Sunday, January 3, 2010

Feasting in Penang: Padang Brown

with family

Penang...foodie paradise...especially for hawker food. I grew up in Penang, and have fond memories of life in the idyllic city (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site!) and the wonderful hawker food. After some 5 years of not being back in the island, we decided to take a short break to visit my sister who is still lives in Penang.

Immediately on touch down, we headed for Padang Brown. We used to live across the road in Kebun Nyok road. Padang Brown is a large field almost smack in the middle of town. The field is large enough for two full sized football fields, and on some evenings turn into a kaleidoscope which is Penang's Pasar Malam (night market). But dear to many Penangite's heart is the Padang Brown (or just Padang) food stalls.



So, what's great about Padang food. First, the Pasembur:



Originally a version of the Indian rojak (in Penang, this dish is also known as Cheh Hoo...green or uncooked fish...it comprises of shredded cucumber, julienned bangkwang (chinese turnips), bean sprouts, bean curds (more than one variety), crackers and slices of cuttle fish and a wonderful orange hued sauce, with crushed peanuts and topped with sliced jelly fish. This particular stall in Padang is my absolute favourite, and incidentally done by Chinese hawkers instead of the usual Indian. Yummy and shiok!

From the stall next door, Penang style popiah.



Unlike those found in Singapore, these were filled to the brim with stewed tunips, carrots, bean sprouts, and crab meat. And generously served with a helping of stew gravy. The ingredients blend well, and the gravy gave the dish some more bite and zing than the dry variety found in Singapore. Again super delicious.

As the first stop in Penang, I had to have the Penang Char Koay Teow (not only is it spelt different from Singapore's Char Kway Teow, but the dish is totally different. No sweet black sauce. Instead, a ferocious fire, super hot wok, lard (plenty of it), koay teow, eggs (sometimes fresh duck egg for extra punch), cockles, sometimes slices of chinese sausage and huge prawns.



CKT is my all time favourite dish. The one served up at Padang was above average for Penang...which is saying a lot. Every coffee shop in Penang has its own CKT stall. So the average standard is pretty darn high. Padang's qualify as top 5 in my book. I will blog about my favourite and no.2 in the following days.

We also had kerabu bee hoon (or Tom Yam Bee hoon)



Bee hoon is fried lightly with a tom yam gravy infused into the noodles...and topped with grated coconut and dried prawns, onions, garlic. Another wonderful dish.

Hokkien Mee is another favourite:



I will feature HKM more than once in this Penang series, as it is a favourite of our family. The Penang HKM is more like Singapore's prawn mee than hokkien mee. It is served with soup, often made by boiling pork bones (a bit like the Japanese ramen soup), but with rock sugar added. Prawns are sliced, an de-shelled...often not large prawns, but smallish ones are used. The dish is typically served with some kangkong, half a boiled egg, and with both beehoon and yellow mee. While the Padang version is not the absolute best, it is also above average. I will blog about the best HKM in Penang separately.

Also interesting is a variety of Nyonya kuih, shown below the awesome kuih talam.



When I was growing up, Nyonya kuih was sold by an Indian peddler, carrying the kuih in two baskets balanced on a wooden pole, going from house to house on foot to sell his snacks. In those days, the kuih were sweeter...it was before the health craze...and were flavourful and often had a consistency which is best described as springy, bouncy...QQ as Singaporeans would say. This kuih talam was such...though the santan (coconut milk) topping was very tender and soft, the green kuih had that consistency.

Here is a picture of the Pasembur stall and the popiah stall next to it. Both these stalls are only open in the afternoon, and due to the popularity, feature waiting times as long as 45 mins to an hour (this is quite a fairly common occurance to have to wait 45 mins to an hour for famous Penang hawkers to cook up their magic...IMHO, if you can spare the time, totally worth it!)




Padang Brown Hawker Stalls
More info on how to get there

GPS: N 5.412779, E100.31953

A in the map marks the spot:


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