Monday, August 11, 2008

Penang Day 1

We threw our bags into the hotel room and headed for the city in a cab. The driver took us to Lorong Susu where he said we'd get good durians, lots of them.

But there was only one stall at the corner of Lorong Susu and Jalan Burmah, Ah Leik's Durian Stall. We doubtfully approached the stall and asked for the best durian. The guy said that'd be 'udang merah', or 'red prawn' or 'ang hae' depending on which language you prefer, at RM15/US$4.70 a kilo. Hmm. I thought durians were cheap in West Malaysia. Hub was in KL last week and durians were "cheap to death." A medium-sized one was a cool RM25/US$8. We took it anyway, after a discount of RM2. It looked unripe and dry. I put one to my mouth, bit the soft meat off, rolled it around on my tongue. The flavor hit my tastebuds, my nose and my brains. It was unlike any durian I have ever tasted before.

The 'udang merah' or red prawn durian has a slight peachy color.

This is the best durian I, we, have ever tasted. This just blew us off our feet. I can't describe the taste. If you are new to durians, this is what you should eat. The flavor is intense but in a very pleasant way. I can only describe it as roasted durian flavor, totally unoffensive. The texture is creamy, not wet, and the seed is so small it's hardly there. It is also fully sweet as opposed to having a slight bitter taste. I know many people like their durians sweet and bitter but I prefer my durians sweet and my bittergourd bitter, thank you.

Ming wanted more, but I walked away because I wasn't sure if we've been ripped off. Besides there should be lots more durian stalls. When we wanted directions to the famous 2 Sisters' char kuey teow (CKT), Ah Leik told us that the Lorong Selamat's auntie just a street up from there had the best CKT in Penang. I checked my notes and yes, it was recommended highly by a reader. Ro, I think. The shop name wasn't given but we were to look for an unfriendly goggles-wearing auntie frying CKT. And there she was, wearing a silly oversized beret and goggles-like glasses (to keep her eyes from the chili-hot fumes) standing over a charcoal-burning stove:


Auntie Goggles' char kuey teow comes in 3 prices: RM5.50, RM6 and RM8. This is a plate of RM6 char kuey teow. The portion size is the same for all three prices but the prawns size goes up according to the prices.

Let me be careful about this. Like a cautious lover, I held myself back from loving it because this is my first plate of CKT in a land famous for CKT. Auntie Goggles' CKT was well-fried as the noodles were not fried to bits as is done in KK, inadvertently I think. Kuey teow are difficult noodles to fry. Too little oil and they break up easily while too much oil will make a plate of greasy noodles. Goggles' prawns were big, a fact that everybody in Penang will proudly tell you. I don't need big prawns in my CKT. I want well-fried noodles with wok hei (fried with high heat to get a fried aroma) that are evenly-colored (patches of white noodles mean poor frying skills and/or too much noodles fried at one time) and taste great and not greasy. Auntie Goggles' noodles tasted 7.5/10 only because the grease level was 9/10. And just for the record, she really wasn't friendly. I said "Hi, I'm from Sabah and I was told you cook the best CKT in Penang and I'm here to eat it!"  (I know, I was an idiot). She was like, cool, and nodded slightly. Lucky I'd been warned or I'd have asked her what her problem was.

Auntie Goggles' shop on Lorong Selamat is called Kafe Heng Huat.

Since we were on an eating mission, we trudged on. Someone had recommended curry mee at Lorong Se Ratus Tahun. The taxi driver took us there, and there was only one coffeeshop called Khuan Pin Hotel. This is what we got:

Curry mee with prawns, curdled pig's blood, tofu bok, squid and cockles.

By the looks of it, it had everything I like. I have not eaten curdled pigs' blood in decades. I used to like it. But to eat it again now was a little scary, so I tried only a small chunk. Ming tasted it for the first time and said it had the texture of jelly. I was uncomfortable because my mom used to warn me that pigs' blood is collected from the drain, which has pig pee and poo. I looked at her eating her pigs' blood without a care, and wondered what else she told me that was fictional. Or maybe not.

I didn't taste any curry spices or santan/coconut milk in this bowl of noodles. It tasted like light prawn mee stock. It was not particularily tasty or not tasty. Two things spoiled it for us: it was hot as hell. I wanted to tear off my jeans, cut off my hair, scream. Now I know why tourists wear shorts and flip flops. I could feel my legs burning, my sweat trickling down all over, my neck sticky and itchy. I looked at other people and they were sweating, wiping their faces, noses and necks--one lady was wearing a blazer!--and then I noticed that all their noodles soup were red from the chili paste served separately. I thought it was crazy to eat such hot food on a hot day so I only took a pinch of the paste. It was pure dried chili paste, with no blacan or seasoning. And it seemed rather unhygenic because it wasn't covered although amazingly there were no flies.

Pure dried chilie paste in oil.

I found out from a taxi driver later that curry mee is only good with lots of chili paste. Oh no, I want a re-wind!

Oh, the second thing that spoilt the curry mee for us was the drinks stall operator in the shop. We all had our own bottles of mineral water. He insisted that we get at least one drink from him. I offered to not drink our water in the shop. He was adamant. I have never experienced that before and told him so. He glared. So undemocratic. But when the coffee came, Ming said it was damn good. And it was, perfect in aroma and taste. Ming asked if the guy had spat in it. I choose to believe in the intrinsic goodness of men.


CK-II said...

Wow! The durian sure looks good! I still remember that me and my friends had durians at the roadside in Penang even after having lunch! Haha!

bryan said...

That durian looks like the second coming!

I think it's going to be the reason I finally make it down to Penang.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

i see we have moved from the south to up north..interesting durians!

wmw said...

Wow! That durian is really out of this world. Hahaha...

Denise ^ ChiCkyEGG said...

wow... u got "eat-luck" lately wor! ANy waistline problem? HAHAHAHAHAH ;D

Shan said...

Oh god Terri I am so jealous. Have not had durian (I won't even begin to go into "good" durian) in years.

Craving, craving. Where's a good place to pick them up in KK and when is the season again?

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

I choose to believe in the intrinsic goodness of men.

You are so funny. Ming's probably right, of course. :-)

Precious Pea said...

Hey, we got the same taste for durian. I never like those bitter sweet which usually soft and mushy. I like mine deep yellow, soft yet doesn't stick all over your finger.

Haha..i heard about the CKT but then again, i don't like patronising snobbish money to see their shit face.

Looking forward to more penang post.

Anonymous said...

i remember spending 4 days in penang last year when i was on my holidays.

kept eating char kuey teow & asam laksa (RM3 each!!!) all the time. always had two servings too for each meal.

no wonder i put on 4 kilos during my holidays :S

g said...

haha thanks for this post. i was very entertained by your writing.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

ck: haha, tt's what we did. penang's durian is '1st floor'.

bryan: the durian season is tapering off..

joe: middle next.

wmw: do u get red prawn durian in kl?

denise: i'm saving for a tummy tuck at smc.

shan: there are lots of durian stalls along the road to Kingfisher. there's a stall at old foh san but he's pretty cut-throat. i haven't been under the segama bridge; not sure if they still have durians there. try KL, they always have durians:)

lemomgrass: no way!!bleh! blah!~ blak~!

pea: i've found a durian mate! yes sista, don't feel bad when they tell u "u aren't a durian connoiseur (sp?) if u don't eat bitter durian." Nonsense.

danny: the meal portions in Penang are very small aren't they. i can eat two portions in one go myself.

g: it's all for fun n entertainment, given the way things are here. we need to de-stress. glad i can be of help :)

Siew said...

Aunty Goggle's CKT is really excellent imho but hate her pr skills. I would go back there again for more, maybe next weekend when I visit the Northern States. Lorong 100 tahun's curry is so so, nothing special but the half cooked cockles are to die for.

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