Woke up this morning, had breakfast at the hotel. Did my best not to over eat, which was not easy especially at a buffet. But, I managed to restrain myself and had a three course Asian meal – chicken congee with condiments, hokkien noodle with curry chicken and selection of tropical fruits.
Chicken congee with different condiments on top. I decided to use all the condiments available at the table.
1. Yu Char Kwai or Chinese Crispy Cruller is a fried bread stick, eaten at breakfast. I remember growing up eating Yu Char Kwai mixed in a bowl of rice congee. When mixed with congee, the crispiness of the dough becomes soft and spongy. The texture is quite different from eating the way it is, which is very crispy on the outside but chewy and soft on the inside. My parents and grandparents used to eat them as a light morning snack by dipping into a strong cup of Malaysian black coffee, or in Penang called “Kopi Or”.
The Cantonese name Yu Char Kwai literally means “oil-fried ghost” and, according to folklore, is an act of protest against Song Dynasty official Qin Hui, who is said to have orchestrated the plot to frame the general Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in Chinese folklore. It is said that the food, originally in the shape of two human-shaped pieces of dough but later evolved into two pieces joined in the middle, represents Qin Hui and his wife, both having a hand in collaborating with the enemy to bring about the great general’s demise. Thus the Yu Char Kwai is deep fried and eaten as if done to the traitorous couple. In keeping with the legend, Yu Char Kwai are often made as two foot-long rolls of dough joined along the middle, with one roll representing the husband and the other the wife.
2. Century Egg, also known as preserved egg is made by preserving the eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice straw for several months. After the process is completed, the egg yolk becomes dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odour of sulphur and ammonia, while the egg white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavour or taste.
Not everyone likes century egg because of its pungent smell. But most that like it will eat with pickled ginger as hors d’oeuvre . Personally, I am not a big fan of century egg, but can tolerate the smell and texture if mixed in a bowl of congee. It is a Chinese delicacy and a bit expensive to purchase.
3. Salted duck egg is made by soaking duck eggs in brine, or packing each egg in damp salted charcoal. From the salt curing process, the salted duck eggs have a briny aroma, a very liquid egg white and a yolk that is bright orange-red in colour, round, and firm in texture.
The egg white has a sharp, salty taste. The orange red yolk is rich, fatty and less salty. The egg by itself is an acquired taste. Like it or hate it. I personally cannot bear the sharp saltiness of the egg white and unusual texture of the egg yolk. But, mix in a bowl of congee – the saltiness and texture are not as profound.
4. Steamed red skin peanut.
5. Anchovies in Black Bean Sauce.
Hokkien Noodle with Curry Chicken.
While waiting for dinner with my mum and sister, I decided to sneak out of the hotel to have a treat of street food near the hotel. I tried the Wan Tan Mee (egg noodle with deep fried wonton and slices of Char Siew or Chinese BBQ pork), and a refreshing iced Chendol.
Chendol is made with finely crushed ice poured over with fresh squeezed coconut milk and sweeten with palm sugar. Some stalls have more ingredients than others. The one I tried had red beans and starch noodles flavoured with pandan leaf (or essence); thus, the green colour. Chendol is a dessert. It is extremely rich and sweet. Not for the faint hearted or diabetic.
Wan Tan Mee can be ordered as a dry version or in soup. I prefer the dry version, which is usually salty with the soy sauce. It is made from egg noodle and usually topped with slices of Char Siew or Chinese barbeque pork and fresh wonton (this stall comes with deep fried wonton). It is nice to eat with the pickled fresh green chilies. Cost MYR$3 per plate.
Next in my foodtrail journey was a trip to my mum’s place. Met up with her and my sister for an authentic Chinese dinner at Wang Chao Restaurant. This is also one of my partner and my favourite place to eat whenever we visit Penang. It is a proper restaurant with an award winning Chef in the local Chinese culinary cooking/skills competition. We ordered Teochew Style Steamed Whole Fish, Golden Crab Meat Bean Curd with Broccoli, Beijing Crispy Chicken and an XO Sauce Fried Lady Finger, Snake Bean and Kacang Botol. Total cost MYR$90 or AUD$30!
Beijing Crispy Chicken – this was so delicious. The skin was so thin and crispy. The meat was tender and succulent. It reminded me of a Peking Duck because of the aroma. Maybe that is why it is called Beijing Chicken (Beijing being the new name of Peking).
Teochew Steamed Whole Fish – lots of silky soft tofu, slices of chinese mushroom, coriander, tomatoes, preserved chinese mustard greens, and some really hot chili padi (or bird eye chili). The fish was delicate, fresh and sweet. The sauce was stunning, sweet, salty and sour.
Golden Crab Meat Bean Curd with Broccoli. The crab meat sauce combined well with the silky tofu, which was very nice and soft.
XO Sauce Lady Finger, Snake Beans, Kacang Botol – this dish was quite similar to the sambal dish we had previously at the Claypot Restaurant. There was a slight variation in the use of vegetables. In this version, eggplant and snake beans were used. But the XO sauce was introduced with a bit of spiciness from an almost sambal flavour of “Heh Bee” (dried prawns).
That was quite a foodtrail journey for me in one day. Of course, the dinner was shared with my mum, sister and my partner. I wonder how much weight I have put on since arrived in Penang! 🙂