THE eagerly anticipated showdown of the best street food purveyors — the Battle of Penang Hawker Masters 2012 — kicks off at the Penang Times Square tomorrow with a new category — curry mee.
Visitors to the event, to be held between noon and 2pm at the mall’s Chin Ho Plaza, will get to sample lip-smacking curry mee and vote for their favourite.
Some dishes were made from recipes handed down over generations while others were given contemporary twists.
Apart from their usual basic ingredients, all the traditional hawker dishes will be prepared using two ingredients — Carotino red palm oil as well as Khalis santan sawit.
Red palm oil, which is the oil that is extracted from the palm kernel itself, is one of the main ingredients. It is particularly high in beta-carotene such as vitamin A.
Santan sawit, otherwise known as palm milk, is a healthier alternative to the traditional coconut milk and is trans-fat free and low in cholesterol.
Participants are encouraged to feature this ingredient in their curry mee to create a dish that is definitely healthier but tastes just as good.
The hawkers should not worry about the palm oil affecting the original taste of their dishes as it is known to be odorless and tasteless.
Hawker Chong Ko Lay, 47, will hope to wow the taste buds with his special chili paste, a blend of some 30 different ingredients.
“Whilst the stock is vital for great-tasting curry mee, the real secret lies in its chili paste,” explained Chong, an Ipoh native who plies his trade at the BB Coffee Shop in Bayan Baru.
Aside from the original version, he also sells dry curry mee, which is quite a hit, as well as several variants that incorporate spare ribs, char siew and siew bak.
For Chong, winning the contest would be a great achievement as he was originally a businessman dealing in mens’ apparel back in Perak. The establishment fell on hard times and he came to Penang for a fresh start.
After trying his hand at selling lok lok and belachan chicken without much success, he met a master curry mee seller who decided to take him under his wings.
Besides his popular curry mee, he also sells his chili paste wholesale, and is willing to teach his craft.
“Last time I was down on my luck. Then my master helped me. Now I would like to help others,” he said.
Ng Wah Chon, 38, is putting his hopes on his time-honoured family recipe.
Ng, who learnt his trade from his father, said he would be using the same ingredients and techniques as used by his family over the years.
“When you taste it, you will know this is the real Penang curry mee,” opined Ng who plies his trade at Sri Weld Food Court in Beach Street, Cafe 35 in Fettes Park, and Berapit Food Court in Bukit Mertajam in the mornings, afternoons and evenings respectively.
He signed up for the contest after enjoying brisk business in recent years, with many customers commenting that his version was simply delicious.
Tickets to the preliminary round curry mee battle are RM10 each, limited to the first 300.
Visitors are welcome to take part as guest judges in the taste-and-vote sessions, along with celebrity TV host Jason Yeoh, known as Axian.
There will also be goodie bags for the first 200 early birds daily, and lucky draws, with prizes like a 2D/1N Nick @ Sea Cruise onboard the SuperStar Libra for two, room stays at Sunway Hotel Georgetown, Archor Tablets, iPod Shuffle, bedding sets, home electrical appliances and more.
Official product sponsors for the event are Minyak Cap Buruh, Khalis Santan Sawit, Marigold and Carotino.
The event is supported by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.
For details, call 04-2109020 ext 131, or visit www.penangtimessquare.com or www.facebook.com/penangtimessquare.