Photo: Hua Boon Lai
Having recently lived in Penang for close to four years, I have been able to savour the best food the Malaysian island has to offer.
This is the reason I am always game to try the food at yet another Singapore eating place touting genuine or traditional Penang fare, although the experiences invariably end up slightly disappointing.
The char kway teow would be too sweet, the kway teow tng or flat rice noodle soup too bland, and the mackerel in the assam laksa soup not boiled to perfection.
Then I had a bowl of Traditional Penang Food’s chendol ($2.50) recently.
For once, I was uncertain as to whether the best version I had while living in Penang – from the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul in Georgetown – exceeded in taste what I was eating here.
Located in Toa Payoh Central’s Food Alley, the eating place serves Penang chendol that is as good as it gets in Singapore, with an optimal blend of shaved ice, fresh coconut milk, melted gula melaka, a generous amount of kidney beans and the best-tasting green jelly, or worms, made with pandan juice.
Not many sellers of this dessert bother with the time-consuming process of making their own green jelly, opting instead for factory- supplied versions that often taste more like agar-agar or chin chow.
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The green jelly at Penang Traditional Food is made fresh, without preservatives, and delivered to the shop daily.
However, it does mean that you should eat in at the shop or, if doing a takeaway, have it as soon as you are home, because storing it in the refrigerator for even a little while results in a hardening of the green jelly.
Those who like their shaved ice to be extra fine may find this version slightly wanting, but I like some crunch in my ice, so it works well for me.
Penang masters were consulted in coming up with the Penang fare on the menu and had spent some time here before handing the operations over to the Singapore employees. I have not tried everything on the menu yet and am looking forward to doing so.
Of the items I have tried, the char kway teow ($5) is not so oily and very decent, and the assam laksa ($4) is above average, albeit a little on the spicy side. However, that makes the chendol which follows that much more refreshing.
Traditional Penang Food
#01-522 Food Alley, Block 190 Toa Payoh Lorong 6. Open Daily, 10am-10pm.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times with the headline ‘Penang chendol as good as it gets’.