GEORGE TOWN: American expatriate Don Harrison downed six bowls of curry mee and gave them all the thumbs up.
“I didn't have breakfast, so I had lots of room in my tummy. I tried to sample as many as I could,” said Harrison, 65, who was among food lovers who thronged Penang Times Square for the opening day of the Battle of Penang Hawker Masters 2012.
Having lived here for almost a year, he is familiar with the dish.
“They were amazing. I initially thought that once you had one bowl, the others would just taste the same. But they were all a little different.
“I like how all the ingredients come together to create a nice symphony of flavours,” said Harrison.
Also among the crowd were friends Brian Long, 29, Pablo Rivera, 28, Jayci Adams, 25, and Manuel Schaeuble, 18, from the United States, as well as Kristin Yao, 27, from China, all on their maiden visit to Malaysia.
They were here for the recent Penang Bridge International Marathon and decided to stay on for a few days to take in the local sights. And after seeing an advertisement on the contest, they decided to check it out.
“The noodles are very good, although a little spicy,” Rivera said.
The Star columnist Helen Ong, Eastin Hotel chef Franco Ho and Guang Ming Daily senior feature writer Chong Lee Choo formed the judging panel. Visitors also cast votes for their favourites.
Those who succeeded to move on to the finals on Sunday were hawkers Lai Khoon Seong, 22, Ong Tat Eng, 34, and Eric Ong, 45.
Lai, who had been helping his mother Tan Suan Choo, 45, run her stall at Maga coffee shop along Perak Road for the past decade before taking over the reins himself, said their decision to use an authentic recipe paid off.
“The only thing we changed was frying our cuttlefish, which created better flavours. For the finals, we will maintain the taste, though we might tweak it a little.”
Tat Eng, who operates his stall at May Siang coffeeshop in Kulim, Kedah, attributed his success to his special chilli paste, which incorporated some spices, as well as having fresher prawns in his dish.
The Battle of Penang Hawker Masters 2012 continues today with the Nasi Lemak category, which starts at noon. For details, call 04-2109 020 (ext 131) or visit www.penangtimessquare.com or www.facebook.com/penangtimessquare.