Penang, Malaysia - Fab Hawker Food from One Corner Cafe (和喜茶室)
Superb place for a *real* Penang breakfast - located right behind Penang Plaza & Hotel Royal, One Corner Cafe on Jalan Bawasah is the go-to place for local Penangites looking for good hawker chow.
What we tried this morning:
- "Koay teow t'ng": flat rice noodles in a tasty pork broth, topped with minced pork, golden-crisp lardons, garlic crisps, fish-balls and a sprinkling of chopped spring onions. Loved the generous serving of minced pork here.
- "Penang char koay teow": fried rice noodles with egg, Chinese sausages, shrimps, cockles and beansprouts. De-licious here! With a distinct "wok-hei" aroma. A bit too spicy for me though.
- Steamed yam cake, topped with crisp-fried shallots and chopped spring onions. Served with hoi-sin sauce and chilli sauce. Chunks of yam gave the pudding a distinct flavor. Love this.
One Corner Café (和喜茶室)
2 Jalan Bawasah
I left the fishballs behind, they were an integral part of the soup dish but I didn't like the taste/smell here, too.
We only ordered the yam cake from the "chee cheong fun" stall, but the Penang version which I'd had before was quite similar to Singapore's, except that in Penang, a dollop of strong, vile-smelling prawn paste ("hae koh"), with the consistency of molasses, would also be drizzled over the dish. Bleah!
Nope, the wait would have been too long. Actually, as we were staying at Hotel Royal nearby, for a while I toyed with the idea of asking the hotel's concierge to go and make an advanced reservation for a couple of bowls of Hokkien noodles for us, before we turned up at the food centre an hour or two later. But then, I thought that might be an overkill for a bowl of Penang Hokkien mee. Besides, I preferred KL-style Hokkien mee,
BTW, there was another fabulous episode on the Food Channel by Malaysian foodie-host, Jason aka Axian (http://blog.axian788.com/) on the history behind KL-style Hokkien mee. This time, he touched bases with Chef Li, who's the current owner-chef of the 80-year-old Kim Lian Kee stall in Petaling Street.
Very interesting insight into how KL Hokkien mee had its origins. The inventor (granduncle to the current owner), Wong Jianli, came to KL from Hui'an (China) and started selling Hokkien noodles (the soup version) in 1927 thereabouts - mainly to the trishaw-pullers who're Fujianese from Hui'an in the otherwise largely Cantonese enclave around modern-day Petaling Street/Chinatown. Many of his clients asked for drier versions of the Hokkien soup noodles, and Wong Jianli subsequently came up with the dry version, which included first toasting dried little flounder or flatfish ("pi her") over open flames, then pounding the fish into a powdery consistency.
The minced/pounded fish would be sauteed in lard with copious amounts of garlic, after which pork, liver and shrimps were added. The yellow Hokkien noodles went in next, before the chef ladled in the all-important pork broth (the broth was made by simmering pork bones, shrimp heads/shells, and dried flounder bones), plus seasoning like dark soy-sauce, etc. The stir-frying would continue until the stock was fully-absorbed by the noodles. Apparently, Wong then passed the recipe down to his sister's family, the Lis, who'd been carrying out the trade ever since.
The current owner-chef Li took over the reins of the business in 1972. Gratifying to see the program host interview some long-time customers who were there, including one chap from Klang who'd been coming to Kim Lian Kee for his Hokkien noodle fix for over 30 years. Another client said he'd been going to Kim Lian Kee for close to 40 years!
Penang, Singapore and KL Hokkien mee are all very different dishes from each other. I tend to find KL black noodles Hokkien mee too rich & oily for me - cannot be healthy, right? But I used to like one stall in KL Chinatown area but I think it's gone now. My friends used to take me there around 11pm to half-past midnight.
I had KL black noodles in Fremantle market in Perth once a few year ago. It was the best-tasting dish I had for my whole 2 week trip there. Haha.