Thursday, October 01, 2015

Penang Makan Trip


Since the corporate trip to Penang last year, I have been wanting to return to this Malaysian city for its good eats. Thankfully, the stars aligned, tickets were booked and soon we found ourselves on board the plane.

Our first meal upon reaching the Penang airport was...KFC. Moohaha! For all of Penang's famed street food, we succumbed to Colonel Sanders' fried chicken, cheesy fries, coleslaw and wrap. We blame it on the low hanging fruit economics principle, and the believe that whatever local delights the airport might have would likely be expensive and adulterated.

So 3 fried chicken parts later, I checked into the room at the modern chic Hotel NEO+ in Georgetown. You can tell my roomie couldn't wait for this photo to be taken. LOL.

A short walk away from the hotel were many eateries and cafes. We settled down for a bowl of Duck Kway Chap from Restoran Kimberly which dished out its nosh from a roadside stall. The bowl had duck meat plus pig's offal and for those vampires who like their blood, duck blood cubes. It was all very hearty, rich and earthy.

We also ordered Char Koay Teow from a neighbouring stall but unfortunately it turned out forgettable- bitter and charred. :(

To remove the bitterness, we ordered up desserts in the familiar form of Cheng Tng and Gingko Nuts.

Probably the star of the entire trip for me was stumbling upon this solid plate of Hor Fun and Bee Hoon. There was so much smoke in one of the lanes that we circumvented it, thinking it was haze or fogging. Moohehe. But thankfully we returned and found this stall which we initially thought to be selling Char Koay Teow. It turned out to be selling mainly Hor Fun and what an incredible one it dished up. Imbued with wok hei and not too starchy, it was a tasty plate which made up sit right up. The expertly cooked slightly thick slices of pig's liver had a nice bite and was not a single bit grainy. Sedap lah!

Dazzled by this surprising find, we didn't take note of the name of the stall or street. Well I guess part of travelling is the delight of discovering things!

Penang is also famous for its wall murals and a handy map depicting the locations of the popular ones makes a great guide for exploring that area of town. Walking around also prepares the stomachs for moore food! Moohehe.

The next morning, we headed just across the hotel for a breakfast of Char Koay Teow and a huggable Big Pau at a very old-looking kopitiam. These run down coffee shops have heaps of character and are a rarity in Singapore. I can totally see my grandparents growing up there. 

One can't come to Penang and not have Penang Laksa. At this popular stall at Joo Hooi Café, the Penang Assam Laksa boasted a rich, flavoursome bowl of tangy, spicy, sweet and savoury flavours. Thin slices of red onions, wedges of pineapple, mint leaves, assam, sardines (or mackerel) and that glorious spoonful of prawn paste added a variety of textures and tastes. The noodles seem a little softer that my previous visit though they were still very slurp-able with the gravy.

Joo Hooi Café is small and cramped but always bustling and crowded. With time-tested furniture and paint peeling off its walls, one can only imagine the many happy meals and memoories had in its premise through the decades.

Besides the laksa, we practically tried every other stall in this kopitiam. Lor Bak! Hae Mee! Popiah! Kueh Pie Tee! Moohehe.

The Char Koay Teow (by now, we realised we actually did 3 of this dish in a day! Moohehe) with duck egg was pretty good but takes a while to arrive due to the queue.

To cap off the epic lunch, we each had a bowl of Chendol from the famoos stall just outside Joo Hooi Café along Lebuh Keng Kwee. It was quite shiok given the heat and humidity. Coconut milk had a touch of saltiness which gave an added dimension to the sweetness. Love that the worm-like Chendol strands were of a more natural-looking green unlike the many Stabilo-worthy versions in Singapore. Moohehe.

Hipster cafes are sprouting up like mad in Penang. This SG hipster was spotted taking a photo of her cuppa against the now all too familiar bare brick walls that seem to be a feature of every hipster café. Moohaha.

From one hipster café, we explored its backyard which led to yet another hipster café with art installations, wall murals and swinging little hipsters. LOL.

Also in the area was an exhibition titled "Believe in What You Feel" by Taiwanese artist Wang Te-Yu. We walked into a white billowy sheet and probably experienced what it moost have been for Sun Wukong and the celestial beings walking on clouds every day, and felt our way into large onion-shaped structures only to exit macchiam being born. Moohaha. And like every kid there, we left our own little piece of art inspired by our whole experience at the exhibition.

Oh back to the topic of cafes, it seems like coffee addiction is strong in this town. :p

The next stop was at this kopitiam recommended by Xiao Pei Pei. Toh Soon Café is a hole in the wall place with a back alley feel. Its toasted bread with peanut butter and kaya provide warm fluffy comfort. Pair them with an iced coffee which was strong enough to send moo to caffeine heaven. Or was it sugar heaven. Aiyah, it was a happy place lah. Not sure if my travelling mates were happy at my sudden burst of extreme lameness and energy though!

One random Gui Ling Gao stop (because it was raining) and don't know how many other countless stops later, we arrived at Tai Tong Restaurant for dim sum. It was all very rustic, old school appeal.

Being just around the Mid Autumn Festival, the ceiling was lined with many lanterns. These lanterns which require a candle to be placed inside them reminded me of my childhood when lanterns>mooncakes. Moohehe. 

We visited the Clans Jetty and enjoyed the sea breeze, and Gurney for some shopping and makan (lots of options at the open-air food street but nothing really stood out from what we tried. Ok, maybe except the wanton mee). Oh and foot massages were pretty well-priced so we had daily foot massages! With this kind of eating and daily massages, I need to only drink and listen to Mozart to become fine-marbled wagyu. Moohehe.

Penang, till we meet again!

Chew On This: Penang is huge and we only managed to explore Georgetown and a little bit of Gurney Drive. There are also fruit farms, beaches and many more places in Penang to explore!

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