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epicure 29 July 2013

Street foods stalls in Penang all operate at different times, so the trick is in knowing when to visit, says chef Adolf Tan. And while you are in the city, don’t forget to check out its charming heritage sites.

Every three months, I return to Penang, my hometown, where my parents still live in. On a typical morning, I will head to a hawker stall to eat my favourite dishes such as laksa, oh chien (oyster omelette), and char koay teow. For tourists, I would not advise them to sample laksa for breakfast when they are there: you will most likely end up with tummy discomfort—leave that to us locals who are well adapted to handle the dish’s pronounced sourness and spiciness on an empty stomach.

The renowned street food in Penang is one of the main draws for many visitors. Singaporeans would, however, notice a difference in the service efficiency of the hawkers: the vendors take their time to cook—they do not rush—and your dish takes a while to arrive at your table. This is not intentional but a characteristic that reflects the relaxed nature of the locals. Unlike in big cities, life is slower in Penang, and people are friendlier. If you are lost and ask for directions, you will be guided to the place, and not given a brief, verbal instruction. On the streets, people walk at a leisurely pace, unlike the hurried tempo of those in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The kampong spirit is still alive in Penang.

Excerpt from August’13 issue of epicure.

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