Penang char koay teow, along with other local culinary delights, has hit the top of the foodie charts! Don’t you think it is about time we set up a street food museum to showcase how George Town’s street food landscape evolved over time and to honour the pioneers (or the ‘ori-maestros’, as Tunglang refers to them)?
The citation for Penang, written by Lonely Planet’s Robin Barton and published in the Independent, reads:
#1 destination: Penang, Malaysia
Everyone’s talking about it right now because… Malaysian hawker food has spread worldwide via food trucks and pop-ups but nothing compares to hitting Penang.
Its food reflects the intermingling of the many cultures that arrived after it was set up as a trading port in 1786, from Malays to Indians, Acehenese to Chinese, Burmese to Thais. State capital Georgetown is its culinary epicentre.
Make sure you try… Char kway teow (flat rice noodles with shrimp, bean sprouts, egg and sweet Chinese sausage), hokkien mee (egg noodles in a pork broth with prawns, egg, bean sprouts and water spinach), and asam laksa (thick noodles in a spicy fish broth with tangy asam, a sour tamarind paste).
But think twice about… Sago grubs – the 4cm-long larvae of a South-east Asian beetle.
The hot restaurant… Explore the sprawling Esplanade Food Centre, where hawker faves combine favourably with a seafront location.
Is there a good market? A pasar malam is an open-air night market – such as Jelutong on a Friday and Macallum Street Market on a Monday. The highlight is always the food: at 2am a different world of stalls serves peppery pork-rib soups, skewered fish balls and sweets such as chendol (cold coconut-milk dessert).
What should I drink? Air bandung – rose syrup and evaporated or condensed milk. It makes a great accompaniment to Malay food.
The flavour of the street… Try Nazlina Spice Station, a cookery school which also offers guided tours of food markets.
Useful words… Sudah makan? Have you eaten yet?
Second place goes to Victoria, Australia while North-west Spain is in third spot.