Stranded in Penang- Part 10
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
I've never been labelled as a 'foodie' and judging by my cooking style (non style), I would agree to not being associated with this term, (not cooked a meal since January 9th- how can I when all air b and bs give you is one electric hot plate, one pan and a blunt vegetable knife)? I do normally believe in home cooking and back when we weren't crisis migrants, had a routine and more than one saucepan, I would cook almost daily. But Penang has an incredible culinary culture and our friend just loves to take us for street food and to the food courts; 'hawkers', and believes in four meals per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper) so we have been sampling a great variety of local food. I will definitely miss some of the local dishes when, (kind of wish I could say 'if'), we leave.
Most streets in George Town will have a hawker, (food court). These are partly open, partly sheltered, unpretentious market spaces with haphazard chairs and tables throughout and a surrounding border of around 20-50 different food stalls, where they prepare quality, fresh, hot, age-old family dishes. So you wander up to any stall/stalls that you would like to order from and make your request and they bring it over when it's ready. How they keep track of their crockery is beyond me. The atmosphere is usually buzzing and particularly at night, you get the feeling that you are right in the pulse of the community.
The Char Kuay Teow, (pronounce kway- tee- oh), is really popular and I like it because it's a welcome break from the potent spicy flavours of many of the other dishes. It's made from charred flat rice noodles, soy sauce, stir fried with prawns, bean sprouts and cockles, sometimes with egg and bits of bacon. I've also enjoyed Laksa, (of which there are thousands of varieties across Asia), but is essentially thick wheat noodles in a broth, (which is often coconutty and spicy), with chicken, prawns or fish. From my limited experience, I have preferred the lighter, simpler versions of the dish when they have stuffed handfuls of fresh mint and corriander on the top. I really like the wholesomeness of Nasi Lemak, a famous Malaysian dish with coconut-infused rice, salty peanuts, an egg, dried anchovies, cucumber and sometimes chicken. The meat is usually cooked in sambal, the traditional Malay sauce made from shrimp paste, chilly, garlic, palm sugar and lime juice.
Of course, satay has been a regular feature along with Thai- green curry and quite a lot of Indian cuisine (always yummy). My favourite breakfast finds have been pulut inti, the main attraction is the coconut flavour, (I'm a sucker for anything with coconut). This is a small, dessert spoon portion of coconut-infused sticky rice with a coconutty, sugary topping, wrapped in a cute banana leaf parcel; exquisite! The Kuih Kosai, (oh my goodness, so delicious), is another, again wrapped in banana leaf, with a silky smooth pillowy layer of glutinous rice steamed with coconut cream and in the contrasting centre there is stir fried shredded coconut with brown sugar and pandan leaf. Wow. Gideon and Emily's favourites have been the apams, (stuffed pancakes) and the fresh lime juice. Realise this blog does make me sound like a foodie after all, but I've just gone and burnt the kids' shop-bought pizza.