Revisiting Penang, A Street Food Haven

Last update: 23/11/2018

By Salbiah Said

KUALA LUMPUR: The mere mention of Penang conjures up visual images of a cultural diversity of mouthwatering food.

Touted the food capital of Malaysia, some of the best of Penang cuisines can be found at almost every corner of the streets.

In the city that never sleeps, Penangites start eating before the sun rises. There's no reason to wait until noon to indulge in your favourite nasi lemak or roti canai for breakfast, as both are easily available.

Mamak stalls or restaurants are a common sight in Penang, which is synonymous with  nasi kandar.  During a short break with my younger sister and her husband in the city recently, we opted for the famous Hameediyah Restaurant at Campbell Street, Georgetown, a one-way street near Penang Road, for dinner.

It was down memory lane for both my younger sister and me who used to frequent this restaurant back in the old days by taking the ferry in Butterworth from our home in Prai and later Seberang Jaya for either roti canai, murtabak, nasi kandar or nasi briyani.

WIDE SELECTION OF DISHES

Today, Hameediyah is divided into two, one outlet takes orders but similar to other nasi kandar stalls, one has to queue up to pick the dishes of your choice, and another is the dining section.

Here, it serves among others ayam kapitan, mutton, kurma, beef rendang and chicken curry with dhal. We chose chicken curry with dhal, served nasi kandar style, that is everything - nasi briyani, chicken and gravy - placed in one plate.

Campbell Street brings fond memories, for our family used to shop along the street as well as Penang Road, for our shoes and clothes especially for Hari Raya Puasa.

Back in the old days, Penang was a duty-free port, drawing multitudes of people from across the nation, but the state lost its status in the 80's to Langkawi island.

Today, Penang is not without its attractions as shopping malls are conveniently located in and around the city such as Komtar in Georgetown,   Gurney Plaza in Gurney Drive and Island Plaza in Tanjung Tokong.

POPULAR CENDOL STALL

During the visit, we browsed through the bazaar located near the Chowrasta market for t-shirts and souvenirs and stopped by at our favourite cucur udang stall. Next stop was a popular cendol stall near Chowrasta, which has been widely featured in the media.

Penang is also famous for its pickled nutmeg, mangoes, guava and papaya pickles. You can get them at the iconic Chowrasta Market, said to be the oldest in  Malaysia, with a history going back 120 years.

But there's another outlet selling halal pickled fruits just nearby that is attracting Muslim customers, Jeruk Madu Pak Ali. We decided to shop at Pak Ali's outlet, which is also available in other parts of Malaysia.

Lunch was at the famous Nasi Padang Minang at Transfer Road, an Indonesian cuisine origin from Minangkabau in Padang. Prices of food at the self-service restaurant, which is usually packed with people during peak hours, are affordable.

Our second night in Georgetown was well spent as we got to taste the authentic mamak-style chicken soup served with bread at Sup Hameed in Penang Road. On our menu was also pasembor, a spicy salad dish served with sweet, spicy chili and peanut sauce.

NOSTALGIC FERRY RIDE

In the morning before leaving Georgetown for Butterworth, we headed for Line Clear in Penang Road for tosai, an Indian savoury, thin pancake which is eaten with dhal and coconut chutney to dip into.

Having taken the second Penang Bridge on our first day, a ferry ride from Penang jetty terminal, also known as Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda to Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal in Butterworth was nostalgic, with picturesque views of Georgetown and the surrounding Melaka Straits.

From a two-night stay at Mansion One service apartment along Gurney Drive, we moved to a homestay at Taman Pauh Jaya, Seberang Perai for one night.
Seberang Perai has undergone so much development since I left our family home in Seberang Jaya to Kuala Lumpur to pursue my studies at UiTM, Shah Alam and my career with the Malaysian national news agency, Bernama.

Our family settled in Kuala Lumpur, except my younger sister who is permanently residing in Melaka with her husband and children, after our parents passed away.

SENTIMENTAL VALUE

As much as there is sentimental value attached to our Seberang Jaya house, it is unfortunate that we have to let it go as it has been abandoned over the years. Hence, it is now up for sale to the highest bidder.

People from the mainland boast of all-time favourites such as char koay teow, laksa, mee udang, mee ketam and ikan bakar.

Luck was not on our side when popular Adam Char Koay Teow restaurant in Permatang Pauh was closed on Tuesday. So we opted for Sungai Dua Char Koay Teow Telur Ayam Dibasuh, which is equally famous.

The best of mee udang and mee ketam on the mainland are found in Sungai Dua and Kuala Juru. Local favourites are also available at hawker stalls, such as asam laksa in Bukit Mertajam,  popiah basah in Butterworth, while Restoran Din Ikan Bakar in Kepala Batas is a another popular spot during lunch hour.

There's no end to the list of scrumptious food in Penang. After all, it is not without reason that the city is hailed as a haven for street food.

-- BERNAMA