Good eating on Lorong Selamat in Penang


Malaysia is famed for its excellent street food and there’s no better place to experience this than The Pearl of the Orient, Penang. The concentration of street food and coffeeshops in Georgetown is fantastic and most convenient for the lazy tourist.

In particular, Lorong Selamat stands out as a destination worthy of making a detour from your Butterfly Farm (excellent!) and Spice Garden (mosquito trap) sojourns.


Actually, we weren’t given a choice since our taxi driver insisted that we must have the Char Kway Teow (stir-fried flat noodles) and the Orh Luak (Oyster Omelette) there. It is very famous, said our taxi driver and food guide.

True enough, we were plunked straight at the door step of the famous Char Kway Teow Lady with the Goggles (Ms. Soon). Except that she doesn’t wearing goggles, which goes to show how much you can trust travel writers and food bloggers these days.

My guess is that with such a magnificent eyebrow tattoo, it would be a shame to hide it under goggles.

It was crowded but I managed to out-maneuver a group of Taiwanese (Ha! Tourists!) and got a table next to a working fan. The fantastic thing about Lorong Selamat is their food network. Sitting at any table in any coffeeshop there gives you access to any food stall or pushcart along the whole Lorong street.


The Char Kway Teow was stupendous; it has everything that you wish for in a Char Kway Teow: soft chewy flat noodles chockful of crunchy beansprouts, savory prawns and sweet sweet pork lard, sweet-salty-smoky without overpowering your senses.

Well, after 45 years of cooking the same thing over a charcoal fire, what would you expect?


We decided to give up our table and go for a walk after the heavy meal of Char Kway Teow and Orh Luak (meh). We were waylaid half-way by a fragrance emanating curiously small pushcart selling Hokkien Mee (Fujian Noodles).

It was run by a quiet middle-aged man who prided himself on making the Hokkien Mee from scratch. He related to us that a key ingredient in his prawn broth were shallots but the ready-fried shallots these days weren’t up-to-spec for him: they smell funny and last an unnaturally long time.

Unhealthy preservatives get added to those shallots is his guess. Thus, he fries his own shallots to make the broth. He fries a new batch of shallots every 2 days.


His choice of prawns is also important to the broth and taste. He uses only small prawns because they are sweeter and does not impart a rancid smell from the broth. I do agree that quite a lot of those bowls of “big prawn” noodles do have a strong, rancid prawny aroma that’s quite disagreeable.

Rememeber the advice: fish should not smell like fish if it’s fresh? Same thing applies to all seafood.

The result is a mild broth that is more like a French Onion Soup that dances on your tongue. Memorably so.

Such longevity in hawkers is rare these days but while they are still around, we should make haste and support them. They form part of our Asian DNA and more importantly, because they make delicious food.


Posted on 26th Nov 2012 in Malaysia, Penang


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