Get your crunch on with the Penang lor bak

Picture by K.E.Ooi
Picture by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 30 — There’s no better way to serve minced meat than to marinate it, roll it up with soybean sheets and deep-fry it to a gorgeous crispiness. This is Penang’s iconic lor bak which in Hokkien literally means “sauce meat.”

The “lor” is a term used for the smooth, sticky five-spice flavoured egg and cornstarch sauce that goes with a plate of lor bak.

The “bak” refers to the deep fried minced pork meat rolls that are marinated before being rolled with thin soybean sheets and deep fried.

The lor bak, which has its roots as a traditional Nyonya dish, used to be prepared for festivals and it was also one of  the dishes used as offerings for ancestral worship.

Traditionally, the lor bak contains more than minced meat as it used to have chopped water chestnuts and spring onions for an added refreshing crunch to the meaty dish.

The crispy meat roll is best eaten dipped in the sticky fragrant lor sauce for contrasting flavours and textures.

The sauce is made of a medley of egg whites, five-spice powder, cornstarch, tapioca starch, soy sauce, pepper, salt and sugar.

For those who prefer to add another dimension of flavours, it also comes with a sweet and slightly spicy sauce.

This give the lor bak an almost three-dimensional texture and taste of savoury crispy meat layered with sweet fragrant sticky sauce and a smooth, sweet and sour spicy sauce.

Nowadays, the lor bak contains mostly all-meat without the water chestnuts and often, a lor bak hawker stall will also offer a variety of other deep fried items to go with it.

The more common side items are crunchy prawn fritters, golden fried beancurd, fish fillet fritters, century egg with pickled ginger and a combined prawn fritter beancurd.

The variety differs at each stall but each plate of these golden deep fried goodies will be accompanied by cooling slices of cucumber to balance out the dish.

Some stalls will also offer blanched baby octopuses, Chinese waxed sausages, sausages and spring rolls.

In Penang, many of the local coffee shops and hawker centres have lor bak stalls but these are our top five picks:

Kheng Pin Cafe, Penang Road
GPS: 5.420570, 100.332783
Time: 11am-3pm

Keat Seng Cafe, Jalan Air Itam
GPS: 5.404685, 100.286617
Time: 6pm-11pm

Hoe Ping Cafe, Kampung Malabar
GPS: 5.419333, 100.332167
Time: 12pm-8pm

Taman Free School Food Court, Jalan Terengganu
GPS: 5.403109, 100.309082
Time: 6pm-11pm

Corner Coffee Shop of Presgrave Street and Lebuh McNair
GPS: 5.411207, 100.330712
Time: 6pm-11pm