Genting Cafe Wan Than Mee And Chee Cheong Fun

A trip back to Penang is not really a trip back to Penang unless I get to savour some of the popular hawker food. Wuan and I went to Genting Cafe the last time we were back. She has never eaten there before. Ask any Penangite and they probably would have eaten there one time or another, or least heard of it before. This typical coffee shop is at the corner between Lorong Delima 6 and Lorong Delima 3, and opposite the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Hamid Khan field.

The road is narrow and car parking bays are limited. The times that I wanted to eat there, we could not find a place to park. It must have been our lucky day that morning. We got a space just across the road from the coffee shop. I had to negotiate around stalls and puddles of dirty water to get in. While we were looking for an empty table, one of the hawkers offered us the table he was occupying.

Penang Genting Cafe wan than mee
Wan than mee (wantan noodles) at Genting Cafe in Penang.

It has been a while since I last had some nice tasting wantan noodles and decided on a plate of kon lou. Incidentally, the hawker who gave up the table for us was the stall owner. The small serving I ordered cost RM2.50. It came with deep fried wantan, chai sim, char siu slices, shredded chicken and pickled green chillies. The noodles were springy like how I liked them to be. I would have preferred the wet wantans but the deep fried ones were nice, too.

Penang Genting Cafe chee cheong fun
Chee cheong fun at Genting Cafe in Penang.

Wuan had a bowl of something that did nothing to impress her taste buds. So we ordered the chee cheong fun which was very popular as evident by the queue at the stall. (My previous entry on this is here). The small serving of two rice rolls was RM1.70. The strong aroma of the prawn paste was subdued and there were hints of peanut butter. I could make do without the peanut buttery taste. A more distinct prawn paste aroma would have tantalised my palate more, although I always hated how my breath smelt of prawns afterwards. Having filled our tummies with some “authentic” Penang hawker fare, we took a leisurely drive to town to run some errands and experienced, yet again, the crazy traffic this island has become famous for.

Penang Hawker Food Slowly Losing Its Unique Tastes

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.