Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Halal food I love to eat in Penang

Yummy and halal!

 The same with this plate of mee udang (prawn noodles)! :b

A few days before I went back to Penang for a visit, a Singaporean friend of mine who happens to be Muslim came over to Hong Kong.  Every time she and I plan to have a meal together, I get to realizing how few halal options there are here in the Big Lychee -- where pig is the favorite animal to devour for the vast majority of the inhabitants; especially relative to Muslim-majority Malaysia. 

On my recent trip back to Penang, I found myself reflecting some more on this state of affairs; this not least because I had so many delicious halal meals in my one week or so back home.  For starters, consider the durian feasts I had on this trip -- which all weren't only halal but also entirely vegetarian!  In addition, there was the Mamak mee rebus (boiled egg noodles) I love to eat at the stall in Gurney Drive whose offerings I regularly partook of decades ago when its Indian Muslim proprietor was operating in Edgecumbe Lane.

Then there was the nasi campur I went to eat not just once but twice at Malay stalls in Tanjung Tokong.  Sadly, on both those occasions, I didn't see my absolute favorite pineapple chunks in curry among the offerings.  Still, there were plenty of goodies that I could happily choose to ladle onto my plate of steamed white rice: including, on one wonderful occasion, some spicy wingbean salad, tangy green mango salad, curried fish roe, spicy cuttlefish, and beef lungs covered in an incredible sweet dark sauce.  In all honesty, my mouth is watering just at the memory of that meal which -- complete with a glass of rose syrup and lime -- cost around just RM12 (~US$2.94 or HK$22.80)!

For my final lunch on this recent Penang trip, my mother took me once again to Balik Pulau -- this time to a mee udang place she had heard good things about from friends.  RB Mama Mee Udang has a Facebook page and is housed in premises that are considerably newer and larger than other mee udang places I've been to.  But, as with the other warung mee udang I had previously been to, it's located by a river -- with the implicit suggestion being that there's where the udang (prawns) in the dish comes from! -- as well as in a rural section of the state, and offers up unpretentious, "down home" cooking that comes across as genuinely tasty as well as unarguably "authentic". 

Although I never made the connection until the "mama" I think the stall is named for stated it, mee udang is effectively the halal Malay version of the famous (non-halal) Penang Chinese noodle dish known as Hokkien mee in Penang -- and har mee (i.e., prawn egg noodles) in other parts of Malaysia -- whose main ingredients are indeed egg noodles and prawns along with a spicy soup.  Granted that there are some differences; including in the preferred size of the prawns in the dishes -- with the Malay version featuring noticeably larger prawns than the Hokkien version -- and the Hokkien version containing pork and therefore definitely being something that my Muslim friends cannot eat.

But even while the Malay mee udang is sweeter and more tomato-ey tasting (without the pork stock to "cut" up/add to the flavors), I have to say that I am partial to (Malay) mee udang as well as Hokkien (prawn) mee.  And it's culinary offerings like mee udang -- as well as nasi campur and Malay assam laksa -- that have me maintaining once more that the otherwise wonderful Anthony Bourdain looked to have missed a trick by not featuring Malay food as much as he did Malaysian ethnic Chinese and Indian foods on the Penang episode of No Reservations!


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

If halal food is concerned, I believe there are quite a handful of such establishments in town. Some Chinese, some Turkish, and some more. I believe the Incorporated Trustees of Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong has a certification system before restaurants could put up the Halal sign in their store front.

I have been to Ma's Restaurants quite a few times. They are quite good. On the other hand, Wei Kee mentioned in the list will close at sunset, thus no good for dinner.


YTSL said...

Hi T --

Thanks for that Islam restaurants link. I've actually eaten at quite a few of those places, with and without my Singaporean Muslim friend. There also are a bunch of Chinese vegetarian restaurants here in Hong Kong that I figure would be considered halal.

Also, my Singaporean Muslim friend is cool with eating sushi -- and since I love it too, we often end up having that for dinner!

Still, when you consider that there are thousands of restaurants in Hong Kong and the vast majority of them are not halal... Also, when we go hiking, it can be pretty difficult to find places to eat halal food afterwards... ;S

Paul said...

Cutting up winged beans and toss them into a salad as in the top picture? Sounds simple enough that even I can do that!


YTSL said...

Hi Paul --

Hope it tastes good to you after you do that! :)