Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Penang Kitchen: good for Penang food cravings?

with Patrick and Andy

I blogged about Anna's Kitchen in JB as a viable alternative to going to Penang to sample the hawker delights. Not quite the same level as available in Penang, but a good alternative. What about within Singapore...afterall JB is still an hour plus drive, and another country.

With reduced expectations as we are not actually in Penang, I am fairly impressed with only 2 establishments in Singapore which can approximate and somewhat satisfy cravings. These are Penang Kitchen, the subject of today's review and Penang Place in Jurong East.

Four benchmarks are established. Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee. Penang Laksa. Penang Char Kway Teow. And Penang Lorbak.

First up, my personal standard to judge...and a favourite. Penang Char Kway Teow.



Visually, the CKT looks less enticing than Anna's. The noodles look a bit pale having taken on the colouring of the chilli is tainted slightly reddish. The prawns are a bit shrivelled and dried. A whiff of the CKT confirms lack of wok hei, as also evidence by lack of charred bits. Taste wise, it is reasonable. My mom's home cooked CKT is about similarly good. Anna's creation tasted more authentic. But nowhere near the magic output from the wok of the goggle lady in Lorong Selamat and the Sisters at MacAlister Road in Penang. If I had rated Anna's at just above average in a typical coffee shop in Penang, I would then place Penang Kitchen's version as just below the standard in Penang.

Next, Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee



The Penang HKM fares a bit better. The soup was robust, thick and had a crustacean flavour. Fortified by pork bones and a concoction of pork, the soup tasted authentic and nice. It tasted more authentic than Annas. And quite close to my reference standard of Kek Seng in Penang. The beehoon mee was slightly overcooked, as was Anna's and most stores in Penang. The prawns were a bit disappointing...it too was small, dry and not succulent at all. But overall, judged to be quite nice, and can be a satisfactory substitution.

The Penang Laksa



Penang laksa is totally different from the Singapore version. The best of Singapore is the Depot Road Zen Shan Mei Claypot as well as the various Katong Laksa shops. While the Singapore version is sinfully rich and savoury, the Penang laksa is sour, and fortified with fish flakes, sliced cucumber, pineapples, mint leaves...altogether more healthy and wholesome. The soup is made from fish stock and bones, and boiled with more fish. No coconut milk is used, but the stock is enhanced with a generous dollop of hae ko...a fermented prawn paste.

The Penang Kitchen version did not have a soup which is not as hearty as the best examples in Penang - examplified by the very famous Ayer Itam market store, or the Balik Pulau market store. Again, it fails to measure up against the best in Penang, but perhaps if this laksa was served in Penang, most Penangites would think it rather pedestrian.

Patrick also tried the Herbal Duck Mee Sua (in Penang Hokkien, known as Ark Thwee Mee Sua)



I remember eating this with my father in one coffee shop along Carnavon Street, and at a tender age, found it too herbal for my liking. Though years later, when I returned to Penang, I did re-sampled the Ark Thwee Mee Sua, and found it delightful. I had a taste of the soup served at Penang Kitchen, and it tasted fairly strong of herbs, and a rich savoury stock which can only result in hours of boiling on the stove.

So overall, what is my verdict on Penang Kitchen? I would rate it as one of the top two serving authentic Penang Hawker cuisine in Singapore, but would place the standard of cooking slightly below that of Anna's in JB. If we were to transplant Penang Kitchen to Penang, it would be rated only average.

Penang Kitchen
5 Coronation Road
#01-05 Coronation Arcade
Tel: 6466 6193
Mon - Fri 11am - 9pm (Wed Closed) Sat- Sun 10:30am - 9:30pm
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