* This article was published in the New Straits Times (Life & Times) on 19th November 2010.
Penang is truly blessed with many food street stalls, located on nearly every road and corner of the little island! But there is one place where every Penang-born will know like the back of their hand, and that is Padang Brown Food Court, or affectionately known as Padang. This food court is at the corner of Perak Road and Anson Road, beside a green field and directly behind Datuk Keramat Police Station. Padang has a historical significance to the island. It’s been on the isle since 1966 and it’s one of the first food court built by the Penang Municipal Council. Surprisingly, it’s still as popular with locals and tourists till today. On weekends, the food court is packed with diners.
The food court has an overwhelming choice of hawker fare. Do walk from one end to the other to make sure you do not miss the selection. The place is divided into two wings, with the left-hand side packed with Chinese hawkers in the afternoon. At night, the brightly lit stalls on the right-hand side are predominantly Malay and Indian stalls offering plenty of choices. Throughout the food court, plastic chairs, metal stools and tables are placed in front of the stalls, some under the shade and some without.
The night stalls have their specialties, such as mamak pasembur, mee and nasi goreng (fried rice). As always, drinks will arrive first. Among the crowd favourites are hot teh tarik (milk tea) and icy cold ros sirap (rose syrup drink). The frothy teh tarik can be drunk hot or cold. One favourite stall is Al-Bismi Soup which serves lembu (beef), ayam (chicken) and kambing (mutton) soup. Large cauldrons with the different soups line the front of the stall to tempt diners.
The soup kambing (mutton soup) is served with potatoes and Bengali roti (bread). The well flavoured broth is far from ordinary. The soup is aromatic with a distinctive flavour rich in herbs and spices. It comes with bony pieces of meat which give it the ultimate taste. This awesome soup easily whets the appetite for a second helping.
The mildly seasoned soup lembu is full of natural flavours of the beef. The lean beef is tender as it is boiled for long hours. This scrumptious soup is garnished with fried onions. In addition to the regular cut of meat, those who are more adventurous can opt for the perut (stomach).
The pasembur tastes good with spoonfuls of sweet and spicy sauce. A plate of pasembur is reasonably priced at RM3 with the basic ingredients comprising bean curd, beansprout, yambean, cucumber and keropok (fried fritters).
Equally good are the nasi and mee goreng. Nasi goreng comes with chuncky pieces of stewed beef. Coupled with the tender and flavourful beef, the fried rice is irresistible. It also comes with a bowl of soup.
As for the afternoon session, the stalls selling popiah, Chinese-style pasembur (also known as cheh hoo), lok lok, nyonya kuih, yong tofu, roti babi and ais kacang are popular.
Deep-fried roti babi
The popiah is probably the first choice for visitors. There are two types — basic popiah and those with additional seafood (crab meat). The roll will be stuffed to the customer’s specification. A basic roll comprises a piece of popiah skin topped with sweet thick black soya and chilli sauces, vegetable and stewed shredded yambean. This is followed by beancurd and crab meat. The roll is then drenched with a generous serving of gravy with a robust crab flavour. It costs RM1.40 per roll.
The pasembur stall is next to the popiah stall. This Chinese version of pasembur is served with fresh shredded yambean, beansprout and cucumber, topped with bean curd, crispy prawn fitter and jellyfish strip. Semi-thick sweet and lightly spiced sauce is dribbled over it. The combination of the texture and taste is pleasant and keeps many coming back for more.
The lok lok stall has plenty of skewered ingredients on display. At times, the lok-lok tables can be packed with customers cooking the food in a pot of hot water. The yong taufu stall at the far end of the food court is popular too. Do expect to find exotic ingredients such as pig’s blood and innards in addition to the usual fare.
Other crowd favourites include fried kway teow, Penang laksa, and pan fried tau kua (bean curd). Highly recommended to try the kerabu beehoon and nyonya kuih. There are plenty of drinks to choose from, ranging from cendul and ais kacang to fresh coconut and lychee juice.
Orh-kuih (yam cake)
Over the decades, the food court has dilapidated but overall, the arrangement is tidy and organized. It remains one of the best places to sample a plethora of Penang’s hawker food under one roof.
Scene of the Padang Brown Food Court in the night
Click here for the Map Location.
Padang Brown Food Court
Corner of Perak Road and Anson Road
GPS coordinates : N05.414249 E100.316611