Heritage on a Plate

Every Recipe has a Story

Join us on a walk through the heart of George Town, and discover more about this bustling, beautiful, diverse place through its delicious food. 

Chai Kuey? Char Koay? Cakoi? A Brief-ish Guide

Hello, friends! This week we're going to look at a source of great childhood confusion and possible family feuds. The humble Chai Kuey. And also the Char Koay. You'll see what I mean later. 

First contender: Chai Kueh

First contender: Chai Kueh

Chai Kueh is a savoury steamed snack of Teo Chew and Hakka origin. The sticky, translucent skin is made from rice flour and tapioca starch. The filling is usually comprised of turnip, and different vendors will add different ingredients to give it a little more zing. Common flavour ingredients are chives, carrots or shrimp. 

You'll commonly find chai kueh at dim sum places or some Nyonya food places. This is probably due to the fact that it is Halal and mostly vegetarian. Therefore, Nyonya families kept this recipe as it could be served even if members had embraced Islam, or if they were staunch Buddhists. In addition, some Nyonya families have Hakka or Teo Chew heritage on their Chinese side. So, it was a practical and cultural consideration. 

In Penang, Chai Kueh is often mistaken for the Hokkien Chinese churros-like fried bread, Char Kuey or Cakoi, which has a similar pronunciation. It may sound almost the same, but in reality they're both very very different things. Penang Hokkien language has assimilated many Malay and English terms and so Char Koay/Cakoi in Penang literally translates to "Fried Snack." It's most often served with a dip such as almond milk, or in soup dishes such as Bak Kut Teh. Here's an example of Cakoi being served with Chee Cheong Fun

Penang street food char koay cakoi chee cheong fun

Whether you're looking for some Chai Kuey or some Char Koay, there are plenty of options for delicious snacks in Penang. Stay curious and you'll be suprised at what you can discover. Until next time, hope you enjoyed this story! 

A Good Time for Wantan Mee

Hello, food hoppers. I'm dropping by for a quick blog post about one of my favourite Penang hawker food dishes, the wantan noodle. 

Behold its dark majesty

Behold its dark majesty

The wantan noodle (or wantan mee) is an unassuming dish that is often enjoyed for breakfast, brunch or supper. Often times, Penangites will also have it for a light dinner or accompanied with other dishes such as lor bak or dim sum

It's put together pretty easily: egg noodles, greens, some sliced char siew (bbq pork) and some wantans/wantons or pork dumplings on the side. The secret is in the sauce. It's built from pork fat, sesame oil and sweet soy sauce. Different vendors will then other flavour components to build a flavour profile that is unique. Some use flavours from spices like cinnamon or star anise, others take a more exotic route with oyster sauce, molasses or vanilla extract. 

There are a few vendors who take a completely different approach. Instead of focusing on the sauce, they focus on the ingredients. The noodle is one place that a vendor can really create some unique flavours with just a slight change. Some specialise in springier, tastier noodles while others have complex processes to control the alkalinity and texture of the noodle. 

I'll put together a more detailed post about all these different options soon. For the time being, visit as many wantan mee shops as you can and enjoy them all! 

Craving for Some Dim Sum

Hello, friends! I'm back again with a short post on a little ad hoc tea time treat. I was in George Town for work and ran into a friend and of course we decided to grab a bite. But where to go? Well, if you're feeling like some heat tea and Dim Sum (Yum Cha, for the Australians) in the evening, I have a place just for you. 

tai tong penang chinese dim sum

A local favourite for dim sum/yum cha in the evening is an old place called Tai Tong on Lebuh Cintra. You can find it on Google Maps here. This place has been operating for more than 60 years and has hosted a generation of local Penangites searching for a little evening snack before dinner. 

Most of the menu is in Chinese, but don't be intimidated. The dim sum is rolled around in stainless steel carts and if you don't speak Mandarin, like me, just point to what you want. Two separate carts travel along between the tables. One has steamed dim sum and the other, fried ones. 

A lot of the younger staff speak English or Malay, but on some days it's the older staff that only speak Mandarin or Hokkien. If I'm with a friend who speaks Mandarin, we'll get a pot of Chinese tea. But if I'm not, there's pictures of chrysanthemum tea advertised on the walls and I simply gesture for that. Often times, I can get help from the other patrons to translate. Most people are really helpful, especially if you're a visitor here. 

L: Siew Mai, R: Pai Kut

L: Siew Mai, R: Pai Kut

Some of my favourite dim sum at Tai Tong are the steamed siew mai and pai kut. The former is minced pork and shrimp wrapped like a dumpling and steamed. The latter is bits of pork trotters in sweet plum sauce. 

Tai Tong opens for breakfast and lunch, closes in the early evening, and reopens for dinner at 6.15pm. Drop by and try their dim sum!

Of Ferries and Food

Hi guys! I’m back on the blog after a short (ish) hiatus. I’ve found myself enraptured by George Town ferry trips recently. Like many Penangites, my trips to and from the mainland have usually been via the Penang Bridge. Most of us consider it to be more convenient than taking the ferry across, but I’m starting to revise that opinion!

The Butterworth Ferry Terminal (now called Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim, or the Sultan Abdul Halim Port) has been in operation for nearly one hundred years. It started ferrying pedestrians and vehicles in the early 20th century and has dependably provided access to the working class residents of Butterworth and George Town since.

You might find the ferries here to be almost archaic compared to other places around the world. But that’s part of the charm for many of us. Although the service has been upgraded several times, many Penangites feel a nostalgic attraction to the current fleet of ferries dating back to the 1970’s. Despite the relative age of the fleet, the ferry port still provides safe and reliable transport between Penang island and Butterworth every day. Plus, the view is pretty great!

Our current fleet is going through some upgrading

Our current fleet is going through some upgrading

I made a joke about this being a passing relation-ship but no one found it amusing

I made a joke about this being a passing relation-ship but no one found it amusing

George Town afternoons can be hot, hot, hot. Many locals and tourists alike seek shelter in air-conditioned cafes or malls and I’m certainly one of them! Well, most of the time. One peculiar thing we Penangites love to do on a warm afternoon is to have hot soup.

I know, it makes little sense! But I suppose it’s something of a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to the heat and humidity. There are quite a few popular places that open in the afternoon (or all day) and sell different kinds of soups, porridges and spicy noodles.

One of my favourites is the beef noodles by by ST Loo. I’m not technically supposed to be eating beef for religious reasons, so don’t tell my mom. It’s hard to resist this beautifully layered soup dish, and it’s good with both noodles or rice. My preference is the latter. Here, have a look:

Not technically beef, if my mom asks 

Not technically beef, if my mom asks 

This delicious broth is sweet, savoury, salty and peppery, beautifully complemented by the flavours of toasted ginger, shallots and fried pork belly. It’s very popular with the locals because of the freshness of the ingredients and richness of the beef stock that goes into it. You can get it with just meat, or with tripe, intestine and ligaments thrown in. I recommend the latter, more adventurous choice. It adds a lot of interesting flavour and texture to the soup. Live a little!

When I’m done with lunch, I usually like to take a little wander around the city. I’m not that great a photographer, but I find myself taking snaps of the local architecture and wondering about the heritage businesses and craftsmen that might have once inhabited it. I’m quite interested to learn more about the local architecture, but we’ll leave that for another post. 

Have you been on the Penang ferry? Tried the ST Loo Beef Noodles? Let me know what you think in the comments!

"Dilapidated" is my favourite word

"Dilapidated" is my favourite word

Penang Ferry Travel 4.png

Eat Fast, Eat Good and Have Fun with our new Mini-Hops!

Hello Food Hoppers,

We're introducing a new line of mini-hops for people who want to eat fast, eat good and have fun!

We've had quite a few people tell us that they'd love to do a hop with us, but they're on the clock or on a tight budget. Well, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying some delicious Penang food. We're here to help you out :D

Join our mini-hop and spend an hour enjoying some of our favourite dishes in George Town. You'll have a friendly host to show you around and answer your questions, plus give you some recommendations for great eats. It's a great choice at a great price. 

We wanted to announce this with trumpets, but we didn't have trumpets.

We wanted to announce this with trumpets, but we didn't have trumpets.

Learn more about our mini-hops here. And remember, we love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us in the comments, or get in touch with us via our contact form

Until next time, have a great one!