Saturday, September 13, 2008

Penang Hawker's Fare

The famed Penang Hawker's Fare at York Hotel is something I look forward to every time it hits town. It happens every once in a while at York Hotel for a few weeks' at a time, and although my family says I don't eat enough for it to be worth my while, I can't help it I just have to go. Why? I friggin' love the peanut pancake stuff they have there. Well... that and I really like Penang food. I love the spicy prawn mee, the fishball kuay teow soup, the rojak... and being able to indulge in it all without having to fly to Penang, in cool airconditioned comfort, I say it's well worth the $23.80++ price tag!
This is Penang rojak, which is a melange of fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, jambu (rose apple) and guava, together with cucumber and turnip (jicama), all tossed with a thick and viscous dressing made up of sugar, chilli, lime juice and super pungent hae ko (dark prawn paste) and topped off with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Yums!Next up we have Lor Bak, which actually refers to meat rolls that are wrapped in beancurd skin and deep fried, kinda like our Chinese Ngor Heong. It also comes with some deep fried beancurd, deep fried sweet potato and deep fried prawn fritters. Mmm mmm deep fried goodness. It's served with chilli sauce and a starchy sauce flavored with five-spice powder and eggs.This here is Cuttlefish Kangkong, which is pretty self-explanatory. Thick slices of cuttlefish, cooked kangkong (also known as water morning glory or water spinach) and bean sprouts are tossed in a thick, sweet and spicy sauce and topped with chopped peanuts. It's good stuff!
One to the serious eats! This dish looks oh so simple, but it is oh so damn tasty! It's Fishball Kuay Teow Soup and it's just about the most delicious and flavourful soup ever. I kid you not. It looks so clear and so boring, but don't let its looks deceive you. It's really really yummy. Slices of fish cake and fishballs (yes I know, it sounds weird, but these are just little balls made of fish meat and starch, and it's really common for us Chinese) and shredded chicken meat together with super smooth kuay teow (a flat rice noodle) get along swimmingly in the fragrant broth, seasoned with spring onions, cilantro and fried garlic. I am drooling just thinking about it. This is Penang Char Kuay Teow, literally translated means Penang fried rice noodles. It's got flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, prawns, cockles, egg, Chinese chives and chilli paste, all fried over super high heat for that added oomph. Yes it's fatty, but you don't have to eat it everyday. All in moderation, I say!This is another sinfully fatty dish, called Orh Chien, or Orh Luak. It's a Hokkien dish in which oysters are fried with batter, eggs, chilli and spices. Basically your normal fried omelette, but spiked with fresh oysters and starchy pieces. I'm not such a huge fan of this, simply cos I'm not a huge fan of oysters, but I do like picking out the starchy bits.This is Assam Laksa, which is rice noodles accompanied by a thick, tangy, spicy and sour fish broth gravy that contains meshed fish meat. Very different from our local laksa, which has a coconut milk-curry soup base. It's garnished with chopped cucumber, fresh onions, mint leaves and pink pickled ginger. I find that this is quite an acquired taste, you either love it or hate it. Given all the other food options available, I usually pass on this. This is another of my personal faves, the Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee. It differs from the local prawn mee in that the broth is usually much more spicy and packs a real punch. To the prawn-based broth you get a mix of mee (yellow egg noodles) and bee hoon (vermicelli), with pork slices, prawns, kangkong and bean sprouts, topped off with pieces of fried lard and fried shallots. So so so good! I love this stuff. Finally, we have my lovely Min Jiang Kueh, my crispy pueanut pancakes! I'm super fussy about these, and I only like the ultra crispy types, not the thick and soft kinds I find that most hawkers in town sell. So naturally despite having stuffed myself full of all the other goodies, I have to have at least five of thses. Inside the crisp pastry shell is a mixture of chopped peanuts, sugar and Planta (a somewhat unhealthy brand of margarine type product, but heck, this stuff's so good I eat it anyways). With each bite you get the salty-sweet combination of the peanuts and sugar, all mixed in with melted buttery goodness. Oooh how I wish I had me some of this right now.

There's also Ice Kachang and Chendol for dessert, but I didn't take photos of these cos I was just too full and too lazy, about to slip into a big fat food coma. Ice Kachang is basically finely shaved ice on top of a mix of red beans, grass jelly, sweetcorn, attap chee (don't ask me what this is in English, I haven't a clue) and a bunch of other stuff (different hawkers may have different ingredients), drenched in sticky sweet multi-coloured syrups or gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) and evaporated milk. Chendol is somewhat similar, but there's coconut milk involved as well. It's got the shaved ice, red beans, and this funny worm-like starch noodles that they colour a bright green. I don't like it too much. I'd much rather gorge myself on those peanut pancakes. *drool*

And there you have it.

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