I recently visited Penang, the famed street food paradise so beloved by Malaysians. Having not been up North for quite a few years, we were excited to hit the food trail, and to eat at old favourite places.
What we did not expect, was to be sorely disappointed. Here are 3 old favourite food haunts we hit up, that we will likely never return to because it was no longer worth eating there.
Mee Goreng at Bangkok Lane
Although I don’t regularly eat mee goreng, the one at Bangkok Lane in Penang was a must visit over the many years. It was always well fried, with a hint of spiciness, and the addition of potato, and cuttlefish (sotong) made it special. This time, it was very wet, without any of the smoky flavour that comes from wok-frying (“wok hei”), and it was just salty. No piquancy in flavour, just salt. Suffice to say, any cravings I’d harboured for this old favourite is now gone.
Famous Teochew Cendol at Penang Road
This cendol is a crowd-pleaser. The stall at Lebuh Keng Keww just off Penang Road is often jam-packed with people enjoying the bowls of cold cendol under the hot sun. My memory of it was of bowls of cold crushed ice, generous helpings of large, soft red beans, with lovely springy green strands of cendol swimming under a flavoursome coconut milk and palm sugar (gula melaka) sauce. The stall now has branches in the Klang Valley, but the quality was nowhere near how I remembered it to be.
Sadly, the original stall too has suffered a similar fate in quality. The coconut milk was thin and so was the gula melaka. The red beans were now of a smaller variety with less in the bowl and as an overall dessert, it no longer hit the spot.
Sin Hwa Coffeeshop Char Koay Teow at Pulau Tikus
I don’t have a picture, but I used to go to Sin Hwa for my char koay teow. The stall boasts itself as being manned by the 3rd or 4th generation char koay teow cook, and I think that shows. The char koay teow used to be flavoursome, with nice crispy edges, and a good smokey taste from the wok without being too salty.
Unfortunately, this time, it was just salty and bland. This was even though mine was the only plate that was being fried, and I stood there watching him fry it. It ticked all the boxes except for taste. I’m afraid that even this stall is off my list of must-eat foods in Penang! When I was there at about 1pm, the shop was empty. It used to be packed at lunch time. I’m not sure if it’s a reflection of times, or of taste.
It’ll be a while before I return to Penang, but when I do, I won’t be stopping at either of these stalls.