Gurney Drive Hawker Centre
At one end of Persiaran Gurney (Gurney Drive) in Georgetown, there is a very large hawker centre that only operates at night. One nice thing about it is the large amount of choice available there. One not as nice thing is that prices are generally higher than at other hawker stalls. Saying that, however, the food is still pretty cheap by North American standards.
Like other hawker places, when you sit down you must purchase a drink. In this case, with so many tables, each section of tables are claimed by certain drink vendors. So you could be sitting at one table and have to order soy milk, and if you’re sitting at the next table over, which happens to be owned by a juice vendor, then you order juice. In my case, I had a delicious fresh squeezed watermelon juice from the stall in the photo.
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre - juice stand
This next hawker stall sold seafood. The cockles (similar to clams) in the baskets along the bottom of the photo were lightly cooked and really delicious. A friend asked me if those cuttlefish were real; yes they totally were.
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre - seafood
Laksa, popiah and ais kacang with durian ice cream oh my! Just a warning, this is going to be a long post. Kek Seng Kopitiam (coffee shop) is an institution in Penang. It’s been around for years and years, and frankly the atmosphere is a little dingy (although all the tables, plates, bowls, etc. were clean). The food is a little more old fashioned too; unlike at someplace like New World, the food is pretty much how it was served 30+ years ago (found something online that says Kek Seng opened in 1906). When we were there it was quite busy but we managed to snag a table.
One thing I miss dearly about Malaysia was the easy access to laksa. And by laksa, I mean Penang assam laksa. I talked about curry mee (curry laksa) a little while ago. That one is a coconut-based curry broth. Penang-style assam laksa is a sour, mackerel-based soup that is flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass, galangal, chilli, ginger flower buds, mint, pineapple and onion. You also usually get a soup spoon filled with a thick, sweet prawn paste called Hae Ko, and the whole thing is served with rice noodles (either thick or vermicelli).
The assam laksa at Kek Seng was one of my favourites that I had throughout the trip. A strong fish broth with all those spices and a slight sourness; my mouth is watering as I type this. This first photo is of the hawker stall; those pink things are the ginger flowers. When I’ve shown that photo to other people, the reaction I’ve gotten has been “you mean they actually use flowers and not ginger root?!”
Penang assam laksa hawker stall
This is another dish I had at one of the kopitiams (apologies for the blurriness). Rojak is a kind of salad found in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. This specific one pictured here is one made of fruit.
According to Wikipedia:
Fruit rojak consists typically of cucumber, pineapple, turnip (jicama), bean sprouts, taupok (puffy, deep-fried tofu) and youtiao (cut-up Chinese-style fritters). Raw mangoes and green apples are less commonly used. The dressing is made up of water, belacan (shrimp paste), sugar, chili, and lime juice. Ingredients vary among vendors with some also using hae ko prawn/shrimp paste, tamarind or black bean paste in the mix. The ingredients are cut into bite-sized portions and tossed in a bowl with the dressing and topped with chopped peanuts and a dash of ground or finely chopped bunga kantan (pink ginger bud). Penang Rojak is another type of Rojak found in Penang, Malaysia. It is similar to fruit rojak, but adds jambu air (Water apple), squid fritters and honey to the mixture.
It was an odd mixture of the salty and sweet dressing, layered on top of the fresh tastes of fruit and cucumber. While it was interesting to try, it’s not something that I would go out of my way to look for.
Restoran 77 was one of the few non-hawker places we ate at while in Malaysia. And as the sign says, we were there for the curry fish head.
curry fish head with okra
Not to say that we didn’t eat other things too. We had quite a few dishes actually, but the fish head was the one that stuck in my head. Tender, flaky bits of fish and okra, stewed in a curry sauce. The okra was a tiny bit slimy, but otherwise this dish was fantastic. I wish there had been more fish though. Especially since my grandmother ate half the dish before the rest of us could have a taste. (That’s her hand in the photo below, stealing more fish.)
Let’s see, we also had fried rice, tofu, some sort of vegetable that I can’t remember but from the looks of it is probably gai lan, and something in a clay stew pot that I also cannot remember – possibly chicken. Oh, and fresh orange juice served in beer glasses.
77-D Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney)
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s a green-themed post.
I was visiting Kek Lok Si Temple in Malaysia when I saw this palm tree with brightly coloured green and red nuts. Had no idea what they were until I got home and did a bit of a Google search. Turns out they’re seeds from the Areca palm, more commonly known by the technically incorrect name “betel nut.” And they’re normally chewed with betel leaves as a stimulant. I admit, if I had known what they were I would have been tempted to pluck one off the tree to sample….
seed of the Areca palm (a.k.a. betel nut)