When in Penang: “You should book a hotel along Chulia Street in George Town as there’s where the street hawkers will come out at night,” said a friend, knowing what a foodie I am. So that was what we did – a pal and I checked into the Yeng Keng Hotel, a quaint 19th-century heritage building with a colourful facade, which is located just a stone’s throw away from the stretch of Chulia Street – between Love Lane and Lorong Chulia – where street hawkers will roll out their wares on wheels every night.
Have to confess, we had the impression that the entire street was going to be packed elbow-to-elbow with food stalls of every kind, like your typical pasar malam (Malay for night market). That was not the case as we soon found out. But then again, the dozen or so hawkers that were out do offer every kind of food that Penang is famous for and most of them are very good.
The first stall we saw already got me excited. Lok Lok is akin to Chinese steamboat except that the food ingredients are skewed on satay sticks. You cooked them in a boiling pot of broth, before dipping it into satay sauce (or chili sauce if you prefer). In Singapore, I knew it as “Satay Hum” and when young, my family and I used to eat it along Keok Lane at tables with pots of broth embedded in the centre. At this Lok Lok stall, customers cook and eat their food whilst standing. Though I was dying to try it, somehow, standing alongside strangers to cook and eat my food did not seem that enticing.
Just a few steps away was this Lor Bak stall which caught our eye thanks to the delicious-looking spread of goodies they have up placed front of the cart, plus the fact that the people running the stall were wearing matching T-shirts!
You can’t go wrong with Penang Chay Koay Teow (stir-fried flat white noodles) wherever you go. This guy was delivering plate after plate as people wait at tables set up along shophouses that have closed for the day.
Feeling peckish by the time we reached the end of the “food stretch”, we decided to try this Wan Tan Mee (pork and dumpling noodles) stall ‘cos there were many people queuing to order, even from passing motorcyclists! As we all know, if a food stall has a long queue, it is probably very good.
This old couple works fast and in tandem. The chap just focuses on cooking, while the wife takes order – and she can remember who ordered what and where they end up sitting – and delivers the end product.After we made orders of a large wan ton mee (MYR4.80) with two sui kau (big prawn dumplings, MYR0.90 each), we popped behind the stall to share a table with an uncle who was already halfway through his meal. Conveniently, there was a fruit stall next to the wan tan mee and so we could order drinks directly from the fruit guy as he came over to take orders.
And here’s the dish that was worth waiting for (it was hardly 10 minutes if truth be said). The noodles were soft and easy to chew, and the char siew, pork and prawn dumplings were all tasty and nice, enhanced by sliced green chili. Kinda regretted sharing a plate but we did want to try other goodies along the lane…
As we walked back to the hotel, other hawkers had appeared like this Muah Chee (glutinous rice balls coated with peanuts and sugar) man. It may be just a simple dessert but the guy meticulously stretch each rice dough before flattening it and coating it evenly with the peanut and sugar, before slicing them up into small pieces. At MYR3 (SGD1) per box, it was simply out of this world. So good that we went back to him the next night and bought another two boxes!!
We didn’t get to see this Apom stall till much later. If we have not bought the Muah Chee, we would have tried this, especially when the lady looks so happy as she made each one. We had some at our hotel breakfast spread and they were very good!
Be sure to check every side lane off Jalan Chulia as well as you may never know there will be other hawkers setting up shop. Like this Char Kuih Kar, or Carrot Cake as we called in Singapore, stall tucked somewhere Jalan Carnarvon. This lady was cooking like a boss and we couldn’t resist buying a pack after enquiring what is the difference between adding a chicken or duck egg. “Duck egg has more flavour,” said the lady, which was good enough for us and we simply stood back and watched her cook up our order in exactly one minute. Wrapped in a cone-shaped packet, the Char Kuih Kar was still warm when we eat it in our hotel room an hour later. And it tasted mighty fine. (You can see her in action via my instagram video at this link: http://www.pictaram.com/media/1393885213402536497_1005347238).
There are many other night hawkers spread over George Town like Campbell Street, but Chulia Street is often regarded as THE food street in Penang. (There are various well-known food shops that only opened in the day for a few hours along the street as well). Worth checking out if you want to try authentic local Penang cuisine. 🙂
All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s authorisation.