Thursday, January 04, 2007

Good Eats at Anson Road Market

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.—Brillat-Savarin

Anson Road Market

Sometimes…ok to be honest, most times, the best food in Penang are found in the strangest place. In this case, mom and I went to the Anson Road wet market to hunt for breakfast. The sustenence? Wanton mee and koay teow th’ng. It was a typical Malaysian wet market that sold meat (pork and chicken but not beef as many Chinese do not eat beef for religious purposes. Obviously I do not have such reservations), seafood (fish and shellfish) and vegetables. Also sold at the wet market are religious paraphernalia such as joss sticks, paper money…etc and also clothes. Most markets have an adjoining area where hawkers will sell food and oftentimes, the food is good.

Mom had koay teow th’ng, a soupy dish with rice noodles, a chicken and pork based broth and slivers of yummy chicken meat. Tradition dictates that hoo-wan (fish meatballs) be included in the dish although some hawkers substitute the fish meatballs with bak-wan (pork meatballs) and also add tauge (beansprouts). I find the traditional version more delicious, somewhat like comfort food as this is a popular “sick dish”, something that you would order if you were ill but had to eat out because your family was entertaining guests.

I had wanton mee, akin to the famous Sarawakian Kolo mee that is often featured on Kenny Sia’s blog. I apologize in advance because I have never tasted kolo mee but the two dishes look very similar that I imagine they must taste the same. Wantan mee/noodles are made with wheat flour, lye water and eggs. The result is a springy noodle that is chewy to the bite but not exactly al dente for it is much softer. I love the texture of the noodles and its wavy strands are perfect for sopping up the dark sauce.

The dish is assembled by blanching the noodles in hot water and quickly cooking it. Then, the dark sauce is made by mixing thick soy sauce, thin soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and a tiny amount of chicken broth. Some hawkers claim to add their own special sauce to the blend but I would not care to speculate on what that “special ingredient” might be. I just eat it. The sauce is poured onto the noodles and some gai choy, char siew (BBQ pork) and shredded chicken meat is placed on top of the noodles. Oh, I forgot the best part, the ingredient that gives the dish it’s name: WANTONS. Again, there are variations. Some hawkers serve the dish with poached wantons, others with deep fried specimens. I find that both are equally good.

After gulping down my own dish and sampling some of mom’s, I was still feeling gluttonous hungry and we ordered a dish of char koay teow (fried rice noodles), Penang’s signature dish (more of this in a future blog) to share. That was only so-so. I have had better and I intend to blog about it!

Ah….it was a great start to a great day.

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