Our trips to Penang are never complete without a visit to the Batu Lanchang Market food court. Parking is ample and there is a seamless access into the food court although at times it was blocked by haphazardly parked motorcycles and bicycles.
Economy rice with salted fish bone and vegetable curry from Stall #24.
Nowhere else in Penang have I found most of my favourite hawker food with the taste that I like housed in one place except here. I always make it a point to drop in just before lunch time for the economy rice with kiam hu kut kari (salted fish bone and vegetable curry) and the most tender and tasty tau eu bak (belly pork braised in thick soy sauce). This was what I had for this trip and the previous two trips. Unfortunately, I had to go easy on the meat and curry.
Popiah from Stall #14.
Next in my hit list was popiah that I shared with Wuan while she let me have a few mouthfuls of her Mamak mee goreng which was equally delicious. I wished I could eat more after that but my tummy was already filled to the brim. The freshly squeezed sugar cane juice was just the perfect drink to cap an enjoyable lunch. If I could, I would have gone for the char koay teow and ice kacang as well.
Friendly hawker posing at his mee goreng stall. The many certificates below the signboard are awards from the municipal council for cleanliness.
With no plans for the rest of the day, we drove around aimlessly, checking out The Light Waterfront which was under construction near the Penang Bridge. This island has changed so much with massive development here and in Tanjung Tokong. I miss the days when life was more leisurely and the traffic along all the main roads was lighter.
Before we returned to the hotel, there was something that I needed to get to stave off my sugar cravings. The jelly coconut is a must have whenever I am in Penang. The shop, Thum Enterprise, is located at the junction of Jalan Dato Keramat and Lebuh Melaka. I got Wuan to buy four for me. That will be just sufficient for our stay in Penang. Sometimes, it does not take a lot to keep me happy.
It was silly of me to still think that only Penang has the best hawker food anywhere in Malaysia. Penang used to have hawker food that tasted really nice. Among my favourites are hokkien mee, kali mee, wantan mee, popiah and char kuey teow. Over the years, especially since I moved down to Kuala Lumpur, I have come to realise that the hawker food in my little island paradise do not taste as good as it used to be anymore during those few trips back.
In my opinion, the major cause of this is the ingredients. In the olden days, the hawkers prepared all the essential ingredients by themselves. They pounded the chilies, made the pastes and soup stock, deep-fried the shallots and even made the noodles used in their trades. This made the taste of their respective food unique only to them.
In contrast, many hawkers nowadays buy ready-made ingredients such as chili paste, noodles and even deep-fried shallots to cut down on preparation time and cost. That special touch in making the taste unique is lost. The ingredients used by one hawker is used by a few others who get their supplies from the same wholesaler. Mass production in the name of economy of scale is slowly killing what Penang has been famous for.
Once in a while, I still pine for the hokkien mee that the uncle sporting a crew cut hawked beside the bus stop opposite the PBA (Pihak Berkuasa Air) in Rifle Range. The spicy prawn and pork bone-based soup was simply delicious. Thinly sliced prawns and pork were generously added into the noodles. That was when I was still in primary school. Those were the days when hawkers went the extra mile to ensure that they put in only the best ingredients. How I miss those times.
Photo by Wuan.
Penang is famous for its hawker food. The dishes do not taste the same everywhere and the ingredients used may differ too. Therefore it takes a little hunting to get ones that are nice and relatively inexpensive. I usually do not patronise the more popular spots like Swatow Lane, Lorong Selamat or Gurney Drive because they are over-rated and more expensive than other places in the island.
Photo by Wuan.
The food court at the Batu Lanchang incidentally is wheelchair friendly and parking spaces are in abundance. Whenever I am around the vicinity and looking for food, I would invariably stop there. Among my favourites there are the koay kak, popiah, che hoo and ais kacang.
Photo by Wuan.
With this brief introduction of some of my favourite Penang hawker food, I am passing the baton to Minishorts. Thank you all for spending time here accompanying us throughout the Blogathon. For those who have not pledged, please do so now. This is all for a good cause. May God bless you all for your kindness.
* The entry was posted at Bloggers are Morons for Blogathon 2005.