Three Must Eats in Penang
I was told that when one goes to Penang, there are three things that one must eat: assam laksa, Penang kway teow, and chendol. So for lunch today, we dropped by the corner of Jalan Burma and Jalan Penang (near the KOMTAR building) in the middle of Georgetown to explore the eats available on the streets.
First up was the assam laksa, which is a spicy noodle soup that differs from the usual laksa available across Malaysia in that this one is tamarind-based instead. I kinda liked that sour taste and the surprisingly little chunks of pineapple inside (the dark prawn-based sauce mixed in was bearable too), but the strange taste of laksa leaf still invoked a bit of a bad reaction from me. It must be an acquired taste...locals swear by these little RM 5 (US$1.40) bowls.
Next up was the char kway teow, a dish that likewise is commonly available in places like Singapore, but Penang does a different version in that this version does not use a dark sweet sauce. Instead, it is rather savory, thus bringing it closer to something like Cantonese beef ho fun, albeit spicy and with cockles. Actually, it tasted more like local fried carrot cake than anything. This wasn't too bad.
To wrap it all up, we hiked over to another stall to get a bowl of chendol, which I was told that this stuff was practically invented in Penang. While the crushed ice (sitting in a freezing metal bowl, mind you) was very relieving to have in the blazing heat here, this didn't seem like anything special as it tasted just like the stuff from back in Singapore.
So while I could appreciate the uniqueness of each of these three things, I have to admit that none of them really hit home with me. In fact, the only thing that I did kinda like was something that wasn't one of the recommended three items: a little pastry-enclosed snack called kueh pie tee, which was taller and filled with fresher tastier ingredients than ones that I've had in Singapore. I guess it kinda reminded me of pani puri.