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Penang Food: Try This Chinese Teochew Restaurant in George Town

Penang Food, Malaysian Food, Heritage and CultureDanny MahesComment

Hello, friends! We’re back with more delicious ideas for what to eat in Penang. Although the street food here is popular, Penang is also home to many traditional and modern restaurants serving tasty meals. So, if you’re wondering what to do on a lazy afternoon, here’s a local restaurant worth checking out:

A Teochew Style Lunch on Lebuh Melayu, George Town

If you’re wandering down Lebuh Melayu in the afternoon, you might see a pair of heavy wooden doors that look ornate and festive. Decorated with red lanterns and cloth, it seems ready to spring out at you. But tiptoe inside and the vibe is just the opposite. Cool air punctuated with fresh greenery and large splashes of sunlight fill this place. You’ve entered Chao Xuan Restaurant, a place that prides itself in its Straits Chinese identity.

Lotus Root Soup - light, nutty and perfectly punctuated with the flavour of spring onions. It made for a really great appetiser.

Lotus Root Soup - light, nutty and perfectly punctuated with the flavour of spring onions. It made for a really great appetiser.

The Straits Chinese are traders, migrants and refugees who’ve made the Straits of Malacca their home. Coming from various ethno-linguistic and geographic backgrounds in China, they’ve adopted local customs and beliefs - creating a unique and fascinating sense of shared identity. It’s important to remember that there is a vast diversity of customs, traditions and food associated with this community, and Chao Xuan is one expressions of that diversity.

This place gets mixed reviews, in large part because of their philosophy of preparing and serving Teochew-style food that is as close as possible to the style and flavours they consider authentic. Penang food can be very bold and intense, and the more subtle flavours at play here is not to everyone’s taste. But we loved it!

Braised duck - the flavour of the duck was front and centre, with the sauce providing a great accent to the taste. Eaten with the stickier rice served here, it was very satisfying (and filling!)

Braised duck - the flavour of the duck was front and centre, with the sauce providing a great accent to the taste. Eaten with the stickier rice served here, it was very satisfying (and filling!)

We ordered a simple but satisfying meal for two, but there’s lots of options to explore at this place. Their menu mostly sticks to their theme of traditional (or as close to traditional) Teochew flavours, with the occasional flourish of spicy sambal or fried snack inspired by Malay or Nyonya cooking. If you’re thinking about what to do in Penang for lunch, and you’d like a break from the flavours of local street food, this is a good place for a change of flavours. We’re very interested to visit again and try more of what they offer. And of course when we do you’ll hear about it

Tofu in soy sauce - light and flavorful, it worked very well as a snack on the side

Tofu in soy sauce - light and flavorful, it worked very well as a snack on the side

When you’re ready for more Penang street food, check out these Three Types of Penang Noodles

Penang in Pictures Part 3

Travel, Food Tour, Heritage and CultureDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! I'm back with another (possibly terrifying) blog post about my budding photography skills! This time, I've dug deep into a photo-walk I did in late-2016. This was during my "experimental" phase, and it resulted in a lot of uhhh interesting shots.

I tend to home in on textures and details, and a lot of the photos were taken deliberately off-axis. I think I was going for a surrealist feel or something. Like I said - "Experimental."

Most of these were taken on Jalan Pintal Tali, also known as Rope Walk. Fun fact: there used to be a community of rope makers who lived and worked here, which is how the street got its name. They moved here from their original base in Little India, once the area gentrified too much to accommodate them. I know the gist of the story but I'm still researching it. I'll have more to say about it... soon-ish?

In the meantime, I present to you some photos that didn't turn out terribly! Tadaa!

hop penang food tour pictures rope walk 1

Naturally, I started out with what I feel is the strongest piece. I just really enjoyed the amount of details in this picture, and the myriad stories that must be hiding behind these wind-swept and rain-battered windows. There must have been a time when this was a grand view, with beautiful carvings and giggling bright plaster. It's a withering shadow of it's former self. I feel like it's sad and beautiful at the same time.

hop penang food tour pictures rope walk 2

I liked the textures in this picture, and didn't bother to create a meaningful composition while I was taking it. The outcome is pretty flat, but with a lot of gorgeous wear and tear, telling the passage of time. I liked that the house number is 88, considered lucky in Chinese numerology. The wooden window panes are being held together by string.

hop penang food tour picture rope walk 3

Now, before you start thinking that every house in George Town is pretty much held together by some twain and a prayer, this is one of the off-axis shots I was talking about earlier. It's meant to convey... something? The tilt of modernity? The inevitability of change, like pieces being pulled by gravity on a tilted board? Possible day-drinking?

hop penang food tour pictures rope walk 4

Oohhhh purdddy...

That's it for Rope Walk, folks. I'll dive back into that endless barrel of Penang photographs for next week's edition of Penang in Pictures. For now, check out Part 2 of the series. And as always, safe travels and good eating :)

 

 

 

Penang in Pictures Part 2

Travel, Food Tour, Heritage and CultureHeritage on a PlateComment

Hey, guys! It's been a really busy week! We've been hosting lots of guests and showing them some delicious penang food, exploring the city together and having some great conversations. Before things get busy again, I wanted to share some pictures with you.

These are from a little walkabout I did circa 2016, I think. I was looking to capture some action shots of people making food. One reason was to give you an idea of what actually goes into the process of making the different kinds of famous Penang dishes. But I was also practicing trying to add the human element to the food that people are getting familiar with.

I'll share more of these in the next few posts. You can also check out Part 1 here. Have a great week ahead!

hop penang pictures food tour char koay kak 2

This is from the Char Koay Kak stall on Lorong Macalister around brunch time. I was really drawn by the vivid colours and the thick steam rising from the wok. Unfortunately, I wasn't skilled enough with the camera to capture the scene to my linking. But I think it turned out pretty alright! All the more reason to make another (delicious) visit soon!

hop penang pictures food tour char koay kak

Here's the finished piece. Char Koay Kak is stir-fried rice cakes (we use rice in the north and radish is more common down south) with chili paste, soy sauce, egg and a variety of other ingredients and aromatics. It should be soft with a slightly crunchy carbon char. I had it with some thick local "kopi" and Otak Otak.

hop penang pictures food tour famous cendol

Ok, so, you might recognize a very similar shot on our Facebook page and Instagram. This is pretty much the early experiment, when I was still trying to figure my way around composition and lighting. I came back a year later and finally got the shot I wanted! If I've learned anything, folks, is that when at first you don't succeed procrastinate until a year later and then accidentally get the shot you wanted.

hop penang pictures food tour famous cendol 2

This one was a bit of a missed opportunity. I really wanted to capture the weight and heft of the moment. The sweat and tears that goes into making food, and making it the best food someone has ever tasted. These Penang food vendors work really hard, and I think it's important to tell their story. Who knows, the perfect shot might come to me a year from now! This was taken at the Penang Teochew Chendol cart on Jalan Penang.

See you next week with more Penang in Pictures!