In search for Malaysia’s best unearthed food expedition…
Part 1 of our Sedap Food Trail sees us going around to the lesser known “brother” of the famous Penang island.
30 minutes/ 22km from Georgetown
Often looked over by tourists who favour Georgetown’s colonial atmosphere, Butterworth is an industrial town located across the channel earmarked as an important transportation hub.
Serving some of the freshest and cheapest seafood in Penang, Ong Cheng Huat Seafood is an underrated gem for families and big groups. There are only seven items on its menu, which translates to a focused, speedy kitchen team, consistent standard and affordable prices. We arrive for an early lunch to crowds of diners under a metal shack. Within 10 minutes of placing our orders, a plate of blanched octopus drizzled with deep fried garlic along with a peanut-chilli sauce, is served.
The generous portion of fried bee hoon, not too oily with an aromatic wok hei is the staple as the restaurant doesn’t serve white rice, though diners are allowed to bring their own.
Be sure to order the signature crispy prawn fritters wrapped with popiah skin, crispy spring chicken and sambal belacan (fresh chilli with toasted shrimp paste) for a pleasant spread. The star though, was the steamed fresh red snapper, delivered fresh from Phuket daily. Steamed in a teochew style for some 10 minutes with freshly chopped garlic, ginger, pickled vegetables and chili, the taste of chunks of fish which fell off the bone, doused in tangy soup with a hint of spiciness was unbeatable.
Ong Cheng Huat Seafood
2004 Bagan Lallang, 13400 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang
Tel +604 331 4782
Opening hours: 11am to 5.30pm, daily. Closed Mon.
30 minutes/ 27km from Georgetown
Excited by the prospects of journeying for ‘untainted’, heartland food, we move on to BM Cup Rice, a humble roadside stall with all of four tables helmed by Mdm Chow Yuen Chew.
A family business born in 1978, the stall has weathered the years with its traditional recipe of roasted chicken and pork rice. The sound of a heavy cleaver on the chopping board entices, as engines flare from motorists eagerly awaiting their takeaways.
One bite and we didn’t have to wonder why. Mdm Chow drizzles two servings of thick gravy on a generous serving of golden brown siew bak (roast pork), char siew (bbq pork), roast chicken and plain rice, which was steamed in a small aluminium bowl. It is crunchy to the right degree with a kick from a potent green chili and garlic oil concoction, washed down perfectly with a bowl of preserved vegetable soup.
BM Cup Rice
74 Street Stall Jalan Danby,
14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Tel +6016 557 3508
Opening hours: 6am to 11pm, daily. Closed on Weds.
20 minutes / 17 km from Georgetown
For locals who drive the distance from Penang’s mainland in search of food, a well-loved classic is yam rice accompanied by pork innards and preserved vegetable (kiam chye) soup.
We try out Kedai Kopi Chip Heng Yam Rice, an airy and breezy kopitiam decked with lilac pastel walls and packed with tables of hungry office workers at noon. The aroma is promising. The unassuming Mr Png Lai Heng, 48, who has been running the business with the help of his family members for the last 21 years, says: “The ingredients have to be fresh, it’s that simple.”
Our mouths water as we tuck into the bowl of yam rice in front of us. Yam rice relies heavily on the quality of yam and is cooked with rice, dried shrimps and dark sauce. The texture was comforting—soft yet powdery with cubes of yam and tasted of home. It is served with a variety of soups from bittergourd to yong tau foo (stuffed bean curd with fish paste), but it is the kiam chye soup with pork meatballs and innards which takes the cake.
Mrs Png mans the soup with much precision as the fresh scent of parsley leaves and mild sour taste kept me going back for more. A highlight was the chilli padi and dark sauce that gave the dish an extra kick. The braised pork (tau you bak) with pieces of soft tau kwa (bean curd), was a surprise and added another dimension to the experience.
Kedai Kopi Chip Heng Yam Rice
45 Lebuh Kurau Satu, Taman Chai Leng, Perai,
13700 Seberang Perai Tengah, Pulau Pinang
Tel +604 390 0136
Opening hours: 9.30am to 3.30pm, daily. Closed on Thurs.
Our tastebuds now awoken, we take a short drive towards Beng Huat Asam Fish Chicken Rice, another eatery adored by the community for its chicken rice with assam fish soup. We arrive to the hustle bustle of owner Li Beng Huat, 40 and his crew of five busy chopping and frying away. With his white beard, Mr Li cuts quite a character (his face is used as the shop’s logo).
The kitchen is stationed at the shopfront and one cannot help but get sucked into the scene of fried chicken drizzled with soya sauce, dark sauce and sesame oil, bean sprouts dished by the heap and a bubbling pot of dark orange assam gravy simmering in the corner. We share a portion of mackerel fish swimming in assam gravy rich and savory. Around us, empty bowls and plates area sign of appreciation.
Beng Huat Asam Fish Chicken Rice
215 Jalan Gan Chai Leng, Taman Chai Leng,
13700 Perai, Pulau Pinang
Tel +604 398 3127
Opening hours: 10am to 4.30pm, daily.