Sunday, 31 May 2009

Fresh Chicken Street

The Famous Teo Chew Chendol

What do you do when relatives come to visit? Become a tourist guide of course. Now where to take them? Batu Ferringhi? Penang Hill? Snake Temple? Kek Lok Si? Balik Pulau, Botanical Garden, Gurney Drive? Yah, done all and more. Now we take them on a walk through nostalgic George Town. My wife did it with my sisters, eldest brother and his family when I was in Ahmedabad in November last year. Now my sister-in-law and son are visiting. So we took them on a 2-hour walking tour yesterday. Parked the cars at Prangin Mall (per entry is RM3 on weekend). Then started walking to our favourite Famous Penang Road Teo Chew Chendol. Actually, it's on a side street named Keng Kwee Street (yes, after one of Penang's famous gangster sons). People are really strange. There are two stalls directly opposite each other on the narrow street but one gets most of the customers and both claim to be THE famous Penang Road Chendol. Cost RM1.70 a bowl and really sweet. Yah, sometimes I have to prioritise - cut the sugar or support the local culture and small business? If you are lazy, you can also get the same thing at the ground floor of Prangin mall (near Secret Recipe).

Then we walked along Penang Road to Campbell Street, passing Chowrasta Market. Saw a chendol stall using polystyrene foam bowls. My wife reminisced that her mom would bring them all to Chowrasta by bus for pre-Chinese New Year shopping a long time ago.

Interesting sign. Campbell Street is known to the locals as "Sin Kay" which means "New Street". But "Kay" in Chinese also means "chicken". And chicken is also a euphemism for prostitutes. So the sign said that "Sin Kay" also meant "fresh chicken", i.e. prostitutes fresh from the boats.

Along the way we visited a famous dumping (Bak Chang) shop along Cintra Street but just missed the business hour by 15 minutes. My SIL learned on TV about this famous shop along "Jepun Kay" (Japan Street) - I said, huh, what japan street? Lot's of streets in George Town have local versions. Then we went looking for the Hum Chin Peng stall (Chinese pan cakes or pizza). When we were students, my wife and I used to go there on a motorbike to grab some at night. They would do the frying at their apartment and bring it on their bikes to sell at the stall along Cintra Street. There was no stall but I spotted them frying outside their apartments along a side alley so we ventured to take a look. Bought some for supper. My daugther said it's too salty - the one from Raja Uda in Butterworth is better. Hhhm, I kinda a agree.

Another old trade slowly dying out? Ah, but these two young people seems keen to continue the tradition.

As we walked along Campbell Street, we saw these "abandoned" shophouses razed by fire. The residents are moving out; businesses are losing the fight with the supermarkets. We need to bring people back or the town will die.

Majlis Agama Negeri (the State Religious Council) is a big property owner in George Town. The Majlis had wanted to demolish these shophouses for redevelopment but had a change of heart (perhaps because of the public outcry). Externally, it looks refreshed but they could have down a better job with the the "shopfront" on the ground floor. They have replaced the entire front with rolling metal shutters. I think it was a missed opportunity to bring back the nostalgia of our urban heritage. Notice the line of the first floor moving up? It's not an optical illusion. There seemed to have been some sinking over time.

Time to catch our breadth, just outside the beautiful Kapitan Kling Mosque. The building in the background is gorgeous. If you look at the first and second floor, you will notice holes below and above the windows for ventilation. I told my daughter that this is call "the street of harmony". Really? Yah, see the church at the end of the street? Then there's the Goddess of Mercy, the Indian temple, the Mosques and the various clans associations.

We walked to the High Court, St Xavier and then headed for the E&O Hotel to admire the history. They have this pictures in a cabinet which says the hotel hosted people like Rudyard Kipling and Rita Hayworth, Nobel Lauretes and many famous people. I wonder why they do not display it on wall instead of a cabinet; you have to walk behind it to see the pictures? Man, for a pricey place there were many diners enjoying their evening. I had dinner there once but didn't think the food was that good. My colleagues said it depends on how much you are willing to pay (it was USM function) so I guess we must have paid peanuts.

Had dinner at the May Garden restaurant next to Cititel. Not bad. Used to be very crowded but still enjoying a steady stream of customers.

When we reached Prangin Mall again, my son headed for McD - apparently we didn't order quite enough for 6 people.

Waking up early for Mengkuang Dam tomorrow. Was there this morning and we were quite disgusted by people feeding bread to the fish which didn't want the food so it was all floating on the water.

1 comment:

nch said...

Still recall the day I brought you around in streets of Mongkok on 9-11/6/2005? When Mona & daughters went for their hair set? Well, guess you could still remember all the eyes catching "ayam" hang-out in the streets.
Yup... I like to bring friends or relatives walking around the 'backdoor' of Hong Kong to understand the other side of the metropolitan instead of all the fabulous which are mind-set by all the kind of advertisements. Walking around the steets is the best way to understand a city, but is testing your feet and exhausting your body. Only more than a week ago, I took my Yong Peng classmates walking from Mongkok to Jordan, along Shanghai Steet, Temple Street, Portland Street... etc. Exhausting and sweating for those who seldom walk like Hongkong residents.

If I ever visit Penang, please take me around the old George Town and Penang Street. Of course, I could still remember how we stood around the stall sipping those icy sweet chendol. Just surprising that the little stalls still persist. My memory always take me to the Penang type of "tauhoo", in a small plate with chilli source.

Oppps... only concern to me by walking in streets is SECURITY.... wondering if it is as nerve breaking as in JB? My friends in JB always warning me to be vigilant whenever I visited! "... watch-out your belongs... don't leave anything in the cars..., don't..., and don't.... " Their concern and kind warnings, are so sensitive and nerve-racking to me, I stay off from JB whenever possible.

Is street walking safe and enjoyable?