So I was in Penang recently and conducted a food tour courtesy of a few locals.
Both Penangites and Kuchingnites love their food passionately, though I must say Penangites take their love for food to a whole new level of obsession.
The best way to start a fight with a Penangite is to tell him the best Char Kueh Teow is not at his favourite stall. Then be prepared to argue with him until the cows come home and the Char Kueh Teow aunties pack up their stalls to go home watch Astro liaw.
But here's what I think about Penang food. I gotta warn you extremist food lovers first though. The entry ahead contains brutally honest opinion. If you cannot handle the truth, then I guess that's just too bad.
Penang Nasi Kandar
Penang has a lively and thriving Indian population. It's very unlike in Kuching, where spotting an Indian walking down the street is an occasion for all Chinese people to point and stare.
Nasi Kandar is possibly one of the best things ever to come out from Penang. It is hot, spicy and oily but I love this dish to death. I went to Mohd Rafee in Pulau Tikus and Line Clear on Penang Road, and I enjoyed them both. Even now, typing this entry is enough to make me wanna fly to Penang and gorge myself silly with Nasi Kandar
Ordering Nasi Kandar is very much like ordering economical fast food in Kuching, except everything is almost in curry. You start with rice and then select from the many different types of curries to flood your rice with. The combination of these curry flavours give rise to a diverse but distinctive range of tastes.
Nasi Kandar stalls are also typically located close to drains. So when you eat Nasi Kandar, the "pleasant" aroma emitting from the drains nearby also comes free with no extra charge.
Penang Assam Laksa
I tried the one at Anson Road, although most commenters cited Ayer Itam wet market as having the best Assam Laksa instead.
But the truth is, this is the 4th time I tried the Penang laksa and I still do not like it! The Penang Assam Laksa I tried looks and smells like someone just scooped it up from the longkang water in their backyard, chucked some fish and pineapple in it, then served it to the customers. It looks bad. It smells foul.
Just like our own Kuching Belacan Beehoon, the Penang Assam Laksa is a love-hate affair. You either love it or hate it. For me, I just think it tastes too foul and sourish for my liking. I won't say I flat out hate the dish.
Let's just say it's something I'd eat if I really hate myself.
Penang Ampala Sem Bueh
Why don't we have this drink in Kuching?!
Ampala is a kind of mango-looking fruit and sem bueh is dried sour fruit. Mixed together and topped with ice, they make an excellent refreshing drink. They are so popular now, you can get them at almost all coffee shops in Penang. Perfect for washing down your hot assam laksa or oily Penang char kueh teow!
Penang Sup Torpedo
naeboo and I went to this roadside stall opposite the skanky Hotel Malaysia after a night of clubbing, and she yelled "Bagi dia SUP TORPEDO!"
The Indian waiter's eyes opened up wide, as if to tell us "Whoa! Respect!"
The "torpedo" in this "sup" has nothing to do with the bombs Americans used to drop on Iraq. The "torpedo" in this case, is a bull's penis, chopped into pieces, boiled in broth and served with a good dash of pepper. Supposedly, drinking Sup Torpedo helps improve vitality and cures erectile dysfunction.
When I come to Penang, I know I'd be tasting a range of good hawker food. Never did I expect that I'd be sucking on some dead animal's lan jiao.
Commenters suggested that I go to Penang Road for cendol, and that's where I went. There's two stalls facing each other in a lane, both selling cendol. I find it really amazing that one stall has tons of people clamouring around it, waiting for their turn to give the owner money, whereas the other one only has the owner sitting there bored and chasing away mosquitoes.
It's worth a try. Penang cendol is good, but I won't say it's fantastic. Maybe it's the teochew style, but I'm not used to my cendol tasting like limp noodles in syrupy cold soup. I'm not sure why there's more syrup than ice in my cendol. For the best cendol in the whole of Malaysia, you cannot go past Melaka.
What I love about this cendol stall in Penang Road though, is that they sell ice balls.
This is where they mould the ice shavings into the shape of a ball, pour syrup over it, and you just suck on it like your momma's titties. And they cost just 70 cents.
And it tastes great especially on a hot, humid day.
Penang Char Kueh Teow
There are too many famous Char Kueh Teow stalls in Penang. Just by stating one's preference over another is enough for you to start a fight with a Penangite.
The three favourites that was recommended to me by the commenters are Sister's Char Kueh Teow at Macalister Road, and two stalls at Lorong Selamat.
Personally, my favourite Char Kueh Teow stall is the one at Lorong Selamat where the auntie wears protective goggles and a santa hat when she chars her kueh teow. Many commenters have warned me that this auntie has got some serious attitude problem and she fries her char kueh teow as if the whole world owes her cash.
Surprisingly, she was quite nice to me when I was there. I did purposely went out of my way to piss her off but she was kinda patient. Even the local Penangites who were with me remarked that her attitude that day is a little unusual.
I'm not sure why she's so nice to me. Maybe she's also a fan of kennysia.com.
I must say, the Penang Char Kueh Teow totally deserves the iconic status that it has as the favourite food of all Penangites. The flavour of this wondrous dish packs such an impactful punch. The difference is the way they fry their kueh teow - with hot charcoal instead of gas.
I dare say their Char Kueh Teow kicks our pathetic Tomato Kueh Teow's ass so freakin' bad, you can taste their foot all the way from Kuching.
The only thing bad about this dish is that it is way too oily. If you ever fall sick due to high cholestrol, don't worry - the cardiologist is just right across the road.
Penang Char Kueh Teow is SO DAMN OILY that when I go to the toilet, instead of pissing urine, I piss cooking oil.