Monday July 23, 2012
Another round of food fight
GEORGE TOWN: Local hawkers are miffed that a travel website has ranked Penang third, behind Singapore, as a global food destination.
“How can that be when my customers from Singapore themselves say that Penang food is better than theirs?” said char koay teow seller Steven Lim, 28, who runs a stall with his parents Raymond Lim, 55, and Ong Cheng Choo, 53, at a popular coffeeshop along Penang Road.
In a posting dated July 21 on VirtualTourist.com, the write-up with a Los Angeles dateline titled “Travel Picks: Top 10 cities for street food”, Penang emerged third behind Bangkok and Singapore.
Laksa seller Leow Boon Hock, 60, said Penang food definitely tasted better because of the way it was cooked, besides being cheaper than in Singapore.
Another hawker, Goh See Wah, 56, who owns the Goh Thew Chik Hainan Chicken Rice shop in Chulia Street, said he was told by his grandfather that the Hainanese left China and settled in Penang before some of them moved to Singapore.
“I have tourists from Asian countries as well as western countries telling me that the chicken rice here is unbeatable.
“Everyone should try Penang’s Hainan chicken rice and let their tastebuds be the judge,” said Goh, a third generation chicken rice seller.
Federation of Penang and Seberang Prai Hawkers Association president Lam Tong Ying said most of the hawker food found in the Lion City originated from Penang.
“In Singapore, the hawker’s call their dishes Penang Char Koay Teow and Penang laksa. This shows that the food originated from Penang so we should be the number one city for the best hawker food.
“Penang is known all over the world for its hawker food and this has been proven by the numerous testimonials from tourists who come here just to savour our delicacies,” he said.
Even his Singaporean friends made trips to Penang for the food, he added.
The list also left a sour taste in the mouth for many Malaysians.
Chef Datuk Ismail Ahmad said he was “outraged” when he learnt about the ranking, as much of Singaporean hawker fare originated from Malaysia.
“Chilli crab, laksa, cendol and popiah are all from Penang. While our street food is generally tastier, Singapore is somehow more famous because they market themselves better,” he said.
“Many Singaporeans come to Malaysia just to savour our food. They even asked me to open a restaurant in their country because they cannot get such food there,” said Ismail, who co-owns Restaurant Rebung Chef Ismail in Kuala Lumpur.
Penang Hawkers’ Association president Ooi Thean Huat said Penang’s signature dishes – char koay teow, laksa and satay – were second to none.
“I do agree that the quality of Singapore’s satay has improved but this is because they learnt from us in Penang,” he said.
“When it comes to food, Malaysia is a paradise,” he added.
Penang One Restaurant owner Gary Teoh said the quality of Malaysian hawker fare was better as recipes had been improved throughout the years.
“Some of our hawkers have been selling the same dish for as long as 70 years. If the food isn’t good, how would it have survived until today?” he said.
Other cities in the list include Marrakech in Morocco, Palermo (Italy) and Ho Chi Minh City.