Thursday, March 15, 2012

Penang 2012: Pulau Tikus

Now we come to my first post on Penang!  Yay!  Although I absolutely love visiting my friends and family in Kuala Lumpur, it can be... I dunno... a little soulless?  Apart from lots of shopping and some great food, I don't feel like there's a lot for foreign visitors to do, it can be quite dangerous with pickpockets, and it's so difficult to navigate!

Penang, on the other hand, is totally super-duper awesome!  Beautiful architecture, loads of history and culture, The Best Food in Malaysia, and my favourite hotel in the whole wide world.  (Blogpost to come!)  As with any city, it's better if you have locals to guide you around, but I still think Penang has a lot to offer, even for solo tourists.

Being surrounded by Hokkien-speaking Chinese Penangites makes me feel right at home.  Finally!  A Chinese dialect I can understand properly!  Even though I've lived my whole life in Melbourne, I still think of Penang as my home town.  And whenever I'm in Penang, I consider Pulau Tikus to be my 'hood - my dad grew up around the corner, and my lovely Aunty Rosie, with whom we always stay whilst in Penang, lives close by.

Pulau Tikus is full of great food stalls, shops and a market.  Today will be a picture-heavy post.  Let's take a look:
Kedai Kopi Swee Kong
Swee Kong is a kopitiam ("Coffee Shop" in English, "Kedai Kopi" in Malay), on the corner of Burma Road and Solok Moulmein.  We came here for breakfast on our first morning in Penang!

Interior of Kedai Kopi Swee Kong

Hokkien Mee stand

Hokkien Mee

I had a bowl of Hokkien Mee, as this stall is my dad's favourite.  You'll notice that Penang Hokkien Mee is a rich prawn-and-pork based noodle soup dish, unlike the Hokkien Mee from other parts of Malaysia, which is just fat yellow noodles stir fried in dark soy sauce.  Clearly, the Penang Hokkien Mee is superior.

Whilst the broth tasted amazing (see how rich and red it is?), the aunties here were very tight with the fillings - no hard boiled egg, and only one or two little prawns, each sliced into even smaller pieces!

If you're not up for an intense bowl of prawn soup for breakfast, there's also an Indian stall in this kopitiam, selling my favourite: ah pong!  These are light little pancakes, cooked in small wok-shaped pans, so the centres are thick and soft, whilst the edges are thin and crisp.  Totally delicious.
Ah Pong!
As you can see in the below photo, there's another restaurant directly opposite Swee Kong on Solok Moulmein, but I've never been, so no idea if it's any good!

Ok, so if you continue down Solok Moulmein (i.e. going straight ahead in the below photo), there are heaps of great stalls on the lane itself...

View of Solok Moulmein from Burma Road (Kedai Kopi Swee Kong is on the right hand side of the intersection)

... including... a ban chang kuih truck!  We came here for breakfast a few days into our trip.
Ban Chang Kuih truck!
This guy does different flavours, including kaya and banana, but I always go for plain peanut and sugar.
Inside the  Ban Chang Kuih truck 

Ban Chang Kuih truck and seating on Solok Moulmein
Behind the truck are some seats - if you sit down someone will come around and take your drink order (you pay them when they bring the drinks).  Just like in a kopitiam (e.g. Swee Kong, above), each stall is run independently - i.e. the ban chang kuih truck is one business, the drinks is a separate business - but they all share the same space.

You'll notice that Pulau Tikus is predominantly a Chinese area - so no asking for "teh ais", or for your drinks to be "kurang manis"!  Speak Hokkien here (or English).

Peng means "ice", and jua means "hot", which should help you when trying to order.

For example...

Iced Tea - "teh peng"
Iced Milo - "milo peng"
Iced Coffee - "kopi peng"
Iced Barley - "barli peng"

Ban chang kuih!
Mmm... check out that ban chang kuih!  This is the thin style; at other stalls you can buy thick doughy ones - all down to personal preference.

One of my favourite Malaysian sweets is mua chee: slightly chewy glutinous rice flour dough, chopped into bite-sized pieces and thickly coated in ground peanuts and sugar.  They serve it in little containers with toothpicks.  (I'm told that normally the mua chee man only comes to Solok Moulmein at night - we were so lucky he was open on the morning we were there!)
Muah Chee

If you keep walking down Solok Moulmein and turn right at the end, there are more stalls for food, and the market!

Another Uncle making bah chang kway
Check out the traffic here!  The cars drive so close to the stalls... eek!  Streets in Penang are always damn packed - always kena jam - I wouldn't dare drive there.

More food stands

Around this area is the market, selling everything from newspapers and iPhone covers to fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, crockery and more!
Market from outside

Market stalls

Laneway

Pork stalls - when you see pork, you are definitely in a Chinese area

Fish (I think these stalls are actually Malay - yay for harmony!)

Fish, turtles and frogs
You can even buy live frogs and turtles!  I'm not sure what to cook with turtles - I imagine soup? - but apparently frogs are often put in rice porridge (AKA moi), and it's supposed to be very good for your complexion.

Some more streets in the area...

Fancy-looking houses

Burma Road

Burma Road
The covered pathways feel very "Penang" to me.

I'm planning on doing a separate post dedicated to attractions in Penang, but for today I wanted to show you two very beautiful temples that are in the area.

Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple
Burma Lane
George Town, 10250
Penang, Malaysia


The Thai temple in Pulau Tikus is famous for having the third largest reclining Buddha in the world.  I visit it every time I come to Penang, to worship (i.e. "kee pai"), and also because my grandmother's ashes are kept here.  It's a stunning temple, so even without a personal connection it's definitely worth a visit.


Reclining Buddha

Monks on holiday!

Directly across the street from the Thai temple is the Burmese temple.  I must admit that this was my first visit to the Burmese temple, and we only thought to go because we had Sandra with us and we thought that as a tourist, she might be interested to have a look.

Dharmikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple
Burma Lane
George Town, 10250
Penang, Malaysia



Unlike the Thai temple, there was more of a garden in the Burmese temple, with grass, sculptures and even a large koi pond.

Sculptures in the garden

Lotus candles

A Buddha

This is the first post in my series: 2012 Trip to Penang.

9 comments:

Jin Hooi said...

Haha Sarah , I love your blog !!! You are so funny !! Can't wait for the coming Penang related post !! Penang laksa ? Lok Lok ? Penang lobak ? Oh .. I miss Penang

Jane B said...

Great post about "Rat Island" ;-)! As suspected, you have highlighted some places I have easily overlooked while walking around Pulau Tikus - I've never been into Swee Kong, but I will now, thanks to your recommendation. I've been to both of those temples and shop at the Pulau Tikus markets almost weekly - and have been known to drive down that narrow road and order food from a stall through the window of my car! Driving in Penang isn't so bad...

kkpills abroad said...

Love it! I felt like I was on the busy streets of Penang again reading this post. The ban chang kuih looks amazing!
Kristine

Sarah said...

Jin Hooi - Hehe, thanks! Yah, got quite a few posts coming up, yay! Penng lobak and assam laksa are the best!

Jane B - Thanks! Wow, very daring of you! :)

Kristine - Thank-you! YOU'RE amazing, hehe. (I'll learn how to make ban chang kuih!)

Sekai Photography said...

KL sucks.
Penang rules.
True story.

Su-Lin said...

Your grandmother is mingling with my grandfather! His ashes are at the same temple. I need to get myself back to Penang one day.

Sarah said...

Sekai - LOL.

SuLin - Thank-you for your comment! I've read your blog for years, and didn't realise you had Malaysian-Chinese background! :)

Hannah said...

I need some ban chang kuih and mua chee in my life. Peanuts and sugar! Peanuts and sugar! I would rather be a reclining Buddha than a driver there, though.

Sarah said...

Hannah - Ban Chang Kuih and muar chee are both apparently quite easy to make! My dad makes BCK all the time. Once I've perfected my muar chee recipe I'll blog about it! :)