This is the blog's 100th post...so we celebrate with Penang Food...
Another soapbox moment for me...having grown up in Penang amidst the wonderful food in the city, I often lament the lack of good Penang styled food elsewhere...comfort food like Penang Char Kway Teow, Penang Hokkien Mee, Pasembur, Joo Hoo Eng Chye (cuttlefish with eng chye), Penang Laksa et al.
Anna's Kitchen is a quaint little eatery, tucked in the basement of a row of shophouses. As one enters the shop, a row of bright red stairs lead down to the eating area. Homely would be my best description of the decor. Magazines neatly laid out in various places, tables and chairs neatly arranged.
And right next to nature.
There is an airconditioned section inside, but the weather was fine, though a bit hot, we decided to eat outside.
First up...the Penang Char Kway Teow.
The CKT looks very good...nicely fried, with wok hei. The smallish prawns were a bit disappointing, but they looked fresh. A lot of see ham (cockles), well cooked. And superb wok hei. So how is the tasting. First taste, after the whiff...authentic. This is authentic Penang CKT...but at a level which I would describe as typical Kopi Tiam standard...my mom's home cooked CKT is similar. The top hawkers like the Goggle Lady at Lorong Selamat, the Sisers at McAlister are leagues ahead. But Anna's is nice enough if Penang is too far.
Penang Hokkien Mee is more similar to Prawn mee than Singapore's vrsion of Hokkien Mee. For starters, the Penang one is soupy...a pork bone based soup, but also boiled with prawn heads, and prawns..with tons of other ingredients...some kangkong, yellow noodles mixed with bee hoon, in a steaming bowl with fried shallots, and perhaps a small slab of pork ribs...Wonderful.
Again, authentic, as all the ingredients are there...But the taste lacks the punch and oomph. The best from Penang like the one at Kek Seng in Penang Road, have a soup packed with crustacean flavours, with noodles done just right...which is a bit softer than the Italian al dente. And fresh boiled prawns, fried shallots, and a hard-boiled egg.
Joo Hoo Eng Chye is just that...cuttlefish (joo hoo) and kangkong (eng chye)
The Penang ones, like the hawker at Gurney Drive would have thick slices of cuttle fish (large dried cuttlefish which is rehydrated by boiling and sliced), mixed with a wonderful sweet sauce made with the hawker's own recipe of secret ingredients, chilli and generously sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Again Anna serves the authentic one. But like with the CKT and HKM, she fails to deliver when compared to the yardsticks set by actual Penang hawkers...if she sold the same food in Penang, it would be perhaps average or just a bit above. Put it this way, if she was selling this at Penang competitive prices (the prices at Anna is about double of Penang's), I would eat if I were nearby, but not drive more than 10/15mins just to sample the food. I would drive 30m for the best Penang examples...in fact am planning a makan trip to Penang to do just that.
18K Basement, Jalan Abdul Samad
80100 Johor Bahru