Penang Street Food (Part 2) – Chulia Street, Kimberley Street & Lebuh Cecil MarketFebruary 4, 2010 | 37,260 views
It was ironic that I went to Penang twice last week, almost back to back. Within the span of a week, in fact. Whereas the short excursion to the mainland of Penang (Seberang Jaya/Butterworth, to be exact) saw us scavengers ravaging through the myriad of stalls selling delicious hawker food at the newly-discovered (at least to this most innocent-cum-naive Ipoh guy here) “Wai Sek Kai” of Chai Leng Park in Butterworth.
But as destiny would have things her way (overly-dramatic?), I was back to Penang a few days later for a short getaway. In case it’s your first time here, or amnesia struck again, I absolutely fell in love with Penang food, especially food from the streets. In fact, time and again I’ve stressed that I developed my inquisitive, epicurious and gastronomic taste bud NOT in Ipoh, but when I spent my 4 years in USM of Penang. Yeah ….. those dastardly-memorable years saw me ballooning from a frail weakling to a mass of gigantic blob, to an almost ogre-like creature now.
Regrets? Nah …. FAR from it.
Anyway, the 2 days, 1 night solely Penang street food-hunt resulted in some new discoveries, as well as repeat visits to some perennial favourites of mine. Lebuh Chulia, or Chulia Street in Georgetown is a road most famous for the extensive backpackers hotels and lodges, peppered with a dash of ‘SIN’ come the darker hours of the day (go figure), and of course – hawker stalls lining the streets until wee hours of the night to cater to the hungry souls. I meant, alive & breathing souls … Don’t get me wrong.
The Hainan Pork Satay stall situated on the outside of Sai Lam Coffee Shop at the corner of Lebuh Chulia and Lebuh Carnavon saw the old uncle grilling skewers after skewers of marinated pork and chicken meat, and serving the satay with plates of sweetish, and slightly tangy peanut sauce. A most traditional approach, and very different from the usual Malay version of the same street food. Not spicy at all, and a little diluted, the sauce may not appeal to some. We had the pork satay of course, for something not easily found in Ipoh. (By the way, if you’re wondering where to get them in Ipoh, I only know of Kong Heng Coffeeshop in Old Town of Ipoh).
The Wantan Mee stall was doing brisk business that evening, as evident from the stacks of uncooked egg noodles on display in the glass cabinet. But the classic egg noodles served with roasted pork (char siew) and dumplings (wantan) in both soup and fried forms, was a far cry from the one at Wai Sek Kai in Chai Leng Park, Butterworth. Mediocre at best, and the reddish-tinged Char Siew did not manage to impress.
High turnover at one of the classic ‘Chu Char’ restaurant on Lebuh Carnavon (Teik Seng, or something like that), the market against a backdrop of Penang’s most recognized skyscraper, and beautifully baked Lou Por Peng (Wife’s Biscuits – flaky pastry with yellow bean/red bean fillings)
Steamed pancake (Pak Tong Kou) from a stall in front of Tai Tong dim sum restaurant that serves dim sum for dinner-supper on Lebuh Cintra, and flaky coconut tarts from Ng Kee Cake Shop on the same road, a few shops away from Tai Tong.
We walked from Lebuh Chulia over to Lebuh Cintra (a very short distance away) for a moment of rendezvous with Tai Tong dim sum restaurant, a permanent fixture during my uni days, when we would walked all the way from Prangin Mall to this restaurant for dinner. Yeah, they serve dim sum for dinner-supper ONLY. During the day, Tai Tong only serves fried noodles and such. (Correct me if I’m wrong, anyone).
We skipped the thought of having dim sum for dinner though, for I’ve had enough dim sum as of late in Ipoh. The steamed sweet pancake (Pak Tong Kou, or literally translated to “white sugar cake”) is a most nostalgic snack, bringing back memories of the yesteryear’s, when grandma would bring them home from the market almost without failed.
A few doors away from Tai Tong, you can find Ng Kee Cake Shop, which bakes tasty egg tarts, coconut tarts, and other delectably traditional biscuits, even Lou Por Peng or Wife’s Biscuits, and Pepper biscuits.
Koay Chap is found only in Penang, and possibly in the northern region of peninsular Malaysia only. I did not manage to locate this in Ipoh, or Perak for that matter. But Singapore has a few famous stalls serving Koay Chap, as far as I know.
For the ‘official’ dinner of the evening, we adjourned to Lebuh Kimberley (Kimberley Street), whereby we had the refreshing Tong Sui (sweet soup desserts), almost PERFECT braised chicken feet, one of the better Penang Chee Cheong Fun and a disappointing Char Koay Teow. Read more about the same items ordered before, HERE.
But this time around, a Penang friend highly recommended the Koay Chap served at a pushcart stall outside of the Tong Sui shop. Koay Chap is a thick, soupy rice noodles served with duck meat, various offals, cakes of coagulated pig’s blood and commonly a braised egg. The chunks of smooth rice noodles resemble Chee Cheong Fun at best, and the dark broth did remind me of Lor Mee’s. Last I had Koay Chap was at a stall in Ayer Itam’s market, some years ago. Take note that this Koay Chap stall is rather popular, even being featured in the media repeatedly.
Breakfast @ Kwai Lock Coffee Shop, Pulau Tikus – Swarmed by the morning crowd on a lovely Sunday …..
Burping incessantly, we called it a day and slept over Trang City Lodge on Jalan Trang in the heart of the city. Details to come at the end of the post. But now let’s see the next day’s breakfast.
Pulau Tikus police station is famous, not for the wrong reasons. But more so because the Char Koay Teow (CKT) stall OPPOSITE of the station is a favourite of many, especially for those who prefer their CKT fried with duck eggs, instead of chicken’s. Sin Hwa coffee shop’s the name, I believe. But I prefer the corner lot also situated opposite of the station, named Kwai Lock (read my previous experience HERE), for the shop houses many stalls selling delicious …. what else? STREET FOOD of course.
The Roti Babi stall was sadly nowhere to be found. But the Char Koay Teow (without duck egg, for she ran out of duck eggs that morning) was miles better than the Lebuh Kimberley’s version, but still …. I felt something was lacking. Hmm … Where’s the BEST place for CKT, Penangites?!!!
Our friend informed us that the Fried Sago is an almost extinct ‘ART’ ….. nowhere else you can find this very classic hawker fare.
Sticky rice cakes lined in array …. signifying CHINESE NEW YEAR’s in DA HOUSE !!!! Yay !!! Embrace the Holidays, PEOPLE!!!
Cheaper than the average hawker foods all over the island, the Lebuh Cecil Market (also known as the 7th Road Market) houses an astonishing number of stalls, that open from morning until late evening.
And for lunch on our last day, WL brought us over to Lebuh Cecil Market for a taste of everything, at a fraction of the price. Or so he claimed.
Seriously, CKT at RM2.50? And most items below RM3?!!! Almost unheard of, eh? Especially interesting was the Fried Sago, which may passes off as Char Koay Kak (another Penang’s signature of fried radish cakes with bean sprouts, chives, and sometimes seafood), with a much different chewy texture. Do note that this is served COLD, for the Fried Sago is pre-fried, packed and displayed atop the stall handled by two elderly aunties, whom also sell Tong Sui in various flavours.
The Chinese style of Pasembur (or rojak) had a strong following, but its closest competitor, at Batu Lancang market serves a much tastier version in my opinion. Nevertheless, the uncanny resemblance to the Indian counterpart stops at the addition of crunchy jellyfish, a staple when it comes to the Chinese rendition of this snack.
The very famous Duck Meat Koay Teow Thng was a sad miss, for they neglected our order (wondering if it was on purpose, since we ordered a measly one bowl to be shared?). The assortment of Nyonya Kuih was also a most tantalizing feast to the eyes, and the tummy. At about 50-60 cents per piece, you can binge out without the guilt.
This was where we stayed for the night. All of the other hotels were fully booked, with Saturday being a public holiday, due to the Thaipusam festival. Thankfully, our Penang aide came to ….erm, our aid.
Here’s the LOCATION MAP to the above places :
Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh Cintra, and Lebuh Kimberley – Within walking distance from each other, and many hawker stalls to choose from.
Kwai Lock Coffee Shop – Char Koay Teow, Pancakes with various fillings (banana, tuna, cheese, etc).
Lebuh Cecil Market (7th Road Market – so named because it’s the seventh road in a parallel manner, from Jalan Magazine)
Trang City Lodge @ Jalan Trang, off Jalan Dato Keramat in Penang. A budget option that’s clean, comfortable, and near to Prangin Mall/Komtar in Georgetown.
Seriously, if you’re still hanging tough and reading this, drop everything you’re doing and start planning a food tour around Penang this very instant. The amazing array of street foods in Penang is unbelievably tempting, and I believe you will never, EVER go hungry in Penang …… HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE.