I was in Penang for a conference most of last week, and one thing stood out – the locals’ love for food and their enthusiasm in promoting their favourite hawkers.
It actually goes beyond the usual promotion, where one waxes lyrical about his/her ultimate must-eat and then leaving you with the hawker’s address and an advice to visit it soon.
A number of folks I met for the first time was so excited to hear I was a foreigner and hadn’t had a chance to dig into local food, and right away asked to take me out for a quick Hokkien Prawn Noodles or Char Kway Teow fix.
I allowed it, and came away with many gastronomic orgasms.
I learnt one thing: nobody goes to Penang to eat in restaurants.
There are so many awesome hawkers peddling freshly cooked street food that is loved for generations. Just walk anywhere and you are bound to find a weathered old man or woman clanking pots and woks to make culinary magic.
And these babies are cheap – RM4 to RM5 for a plate of Char Kway Teow for instance – so you will be motivated to order a variety to satiate your greed.
Having said that, I was introduced to what was said to be one of the top four Char Kway Teows in Penang – a shophouse on Jalan Selamat – and sank my teeth into a plate of noodles that cost RM10. That’s about the price of Char Kway Teow in Singapore, which is pricey by Penang’s standards.
But the serving was a lot more than the regular ones and it came with three fat and succulent prawns. The price is justified, I guess!
Plus, the locals didn’t seem to mind and the shophouse was packed to the rafters with diners and eager folks waiting to get a seat.
We got served after a 30-minute wait.
I’ve not actually met a local who merely eats to live. Everyone, including the chauffer assigned to me, is a foodie who uses his lunch hour to check out new digs to bring his family to on weekends.
I now have two contacts who are foodies and provide chauffeuring services, and who are excited to take me around to more great food the next time I return.
Awesome. That was the best thing to come out of this work trip haha.