Day 2 began rather early because we were suppose to go for breakfast at the famous Nasi Lemak Stall at Paya Terubong. It was a misty rainy morning a wonderful day to stay indoors and do nothing but the four of us fought fatigue and went in search of this Best Nasi Lemak. Traffic was almost nil… it being Hari Raya Haji as well as no one in their right mind would be out so early so we reached our destination in record time.
So I got it wrong. It is Paya Terubong Nasi Lemak at Ayer Itam. It is a stall outside the Sin Teong Nam Café. We got parking just next to the shop so it was not a problem. It was not easy to get photos of the stall because of the rain. There are many variations and dishes to choose from and it is sold in different sets.
From a distance I saw fish, quite large prawns, various chicken dishes and a few others dishes which I couldn’t make out because it was covered to protect it from the rain.
The stall operates from 4.30 am to 10 am and often finishes by 7 am. Hence the reason we were rather early.
So we ordered basic which came with fish. I half though it was the fried ikan selar but of course it was not.
We ordered four plates. I believe Foodie Boy 3 had chicken but I cannot seem to find the photos.
Coffee was ordered, my second cup of Kopi Kaw Kaw.
Ok taste testing time. Don’t get your hopes up if you go there. The rice was wet and had no coconut flavor at all. Maybe that’s the way they make Nasi Lemak over there we didn’t check. Now the sambal which is the second most important dish in any nasi lemak… well let’s just say it was nothing much at all. This was the verdict by all four of us. It is not often that we agree, but that was it.
We ordered our first plate of Char Koay Teow. It came. Now I’ve not had this in decades and it was a time I probably didn’t like it because I don’t remember how it tasted. The usual good size prawns and sliced lup cheong was evident. First taste, wok hei was a tad bit strong. I’ve never tasted it this strong before. It was nice, but to me a tiny bit burnt but bearable. It still had a nice flavor.
Then we ordered Loh Pak Koh. Now this was nice. It was perfectly cooked with the bean sprouts still crunchy. The ‘carrot cake’ tasted nice. It was nice and soft and not hard like what I usually eat when I’m at home. Now this was unexpected, we didn’t plan to order this and just because Foodie Boy 1 walked around and saw it and so we ordered it. Now this I could have had two plates.
Next stop.. Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera. Now this place I haven’t been since I was a small boy. I remember the solid open window trains that took a while to get up and moved so slowly that you could pluck the leaves as you passed by. Well not any more.
The sight up there was captivating. So different from before, maybe the skyline of Penang has changed so much that. Just look at the photos. The lush greenery amidst the mist was most enchanting.
Also what was free last time now cost money so if you are there to try out stuff be prepared to pay. Still it was a nice walk especially after it rained. I didn’t join the rest because I had a bad ankle so I sat down in one of the cafes drinking hot chocolate and looking at people.
They even have someone to fry Char Koay Teow there and I noticed three girls ordered one plate and in the end had three plates. I was quite tempted but I knew the rest would be carrying on on their foodie tour so I practiced some self control.
While I was sitting there, and almost running out of battery, I took this most captivating photo… to me anyhow.
By the time we came down, it was hot! Real Hot!
Next destination.. Ayer Itam Market Assam Laksa.
This was where I had a taste of waiting for food. Pissed off faces around you, people rushing to finish their meal, you jumping onto tables full of remnants from the last customer. These were all no no’s for me, but in Penang it was normal. I couldn’t take it, so I moseyed around while the others waited and chanced upon this luscious Hum Ching Peng. Oh my gosh. So I bought some for the rest.
I’m not a fan of Red Bean, in fact I never ever buy it, so I took a chance here, and the red bean was just right, it was not a big gluggy lump like you get in most places, this was wet and almost molten. A true joy.
Never have I eaten such silky soft Hum Ching Peng. I make the damn thing for heavens sakes and it is not that soft. The other thoroughly loved it accept for Foodie Girl who went off at us for eating piping hot foods and all… well we didn’t keep any for her.
By the time I got the Hum Ching Peng, we had a table. Funny though because the table was not cleaned, a few groups came around us to book the table thinking the remains were ours. We ordered and waited. In the meantime Foodie Boy 1 went around somewhere and came back with Lorbak and Fried Spring Rolls.
The Fried Spring Rolls were for dipping into the Assam Laksa soup.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Lorbak. The smell and the taste reminded me of the Penang I once knew. It was reminiscent of an era where my parents ordered everything and we ate it and if we enjoyed it more was ordered.
Now we were still waiting for our Laksa. We signaled and ordered again. We carried on sampling the rest of the food and still no food. Those hanging around us probably thought we got a place and bought other stuff, so this time Foodie Girl walked up and ordered again. Finally it came.
Four bowls of over flowing soup with bits of food hanging off the bowl, soup spilling on the table was like a normal occurrence. You just sit and eat and get lost.
Now after stirring the soup to mix up all the condiments which I must say consisted of a lot of cucumber, there was hardly any fragrance of Hei Koh or of fish and most importantly the aroma of sourness before you even taste the soup. There was nothing! It was flat and tasted more of cucumber than anything else. There was no tang of the tamarind. Even the torch ginger did not give it that kick.
The spring roll was just as flat, and dipping it into the Assam Laksa soup didn’t yield much excitement to us all.
We were all quite disappointed. I am sure this is because of the vast crowd that day that this happened. I couldn’t believe the hype and the waiting and then flat Assam Laksa. I believe this stall easily prepares about 800 bowls a day.
Funnily enough, my family had it a week later and said it was fine. It was sour enough with all the niceties. So we were just unlucky. But to me, the cooks should taste what they are dishing out! No excuse.
Because it was the long weekend, there were thousands of tourists in Penang, we were one of them.
Next Stop was the Temple of the Goddess Kwan Yin. No photos, I was just tired of the heat and walking around so I sulked in a corner. Foodies Boys bought another lot of Hum Ching Peng… what bliss!
After almost an hour we came down, might I say thank God we drove up because someone suggested we walk up, and I would have been an annoyed sod to deal with.
By now the heat was getting to me, fatigue as well from the previous days lack of sleep. We were now heading to Balik Pulau to visit various places like someone’s school, and just going through little back lanes of these places, we realized there were a lot of villages that still exists on that always busy island.
Then we happened to be walking around Jalan Sungai Air Putih and suddenly we noticed an Assam Laksa Stall which was on one of the blogs called Kim Laksa. Just like that it was in front of us.
So we ordered Assam Laksa’s all round. We didn’t have to linger around tables, as a group was already leaving. Assam Laksa came in a flash and this had that fragrance that I was used to.
First mouthful, and it was better than Ayer Itam, but it still lacked that tang. The difference here is that you could taste all the ingredients. Ok, PJ still tastes better we all agreed.
Then off we drove around to look for Durians.
We turned into a lot of nooks and crannies and suddenly we were going up a steep hill and right in front of us was Ghee Hup Nutmeg Factory. Without batting an eyelid oncoming traffic, Foodie Boy 1 shot across the road and went down a steep hill. Trust me it was nothing much of a place, but when you taste their nutmeg, you will realize that what you’ve been missing all this time.
The owner is a very passionate man and will entertain any questions pertaining to his factory. I didn’t have my phone now because the battery was dying like no tomorrow, damn thing always does that. But the place has liniments and ointments, balms and nut meg pods, and even plants and sliced nutmeg I have never tasted before.
The nutmeg was succulent and wet unlike the drying ones we eat that gives a funny coating to ones tongue. This was really good. I have photos of some of the products because my parents were there a week later. I couldn’t get photos of the preserved nutmeg because everyone ate it rather quickly.
Then we went on searching for Durian which proved futile because it was almost off season and what was available was just too expensive and silly to purchase.
Then we chanced upon a fruit place which I believe was the Tropical Fruit Farm. It was a steep hill to drive up to, but I can tell you it was truly worth it. It was filled with flora and fauna I’ve never seen before as well as fruits like the Giant Passion Fruit. The photos speak for it self. I am told it is a homestay of sorts for those who want to get away from the city and it is well known for its fruit buffets which was not on when we got there. It was getting late as well, so there was no activities going on.
We came down and drove till we reached one of the beaches. While the rest walked around, I took photos of a rather nice sunset. I watched all the people and their antics, I even rescued a Lily Bulb of some sort and brought it back home and it seems to be growing quite well.
Then we proceeded to Dinner. Dinner was at Long Beach, a Glutton Square with lots of food and beer ladies pushing the sale of beer.
So we ordered, starting with Fried Spring Rolls. Now I must say that these Spring Rolls came piping hot and was very nice. I would go as far as to say one of the best Spring Rolls I have ever had. It had different vegetables like carrots, spring onions and cabbage with meat of some sort. We actually enjoyed it the most. It was crunchy and it was thoroughly enjoyable. This would be one of the highlights of this food tour I should say. I cannot remember the stall name, but you won’t miss it for sure.
The Prawn Mee arrived. The soup wasn’t so tasty and it lacked ingredients. Even the boiled egg didn’t look very pretty. The soup lacked sweetness and prawn flavor. The Chilly Sauce only covered the flavors with spiciness. Prawns must have been expensive that day as well, there was hardly any!
The must order dish when in Penang, Or Chien. I have to say the Oysters were fresh and plump. It was also quite plentiful judging from the size of the plate. One gripe.. it was not crispy and tended to be oily because of that. It was such a waste to have nice oysters served with flat, soggy eggs and rice flour mix. If it was fried a tad bit longer, it would have been a stand out as well. I also think the crowd that night made things a bit busy for good cooking to take place. I still prefer the one in PJ cooked by this girl I call Bloody Mary at Paramount.
The Char Koay Teow, started with one in the morning and ended with one at night. Verdict.. the Wok Hei was once again wokked too much that it almost tasted burnt. And Fish Cake for heaven’s sake! How can you do this???
Everyone is so taken about the prawns and all but what if I do not want prawns or any meat in my Char Koay Teow? How would it taste then? Because that is how I usually like mine, just with egg and undercooked bean sprouts and chives and maybe with extra cockles. can this be done in Penang?
The Lorbak and the Squid came from the same stall. Foodie Boy one was forced to buy it, or as he said he was really hard selling the squid. I believe this would have tasted better if they had a different sauce, something with a bit of lime in it instead of the same chilly sauce that came with the lorbak which was a bit dry and one bit was a tiny bit off. I deem the squid a Dish of Nothingness.
Once again, it was quite disappointing save the Spring Rolls and perhaps the Or Chien. So much for bloggers saying all the places we went would be good. Let’s hope Day Three will be more of an adventure.
We were all sweaty and bothered, I was anyhow, so we went back to the apartment.
TO BE CONTINUED