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Apr 28, 2012 02:54 AM

Penang, Malaysia - Hawker Delights at Padang Brown

I was first brought to Padang Brown Hawker Centre back in the 1960s by my father - during one of the Penang holidays when old British-Malayan civil servants meet up and exchange war stories over glorious Penang hawker food. Those were the days.

Incredulous as this may sound - they were actually also complaining about deterioration of hawker food tastes even then! One of my Dad's best friend, an old Scotsman (like David Brown, after whom Padang Brown was named) was bemoaning that the Indian pasembor did not taste as good as those from 1950s! :-D

Yeah, sure. But I'm glad to report that the hawker food I had at Padang Brown today was at least as good, if not actually better than those I had at Padang Brown in the past four decades or so. Food stalls still clustered in two arching rows around an obelisk built in the memory of David Brown(1778–1825), an early adventurer/planter and, at one time, the largest landowner in Penang.

What we had:
- Yong tau fu: Penang's version included my all-time fave item - pig's blood!!! We can't get these in Singapore nowadays as the Ministry of Nanny-ing the People thinks present-day Singaporeans' digestive system cannot accomodate pig's blood ;-)
- Popiah: Come here for the quintessential Penang-style popiah, with lots of fresh crabmeat in the filling, and drenched with the savory gravy from the boiled turnips and pork/shrimps. Best I'd ever had!
- Penang "char koay teow" - another fantastic version here and, at RM3.50, a fraction of the cost of the famous, ultra-snooty Lorong Selamat's one.
- Penang curry mee - um, not as good as those from other places. Skip this one here in Pedang Brown.
- Fresh coconut water - served chilled, topped with coconut flesh.

It's good to be "home" :-)

Address details
Padang Brown Hawker Centre
Anson Road, Perak Road & Dato' Keramat Road

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  1. Wonderful narrative, klyeoh. It was a pleasure to read it.

    "Ministry of Nanny-ing the People"...Hahahaha! I presume that must be the MOH. :-D Well, in the US the phenomenon is well-known too, depending on one's viewpoints and who you listen to. . BTW there's a section for Singapore in there... ;-)

    The Yong Tau Fu (釀豆腐) looks smashing - but I must say the only stuff that looks stuffed :-) looks to be the...tau fu. Why isn't any of the other stuff stuffed? Wait - is the (red) chili stuffed?

    Popiah...ohhh I haven't had that in a while. Yum.
    That Malaysian chain-in-the-US "Penang" used to have OK to mediocre ones but I haven't dropped by one in a while (and the one in Chicago's Chinatown burned down years ago and was never reopened; and I've never been to the one in Arlington Heights, IL. [Yes, there are NYC &etc places])

    My favorite popiah place in KL was a stall under the big, big tree at the junction of Kia Peng Rd, Perak Rd and Weld Rd, right at the top of the incline of Kia Peng Rd. The immediate area was NOT the super-developed area it is now, and it was all lush greenery and old, old trees all around. Under that big tree at the top was a small clearing and that popiah stall - and a chendol stand (both actually "carts", IYKWIM) - under the leafy boughs. You sat at a tiny table and on rickety stools and stuffed your face *completely* al fresco. You skedaddled if it rained. It was a while ago. :-)

    It sounds like a great place overall to have hawker food. When was the last time you were there?

    2 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      Hmm, I think I liked the sound of the old KL which you talked about: all those greenery!

      As for Padang Brown, I'd had their famous popiah (a take-away pack) when I was at a Penang friend's house maybe 2 years back. The popiah was very good even then!

      There were some stuffed okra, stuffed bittergourd, etc., at the yong tau fu stall, but we didn't have any. I went for the meatballs, some of my friends liked the fishballs (yech!), there were no aubergines or different types of soy products like the "Ampang" version of yong tau fu. But I think I actually enjoyed the Penang version more.

      1. re: klyeoh


        Not too sure I want pig intestines (that is it in the pic, isn't it?) in my YTF, though.

        Oh, there was also a nasi lemak/mee goreng stall in that clearing-under-the-tree spot for a while too. :-)

        p.s. I wonder if your old-timer KL foodie friends knew of or remember that popiah (Cantonese: "pok pang") stall?

    2. Hey, you didn't tell me you're coming to Penang? Any chance of us catching up?

      2 Replies
      1. re: penang_rojak

        Oops, sorry, P_R, short trip with my office folks this time. I'll see you the next time!

        1. re: klyeoh

          No worries at all, friend.
          Ah, Padang Brown, ever dependable. I also think their popiah is the best on the island. New Lane's popiah is a close second.

          Some Penang people actually called it Padang Broom. Didn't know how THAT came about!