Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Char Koay Teow, the inadvertent revival of "Not many, if any!"

Chinese New Year. Not the sickly hot and tedious affair that I had dreaded.

Earlier plan to abandon the festivities in hometown Penang this year and hibernate in foetal position in KL until the last of the fireworks went poof got upended last-minute. Mag and precious Ollie decided to come home after all!

And who says no to Ollie? To quote this (admittedly catchy in retrospect) one-time NZ hip-hop flash in the pan, "Not many, if any!"

The same quote, also applies as standard response by any person worth his or her weight on the island to my biggest beef during Chinese New Year - the question on the streets, "what to eat ah??"

But this one time, I was coaxed by Toto into the wild frontier of Penang CNY traffic to break fast with him at this cafe, end of Jalan Air Itam, almost at the foot of Penang Hill.

This industrious couple dished up plate after plate of authentic Char Koay Teow.

A decidedly small portion for RM5, as expected. But the smoky, heady plate of silky noodles, thoroughly coated with the goodness of egg and animal fat, topped with two pudgy, fresh prawns KILLED it.

"Uh, how many dudes you know roll like this,
how many dudes you know flow like this,
not many, if any,not many, if any,
How many dudes you know who got the skills to go in and rock,
a show like this,
uh uh, uh uh, I don't know any body."

The exception it seems, is here.

Now excuse me while I try restore my long-buried ambition to become a rapper, uh uh uh uh

Excellent Cafe (also "Xin Ya Zhou" or "New Asia" in Mandarin)
Jalan Air Itam
(last coffee shop on your left if you're coming from Georgetown, right before you hit the Penang Hill roundabout)
11400 Penang

Monday, February 7, 2011

Better than the usual suspects, Chilli Pan Mee at Madam Chiam's

Gong Xi Fa Cai, everyone! How's the feasting going?

I'm personally breaking in a number of foreign eating trails and preconceptions this year, quite the glorious start, yes! Guided by noses and tastebuds of eating companions and wonderful people who share as much as they eat, online or otherwise, I'm sniffing out myself some pretty dope discoveries.

For instance, Chilli Pan Mee, the prodigious KL offering, as it turns out, is no longer purely the domains of Kin Kin and arch rival Super Kitchen (both of which churn out mediocre interpretations at best, never mind its origins).

Somewhere in the midst of the gulf between these two lie a handful of places who whip up a better bowl, such as Keong Kei in Old Town (which has since gone missing, sadly).

Another player in Taman Connaught kicking the cocky Kin Kins of the world to the curb...

...is Madam Chiam's, whose version features thin egg noodles, springier than the first bloom of cherry blossoms. Abandon all forms of table etiquette as the sacred bowl is placed before you, but do gently break the perfectly poached egg, mix the wondrous wobbly liquid in with the dry chilli flakes, minced pork and anchovices, take a deep breath and dig in. And don't forget to slurp-ahhhh on your way out!

My new favourite Chilli Pan Mee, in the practically transoceanic neighbourhood of Taman Connaught, no less. According to super noodle source Toto, stick to the chilli pan mee for despite its name on the signboard, Madam Chiam's curry noodles aren't too hot.

Madam Chiam Curry Noodle House
Jalan Cerdik
Taman Connaught, Cheras