Day 13, 500 words, 31 days.
Not a typical entry, but I appreciated the prompt from Jeff Goins. I live in Penang – it’s only fitting food makes it on here ever so often.
Ten minutes away from our apartment is the local supermarket, Tesco. It is surprisingly large, incredibly well-stocked, and offers enough Asian and Western choices for groceries to make it a one-stop shop for most of what we need on any given week. As far as I know, there are two of these, Wal-mart like establishments on the island and lucky for us, this one is so easily accessible.
It also happens to offer a decent food court that locals tend to flock to. Mostly Malaysian fare – offering “steamboat”, which here, refers to hotpot cooking, Chinese porridge, Noodle dishes, and the varied combinations of chicken and rice.
Tesco also “boasts” a McDonalds and KFC, but unless my wife has an intense craving for fries, we usually avoid either and opt for the local fare.
The food court offerings aren’t especially spectacular, but here in Malaysia, and Penang especially, that just means the food is still pretty good. And I’ve found my go-to dish every time we find ourselves looking for a quick, cheap meal to hold us over.
It is a roast chicken meal, and in this particular Tesco stall, served complete with yellow saffron rice, a bowl of curry, and a side of “sambal belacan” – a paste or sauce with roasted chilli peppers and belacan, a type of fish. The set costs me RM8.80, which is a little under $3.
I’ll be the first to say I’m no foodie, so I haven’t toured the island in search of the “Ayam Panggang” Penang has to offer. There are many other more popular Penang dishes worth the adventure and comparison. Laksa, Char Kuey Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mee Goreng, Hokkien Mee – the list can get extensive.
There’s just something about the chicken and rice combination that wins me over every time. This particular set manages to offer an array of taste preferences seemingly tailored to my liking.
For starters, the roast chicken itself is almost perfectly roasted every time. I’m not sure how they manage to do this. They leave the skin on so there’s a slight crispyness with just a hint of burnt taste for those that like a little bit of char on their chicken.
Secondly, the bowl of curry and the “sambal belacan” both offer a slightly spicy, mildly fishy kick to the meal, and are terrific for dipping in the chicken or pouring over the rice.
Thirdly, I really, really like rice. I especially enjoy flavorful rice. Whenever it is cooked in garlic, or fried, or stirred with herbs or in this case, saffron, I will likely finish whatever is on my plate and take whatever is left on my wife’s.
I enjoy this meal for the same reasons I tend to order Wan Than Mee if I can’t decide what I want – for the variety of flavors and textures. Wan Than Mee, by the way, is precisely what it says it is – won ton and noodles, with bits of roasted pork garnished on top and often served with a side of hot soup.
“Ayam Panggang” always leaves me feeling incredibly satisfied without feeling overly full. It has earned its place among the other comfort food dishes I like to indulge in on this island. Perhaps some of those will warrant their own blog entries in the future, but I’m no serious foodie – only perpetually hungry – so, maybe they won’t. But the locals – they will always have something to say.