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Sunday May 31, 2009

Stuffing your face in Penang

Ready for a food binge this school holidays? Try our gourmet trail in Penang for the best bites.

IT’S amazing there aren’t more people with weight problems up here, considering all the good food we have. Penangites don’t just have breakfast, lunch and dinner; that’s for ordinary folk elsewhere. We have elevenses and a teatime snack, and let’s not forget a bit of siew yeh (supper) to take us through to the next morning.

If you’re planning a weekend trip here soon during the school holidays, it might mean you have just two short nights with but one full day and a bit of time on either side to achieve your objective: stuff your face.

Dip and eat: Two little sisters tucking into a bit of Lok Lok supper in Gurney Drive.

However, despair not. With a well-planned campaign – none of this, “What do you want to eat?” “I don’t know. What do you want to eat?” lark – you can squeeze in as many as 12 opportunities to indulge!

There is no shortage of outlets for you to visit; the only limitations are wallet size, stomach space and cholesterol level. But hey, it’s not something you do every day, right? So here’s a tip: forget the diet and health kick! And pack only loose clothing. This is one way of pigging out in Penang.

Where does one start? Let’s assume you drove, so having just crossed the bridge, it would make sense to start in that part of town. The Genting Coffee Shop in Island Glades for lunch would be in order. They are famous for their Chee Cheong Fun and Hokkien Mee.

It is wise to relax after a big meal, so a gentle amble in one of our many shopping malls will help the food settle. Retail therapy is a good way of getting over any of that “Oh dear, I’ve eaten too much ...” feeling.

However enjoyable shopping is, it does take a lot out of one so as teatime approaches, sustenance will once again be required. This time round, head for one of the Mamak stalls at the corner of Jones and Kelawei Roads for a rejuvenating fragrant plate of Mee Goreng or Mee Rebus, together with some Pasembur (one must, after all, ensure the requisite roughage is consumed).

For dinner, how about a fragrant nyonya meal? Situated along Lorong Abu Siti, off Macalister Road, are two of our popular restaurants: Nyonya Breeze run by Auntie Rosie; and Mama’s where Ruby and her sisters are supervised by their formidable mother. Tuck into some delicious sambal or Jiu Hu Char, an Otak Otak or two washed down with some home-made nutmeg cordial.

As night wears on, take a short stroll along Gurney Drive, where the aroma of food from the stalls that pack the place will bring on another appetite. At times like these, a light repast is necessary; not too heavy that you can’t sleep but enough to last you till morning. A bowl of Kuey Teow T’ng or some Lok Lok would fit the bill. Or both.

In the morning, tuck into a typical Penang breakfast of Chee Cheong Fun, doused with its characteristic sweet, thick black hey ko sauce, at the Seow Fong Lye Café in Macalister Lane, off Burmah Road.

No trip to Penang would be complete without a visit to one of our great Nasi Kandar outlets, and Clear Line in town is a place to consider.

Rice can be filling, so this may be one afternoon to forego tea. But if you feel there is room, then head for Tanjung Tokong where you’ll find Rajah who serves up a mean Assam Laksa from his mobile stall just outside the shops in Prima Tanjung every afternoon. Make sure you soak up the delicious sour fishy soup with a length or two of Popiah Chee (deep-fried spring rolls), and don’t forget to take away a piece or two of his nyonya kueh.

As evening approaches, Batu Ferringhi will beckon. A surfeit of hawker food, delicious though it is, may mean this is a good time to try one of the many restaurants here.

After the meal, an hour or so of browsing through the stalls, haggling over a few “genuine” fakes, will be quite pleasant.

Popular snack: Ah Kheng’s (pic left) home-made nyonya kueh is packed out every afternoon.

And what better way to celebrate your bargains than to finish the night with a spot of supper at the Long Beach Hawker Centre. A bowl of Wendy’s Hokkien Mee wouldn’t go amiss.

The next morning, queue up for the famous Sisters’ Char Kuey Teow in Macalister Road. Be warned, though: like many other popular places in Penang, it will be crowded and so it’s wise to get there early. Failing that, try the Hin Leong Cafe across the road, which offers a good selection of local favourites.

Before you head for home, drop by the plethora of hawker stalls at Batu Lancang Market, off Green Lane, as you go towards the bridge. Here, Ah Kheng’s home-made nyonya kueh is the talk of the town, and his place is packed out every afternoon.

As this meal will have to keep you going until the next visit, take the opportunity to OD in a last taste of Penang. Bon Appetit!

Helen Ong loves Penang and food, not necessarily in that order. Check out her website www.helenong.com.

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