Food of Penang – Part One

It has been several weeks since I last posted on my blog. I was traveling. The biggest mistake I have ever made on this travel was – I forgot to bring along my camera battery charger! Thus, after the first few days of happily snapping my camera away, I ran out of battery! That was when I realised I have not brought my charger with me. I was in Penang – 6 long weeks in the tropics.

It started like this. I finished my last project and my contract in May, a week and a half before my 49th birthday. Then my brother’s family, mum and sister came to Melbourne for my nephew’s graduation ceremony. We all met up in Melbourne for a family reunion with my nephew. I brought mum and sister back with me to holiday in Tasmania – their first ever visit. Then I went back with mum and sister to Penang. I flew Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Airbus A380 from Melbourne to Singapore – my first experience in an A380. It is a huge aircraft – more spacious and more comfortable.

The timing if you asked me – was timely. The weirdest thing is that early on Chinese New Year (Feb 14th), I read the prediction and what behold for the Oxen based on the Chinese 12 zodiac signs – it said that I will be far away, leaving my partner behind and working on a home renovation/furnishing. The prediction of this taking place between June and July! Scary thought! Or, is it a sheer coincidence?

Now, back to Penang. I didn’t have much free time to myself. But, hopefully enough to share some of Penang food with you. Penang, without saying, is certainly the best place to taste a diverse, culinary food culture across Asia. It is not only the street food scene. It has international cuisines, beachside restaurants, cosy wine bar, boutique cafe and art studios in inner city world heritage listed George Town. There are many more places to explore for a tiny island like Penang that I have yet to experience. This is reserved for my many more future trips to Penang.

The first night I was home, I stayed at mum’s flat – a humble old 2-bedrooms unit of less than 40 sqm (I think). The area is an extremely popular residential neighbourhood – with walking distance wet markets and a huge open air “kopitiam” (Penang-style food court) with more than 30 different street stalls selling food from Char Koay Teow, Curry Laksa, Koay Teow Teng, Hokkien Mee, Mee Goreng, Chicken Rice, Economy Rice, Sar Hor Fun, Bee Hon Mee, Popiah – all the local Penang favourites! I can keep rambling on.

So my sister insisted that I have to try the Loh Mee and Hokkien Mee – my first breakfast on arriving home in Penang. They were both good. But, I still prefer the Loh Mee – which is a starchy version of Hokkien Mee (in Australia – it is known as Prawn Mee). Topped with heaps of chili and garlic paste! Yum!

The Stall Owner

Loh Mee

Hokkien Mee

In Penang, eating out is fairly cheap and reasonable. I survive on an average of MYR$5 (AUS$1.50 – AUD$2) for breakfast, MYR$6 (AUD$2-AUD$3) for lunch and MYR$10 (AUD$4) for dinner! Believe it or not! It makes traveling very affordable. But, of course, you can splash out on a more extravagant meal at posh restaurants for more. But, still cheap in comparison with cities like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

One other morning, I had an Indian-Muslim Mee Goreng – stir fry yellow noodle with eggs, fried tofu, and vegetables with a squeeze of fresh kasturi lime. I had a traditional Malaysian “teh tarik” (black tea with carnation milk) to accompany my breakfast.

Mee Goreng

Penang people loves to eat. Who doesn’t, right? When you have so many choices in front of your eyes. Food everywhere. I love food. But after a few weeks of eating out, I do miss home cooked food. So, I went to mum’s place for dinner in the last couple of weeks in Penang. That was nice. I even had my first attempt at cooking my own dinner in Penang. I was a bit disappointed with my first attempt. It was not the same. So, back to eating out in Penang.

My favourite breakfast while I was in Penang has to be the “Sar Hor Fun” at Tho Yuen Restaurant in Campbell Street, George Town. If you are ever in Penang, you must visit this restaurant. It has been there for many decades, and still serve the same style of food – Yum Cha, stir fried noodles and famous Chicken Rice. Be prepare to wait if you go during peak hours. I stuffed my face with not just one dish, but several while I waited for my Sar Hor Fun. I had a “Cheong Fun” (steamed rice paper stuffed with fresh prawn) and “Har Kau” (steamed prawn dumpling). I was also determined to have a small plate of chicken to go with my noodle. There are two types of chicken, roasted chicken or steamed white chicken. In Hokkien, it is known as “Pek Kay” or “Seoh Kay” or in Cantonese, “Pak Cham Kai” or “Siew Kai”. So had to order one. I sat there. Enjoyed looking at other tables – what they ordered. Slowly sipped my chinese tea. It took me 2 hours to eat my breakfast. It was thoroughly an enjoyable breakfast moment to myself – with all the noise and buzz of a typical Chinese coffee shop.

Cheong Fun and Har Kau

Sar Hor Fun and Pek Kay

The busy and bustling Tho Yuen Restaurant

Tell me. Have I tempt you enough yet?

6 responses to “Food of Penang – Part One

  1. Ooooh yes Victor! Firstly, welcome back to the world of blog! Great to see you posting again, and I must admit to holding the greatest fear that, for whatever reason, you had stopped. Secondly – yes, I am tasting each item as you described it, and now have the immediate urge to rush down to Yum Cha at Me Wah – my closest place for getting any of those items you mention in your post. It’s Sunday morning, and they have their YC happening right NOW! It is do-able, but not quite the same as your experience!

  2. Hi Victor
    thought you’d gone off with Dr Who. Yummy photos as always.

  3. I’m drooling all over my keyboard here, love the look of the Hokkien Mee. I’m glad you get to visit home, I’m sure it’s a nice get away and welcome back to blogging. 🙂

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