Penang, Malaysia: Cendol & Other Random Street Eats

by gigi on August 30, 2011

During one of the days while we were in Georgetown, I told Jenkins I’d like to dedicate a part of our day to checking out some of the stops from Robyn Eckhardt’s Georgetown city walk from the Wall Street Journal. I’ve been reading Robyn’s blog, Eating Asia, for a few years now and I was really excited that I finally had the chance to try out some of her recommendations during our Asia trip.

Our first stop was the cendol stand just off Jalan Penang. It was busy with walk-by customers and other customers who stopped by in their scooters and had their cendol while the scooter’s motor was still running.

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This was definitely the best cendol that I’d had so far on my trip. It was refreshing and just the right combination of flavours. What I think really made this dish was the palm sugar or gula, which had a wonderful, rich flavour that paired perfectly with the coconut milk. The pandan “noodles” and red beans provided some texture to make this a deliciously refreshing treat in the tropical heat.

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Jenkins had recently become addicted to ice kacang so that’s what he ordered from this stall. It had some of the ingredients that we were used to, such as corn, red beans, grass jelly. The cream soda-like syrup went really well with the gula here and there were some jellied nata de coco cubes (coconut) that provided an interesting, chewy texture. Jenkins quickly proclaimed this to be the best ice kacang that he had so far and said we’d definitely need to come back before we left Penang.

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We weren’t able to visit all the recommended stops due to a variety of reasons, including one vendor being sick and his granddaughter said he was the only person who was able do the fried noodles any justice. However, we eventually ended up at a non-descript storefront where three ladies were making fresh Chinese doughnuts or yu char kuih.

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These were only $0.30 CAD each and even though they smelled so good, Jenkins and I exhibited some control and ordered only one each. They weren’t overly greasy and were fried nice and crispy with a slightly chewy interior. This would have been fantastic with a nice bowl of congee but Jenkins and I gobbled these down plain.

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Most of the Chinese people who live in the Penang region have a Fukien background but there was a small bakery run by a man whose dad came from Guangzhou. He specialized in making more Cantonese-style pastries and the thing to order here were the coconut tarts. We were warned in advance that these sell out quickly and we were able to snag a couple on the last remaining tray.

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The coconut tarts were flakey and had a ton of coconut flavour stuffed inside. What I really liked about these tarts was the fact that it wasn’t too sweet and really highlighted the coconut. Think of it as being a tart version of a Chinese cocktail bun but better. Smile

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There were a few additional stops we still had to make on our walking tour but I’ll save that for another post since they were more comprehensive meals rather than snacks. Smile Robyn’s walking tour was fantastic. Each of her recommendations held up to the hype and her instructions were really easy to follow so definitely check out her article if you are in the area. Our only regret was that we weren’t able to check out all the stops!

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