Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Char koay teow in Air Itam

Foodwise, Air Itam in Penang is well known for the laksa. There is however a char koay teow stall that is apparently quite popular among Air Itam folks.

We went there for breakfast one day. The stall is located in a coffee shop called Restoran Lasia which is along Jalan Air Itam, about 100 meters from the Air Itam Maybank. If you drive along Jalan Air Itam towards Kek Lok Si, the shop is on your left and is the last coffee shop before the Penang Hill round-about. It is next to a Chinese primary school.

It is a typical Chinese coffee shop but is owned and operated by an Indian gentleman. The are several stalls in the shop. The char koay teow appeared to be the most in demand. The coffee in the shop is quite good. If you get there, ask for Kopi Cikgu - kopi si kau tarik jae which is roughly translated to be thick coffee with evaporated milk, less sugar and tarik. It is the favorite beverage of my brother-in-law who is also a teacher in the nearby school.

As we sat and waited for our food, the aroma of the char koay teow prevailed in the shop. There was the distinct smell of pork lard. Char koay teow in Penang is always fried with lard, unlike those in KL and PJ. I guess that is why it is so good there.


The char koay teow arrived after about 15 minutes, quite long considering that there was not many people then. The koay teow is individually fried. The seller does not mass cook. Each plated is by itself.

The portion was quite small. If you are a good eater, you will probably require a second. Two large shrimps dominated the plate. There was the usual see hum, taugeh, koo chai (chives) and of course egg. The char koay teow was OK. The taste was really not bad. But I found the koay teow rather soggy. I would prefer my koay teow to be drier. I would not consider the char koay teow fantastic. I think there are better else where in Penang.


But do not just take my words. Go and try it. My not-so-fantastic experience was probably because of a saturation of char koay teow when I was in Penang. There must be a reason why it is so popular in Air Itam in spite of the price, which is rather high. It is RM5.00 for the small plate - up from RM4.50 not too long ago. At RM5.00, it is apparently still not the most expensive in Penang. I was told there is another stall, also in a coffee shop, that sells for RM7.00 per plate. I knew char koay teow in Penang is good. I did not know it can be so expensive. I have to try the RM7.00 one. Perhaps the next Penang visit. And if I do, I will tell you about it.

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