Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eating Penang - Two Dishes You Can't Miss

Thursday, March 15, 2012
Penang Char Kway Teow
Penang Char Kway Teow
Two Sister's Char Kway Teow, Kafe Heng Huat

It's All About Penang Char Kway Teow

Some memories don't fade with time. I had my first plate of Penang Char Kway Teow on a Malaysia road trip with my family and I've never really forgotten the taste. We'd spent a long day on the road and when we finally reached Penang, the skies had turned dark. We were all so hungry we literally turned in to the first coffee shop we saw. It was an impossibly rustic set up (isn't it always these places churning out the best grub?) but their Char Kway Teow seriously blew me off my feet. There is something about the cleaner flavours without sweet sauce - the chilli shines so much more. I can't even explain it coherently anymore, but that was the beginning of my crush on Penang Char Kway Teow. I haven't returned to Penang since.

Penang Char Kway Teow
Lady with the Red Hat

Until recently, that is, when I found out that my weekend cruise with Royal Caribbean docks at Penang. After escaping the immediate vicinity of the port (we were obvious targets for cab touting), and a couple of failed attempts to get cabs to go by meter, we settled for what seemed like the most reasonable sum and scooted off to meet the lady with the red hat.

Penang Char Kway Teow
Penang Oyster Omelette
Penang Omelette at Kafe Heng Huat, 9.50 MYR, Oyster Omelette, 20 MYR

Boy, was it worth our trip! The prawns were incredibly fresh and such giants! I loved that they had none of the artificial crunch so common these days and tasted completely natural. Every strand of the kway teow noodles was evenly coated with the amazing flavours of lup cheong (chinese sausage), lard, chilli, wok hei and a sweet-savoury taste of the sea. In fact, the cockles were so well incorporated into the whole dish that many of my friends who never liked cockles had no qualms with them that day. This is seriously the best Penang Char Kway Teow I've ever had. The oyster omelette, on the other hand, was decent but nothing close to the magic of our first dish. They were coated with an incredibly tasty chilli similar to that in the Penang Chaw Kway Teow though. Apparently, the Penang Assam Laksa and Ice Kacang here is worth a try as well.

Two Sister's Char Kway Teow
Kafe Heng Huat
108 Lorong Selamat,
10400 Pulau Pinang,
Open from 11am – 6pm

Penang Chendol
Penang Chendol
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul

And A Chendul Well Worth the Queue

Our next stop was Penang road's Famous Teochew Chendul stall. First thing we saw? A snaking queue that almost extends to the main road. Intimidating to say the least. Look, queues aren't always the best barometer of quality but I assure you, these people weren't queuing for nothing. This unassuming stall here has at least 60 years of history and pride themselves for using absolutely no artificial colourings.

Penang Chendol
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul, 2 MYR

The result is a game changer. Just as it was with the Black Forest Cake, I felt like I've never known what chendul/chendol was meant to taste like until now. The sweetened red beans (not unlike what the Japanese serves up in their desserts), were soft but not mushy. The texture was fantastic. Do you notice how the edges of the chendol are tinted a faint brown in contrast with the snow white coconut milk in the center? That's the gula melaka working its way up from the bottom. A whole dollop of gula melaka was hidden right below, thick as honey, sweet but full of dimension - like an asian caramel of sorts. You could choose to mix everything all up, but this was what worked best for me: A small scoop of the thick, rich gula melaka, some crushed ice, and a little bit of everything else to make up spoonfuls after spoonfuls of the most intense chendol flavours you'll ever get.

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
475, Jln Penang (at side lane outside Joo Hooi Café),
Opening hours: 10:00am – 7:30pm
Tel: 012-4808135

Royal Caribbean - Legend of the Seas
Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas

In our case, 6 hours just wasn't enough to try everything that Penang has to offer. If you're lucky to have more time on your hands, definitely make your way down to Ah Leng Char Kway Teow as well - we missed it but it purportedly serves up an excellent plate of Penang Char Kway Teow you will never forget!

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