Al Jazeera has a half-decent food show called Street Food. Here are parts one and two of the episode on Penang, Malaysia. You may recognize the section on the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre night market, which I talked about and posted photos from over here.
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.
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.
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.
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
A couple of breakfasts were spent eating Malaysian flat breads at Restoran Khaleel, an Indian place near my hotel.
(By the way, “restoran” is Malay for “restaurant,” by the way. There’s this odd logic once you catch on to how Malay works… “ambulans” is “ambulance,” “polis” means “police,” “Amerika” is “America, and “air” means “water.” Okay, that last one is a bad example, but you know what I mean.)
Roti canai (pronounced chan-ai, in Singapore called roti prata) is a favourite of my family, and is one of the few Malaysian dishes that we have access to here in Canada. It’s made of wheat, is pan-fried and (when done right) is layered inside a bit like phyllo. To eat, you rip off a piece and dip it in curry. At this place, they served it with a lovely chicken curry.
While there, we also tried another kind of roti, a roti tosai. Roti tosai is made from rice and lentil flour. It’s thinner, more crepe-like, and is steamed. They also served it with three dips – a lentil curry (middle), a yellow curry (right), and a spiced coconut milk chutney (left). I really liked this as it wasn’t greasy like roti canai can be, and the variety of sauces made this dish interesting. (And no, I didn’t have Sprite for breakfast. Those culprits were my siblings.)
Did I miss Western breakfasts like toast and eggs and cereal? Not one bit.
Restoran Khaleel Sdn Bhd
Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney), Georgetown, Malaysia
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.