I consider myself a hunter and gatherer of good Malaysian food and I may have just found myself a gem in the purveyance of Malaysian hawker delights.
Preston Market just got tastier. Nestled amongst the produce, meat and flowers, is a little shop simply called PENANG, decorated with traditional lanterns and sights of old colonial Penang, an island north of Malaysia. Food shots dominated the white walls but this sweet little hole-in-the-wall has even managed to muster up three tables within its small confines. Naturally one can sit anywhere in the market, and the very warm and affable lady of the shop, can bring your piping hot Curry Laksa, Char Koay Teow or Nasi Lemak anywhere within Preston Market itself.
Char Koay Teow came highly recommended by fellow Malaysians and Singaporeans, so that was what I zoomed in for. Found it living up to expectations and more, with a good dose of wok breath, succulent prawns, chives and bean sprouts. My friend had the Nasi Lemak that came with an option of chicken or beef curry. Ask for a little bit of both and you will be rewarded with tender chicken and beef swimming in the most flavourful curry. This dish is complemented with a hard-boiled egg, crunchy anchovies and peanuts. I also noticed other diners ordering for the Penang Assam Laksa repeatedly and one very pleasant Malaysian offered me a spoonful of her Assam Laksa. Eyes closed, hands down – my verdict was – better than any Assam Laksa in Malaysia with authentic tamarind and sardine broth, accompanied by sprinkles of ginger torch, mint, chilli, onions and a generous dollop of shrimp paste.
The aroma of rich prawn broth wafted towards me. Felt like tripping the server and sending the Hokkien Prawn Mee flying to my table but I managed to control myself and behaved like a civilised diner who requested for a takeaway instead. Have to tell you that the Hokkien Prawn Mee really travelled well. Hours later, in front of the telly, I was chomping down a hearty meal of yellow noodles and vermicelli, prawns, slices of barbecued pork, kangkung (Chinese water spinach) and half a hard-boiled egg in a full-bodied prawn broth procured from boiled prawn heads and shells – most decadent but well worth it.
Another bestseller at PENANG is its Spiral Curry Puff. Imagine curried chicken, egg, potato and onions encased in the most delightful and crunchy home-made and home-rolled spiral pastry. A mesh of words comes to mind – deli-yummy-cious.
Note to self – Have to revisit PENANG for I spied, on its bain-marie, fat and meaty flounders, fried to crispy perfection, peppered with chicken salt, garnished with caramelised onions and finely chopped vegetable. At $10 a fish, it is a steal, considering the prices of flounders in the market these days.
The "No-MSG-Added" sign is another encouragement to foodies who want to control what goes into their system.
Saving the best for last - PENANG does not offer much in beverages but what they have - takes the cake. Freshly-squeezed sugar cane, all the way from Queensland, served with clinking ice, is as good as any nectar-ed champagne any day. I pledge that this naturally sweet and juicy swill is an energy booster and will be my survival kit through summer.
Admittingly, PENANG is not a glitzy or glamorous place, but if you have a marketing list to accomplish, a trip to this little piece of Penang is highly warranted.