"Roti! Roti!", the lure of the bread man
The 'roti man' or bread vendor is quite a common sight in Penang. They are usually on their rounds in the mornings and from tea time, plying their stock-in-trade in a road contraption that resembles a hybrid between a motorcycle and a 'meat safe'.
Bee Koh Moy, a healthy bowl of goodness
In Penang, Bee Koh Moy (Hokkien for black glutinous rice porridge, Bubur Pulut Hitam in Malay) is often served topped with fresh coconut milk. The yin yang-looking combination of mildly sweetened black rice porridge drizzled with a slightly salty creamy white coconut milk sauce is a scrumptious treat. The rich and creamy dish, perfumed with aromatic pandan (screw pine) leaves, can be served warm or chilled. This offering is usually enjoyed for breakfast, at tea time or as a dessert after a meal; it is best savoured in small portions as it is hearty and filling.
History of Little India
This meticulously regimented network was among the earliest parts of George Town planned under the administration of Sir Francis Light, the English founder of Penang. The area is hence now referred to as the "Francis Light Grid" – a rectangular network bordered by Leith Street, Beach Street, Chulia Street and Pitt Street (now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling).
Appetising Nyonya Acar Hu (Nyonya pickled silver mullet)
Nyonya Acar Hu is one of my favourite acar options that can truly whet one's appetite. Mum has been making this savoury delight for as long as I can remember. Its appetising flavours can be appreciated with a plate of steamed white rice.
This dish is like no other, combining a beautiful balance of sweet and sour flavours, spiced with cabai burung (bird’s eye chillies), ginger and of course, fresh turmeric. Other ingredients like shallots and garlic cloves are little preserved nuggets that complement the fish well. The deep-fried fish, given ample time to develop in the fresh turmeric vinaigrette are extremely tasty and tantalising. This is a dish that will wake up all your senses.
The humble golden kee chang that are extraordinary
Preparation for kee chang (alkaline dumplings) starts a week in advance. Picking the jasmine rice grains out from a heap of glutinous rice is time consuming and requires patience. The laborious task is necessary in order to obtain a translucent finish for the dumplings. If rice grains are present, the kee chang will lose their translucent appeal. I vividly remember sorting through the grains of rice when young, or as Mum would call it, “pilih the pulut”. I failed to understand then why such a tedious undertaking was even necessary since everything would be gobbled up eventually. Mum refused to entertain our rationale and would not compromise on quality. Today, being a "product" of Mum, I too have learnt not to compromise on quality, finding it rather ironic that my daughter would utter the same arguments I once did.
Penang Dragon Boat Festival – race of the ancients
About 100 years ago, large clans of sea-faring migrants from China settled along the foreshores of Penang island, building pier houses on the fringes of George Town.
Many of these humble coastal plank settlements, like the old Bang Liaw jetty in Weld Quay, still exist till today, housing scores of fisher-folk families just as they did many decades before.
During the early period, every year on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar, the settlers would push out to sea lengthy specially built boats for a passionate day of racing. It was one of the great traditions they had proudly brought along from China.