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Food, Food, Food : A KL-ite weekend in Penang – Day 1 – Supper

Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting some of our KL friends for a short weekend break in Penang. The main objective was of course to indulge in Penang’s famous food, which meant that we had plenty to keep us busy.

A week before the departure date the list of wanna eat items was already forming, among them :

  • A yellow-coloured kueh cut in a diamond shape and served with brown sugar syrup : It didn’t help that our dear friend did not know what the kueh was called nor where it was that she last ate it 6 years ago during her previous visit to Penang.
  • Mi Ku – a type of Chinese pau or bread which is pink in colour : This typically is not a “Penang speciality food” but a festive pau which is normally forms a part of prayer offerings to Chinese deities.
  • Sotong bakar – Roasted dry squid : This dry version is generally difficult to find in Klang Valley where sotong bakar is normally the juicy, grilled version with a side of chilli sauce.

Roasted Dry Squid

  • Penang Road Assam Laksa : This request was at the behest of our friend who favours the Penang Road stall, which is located in the coffee shop beside the famous Teochew chendol.
  • Kiam Chai Boey : Also known as Chap Chai (Hokkien) or Choy Mei (Cantonese).

I was surprised at the list which I had imagined would include the normal Penang hawker speciality like Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee and Nasi Kandar. But, to each their own, I guess.

So taste buds were already poised in anticipation and stomachs were growling with expectation when they reached Penang island at 11 pm on Friday night.

Gurney Drive Hawker Center

The key to enjoying the Penang food experience at the Gurney Drive Hawker Center is to come with an open mind on the level of service you expect to receive. These hawkers are not beyond making you wait at the stall to carry your own order to your table i.e. self service. Additionally, you have to be aware of the drinks “system”, which is the modus operandi at the hawker center.  For the uninitiated, this means that wherever you are seated, you will have to order some drinks from the resident drinks stall that covers the area.  God forbid, if you were to order drinks from another stall and sit in their “territory”, be prepared for some unpleasantness.

With that in mind we consumed as a late night snack Sotong Bakar (one item off the list) that was tasty but chewy and left our hands smelling; a mediocre tasting Assam Laksa; a nice Rojak and a refreshing Chendol with huge kidney beans.

I guess for the variety of food at such late an hour, Gurney Drive can’t be beat.  We did swing by past the Pulau Tikus market but at 11 pm in the night, there weren’t many options still open for business. Gurney Drive was still choc-a-block with diners at that late hour, a testament to the Malaysian penchant for food 24/7.

With nicely warmed stomachs, everyone headed back to unwind after a long drive.  The full-on makan fest cum “heritage” visit would start early (somewhat for a Saturday) the next day.

To be continued…

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