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We just returned back from Penang.

Great food as usual and… lousy drivers on the streets, also as usual.

At home, while watching the French TV channel the reporter announced that the local police will act quiet harsh for those driving to their vacation destiny by road.

As we also plan a trip to Europe in a short while, I’ll have to change my Penang driving habits or I might be paying a fortune on local fines:

I’m already preparing myself mentally to respect rules for overtaking, one-way streets, speeding, crossing continuous singel and double lines, parking and a few more. Of course all this while driving again at the correct and right side op the street! It’s going to be a challenge. More later, after our return.

Malaysian style rules were posted alreay in a former mail (see post of Januari 2011). Only for your personal information, a small reminder below.

Just for your information: how about this way of leaving your car parked? Only in Malaysia, I guess. (Wink)

The local way to park your car

A guide for expatriate drivers in Malaysia
by David Astley a British/Ozzie guy now living in KL

Since arriving in Malaysia in 1997, I have tried on many occasions to
buy a copy of the Malaysian road rules, but have come to the
conclusion that no such publication exists (or if it does, it has been
out of print for years). Therefore after carefully observing the
driving habits of Malaysian drivers, I believe I have at last worked
out the rules of the road in Malaysia.

For the benefit of other expatriates living in Malaysia, and the 50%
of local drivers who acquired their driving licences without taking a
driving test, I am pleased to share my knowledge below:

Q: What is the most important rule of the road in Malaysia?
A: The most important rule is that you must arrive at your destination
ahead of the car in front of you. This is the sacrosanct rule of
driving in Malaysia. All other rules are subservient to this rule.

Q: What side of the road should you drive on in Malaysia?
A: 99.7% of cars drive on the left hand side, 0.2% on the right hand
side, and 0.1% drive in reverse (be on the look out for drivers
reversing at high speed in the left hand lane of freeways, having just
missed their exit). Therefore on the basis of ‘majority rules’, it is
recommended that you drive on the left. However, be aware that only
90% of motorcyclists travel on the left hand side – the other 10% ride
in the opposite direction or on the sidewalk. Fortunately,
motorcyclists traveling in reverse are rarely seen.

Q: What are the white lines on the roads?
A: These are known as lane markers and were used by the British in the
colonial days to help them drive straight. Today their purpose is
mainly decorative, although a double white line is used to indicate a
place that is popular to overtake.

Q: When can I use the emergency lane?
A: You can use the emergency lane for any emergency, e.g. you are late
for work, you left the toaster plugged in at home, you are bursting to
go to the toilet, you have a toothache or you have just dropped your
Starbucks coffee in your lap. As it is an emergency, you may drive at
twice the speed of the other cars on the road.

Q: Do traffic lights have the same meaning as in other countries?
A: Not quite. Green is the same that means “Go”, but amber and red are
different. Amber means “Go like hell” and red means “Stop if there is
traffic coming in the other direction or if there is a policeman on
the corner”. Otherwise red means the same as green. Note that for
buses, red lights do not take effect until five seconds after the
light has changed.

Q: What does the sign “Jalan Sehala” mean?
A: This means “One Way Street” and indicates a street where the
traffic is required to travel in one direction. The arrow on the sign
indicates the preferred direction of the traffic flow, but is not
compulsory. If the traffic is not flowing in the direction in which
you wish to travel, then reversing in that direction is the best
option.

Q: What does the sign “Berhenti” mean?
A: This means “Stop”, and is used to indicate a junction where there
is a possibility that you may have to stop if you cannot fool the cars
on the road that you are entering into thinking that you are not going
to stop.

Q: What does the sign “Beri Laluan” mean?
A: This means “Give Way”, and is used to indicate a junction where the
cars on the road that you are entering will give way to you provided
you avoid all eye contact with them and you can fool them into
thinking that you have not seen them.

Q: What does the sign “Dilarang Masuk” mean?
A: This means “No Entry”. However, when used on exit ramps in
multi-storey car parks, it has an alternative meaning which is: “Short
cut to the next level up”.

Q: What does the sign “Pandu Cermat” mean?
A: This means “Drive Smartly”, and is placed along highways to remind
drivers that they should never leave more than one car length between
them and the car in front, irrespective of what speed they are
driving. This is to ensure that other cars cannot cut in front of you
and thus prevent you from achieving the primary objective of driving
in Malaysia, and that is to arrive ahead of the car in front of you.
If you can see the rear number plate of the car in front of you, then
you are not driving close enough.

Q: What is the speed limit in Malaysia?
A: The concept of a speed limit is unknown in Malaysia.

Q: So what are the round signs on the highways with the numbers, 60,
80 and 110?
A: This is the amount of the ‘on-the-spot’ fine (in ringgits – the
local currency) that you have to pay to the police if you are stopped
on that stretch of the highway. Note that for expatriates or locals
driving Mercedes or BMWs, the on-the-spot fine is double the amount
shown on the sign.

Q: Where do you pay the ‘on-the-spot’ fine?
A: As the name suggests, you pay it ‘on-the-spot’ to the policeman who
has stopped you. You will be asked to place your driving licence on
the policeman’s notebook that he will hand to you through the window
of your car. You will note that there is a spot on the cover of the
notebook. Neatly fold the amount of your fine into four, place the
fine on the spot, and then cover it with your driving licence so that
it cannot be seen. Pass it carefully to the policeman. Then, with a
David Copperfield movement of his hands, he will make your money
disappear. It is not necessary to applaud.

Q: But isn’t this a bribe?
A: Oh pleeease, go and wash your mouth out. What do you want? A
traffic ticket? Yes, you can request one of those instead, but it will
cost you twice the price, forms to fill out, cheques to write,
envelopes to mail, and then three months later when you are advised
that your fine was never received, more forms to fill out, a trip to
the police station, a trip to the bank, a trip back to the police
station, and maybe then you will wish you had paid ‘on-the-spot’.

Q: But what if I haven’t broken any road rules?
A: It is not common practice in Malaysia to stop motorists for
breaking road rules (because nobody is really sure what they are). The
most common reasons for being stopped are:
(a) the policeman is hungry and would like you to buy him lunch;
(b) the policeman has run out of petrol and needs some money to get
back to the station;
(c) you look like a generous person who would like to make a donation
to the police welfare fund; or
(d) you are driving an expensive car which means you can afford to
make a donation to the police welfare fund.

Q: Does my car require a roadworthy certificate before I can drive it
in Malaysia?
A: No, roadworthy certificates are not required in Malaysia. However
there are certain other statutory requirements that must be fulfilled
before your car can be driven in Malaysia.
Firstly, you must ensure that your windscreen is at least 50% obscured
with English football club decals, golf club membership stickers or
condo parking permits.
Secondly, you must place a tissue box (preferably in a white lace
cover) on the back shelf of your car under the rear window.
Thirdly, you must hang as many CDs or plastic ornaments from your rear
vision mirror as it will support. Finally, you must place a Garfield
doll with suction caps on one of your windows. Your car will then be
ready to drive on Malaysian roads.

Q: What does a single yellow line along the edge of a road mean?
A: This means parking is permitted.

Q: What does a double yellow line along the edge of a road mean?
A: This means double parking is permitted.

Q: What does a yellow box with a diagonal grid of yellow lines painted
on the road at a junction mean?
A: Contrary to the understanding of some local drivers, this does not
mean that diagonal parking is permitted. It indicates a junction that
is grid-locked at peak hours.

Q: Can I use my mobile phone whilst driving in Malaysia?
A: No problem at all, but it should be noted that if you wish to use
the rear-vision mirror to put on your lipstick (women only please) or
trim your eyebrows at the same time as you are using a mobile phone in
the other hand, you should ensure that you keep an elbow free to steer
the car. Alternatively, you may place a toddler on your lap and have
the child steer the car whilst you are carrying out these other
essential driving tasks.

Q: Is it necessary to use indicator lights in Malaysia?
A: These blinking orange lights are commonly used by newly arrived
expatriate drivers to indicate they are about to change lanes. This
provides a useful signal to local drivers to close up any gaps to
prevent the expatriate driver from changing lanes. Therefore it is
recommended that expatriate drivers adopt the local practice of
avoiding all use of indicator lights. However, it is sometimes useful
to turn on your left hand indicator if you want to merge right,
because this confuses other drivers enabling you to take advantage of
an unprotected gap in the traffic.

Q: Why do some local drivers turn on their left hand indicator and
then turn right, or turn on their right hand indicator and then turn
left?
A: This is one of the unsolved mysteries of driving in Malaysia.

Q. What is the use of the hazard warning lights?
A. Contrary to all international protocol, this four way flashing
light is = switched on when the Police are escorting VIPs on the road
to warn lesser mortals to move out of the way and not hinder the flow
of the motorcade. Taking a cue from the Police, motorists use this at
the slightest excuse when it rains to tell other motorist to get out
of the way as using their hazard light anoints them with powers that
part the traffic, somewhat akin to Moses parting the Red Sea.

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It is a fun and weird thought altogether, definitely.

I’ve been feeling like a young 30 something guy my whole life long. Lots of sports and hobbies, traveling much,  operating a few local successful businesses, among them a small flying school…  and leaving finally Europe for living in Asia about almost 10 years ago.    In short: a very busy and adventurous life.

Ok, probably also not the most healthy one but who cares? One only live once. On the other hand, I stopped smoking more than 3 years ago, stopped drinking strong booze also years ago. So, no problem, right?

Wrong, as all of a sudden, according to the doctors, I’m suffering from a weak heart. Huh???  After being admitted to the well-known  Queen Mary Uni Hospital here in town for observation, they even had to fight all of a sudden for keeping me alive. Go figure. A serious shock for my ego, difficult to admit, although, as I realised later, a perfect timing  had brought me to the hospital. In hindsight however some warnings already had been manifesting themselves. I just didn’t catch them.

However, things are getting back to normal after that catastrophic last 3 months of 2011. After our not-so-funny-stay in Penang in september because of the passing away of my wife’s aunt and also her mother and after my personal health problem, we now just returned from Penang after arranging some administration with banks and other firms. And (grin)… after writing and officially registering my will!  (A thing I only thought about doing after that bloody-Near-Death experience.  Maybe all of us should think about that one in time! )

Of course Pulau Penang to me means also enjoying lots of the local food.  I only was hoping my medicine intake results would not be influenced by all the yummy, but alas, maybe not recommended food I enjoy there.   (One only lives once though, remember…).   Lucky me however, because after returning to HK and after some blood checks by my doctor, everything was ok! So, the original planning about retiring to Penang to enjoy the local cuisine stays an objective for my future life. – Great, as now I am ready for returning to my food paradise as soon as we can.

BTW, happy CNY: Kung Hei Fat Choi to everyone.

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Our latest trip with the airline of Mr Tony Fernandes flew us back to…  Penang, of course.
 A 3 hours 15 minutes flight and a 25 minutes taxi drive later we were ready for FOOD… even if it was close to midnight.
 
Again Penang, you may ask?
Well, yes. I’m considering Penang like a second home after Hong Kong. It is by far the best food place of Malaysia. In fact I consider it the best food place in the whole of SE Asia, although that might be a bit unfair as I have not experienced food from ALL of the nearby regions and countries.
 
Anyway, after the favourite places offering Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Satay, Loh Bak, Wan Tan Mee, Penang Laksa and having lunch or diner in local restaurants like Heng Kee, Siang Pin Seafood and Goh Huat Seng, we decided to visit a seafood place that we never patronized before.
After all these years, we never had diner at that restoran on Gurney drive, the one with the flashy lights and screaming advertisement billboards.
 
 
 BALI HAI SEAFOOD MARKET
90 ->90D Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang
Tel: 04-2288272 / 04-2281272
 

“If it swims, we have it” ???  Oh Right, I swim. Means I may end up in their wok? [Sorry: obvious cheap joke.]  Anyway, during our April 2011 trip,  we decided to give it a try, although personally I was not expecting a lot, even if the restoran was recommended by some local floggers.

I anticipated  it would be expensive without reaching high-end quality service. Right I was unfortunately. On the other hand, their many cooks and chefs’ cooking skills were doing a correct and professional job.  In fact, to be completely honest, Bali Hai is not really a tourist trap like many other places are. It’s a money trap, so, if you agree to pay their prices, food quality is not an issue. Fresh seafood is great and not that difficult to cook. In my book cooking, grilling, ‘wokking’ or steaming some nice garupa, crab, prawns or other seafood has to be done in the simplest way to get the best results.

Perhaps some readers might think I’m too critical. Well, yes I’m getting more critical when the restaurant charges top bucks and pretends to offer top quality. In fact I try to remain very much “feet on earth”. A small kopitiam or a big hawker centre in a loud environment? No problem. But if you want to charge big money, you better  get me state-of-the-art service. Otherwise big no-no. Allow me to explain it this way: If I want to have some food in a small snack bar charging me a few bucks, I can be forgiving about service mistakes and will accept small bloopers. On the other hand, when my wife and I are going to take a bill of a XXX Euros/pounds/dollars in a so-called top end place, everything has to be just as close to perfection as possible,  it’s as simple as that.

Back to Bali Hai: I asked for fresh live fish suggestions. The waitress came with a  seriously declared and confirmed small dead fish of a disputable “brand”, size about 700 grams. Asked about the price:  100 Ringgit !!! Right, so… thanks but no thanks! My guess: if you are a western expat or tourist, price goes up by 25% at least? Anyone to confirm or deny this out there? This Ang Mo is not buying and is not buying fish or crabs from the live aquariums neither, as they sell  at about the price of gold. If I would have ordered the same number of plates we usually order in other local seafood places, we easily would have spent 350+ MYR for food alone! According to what I regard as Penang standards, that is way overpriced, especially for this kind of more or less open-air setting. Those guys are competing in price with the 32Mansion without playing in the same league.

 

Anyway,  finally we ordered some plates from their general menu – mixed fish chunks and veggies; deep-fried squid etc.- Stuff that didn’t need me to take out a second mortgage on our home. Quality wise, it was good and decent food without being exceptional.  … I’m sure the crabs, garupa, sea bass etc would have tasted better. I just was not ready to pay the price.

In short, I made a mental note to myself, not to come back.  I mean, in a place like Penang you can get very fresh and excellent seafood for prices that do not have to compete with Saint-Tropez’ like  jet-set  places. Doh! Doh! Triple doh-lah!!!

Very dead fish yet very expensive

About the Bali Hai Seafood Market itself: it’s a  nice restoran situated along Gurney Drive’s  prime location coast-line . It reminds me in a way of my native Brussels’  “Ilot Sacré”  touristic area near ‘La Grand Place’. Very much an eye-catching place but unfortunately also very much overpriced and good quality only in a few places. Locals know, unfortunately tourists get trapped!

Brussels' Ilot Sacré

Bali Hai employs a lot of friendly service staff ( although their training could be better) and a number of good local chinese cooks and helpers doing a fine job in the kitchen. I understand their system is attractive for tourists to whom it will look like the (real clean) tropical local food paradise. Indeed, I know the “looks” and (lack of) decoration  of  some smaller local restorans tend to put off less adventurous visitors. (Walls not Swiss-like clean-looking, cigarette butts on the floor, very basic tables and seats…) 

Amazing as it sounds: for some of the local penangite clientèle, places like Bali Hai also tend to exert some kind of attraction (???), maybe for a special occasion when making a point (aka showing off) is more important than the price/quality relation. I believe it’s a cultural thing that westerners are not really grasping. I’ve seen the same happening in Hong Kong’s expensive restaurants when local Honky patrons were ordering bottles of Chateau Petrus to impress their guests. Followed then by adding ice cubes to their wine!  Argh …pure and plain blasphemy in my book!!! 

To conclude, Bali Hai Seafood Market is worth a visit if you don’t mind the prices they charge.  If you come by car, you can park along the seaside for a minimal parking fee, or at a parking lot behind the restoran.

Personally, I prefer to patronize the many other good seafood places in and around Georgetown. If not looking as “nice” or trendy, they are [according to my personal taste] more authentic, serve great quality and are very much loved by people who don’t care for todays superficial bling-bling attitude.

 

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Marinated spiced  pork, then rolled in thin soybean/beancurd sheets, crispy spring rolls with chicken and beansprouts, deep fried beancurd, cuttlefish, prawn cakes, prawn fritters, sausages and much more. Served as a snack or as a main dish they are deep fried and come with 2 sauces: a spicy chilli sauce and a sticky starchy sauce called loh. Bak means meat.

At Kheng Pin Café (since 1971) at the junction of Penang road and Jalan Sri Bahari or 100 meters further at the Ho Ping Café  (corner of Penang road with Lorong kampung Malabar) are two places that in my view offer excellent Loh bak. But then again as it is a very popular dish all over the island, there really is no “bad” loh bak, only the variety on offer may be different from one place to another. The thing to keep in mind is to go as soon as the stall starts its operation, because the fresher the oil, the better the frying for the best yummy results.

 Ho Ping is situated at the junction of Lorong kampung Malabar and Penang road.

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KUNG HEI FAT CHOI…

A special good address but in my view, not necessary only for the steamboat experience though. Steamboat is called “Chinese fondue” in mainland Western Europe and I prefer to have it at home because too messy to go for it in a restaurant.

The other thing is that my “steamboat” cooking pot is heated electrically while the original one (like in Goh Huat Seng)  is heated by charcoal. Thus (allthough more ORIGINAL (?)),  you end up with all your clothes and hair stinking because of the coal fumes.

As a former cigarette smoker, I think it’s funny that lots of people complain all the time about getting second-hand smoke from a cigarette but accept first hand smoke from a  charcoal fueled steamboat restaurant! It’s almost as strong as the cannabis coffee shops in Utrecht, Netherlands. Then again,  just funny and I can live with it. Just don’t forget to throw your clothes in the washing machine when returning home after diner.

Anyway, we do like this place because they have some great recipes for cooking seafood, fish and vegetables, teochew style. Another reason is that the restoran only gets crowded after 18:30 or even 19:oo hours.

So we usually get there at or even shortly before 17:00 hours, firstly to avoid the traffic jam(s) created by people returning home from work. Another reason: no trouble finding parking space. Also, the restoran itself is still 95% empty at that time, allowing the cooks to pay extra attention to cooking OUR dishes. (:-0)

We prefer not to order everything at the same moment but continue with new orders after finishing a few plates. Makes more sense to keep your food warm! No menu available as most food comes from the daily market offer to get the freshest available seafood and fish. Just ask the Supreme-Leader-lady-in-charge who writes down your orders about what is on offer. You also can ask for some specials you want to try. Enjoy their excellent  teochew cooking skills.   

Some not-to-miss and must try dishes:  prawns [of course] with that heavenly taste of BBQ/stir fry cooking. For westerners, please note that we eat here almost all of it, including the shells. Personally though I do not eat the major part of the head. I just suck it clean. (Excuse my burp.)

 Below is what I tend to call my favourite dish at Goh Huat Seng:

Deep fried chunks of garupa filets,  prepared with a succulent  Sechuan pepper sauce. A definite A+ or 10/10 rating. It’s really excellent but do not tell them too loudly as the price might, ahem, get “adapted” even more.

About Teo chew cuisine according to wikipedia:  

Chiuchow cuisine, Teochew cuisine or Chaozhou cuisine or Chaoshan cuisine (Chinese: 潮州菜) originates from Chaoshan, a region of China in the north-easternmost area of the Guangdong province, which includes the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang. Teochew cuisine, however, bears more similarities to Fujian cuisine, as which it shares many of the same dishes, than to Cantonese cuisine, under which it is vulnerable to inaccurate categorisation. This is likely due to Chaoshan and Fujian‘s cultural resemblance and geographic proximity.  Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teochew_cuisine

And don’t forget to order simple veggie dishes. They always are succulent. Side dishes with baby spinach, …bean sprouts, …bean curd with green beans, mushrooms and shrimps and much more.

Another special dish below: sea snail (Don’t know the local name but looks a bit like the french bulots or escargots, only a bit smaller) . Again cooked with a sauce based on Sechuan pepper and fresh coriander. A bit chewy but still tender.

BTW, these snails are way less chewy than the ones sold for instance near the Brussels’ Grand Place.

SMALL BONUS / Intermezzo and link to Brussels’ street food: Escargot stall or in the local lingo: Caricole stal.

(They are cooked in a broth with celery and lots of white pepper: I mean -> LOTS of pepper! To absolutely try-out if ever in Belgium. Tastewise however I prefer the Goh Huat Seng preparation because more flavourful. 

(photo below By Mr Cl. Carlier.)

Movie here under was borrowed from the youtube site. Filmed by a tourist in a side street from the Brussels’ Grand place. To get you a sniff of the local spirit.

By the way, this is the same street that leads towards “Manneken Piss”. I guess I’ll have not to introduce you to that little bugger, right?  

END OF INTERMEZZO.

Back to Penang now. The movie below gives you an idea about the atmosphere at Goh Huat Seng in a local noisy chinese environment savouring a steamboat menu.  

If you want to pay them a visit, call first to check about their closing days, as they are more or less variable.

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I already wrote about Kopi Classic and its famous Hokkien Mee some time ago. See: https://diehardowl.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/kedai-kopi-classic-hokkien-mee/  

I don’t pretend to have tried all the Georgetown Hokkien Mee stalls but this one remains my favourite. For those of you who haven’t visited Penang before and are going to look for a Café with a sunscreen like the pic just below: don’t, because last year the kopitiam invested in a brand new flaming red sunscreen. 

The former sunscreen at kedai kopi Classic
The former sunscreen at kedai kopi Classic

Have a look at  the video below. It shows the new outside look of the kopi Classic.

Now what is so special about a dish serving a bowl of noodles in a broth? As far as I’m concerned the most important part is the making of the broth itself. It’s a shrimpy and spicy soup and I guess it’s all about balancing the ingredients with a not too sweet and real spicy shrimp/pork broth.

Penang being a food paradise has of course many signature dishes but for me personally, a big bowl of kopi Classic’s Hokkien Mee is the best way to start the day. So, for the newbies, what is it all about?

Mr Ooi's hokkien mee

Mr Ooi's hokkien mee

Hokkien Mee is a mixture of yellow noodles, rice noodles and bean sprouts  served in a prawn and pork broth. What makes it special in my experience and view is the balance of the strong, spicy and flavourful shrimp/pork taste. It’s usually served with sliced and fried shrimps, thin slices of lean pork and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots. If you come very early to kopi Classic you also can get great fried lard crisps adding an extra kick to your noodles dish.

The bowl comes also with a spoonful of added chilli for people who really like it hot. YES, I do!

Noodles for HM

Noodles for HM

Some stalls in Penang add too much extra pork meat while cooking the broth;  in my view that makes the soup way to sweet. Some also add sliced hard-boiled egg (what I like) but no extra egg in the Classic’s bowl though.

The Classics' Mrs & Mr Ooi crew in full operational mode

The Classics' Mrs & Mr Ooi crew in full operational mode

The place usually starts business at 8 in the morning. Regulars however are already sitting round the tables as early as 07:30! Just bring along a book or a newspaper. Or you also can admire the team getting prepared to fire up the gas-cookers, unloading bags of noodles to start a new day for us to enjoy delicious Hokkien Mee. 

There is another Hokkien Mee stall in the “One Corner café” coffee shop (Jalan Bawasah).First we tried to visit the place on tuesday, kopi Classic’s closing day. No good as it was also their closing day. Then we tried again 2 day later ( it was not yet 11:oo am), they already were closing down: sold out!  We’ll try again on a next visit as it also has a reputation for being one of the best in town. As a matter of fact,  I later read somewhere that Kedai Kopi Classic Hokkien Mee’s Mrs Ooi is the elder sister of Mr Lim Bok Huat, owner of the stall at One Corner Café.  So, I guess they share the same recipe and in fact are having 2 of the most popular HM businesses in Georgetown. Both stalls closing Tuesdays,… to avoid losing customers to one another? A good alternative in my opinion is the Hokkien Mee stall in Swee Kong café, across the police station in Pulau Tikus. They open very early and close already round 09:00 in the morning.

Hokkien Mee (Swee Kong)

Just a little warning: when asking for Hokkien mee in Singapore or KL, don’t expect the same dish  as in Penang. In Singapore they use both the egg noodles and rice noodles, stir fried in lard and served dry without soup. It comes with shrimps and sliced lean pork, sambal (chilli) and lime. In KL they use thick egg noodles braised in thick dark soy sauce. Ingredients include cabbage, squid, fish cake, pork and crispy fried cubes of pork fat.

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Back from having been  away for some time lah!

Flag of the State of Penang, Malaysia.

 Since our latest visit we have counted the months, weeks and days before finally touching down again in Penang some 10 days ago. And boy …  were we in need! Desperate for Food with Capital F. So, as from the moment of arrival till the eve before flying out one week later, I gained about 5-6 kg. Na und? So what?  Anyway, that still is only about 70+ kg for a guy over 6 feet. No danger for turning into a sumo or average USA-er there yet [grin].

Of course we went to many of our favourite places in George Town during the week. I’m personally getting good at comparing quality at different stalls for their recipes of CKT, Penang Hokkien Mee, Loh Bak, fried rice, satay and more. In fact, I/we even start being  picky! On average we visited and sampled food from up to 5/6 different shops every day and almost always it was well worth it. Regarding Hokkien Mee, Kedai kopi Classic and Swee Kong remain among “da best” but we tried many more and all were ok,  from average good to real good, to very good.  Yet… we also started noticing [already during our last trip] that we better avoid the newer, so-called modern Hawker centres, equipped with LCD screens and loud music. As it seems the food quality at those places is going down hill while prices are climbing and the offered decoration is of a definite and certain lack of taste for those older than 13. (My opinion only). Now sadly that is nothing new for me but I was hoping Penang would have been able to avoid that kind of “modernisation”. I explain:

On our last visit to Belgium I invited my wife to one of the local stalls selling Belgian fries. Once upon a time in Old Belgium they all were selling their stuff with an ok to very good/excellent quality. Those hawkers prepared the potatoes at home (peeling, cutting) as well as they did prepare themselves the extras like curry chicken [local Belgian style], beef carbonades and more. Nowadays however the youngsters that take over the business, buy the food from industrial manufacturers. Gosh, even the fries now, they buy them pre-cut, if not [the horrour] frozen.Go figure. In fact it’s simple, they don’t find pleasure in preparing. They are becoming a lazy bunch. The only thing they want is selling and getting your/my money. Well, we just vote with our feet and our wallet as we do no longer buy from that lazy bunch. To find a decent “fritkot” (translation: fry-stall) one, sadly, has to look around for quite a while. I hate to say it but having been there and seen that, I’m afraid that Penang’s GOOD hawkers also are a disappearing breed. Let’s hope I’m wrong but…

I’ll be posting about our latest experiences in the coming days, as for the moment I’m in “kicking-off mode”, being back home in HK. Not because of jet lag but more because of Makanan lag, sort of.

In the mean time: here is a nice read from another blogger from Penang… (living in the UK… the poor thing) for those who are new to culinary Penang Hawker Food.

http://breadetbutter.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/what-is-malaysian-food/

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