GEORGE TOWN, July 31 — Perfect for small eaters or even those with a huge appetite, Penang lok lok hits the spot every time.
Lok lok, which means to dip, is like steamboat except that the food is skewered on sticks and you dip it into the hot boiling water instead of dumping it into a pot of boiling stock.
Though the origin of lok lok is unknown, the lok lok stall is commonly found by the roadside, at hawker centres and particularly near busy junctions.
The stall is one that is like no other as it would have a multi-level rack with rows of skewered food on sticks all stacked neatly. On both sides of the stall, there will be two pots of boiling water and in between, there will usually be three types of dipping sauces; chilli sauce, sweet sauce and spicy peanut sauce.
These sticks will have different colours on the end to denote the price of each stick which can be from 80 sen up to RM2.
The types of food cover a wide range of every bite-size food imaginable such as clams, cockles, pork intestines, pork liver, sausages, fish balls, meat balls, squid balls, squids, shrimps, vegetables, sui kow, mushrooms, Chinese sausages and even some cooked items such as deep-fried wontons and deep fried beancurd sheets.
At roadside stalls, you will have to stand around the stall, dip the stick into the hotpot until the food is cooked, then dip (only once) into the sauce of choice and eat it straight from the stick. It is one of the easiest and fastest snacks, particularly for supper. That is why lok lok is available till very late at night.
Now, there are also lok lok stalls in hawker centres where the hotpot is in the middle of the table and the sticks of food are arranged on plates around the hotpot.
Sauces are placed in bowls or mugs on the table and customers are provided with a small plate and tiny forks each so that they can pour the sauce into their own plates to dip their food in.
It is quite common for most people to pour in a mix of chilli, sweet and peanut sauce to enjoy a multi-flavoured lok lok. Lok lok at hawker centres is usually eaten as a side dish to other main food like noodles or rice but it can also be enjoyed on its own for dinner or lunch.
The secret to most of these lok lok stalls is in the sauces they provide. Some stalls can provide up to eight different types of sauces from chilli sauce to unique blends of dried shrimp spicy sauce and sambal belacan sauce.
Most lok lok places are open only at night but there are also some that open in the afternoon.
Here are some of the more popular places to try out lok lok in Penang:
Pulau Tikus Market complex, Jalan Pasar
GPS: 5.430558, 100.311790
This lok lok stall has several tables with the hotpot in the middle and the lok lok sticks arranged all around it. Customers may order other food to eat together with their lok lok though be warned that space on the already-laden table is very limited.
Roadside stall, junction of Chulia Street and Carnavon Street
GPS: 5.418268, 100.336324
This is where you get to pick your food, cook it and dip it while standing at the stall. It is located at a busy road junction so be careful when enjoying the lok lok here.
Padang Brown hawker centre, Jalan Johor
GPS: 5.413373, 100.318290
This is one of the few stalls that is open in the afternoon and closes at night. Though the stall is located in a hawker centre, you can choose to eat while standing near the stall or there is also an option where you boil the food you want first and ask for a plate for the cooked food so you can bring it to one of the tables.
Goodall Cafe, Gottlieb Road
GPS: 5.432897, 100.302428
The lok lok stall here has tables with hotpots so you can sit comfortably to choose and cook your own food. They are well known for their particularly extra spicy green chilli sauce.
Chai Leng Park food stalls, Lebuh Kurau 5
GPS: 5.386768, 100.391282
The Chai Leng Park lok lok stalls are probably one of the most well-known lok lok places in Penang as the two main stalls here have some of the widest choices of food available including marinated pork, chicken and fish which they will grill over charcoal fire and serve to you at your table. These stalls also have more than five types of different sauces to go with the lok lok.