Apart from the ability to speak rapid-fire Hokkien and guerilla traffic dexterity, anyone Penang-born worthy of this unique birthmark must also possess the aptitude to sniff out a good deal in any condition.
A pretty good deal is what's been driving throngs of hungry, carb-starved locals to Anna Thai Kitchen in Pulau Tikus. We arrived slightly before noon and the place was packed to the brim, with a steady queue forming. I learned of this place first from CK Lam and I'd been counting down the days until my visit back to Penang to give it a go.
Anna Thai offers a decent selection of ready-cooked economy rice-style Thai dishes, as well as some staples ala carte. All very affordable, almost kopitiam prices! Warning: we found the spice factor in the dishes here tongue-numbing. Definitely not for chilli wimps!
I dove straight for the Thai Pork Leg Stew Rice (Khao Kha Moo) on the ala carte menu and it arrived a true picture of grace. The chilli sauce missing from the picture was startlingly, deliciously fiery. Much closer to the real thing sampled on the side streets of Bangkok than this inferior version on the other side of the island.
Dad and Mag both sampled the Chicken Rice (Khao Man Kai) with great enjoyment. The intrepid gourmand Ollie couldn't keep his chubby hands away and proclaimed it "Oishiiiii!!"
The Kerabu Rice was a deceptively delightful and kaleidoscopic mix of texture and taste. Shortly after the first swallow, the finely chopped bird's eye chilli and ground chilli powder sneak up on you with alarming speed. Make sure you have a tall icy glass or four handy!
The dishes from the fast disappearing trays outside, while unassuming, would appease even the stickiest tastebuds. The Thai Red Chicken Curry with Bamboo (Kaeng Phet) was creamy and robust, driving us mad for even more rice.
More spice in the Curry Chicken. We were sweating buckets at this point.
The Otak-Otak, a touch more moist than I like but flavour-wise, full marks.
The requisite plate of greens (featuring yet more chillies) rounded off a meal VERY heavy on the girth and our gastrointestinal system but VERY light on the pocket.
A Penang deal-maker? You bet you bottom ringgit it is!
Anna Thai Kitchen
26, Jalan Moulmein