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
Creamed corn and peanut pancake
One of the reasons why I loved my trip to Malaysia was getting to try so many new dishes.
This hawker stall, in front of a kopitiam (a kind of coffee shop/hawker cafe) on Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney) in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, served pancakes stuffed with various sweet and/or savory fillings. The dough is cooked into a thin, crepe-like skin (but crispy), filled, and folded like a taco. The traditional filling is creamed corn and peanuts, but now you can buy it filled with ham, chocolate, bananas, tuna, etc. It was fascinating to watch the vendor at work, and I took a video of him cooking my corn and peanut order. We didn’t see him at his spot every day; apparently he actually set up shop elsewhere in the morning, and only showed up on Gurney Drive after lunch if he had ingredients left over.
Many areas of Asia tends to treat corn as a dessert (in one shopping mall I saw an ice cream stand that also sold fresh corn on the cob). I’m not usually a fan of this, but I have to say, creamed corn and peanuts are a surprisingly good combination.
An additional photo and a video after the cut.
I have a tonne of photos from a trip that I took to Malaysia and Hong Kong last spring, and I’ve finally gone through them all and pulled out all the food-related ones. Enjoy!
I’ve spoken about my small obession with milk tea before. It was my trip to Malaysia that started the obession. The first photo is from a kopitiam, (a kind of coffee shop/hawker cafe), from my first breakfast in Malaysia. (Ignore the tissues – they were actually used to wipe up water on the table.)
The second photo is the Malaysian version of take-out. Yes, that is a plastic bag with a straw stuck inside. They seem to put everything into bags. Soup, drinks… even McDonald’s drinks are put into cups and then put into plastic bags. Everytime I was given food in a bag I had to think of the poor environment. At the same time though, I’m sure the bags are better than styrofoam containers.
Updated to add: Forgot to note that to order milk tea when in a kopitiam, you say “teh” (pronounced “tay”) for milk and sugar tea, “teh-o” for tea with sugar only, and “teh-bing” or “teh-o bing” on there for an iced drink. I didn’t pick up much Malay, but I know enough to be able to order my favourite drink!
Milk tea to go