SEBERANG PERAI, Dec 17 — Visitors to Penang island gush about the excellent hawker food found there but hardly anyone — outside of those who live in the area — mentions the food in Butterworth.
Old town Butterworth used to be a bustling trading town and government administrative centre so naturally there are many hawker food stalls, coffee shops and — in recent years — cafes to be found here.
Some of these businesses have been around for decades, a few even made it big expanding from small stalls to large restaurants with branches on the island.
Others remained small and humble, choosing not to expand but continue to offer up authentic food that is full of flavour. All feature that one special ingredient missing in many commercial eateries: passion.
With the ongoing urban regeneration programme — Butterworth Baharu — by Think City and Seberang Perai Municipal Council to rejuvenate the town, there is much on offer for foodies.
In fact, it is entirely possible to spend a day, or two, going from one eatery to another to sample the best of what Butterworth has to offer.
Ready for a full day of eating? Here we go:
The best way to kick start your day in Butterworth is with a bowl of spicy noodles. You don’t need to go to the island for a taste of Penang’s famed curry mee because there is a curry mee stall here that is just as good (and some argue is even better).
The stall is located at the Old Market Food Court along Jalan Chain Ferry. The curry mee stall, operated by the Tang siblings, is open from 7.30am and on busy days, the noodles are sold out rather early too.
The Tang siblings took over the business from their father who started it more than 30 years ago as a roadside stall at Chain Ferry.
Just like with most hawker stalls, their uncle also operates a curry mee stall, possibly using the same recipe, over on the island.
Curry Mee Stall,
Old Market Food Court,
3662, Jalan Chain Ferry, 12100 Butterworth
Closed on 1st and 15th of each Chinese lunar month and during Chinese festivals
After a the spicy breakfast, you can cool down with a bowl of silky smooth beancurd pudding, commonly known as tauhua or in Cantonese, tau fu fah.
More than 50 years ago, Ng Kung Seng started making his own soya bean milk and beancurd pudding.
He would push his cart to a corner along Jalan Kampung Benggali and sell his soya bean milk and tauhua to the residents of the villages there.
Today, Ng’s grandson, Ng Wei Lin, is manning the business and they no longer operate from a pushcart.
The soya bean milk stall is now located within a shoplot but continues to sell the same soya bean milk and tauhua using recipes formulated by Kung Seng.
Bean Milk Trading
4291, Jalan Kampung Benggali
Tel: 016-474 3988
This roadside stall is a popular lunch spot for those working in the vicinity so be prepared to queue for a taste of the fragrant tomato rice and an array of kampung-style dishes.
The stall operator, Azli Hamid, took over the stall operations from his father about 15 years ago and the stall has been serving up its specialty nasi tomato for over 30 years.
While they also serve plain white rice, most regulars go to this stall for their tomato rice that goes perfectly with their ayam masak merah or lamb kurma.
Nasi Tomato Sungai Nyior
Roadside stall, Jalan Sungai Nyior
Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
A heavy meal of tomato rice and ayam masak merah is best followed by a refreshing dessert of fruits.
Head on over to another open-air space along Jalan Pantai and you will find a couple of stalls selling bite-sized fruits on sticks.
These are not your conventional fruit stalls as the fruit skewers are meant to be dipped into bowls of pungent spicy prawn paste before eating.
Known as rojak tonggek, it simply means that you have to stand at the stall to enjoy your very own rojak by dipping the fruit of your choice into the rojak sauce.
Both stalls offer the same variety of fruits and the same bowls of thick prawn paste and peanut sauce for dipping.
Do remember that you are only allowed to dip your fruit skewers into the sauce once so as not to contaminate the sauce.
Rojak Tonggek, Jalan Pantai
Closed on Fridays
Fancy something Western? Over at Taman Inderawasih is a small cafe, Metal Q Caffe, along a row of shoplots.
The cafe just recently turned two and offers up delicious Western and fusion cuisine.
This is the place where you can try out smoked duck breast, grilled chicken, pork chops and lamb rack. They also serve up fusion rice sets, ramen and spaghetti.
Metal Q Caffe,
8, Jalan Kikik, Taman Inderawasih,
Closed on Sundays
If Western food does not suit your palate, the alternative is to head over to Jalan Bagan Luar for another roadside favourite — the quintessential Penang char koay teow.
Butterworth has its own version and it can be had over at this nameless, roadside stall next to the Lotus Five Star Cinema.
This stall has been around since the 1960s and now is operated by brothers, Ng Chin Huat and Ng Chin Hock.
The best part about this char koay teow stall is that you can even order side dishes like stir fried clams, steamed baby octopus and steamed cockles to eat with your plate of fried flat rice noodles.
Char koay teow stall (next to Lotus Five Star Cinema)
Jalan Bagan Luar
It is a given that when in Penang, you must have nasi kandar for supper.
This is another roadside stall but its popularity is evident as long queues can be seen in front of the itl.
Located along Jalan Telekom, the stall only opens late at night and caters mostly to those in search of a late-night or early-morning meal.
There are two nasi kandar stalls on this road but the one to try is the one under a tree, called Jamal Mohamed Nasi Kandar.
This is where you can get your fix of fragrant nasi dalca doused in rich, spicy fish or chicken curries.
Jamal Mohamed Nasi Kandar,
There are more little-known stalls, cafes and restaurants all around Butterworth; you only need to be a little adventurous to have a truly gourmet experience here.
* Think City is undertaking urban regeneration programmes for George Town, Kuala Lumpur and Johor. Find out more about Think City and its projects at thinkcity.com.my.