As a kid, Sundays were were the best days. Apart from school holidays, that is.
First great thing bout Sundays — we got to wake up late. Late, of course, meant 9am because though we didn’t have to go to school, we (my sister, brother and me) had to take turns accompanying our folks to the Dato’ Keramat market in Penang to help carry the week’s supplies. I didn’t mind really as I loved going to the market. The noise, the crowds, the stacks and rows of vegetables, watching the butcher cut slices of meat, weigh them and wrap them up … it was a heady experience. Heck, I’d often come home and re-enect the experience. I’d offer to help my mum put away the vegetables in our old Kelvinator and in the process pretend I was a vege vendor! Hey, I was young.
Anyways, after marketing, we’d stop at the food stalls outside the market to buy breakfast home — the second great thing about Sundays. Buying breakfast was a treat indeed. No bread. No corn flakes. Sundays, we got to buy anything we wanted for breakfast. We all had our favourites. Wan Tan Mee and Kueh Kak and Yau Char Kwai were top choices. As was Char Kuey Teow (CKT).
You can argue all you want but, to me, the best street food is in Penang.
Many CKT fans claim that the succulent prawns and the kerang are what gives the CKT it’s flavour. I beg to differ because if this were true, vegetarians would be an unfortunate lot, never able to taste the wonder of a great plate of CKT. What really gives CKT its distinctive flavour is the way its cooked — in a wok over a very hot flame. Chilli paste is necessary as is soy sauce and for vegetarians, mushroom sauce. Bean sprouts are a must and chives or kucai, and eggs. I added some very thinly sliced fried tofu too. But it’s important, I think, too keep it simple.
Well, it’s been a really long time since I left Penang. Feeling nostalgic though (it’s the rainy weather I tell ya), I decided to revisit my childhood, beginning with a CKT brunch (home made though) after a visit to my neighbourhood wet market.