Penang tau sar peah, food for the Gods

Penang's tau sar peah is legendary and spoken of in the same breath as Kuala Kangsar's pau (dumpling) and Kampar's chicken biscuits.

Indeed, conversations about Penang food inevitably turns to the celebrated Penang tau sar peah. For Penangites who work outside the state (and even those who live overseas) and return for periodic sojourns to their beloved hometown, the tau sar peah is invariably among the items that line their bags when they depart.

Traditionally, the tau sar actually refers to the red bean paste found in the cookies. The red beans are cooked with sugar until they become mushy and turn a shade of very dark magenta. But given the several varieties of peah (biscuit/cookie) on the market, the term tau sar is also confusingly used to describe the whitish green pea paste, or pek tau sar. Then there's the mung bean variety, or lek tau and also lotus bean paste.

In Penang, tau sar peah is synonymous with Tambun peah as both are made from the same core ingredients, but differ slightly in shape.

Either way, you are assured of cookies that are delightfully mouth-watering and delicious. When buying tau sar peah, try and get a batch that's fresh out of the oven.

Although the cookies retain their freshness for several days without refrigeration, it is when they are still warm that eating them becomes an incomparable experience.

Although purists will tell you that the best tau sar peah is made with lard, there are equally tasty varieties made with vegetable oil. There is even a halal (permitted by Islam) variety for Muslims and a vegetable-based one for vegetarians. The best way to get fresh tau sar peah is to pre-order, sometimes even days before your arrival in Penang.

Tau sar peah is available in Penang from:

•  Ghee Hiang, 95 Jalan Pantai, Tel: +604 262 0635
•  Him Heang, 162A Jalan Burma, Tel: +604 228 6129
•  Hoe Peng, 434 Jalan Pinang, Tel +604 226 2375
•  Lee Hoay Seng, 1G Jalan Macalister, Tel: +604 226 4458
•  Loong Num, 322 Jalan Pinang, Tel: +604 261 5569
•  Sin Hock Seng, 316 Jalan Pinang, Tel: +604 263 2667
•  Xiang Phing Bakery, 4 Jalan Concord 10, Tanjung Bunga, Tel: +604 890 2128