GEORGE TOWN, May 25 — It may seem like nothing but some plain, tasteless looking coils of white rice noodles but do not underestimate this addictive delicacy.
The Putu Mayong, sometimes also known as Putu Mayam, used to be sold by travelling vendors on pushcarts, and even bicycles in recent times.
Now, it is not easy to find these travelling hawkers anymore; perhaps only a few have remained as they sell their sweet and savoury wares on motorcycles in residential areas and along busy main roads while sounding their familiar horn.
The Putu Mayong’s origin can be traced back to Southern India where it is also known as string hoppers.
This simple dish only consists of a few ingredients and though it used to be eaten at breakfasts, it is now mostly sold as snacks for afternoon tea here.
The coils of white strings are made of a mixture of corn flour and rice flour that is steamed on stacks of overturned rattan baskets.
The end result is fluffy, soft fine strings stacked together like tiny stringy white pancakes. They look exactly like the common rice vermicelli, except for its softer, more fragile texture.
These delicate coils are served with brown sugar and shredded coconut with a hint of salt mixed in, making it both a sweet and savoury treat.
Interestingly, this particular cuisine is not unique to Malaysia as Putu Mayong is widely available in India, Indonesia and Singapore.
In India, the steamed rice strings can be served with curry and other condiments unlike here, where it is mostly a dessert or teatime snack.
In Malaysia, Putu Mayong is usually enjoyed with a generous serving of rich, fragrant shredded coconut which is then balanced out by a serving of brown sugar or palm sugar.
A variation to the Putu Mayong is the Putu Piring, which is made of almost the same ingredients but in a different shape and size.
The Putu Piring are shaped like a “piring” (saucer) and made of rice flour but it contains palm sugar inside it so it can be eaten as is without needing to dip it in sugar.
There are variations of the Putu Piring in which some hawkers sell plain ones without sugar fillings while some are shaped like a ball instead of a saucer.
Like the Putu Mayong, it is also usually enjoyed topped with grated coconut to give it the extra rich flavour.
Since these are tea time snacks, the Putu Mayong and Putu Piring are sold as takeaways wrapped in newspapers with a layer of clear plastic.
In Penang, it is fortunate that there are still a few roadside stalls that sell pretty good string hoppers to slake the odd craving for something soft, sweet and just a tad salty and rich.
Get a mouthful of these delicious snacks at:
1. Jalan Pasar, Pulau Tikus
2. Jalan Datuk Keramat
3. Lorong Pasar, Little India
4. Jalan Tan Sri Teh Ewe Lim
5. Jalan Tembikai, Bukit Mertajam