December 30, 2018 § Leave a comment
My last post for the year has to be the wonderful eating escapade we had in Penang, a food paradise mainly due to its diversity in ethnicity, culture, and religion. Its multi-ethnicity brings variety in Penang’s street and hawker food. The Thrillist named the food capital of Malaysia as one of the best food city in the world. And the food should be one of the main reasons to visit Penang.
The most highly celebrated Malaysian Food is the street or hawker fare.
Expect to sit on colorful plastic tables and chairs on the roadside or in open air complex housing many food stalls.
Some of our favorites:
Char Kway Teow
A famous dish and a national love, it’s a plate of flat rice noodles, stir-fried in a charcoal fried wok with prawns, cockles, scrambles eggs, crunchy bean sprouts, strips of fish cake and chili paste. The more famous versions will include pork lards and even sweet barbecued pork slices and use duck eggs, which results in a combination of flavors that are pretty unique. The Penang style Char Kway Teow is made special by the flavor of the “wok,” and the freshness of the ingredients.
Oyster Omelette or Oh Chien
Popular in many countries, it’s basically a fried oyster-filled omelet. The use of rice flour in the Penang version, as opposed to potato starch in others gave it a lighter, crispier texture.
This sweet and soft creation is filled with soybean curd, grated turnips, french beans, fried tofu, chopped peanuts, shredded egg, Chinese lettuce and shrimps wrapped in a very thin crepe and served fresh.
It is a delicious serving of noodles in either dry or soup form. As the name suggests, the dish is served with wanton (meat or shrimp dumplings) and char siew (barbecued pork slices). The dry version, my choice, uses dark soy sauce and perhaps oyster sauce and the soup version comes either with chicken or pork stock. Another version that I am very curious but was not fortunate enough to try (because they ran out at the Chew Getty Cafe) is the white version. They say that while it is milder than the soy sauce cousin, it delivers a flavor with more depth. No wonder it is a fast seller. Should this be my reason to go back?
Begin your day with Malaysia’s national and traditional dish. A staple especially for breakfast, it is coconut rice served with a hot spicy sauce (sambal), fried crispy anchovies, toasted peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh cucumber slices.
Sambal is the soul of tis dish; it brings together all the various toppings and completes this iconic dish.
I had this superb dish at Cafe Mews with Japanese mackerel and prawn sambal.
With the Chinese having such influence in Malaysia, it is to no surprise that Crispy duck is a popular dish served everywhere. Baste in sweet and spicy sauce and served with rice, this duck dish is deliciousness on a plate. Try it at Café Mews.
The island’s claim to fame, however, is their Nyonya flavoring in the local Chinese dishes. The term Nyonya refer to the Straits Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia and adapted Malay tradition, customs, and cooking ingredients. The result is the Peranakan cuisines otherwise know as Nyonya.
At Penang’s gorgeous Seven Terraces Hotel is a Peranakan restaurant serving an excellent repertoire of Nonya food under the leadership of creative head chef, Christopher Ong. Outstanding modern Nonya Cuisine served in a stylish dining room.
A four-course meal comes with large portions of an appetizer, vegetables, main and dessert.
Located on Stewart Lane, Kebaya Restaurant is the best bet to sample the authentic taste of Peranakan food within Georgetown.
Because Malaysia is a multicultural country blessed with food from the Chinese, Malay, and Indian, it is to no surprise that Indian cuisine has melded its way into its kitchen. One such dish that has become a Malaysian staple is:
It is an adaptation of the Indian paratha roti (Indian flatbread), which made its way to Malaysian soil when the British brought South Indians to work in British Malaysia. It is one of the most basic rotis and is served with chicken curry. It is a favorite breakfast dish, but it is also served as a snack or quick lunch.
One of the most engaging side of Georgetown is the bustling, colorful Little India. It covers about 4×4 streets and is packed with shops selling beautiful saris, Indian pastries, and jewelry. But more importantly, Georgetown is home to quite a few authentic Indian restaurants.
Walking around Little India after a visit to the Pinang Peranakan Museum a few blocks away, we found ourselves in Dindigul Biryani.
Also known as Bite N Eat to non-Indians, it is a local eatery serving Southern Indian food in a friendly and clean environment. The staff are friendly and helpful, they will help you with the menu tablet, which includes photos for the appreciation of non-Indian diners. Try their chili gobi (A spicy cauliflower starter), mutton and vegetable biryani, paneer butter masala. Portions are significant and a good value for money.
Also famous for its diverse range of desserts, most of which are made with local ingredients such as coconut milk, palm sugar, red beans, bananas, sweet corn, and grass jelly among others. Penang’s desserts come ranges from piping hot to refreshing. Here are some of my favorites:
Regarded as Penang’s signature dessert and is sold almost everywhere. It is a bowl of shaved ice filled with chewy green rice flour jelly (cendol), red kidney beans, fresh light coconut milk (or condensed milk) and sweetened with a splash of palm sugar syrup. A refreshing treat on a hot day.
Another refreshing dessert that’s similar to cendol. Literally means “ice beans” and pronounced “ka-chong” and sometimes referred to as just ABC, it is a bowl of shaved ice comes with a serving of kidney beans. However, the number of ingredients has grown to include sweet corn, grass jelly, different fruits, and is served with coconut milk, condensed milk, or even ice cream.
Apom Balik (turnover pancake)
Apom Balik is a sweet Nyonya-style pancake that’s stuffed with shredded coconut, sweet corn, sliced bananas or peanuts folded over and topped with a sprinkling of sugar.
They are bite-size gems that are soft, almost pudding-like in texture. With appealing colors dominated by flavors of coconut, pandan and palm sugar, these dainty bites are a Peranakan delicacy that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Last but definitely not the least for durian lovers, where else can you find the best durian but in the island of Penang – the haven of hybrid durians.
At the time of our visit, it was pretty much the end of the season, and our Grab taxi driver brought us to Leng Durian at Anson Road, the few stalls still selling the fruit albeit at a very high price.
Durian, for those unfamiliar, is one of the world’s most exciting foods. While many associate it with its odor, it is a fruit that is a strange combination of savory, sweet and creamy all at once. And for durian lovers, it is one of the reasons to travel to Penang.
And with this, I wish you all a Blessed 2019.
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