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Penang Vs Klang Valley Hawker Food – Why There is NO Fight

Why does Penang hawker food have the edge over Klang Valley hawker food in terms of taste?

If we were to compare one of Penang’s numerous delicacies, e.g. Char Kway Teow, why does Char Kway Teow taste better in Penang than the Char Kway Teow found in the Klang Valley?

The kway teow used is similar (but not identical, of course), the bean sprouts are similar (although the Perak-ians would argue otherwise), lard is used and how different can the eggs be? The style of stir-frying is also similar…. over high temperature in cast-iron woks. After all, the Klang Valley is less than 350 kms away from Penang and there certainly has been migration of some Penang hawkers to Klang Valley to satisfy tastes of the Penang diaspora.

Is there really something in the water as some claim there is??? PBA must be doing a great job on the water treatment then. There are some who even claim that the hawkers that have migrated to the Klang Valley are those with inferior culinary skills who are unable to make it in Penang’s competitive street food scene.

On a more serious note, if we picked a random CKT stall in Penang (not the famous Ah Leng or Kimberly Street CKT) and compare to a random CKT stall in Klang Valley, I can safely say that nine out of ten times the taste of the Penang CKT will be noticeably better.

Authentic made in Penang CKT is the one on the right hand side!

It must be in the “kang hu“, a secret skill that has been handed down for generations within the family. I have been giving this conundrum a bit of thought lately, and the conclusion I have come up with a simple explanation…..

Penang street food hawkers typically do not outsource their skill to foreign workers!

I notice in many of the kopi tiams in Klang Valley and in Wai Sek Kai in SS2 where you find, more often than not, the person preparing your food is not a Malaysian. I don’t know about you but I find that when I approach the stall to order, for a split second, my mind races to think if I should order in Chinese or Bahasa. It has also been well documented in the local press that as a nation we are greatly dependent on foreign workers to the extent that there are up to 30,000 foreign workers currently employed without permits in Chinese restaurants and coffee shops alone.

While I have nothing personal against my CKT being fried by a Myanmarese or my Assam Laksa being prepared by a Cambodian, the magic is simply missing from my food. My take is that there has to be some pride that goes into preparing any of Penang’s famous delicacies, especially something as special as a good plate of CKT. Penang food hawkers are keenly aware that the they have minimum standard to uphold. Reputations must be maintained, otherwise, the stall in the next kopi tiam is ever ready to step up to the plate as Penang’s best.

In short, its the intense competition that drives Penang hawkers to continually hone their culinary skills to perfection. Incidentally, have you ever noticed that there is frequently at least two stalls serving similar delicacies in some Penang kopi tiams? And both seem to be thriving but not at the other’s expense. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Thankfully, it is a true-blue Penangite that is preparing my favorite popiah…..

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One Response to “Penang Vs Klang Valley Hawker Food – Why There is NO Fight”

  1. lim says:

    over the years the standard of hawker food in penang has dropped – they are more interested to look after their own pockets – they don't bother abouth the quality any more -

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