Penang: Food Heaven of Malaysia
January 1, 1970
by Arrum Soerjo
Penang is one of the Malaysian state that is located northwest of Malaysia. Penang consists of two areas which are the island and the mainland that is attached to Malaysia Peninsula. For now, I will cover about the island since I’ve visited it numerous times. The mode of transportation that I always take whenever I visit Penang is by flight, since it is only one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). There are a lot flights to choose, from Low cost airline to Full service airline and every two hours there is one flight that departs from KLIA. Beside from Kuala Lumpur, you can also fly from other major cities outside Malaysia like Bangkok, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Singapore.
When we are talking about Penang, we will surely have to talk about the food. In there, you can find proper Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thai food and a mix of everything. This the melting pot of Asian cuisine! Now, let me take you to through my food journey in Penang and I will start off with breakfast at Roti Canai and Roti Bakar in Georgetown.
Roti Canai and Roti Bakar
Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day; a hearty breakfast will give you enough energy until midday. I headed down to Transfer road with my fiancé’s family and found this stall crowded with people having breakfast by the shoulder of the road. If you are lucky, you will get a seat under the shade especially during weekend. All the Roti Canai in here are freshly made and you can choose to have Roti Canai or Roti Canai Telur (with eggs). After that you will have to choose whether you want it with chicken curry, beef curry or dhal. The curry itself is a unique blend of Malay and Indian curry. By the time you finished ordered Roti Canai, a guy from the next stall will approach and ask whether you want a Roti Bakar (toasted Bengali bread with soft-boiled eggs). The crispiness of the toasted bread really goes well with runny eggs. Also don’t forget to order Teh Tarik (ice tea with milk) to accompany your breakfast!
Air Itam Assam Laksa
This stall is located in the busy junction of Air Itam market. It was kind of hard to find parking sometimes but don’t fret it’ll be worth the bowl of goodness. The stall itself has been there for more than 60 years! I heard now the stall is being transitioned to granddaughter and grandson of its founder. A bowl of Laksa is perfect as a lunch or as an afternoon snack to keep you energize while exploring Penang. The base of the soup is from fish and they put sweet shrimp paste on top of that but to counteract the smell, they put tamarind (in Malay it is call Asam, hence the name of the dish). When you first taste the soup, you can feel a sour, a bit sweet and spicy flavor that goes well together. Also you can taste the freshness coming from mint leaf and lettuce. This reminds me to get a bowl of Assam Laksa soon!
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
Whether you want to quench your thirst or you want to a have dessert, a bowl of shaved ice with green noodles will definitely satisfy your craving. At first, it might be weird to see a green flour noodles (chendul or cendol) as a dessert but this floor noodles are made entirely out of rice flour and pandan leaf. In a bowl of Teochew Chendul, besides the chendul itself, you will find red kidney beans, shaved ice topped with coconut milk and palm sugar (gula Melaka). Teochew Chendul first open their business in 1936 and now they have a lot of branches in Penang, they also have branches in other cities across Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Perak but I visited the first branch which is in Penang road where they still have a stall on the roadside. Even with the amount of branch they have, people are still queuing in that stall to get their craving fixed!
Nasi Kandar Kayu
There is a dozen of Nasi Kandar restaurants or stalls that you can choose and some of restaurant operates 24 hours. For me, I really enjoy having my dinner or late night supper in Nasi Kandar Kayu. They have a massive dining area inside (or outside if you want to have a cigarette) which they managed to keep it clean. When you first enter the restaurant, you will see that they have a wide array of curry to choose, they have curry from chicken, lamb, beef or vegetables, or you can also choose from deep fried items. After you choose the items to accompany your rice, usually they will ask whether you want to have gravy from couple of different curry poured on top of the rice or not. It is absolutely essential to have this because it will add much more flavor to your meal. Their Sotong Goreng (deep fried battered squid) is my favorite dish because of the spices they use to marinate the squid. If a plate of Nasi Kandar is not enough to fill the tummy, have a go at their crispy and towering Roti Tissue that comes with the condensed milk.
Char Kway Teow Longkang
Char Kway Teow (or for short, CKT) is a stir fried flat rice noodles dish that you can easily find in any hawker center across Penang. You can have it as lunch, dinner or as a late night snack. Typical Penang CKT consists of prawn, cockles, duck egg or chicken egg, beansprout, deep fried pork lard and cooked in Chinese style. As for CKT Longkang, it has slight different approach because it is on the spicy side, serves with huge prawns (whenever you order the big portion), comes with a tasty gravy and cooked in Malay style. The stall only open after 8 pm until early morning and they are located in Jalan Mahsuri, Bayan Lepas, which is very close to Penang Airport. So whenever you’re going to fly out Penang or just when you arrive in Penang, you should stop by at this stall.