Years ago, early in my time here in Penang, I wrote an article about tipping in Penang. In summary, I put together a case for why I don’t leave a tip at every restaurant I visit when I go out to eat. I think back to those days and wonder if I made the right call, and gave the right advice here on this blog. So this time around, I’m going to put forward some of my thoughts on the subject and perhaps amend my recommendation.
The 15th day of Chinese New Year is called Chap Goh Meh, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day. It is a big deal here in Penang with events all over including a big gathering at the Esplanade in George Town hosted by the Penang State Government. Read more about what the holiday is about in last year’s post. Also visit the curated photo blog Living in Penang illustrated to see images from Instagram of the Chap Goh Meh celebrations. Find out why young singles are throwing mandarin oranges into the sea. This year I want to share one of the traditional dishes eaten during Chap Goh Meh, Bubur Cha Cha.
Bubur Cha Cha is the name for a Nyonya dish that is sometimes confused with a similar dish called Pengat. It is a sweet dessert that is said to make the new year sweeter. The Cha Cha is supposed to sound like ‘che che’ which in Hokkien means ‘prosperity’ or ‘abundence’.
This is a dish to be shared, so serve it to friends and neighbors today. It is also the last day to hand out those red envelopes. Children should be getting their last bit of loot before the river runs dry.
Bubur Cha Cha recipe
- 1 cup cubed sweet potato – the orange variety – because orange is the color of Chap Goh Meh
- 1 cup cubed yam, yellow and purple for more colors.
- 100 g pearl sago
- coconut milk
- 2 to 3 pandan leaves, tied in a knot
- Boil Sago Pearls on their own in water until they are soft and translucent. This should take about 15 minutes
- Steam the yam and sweet potato. They should get soft but not mushy. If you don’t have a steamer, sprinkle with water and microwave for 10 minutes.
- Bring 1 cup of water and 1/2 a cup of sugar to a boil.
- Drop to a simmer and add the pandan leaves.
- Add 1 cup of coconut milk and simmer for 4 minutes.
- Remove pandan.
- Add steamed sweet potato and yam, stir to coat.
- Serve over a heaping spoonful of sago pearls.
The World Curry Festival is coming to Penang
Are you as excited as I am? The World Curry Festival will be coming to Penang Jan 30 to Feb 1, 2015. For the last 5 years this has been a British event. The aim was to establish Britain as one of the curry capitals of the world. It’s true too. Recently I hosted two families of Britons at my house, and as a joke I googled traditional British recipes. Chicken Tikka Masala came up as the third search result.
For this 6th annual festival, they are taking it international, to Penang. Curries from everywhere, not just Malaysia, will be represented. It will be part of the Penang International Halal Expo and Conference.
- Gala Dinner
- Curry Master classes
- World Curry Festival Cooking School
- Street Food
- Market Stalls
- Pop Up Restaurants
- and more to be announced
World Curry Festival on Social Media
It really isn’t my fault. The information on the web, and even from locals on the street say that December used to be a Durian harvest. So I posted about Durian’s second season. An excited out of town friend sent me a WhatsApp message saying he was in town and read my post. He invited me to go get some. So my one daughter who enjoys Durian, and my friend, and I went into Balik Pulau looking for a Durian stand… and there were none.
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Chee Cheong Fun
Chee Cheong Fun is also known as Steamed Noodle Roll. It hasn’t topped any list (that I’ve seen) of Penang foods to try. And yet it’s a yummy local favorite. My gluten-free expat friends love it because it’s a rice noodle dish that they can eat. So let’s explore what Chee Cheong Fun is.
Wan than Mee. It’s been my go-to Penang Hawker stall lunch for the last few months. Wan Than mee and an iced coffee for RM5 can’t be beat. So what is it?
Here in Penang, we get two Durian seasons. The first is the one with the big Durian festival that last through the month of June. It’s a pretty big deal because tourism is one of Penang’s top industries. Durian is a big draw for many tourists. Yes, some people do go out of their way to find a bit of the stinky fruit. My family has two.
We’re at the start of Penang’s second Durian season, which if the harvest is good, can last until the end of Feb. The best stuff can be found closer to the farms. Go out to Balik Pulau, There are pop up stands all along the road past the Teluk Bahang Dam.
There are going to be pop up stands all over town, and they should be fresh Durian. How could they not be, they fly off the truck to the eager fanatics in Penang. In my experience, the pop up stands won’t know the varieties they are selling. They don’t know a D7 from a D11. You need to get out to Balik Pulau to get that kind of information.
So here’s my Advice to first time durian eaters
- Go with a friend. Bring a fanatic. They aren’t hard to find. Their enthusiasm for Durian is hard to miss, and sometimes infectious. The other advantage of getting Durian in a group is that you can sample more varieties. Ask for the sweetest ones your first time.
- Get it fresh. Don’t buy from a container the first time. Don’t try Durian-flavored ANYTHING. Watch them crack the spiky fruit open. Video it for your facebook feed.
- Eat from closer to the stem. The tastier meat is closer to the top of the fruit.
- Bring water, tissues and hand sanitizer. Your hands will get dirty, if you eat durian correctly. hand sanitizer will help get the smell off your hands.
Post your pics on the Living in Penang Facebook page. Have a lovely durian feast.
I was invited by the people at G Cafe, the restaurant in the lobby of the G Hotel, to come try out their new theme buffet. They put out an invitation to Penang bloggers. So featured below is my honest review of my experience last night. Spoiler: Yummy!
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Can you believe I am still finding hawker stall foods that I haven’t tried before? Hokkien Mee, available with Prawn and without, is one of my new favorite dishes from the hawker stalls. It is extremely tasty without having to burn ones face of with spice.
Hokkien Mee is a noodle dish that swims happily in a beef or fish broth. The noodle is supposed to be consistent from stall to stall. It’s supposed to be a combination of egg noodles and rice noodles (bihun). The rest of the dish is really up to the vendor. There might be a hard boiled egg, or some bean sprouts. There might be bits of meat. I don’t think there’s going to be any weird cuts, like liver or heart, like in Loh Mee. At least I haven’t had any yet.
As you can see in the picture above, the chili sauce (sambal) is served in the little spoon and can be left out if you’re sensitive to spicy foods.
There are lists on the internet for where to find the best Hokkien Mee in Penang. I haven’t had a stand out best one anywhere yet. I think it’s one of those dishes that everyone seems to get right.
Now recently, the Penang Chief Minister proposed a law to make it illegal for foreigners to cook at any Penang food stalls. This really saddens me, especially reading the comments that people make online about foreign workers. The bulk of the negative comments turn into racial slurs against Bangladeshis, Burmese or Indonesian migrant workers. It’s so sad.
The reason for the proposal is to “preserve” the taste of Penang. To make it a legacy and a heritage, unadulterated by outsiders. I think that this doesn’t require legislation. If the particular hawker stall does not taste the same (or better) than your memory of Penang food, stop eating there. They will go out of business when they can’t sell their food. Let the public vote for the legacy they want, not the legislators.
You could also use the internet for more productive means than cutting down foreigners. Let’s be an example, and post in the comments (or on the Living in Penang Facebook group) where to find the best Penang Hokkien Mee.
When foreigners think of Penang, I think the first word that comes to mind is food. It seems like when we get together we’re talking about what we’ve recently eaten and where. I share a lot about food on this blog. However, some of the reviews for restaurants on Living In Penang are getting out of date. Bella Marino has moved from Straits Quay to Pulau Tikus. And Viva Italia continues to attract bad reviews on our site. As new information comes in I try to keep all the info up to date. I really appreciate the community that keeps the information flowing so that we can all keep abreast of the changes to the restaurants in Penang.
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