a POT, but a single serving of this can net you euphoria, nevertheless!
I do not know where or how to start off with, for the 2 days 1 night ‘Makan’ tour (read : gluttons at work) had us almost clutching our stomach and begging for some form of respite. Only to be duly served with more and more scrumptious food, completely devastating our plans for a much slimmer beginning to the new year.
You MUST try this lovely, warm concoction of ground almond with spices, nuts and fruits and fresh cow’s milk
I was back to Kapitan on Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street) for I just can’t forget the taste of the aromatic, creamy and smooth Badam Milk (or Almond Milk), boiled and served at a stall parked at the side of this Indian-Muslim restaurant. Yeah, a glass full of nourishing and no doubt, fattening (who cares?!) warm fresh milk with mild almond flavour, before our meal. Top that!
A glass of Badam Milk (RM2.50/USD0.70), and a serving of Tandoori Chicken with Garlic Naan (RM7/USD2)
Kapitan serves some mean Biryani rice, full of flavours from the herbs and spices, and served in a most unconventional claypot (that resembled more of a bowl, than anything else). With a choice of chicken or mutton, we picked the former for Zmin does not take mutton. Nor beef. Nor raw fish for that matter. I Am So Mean. =P
Anyway, the Tandoori Chicken at Kapitan’s tasted a tad too salty, possibly from the red-tinged marinade, but paired well with the fluffy Garlic Naan. The mint sauce and a sweet/spicy chili sauce completed the ensemble, and not forgetting a side serving of dhal curry for to moisten the bread. Or you can request for any type of curries you’re in favour of, at no extra charge.
Kimberley Street Hawker Delights – Mboy’s favourite Chee Cheong Fun, and the crowd’s favourite Char Koay Teow
Kimberley Street in the heart of the city is lined with many hawker stalls, each promoting their brand of incomparable Penang Street Food. From the usual suspects of Char Koay Teow, and Chee Cheong Fun to the delightfully braised and brimming with flavours chicken thighs, wings, feet, egg and all, then capping the feast with a bowl of sweet soup dessert, Penang style.
The braised chicken parts in dark soy sauce, to be served as it is, or with some noodles. The braised chicken feet was tremendously soft, gelatinous and flavoursome.
The Chee Cheong Fun (steamed rolled rice noodles) in Penang is unlike what the southerners routinely have. Here, the Chee Cheong Fun is served with a side of, or sometimes drizzled/doused with thick, pungent and briny prawn paste (he ko), and a dollop of spicy sambal (a condiment with ground chillies, and sometimes with a squeeze of lime juice), then liberally sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
Back then, I was very, very accustomed to the Ipoh’s way of serving the noodles, which is either with a combination of chili sauce and a dark reddish sweet sauce, or with gravies such as curry (some even with pig’s skin or wild boar’s meat) or mushroom/minced pork combination. So imagine the look of horror on my face back then when I was presented with a plate of rolled up and cut into small bite-sized chunks of CCF (that’s Chee Cheong Fun), and a thick and black sauce at the side.
The ‘Tong Sui’ or sweet soup served by Traditional Home of Dessert on Kimberley Street
But things changed, my palate finally outgrew the initial rejection of having my smooth CCF with prawn paste. And after awhile, I started to accept the Penang style of CCF, and even developed a sense of fondness for them. And the ensuing cravings, every now and then. (Now tell me, where in Ipoh can I get my CCF served with He Ko?!)
The Char Koay Teow (Fried flat rice noodles with eggs, prawns and cockles) fared reasonably well, but not the best I have tasted on the island. I love the Pulau Tikus wet market’s version at night, and to some extent Ah Leng’s pricier offering as well. The Lorong Selamat and Macalister Road’s Sister’s versions were both out of my books, sadly.
And talking about Char Koay Teow, back then, I fell in love with the one in BB Coffee Shop next to Sunshine Square, the shop that also sells the Penang Road’s Assam Laksa. I was wondering, is the shop still there?
The Tong Sui, or sweet soup desserts were diluted, probably from the addition of too much ice cubes. But the sweetened ginkgo nuts (Peh Koh Thng) version was good, and not cloyingly sweet. The New Lane Hawker Centre next to Sunway Hotel in town still houses my favourite Tong Sui stall in Penang.
To rid us from the sins of gluttony, we prayed and we prayed @ Goddess of Mercy/Kuan Yin Temple on Jln Masjid Kapitan Keling
Look at those ultra-thick prawn paste from possibly the MOST famous CCF stall in the whole of Penang!
The morning after – We crawled out of our beds (a most budget option, for we did not make any reservations prior to embarking on our trip – Wanna know where?) early in the morning, and ventured to Seow Fong Lye on Lorong Macalister. Past experience was a lesson learnt, ensuring an early-to-rise motto embedded into our minds. But by 9.30am, the coffee shop was already packed to the brim! Seas of people were seen lining up at the CCF stall that we aimed for (and the stall that I regrettably missed in the previous trip), while the Char Koay Kak (Fried radish cakes with bean sprouts, eggs, and crunchy preserved mustard) stall was equally as famous.
FINALLY. One MUST be thick-faced, and brace the relentless wait and daggering stares for a chance at the prized yet most simple hawker fare, the humble Chee Cheong Fun
The wait came to about 30 minutes. Or probably more, for we took turns waiting like vultures at the stall (to no avail), then I braced the stand and wait spell over at the Char Koay Kak stall. Then firmly seated at our table, nobody came to take our orders for the drinks. Sigh ….. But all was well eventually, for after some serious (and shameless) naggings, I carried myself the two plates of CCF back to our table, but not after everything else was nearly polished off.
The most concentrated of prawn paste, and a piquant sambal drenched half of the servings of steamed rice noodles roll (two rolls per serving), and the CCF was disappointingly doused with too much fried shallots oil. But the fragrant toasted sesame seeds added a whole dimension to the bland yet smooth noodles, and the gravy was hands down the star of the show. Not for the faint hearted this one, for if you do not like the strong, pungent-flavoured paste, you’d stop at your first bite.
The Lady was pleasant, and accommodating. Unlike some other ‘Big-shot-of-a-Char Koay Teow-seller-with-an-attitude’. Seow Fong Lye also serves very good toast cut into small blocks, spread with butter and kaya, dipped into the half-boiled eggs.
Wok Hei? Check. Crunchy bean sprouts and minced Choy Pou (preserved radish)? Check. Cheap? Oh Hell Yeah.
The wait for the Char Koay Kak was equally as daunting, so do not put all hopes in this or the CCF if you’re on the brink of starvation. Go get some toasts, or some other noodles to line your hollow gut.
But well worth the wait, the Char Koay Kak was tasty, and fried with such ‘wok hei’ (heat of the wok) you can taste the smoky, and fragrance emanating from the banana leaf placed underneath.
The forgettable Char Koay Teow, and horrendous Wantan Mee.
By all means, skip the Wantan Mee. For it was reeking of alkaline taste from the lye water (kan sui) used in the production of the noodles, and the meagre portion of Char Siew (2 pieces), Shredded Chicken (pitiful strips), and Wantan (2 pathetic dumplings) served was not the most impressive to the senses.
But consider ordering the toasts with butter and kaya (sweet & fragrant egg jam) with half-boiled eggs, or the Western-style of omelettes (read the previous post here) for a lighter meal. Or when you’re already on all fours, seeking for any grubs to ward off that grumbling tummy.
And this post merely touches the tip of the iceberg. The chopped scallions on the Koay Teow Thng (Noodles Soup). Or maybe the toasted sesame seeds on the Chee Cheong Fun.
There are countless other good finds in Penang that will render your trip here worthwhile, and fulfilling. Don’t resort to shopping malls’ food (like us, hehehe .. sometimes), posh restaurants/bistros/cafes, or (SHOCK!) fast food outlets when you’re in Penang. Go out, drive around town, look for the the most charming establishment at the most unassuming corner of the streets. Follow the crowd (not blindly), read from the amazingly-detailed Penang food blogs, but most important of all, trust your foodie instincts.
(Claypot Chicken Biryani, Tandoori Chicken, Badam Milk)
93, Lebuh Chulia,
Opens for business : 24 hours a day
Kimberley Street Hawker Stalls
(Chee Cheong Fun, Char Koay Teow, Tong Sui)
Only for dinner/supper, from evening until late night.
Kedai Kopi Seow Fong Lye
(Chee Cheong Fun, Char Koay Kak, Egg Toast)
94C, Lorong Macalister,
11400 Penang, Malaysia
The Chee Cheong Fun stall operate from early morning, until noon.
But during peak season (read : Public holidays & weekends) the noodles may run out before 12pm.
Here’s the GOOGLE MAP TO ALL THREE PLACES I reviewed above.