Meet the chicken that left me weak at the knees… It’s really just as well I was sitting down.
This week J and I enjoyed an early dinner at Penang Food Restaurant in Perth. Penang Food was one of the first places I thought of visiting as part of my month of blogging for the Malaysia Kitchen Blogger Summit.
It’s a cheap and cheerful fixture on the William Street strip, and has been in the same location for years. I’m sure I have the vaguest hint of a memory of eating there – probably as a kid, with Mum and Dad, perched on a vinyl covered chair eating Hainanese Chicken Rice (and avoiding the cucumber), while Mum and Dad slurped down bowls of steaming Curry Laksa.
It’s easy to spot – you’ll know you’ve found the right place when you see the words ‘Malaysia and Singapore Cuisine’ pasted on to the front window, painstakingly cut from yellow paper
The most expensive dish on the menu is Fish Head Curry at $28.00 – not my cup of tea, but two guys who were obviously regulars came in shortly after us, and ordered it as soon as they were at a table.
We turned to our personal favourites instead, with J choosing Char Kuey Teow (Fried Kuey Teow, $9.80).
Kuey Teow is the variety of wide flat rice noodles used in this dish, fried in a smoking wok. I really think the ‘wok hei‘ flavour of this dish is what makes it really special, and is vital to truly great Char Kuey Teow. The well caramelised almost charred flavour is truly addictive.
The standard additions to the dish include crunchy bean sprouts, garlic chives, lup cheong (chinese sausage) and egg. Most versions of Char Kuey Teow also include seafood and meat – in this case, fat bursty prawns, chicken pieces and sliced fish cake (Yee Peng).
I was particularly pleased to see the fish cake, which I managed to snaffle off J’s plate when he wasn’t looking
Char Kuey Teow is a good choice for chilli heroes and wusses alike. Most places will ask you how hot you want your noodles, and will adjust accordingly, as the chilli is added as the noodles are tossed together in the wok, along with dark caramel sauce and garlic.
Penang Food’s Char Kuey Teow was a solid effort – probably not occupying my number one spot (the noodles were a little wetter than I usually like), but a very nice dish nonetheless.
For me, the choice was obvious. I don’t think it’s ever (ever) possible for me to go past Nasi Lemak ($9.80) when it’s on a menu. I love it. Have always loved it. I distinctly remember trying (and failing) to describe ‘my favourite food’ as a kid to my primary school class, where ‘lollies’ and ‘chocolate cake’ were the preferred choices.
Nasi Lemak is composed of primarily of coconut rice, which gives the dish it’s name. Lemak is the Malay word used to describe the flavour of coconut. There’s no English translation, but I suppose it describes the creamy, almost fatty taste which coconut-rich foods have.
Typically, the accompaniments to the rice are crispy fried Ikan Bilis (tiny fish, supposedly a kind of anchovy), roasted or fried peanuts, fresh slices of cucumber, sambal (the ubiquitous spicy chilli sauce all Malaysians seem to love) and an egg, either hard boiled or fried.
Spot the egg!
The spicy sambal and egg were combined at Penang Food, with half a hard boiled egg hiding under a generous blob of sambal. The sambal itself had a good kick, and a very moreish savoury flavour.
The best part about Penang Food’s Nasi Lemak is the option to customise your dish, with either Fried Chicken, Chicken Curry or Beef Rendang.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love chicken curry. And I think Beef Rendang is magnificent. But when there’s a Fried Chicken option, there’s really no question.
I was very very happy with my choice. The boneless thigh fillet was tender with a delicious savoury coating which had been fried until golden. But the highlight was definitely the crispy skin. In fact, it was more like chicken skin crackling – delivering a satisfying crunch with each bite.
Crispy, crunchy, tender chicken with fragrant coconut rice is a truly winning combination, particularly when combined with the spicy kick of a great sambal, egg and the addictive peanut and Ikan Bilis combo. Bliss!
We washed down our meals with an Iced Lemon Tea (me) and a can of Sprite (J), bringing our bill to a total of $25.60. A delicious bargain (my favourite kind)!
As we left I noticed a blu-tacked sign in the window, which left me hungry for more, despite being full only moments before.
My favourite Malaysian/Singaporean breakfast – actually, my favourite anytime food, ‘Set D’ – the Kaya and Butter Toast combo, with soft-boiled eggs and a choice of Teh Tarik (the famous ‘pulled’ tea) or Kopi O (black coffee).
With options like these, I’ll definitely be back for more. It’s just as well Penang Food is open from 10.30am. I could start my day with Set D, enjoy my Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken and end it with Char Kuey Teow…
Penang Food Restaurant
175 William Street, Perth 6000
Telephone: 9328 7119
Open 10.30am – 9.30pm, closed on Thursdays
Juji Chews dined at Penang Food Restaurant as a guest of Malaysia Kitchen.
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