Category Archives: penang

Curry On : Mee And My Fun

Situated along the main road in Air Itam town, Pulau Pinang, just a little distance from the wet market is an unassuming shelter that houses what I call a true UN Heritage Class food legend. 

Yes, the Air Itam Sisters Curry Mee stall.  The two sisters, Mdm Lim Kooi Heang (87) and Mdm Lim Kooi Lye (85) have been in this business since 1947 – that is an amazing span of 72 years !

It is tough work – getting up at 4.30am each day to prepare the soup base and the ingredients, and to get ready for business by 7am.  We salute these two Kakak for their indefatigable spirit.

As age creeps up with the march of time, we wish them more years of good health.   Curry On !  More years of yummylicious Mee or My Fun (Cantonese for beehoon) for the customers

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Terminal Recall

This photo was probably a scene from the early 60s, after the Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim was opened in 1959.  Oh, so peaceful and serene, as compared to today’s bedlam.

I was barely 10 years old then.  But I can still remember the 5 beautiful ferries that plied between this terminal and the one on the Island.

Four main bus companies made their “bases” there – they were the UTC, the Central Province Wellesley, the Sam Lian Omnibus, and one other which plied between Baling/Kulim and Butterworth.

The voices of those ‘bus ushers’ with umbrellas, hollering “Bukit Mertajam, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal, Kuala Muda, Kepala Batas, Titi Timbol, Padang Serai, Alor Star, Sungai Petani” etc., still ring in my ears.

Oh yea, we had Mercedes-Benz  taxis parked nearby too. And the sea waters came almost right to the bus/car park.

Mama’s Mee, Ya ?

Mamma Mia, Here I go again,  My, my, how can I resist you ?” No, I could not, though I was slow to succumb.

Today’s memory scroll takes me to that old-time classic fried yellow noodle that was the specialty of Indian Muslims. It was my late mum’s favourite. 

Her particular delight was found at the small garden-like annex adjacent to the old Cathay Cinema in Penang (now Mydin Stores).  On many occasions, a trip to a movie at Cathay invariably culminated in a plates of fried Mamak Mee for her.

Penangites stake claim that they have the best Mamak Mee in the country but there is no lack of contending claims from elsewhere. Over the last 3 decades my taste buds have been tuned to the Singapore style, but I think the Penang version/s are still the best.

 

note : opening line is a pun on ABBA’s hit song “Mamma Mia”

Dam Nice

It was (and hope it still is) one of the most serene and beautiful places on Penang Island – The Air Itam Dam and Reservoir. 

In the early 1980s, it was one of the favourite places that my GF (and now wife) and I loved to go there early on weekends, admiring the scenery (and each other) while soaking in the twin morning glories of fresh cool air and cozy gentle sunshine. Oh ! What A Feeling ! Those were most cherishable memories.

On most occasions, we drove via a small road through Air Itam village up to the Kek Lok Si Temple carpark, and then went on foot up the rather winding road  to the dam. 

After 1984, we only went back there once – in 2014.  We were glad that much of the old scenery was still intact.

Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap

It is not in the middle of the road*, but some where along Penang Road, opposite what was once the Cathay Cinema (now Mydin Wholesale Emporium). 

Decades ago, Penang Bazaar was the favorite haunt of ladies looking for shopping therapy.  Apparently there were great buys at this place which the Penang folks called “Mola” (Jualan Murah).  (That was true only if one knew how to and dared to drive a hard bargain.)

Well, my late mum was a consummate swordswoman in the art of price-slashing; with just one precise stroke, she could cut down any price-gouger to half size, in double-quick time.  One chop, and then walked away, leaving the poor seller pleading for a merciful coup de grace that would at least leave him with a sale…albeit not on his terms.

Oh yes, yet another trophy for the day – for Mum.

 *note : pun on the 1971 hit song, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, by the band Middle Of The Road

Rice To The Occasion Of The Full Moon

Make it yellow, sticky and lemak. And don’t forget the Curry Chicken, please.  Folks, remember the Nasi Kunyit of old? 

Long before pathetic western cakes became incomprehensibly (to me, at least) fashionable, the successful completion of the first month on Earth for a baby was celebrated with the preparation and serving of Nasi Kunyit – which is steamed glutinous rice, laced with santan and colored with turmeric, and stuffed with some pepper corns.

When eaten with thick Chicken Curry ( I preferred to add a little fine sugar), it was scrumptiously yummy yum yum!  Of course at that time carbophobia was not yet invented, so no one was worried nor had any guilt-hangovers!

I remember that Nasi Kunyit was also a favorite serving on other festive occasions – as and when there was reason to get “high” other than Full Moons.

Tugging At The Hard Strings

Once Upon A Time in Penang before the construction of deep-water wharves in Butterworth , the harbor waters were teeming with tugboats, each with one or two or even three “tongkangs” in tow.

These formed a vital sector of the marine transportation industry and was an iconic feature of life in Pulau Pinang in those days.

A crossing of the channel onboard a ferry would see me peering out of the windows, to watch intently how the poor little tugs labored in a gentle rock-and-roll fashion against wind and water, with black smoke spewing from their funnels as they hauled the bigger unpowered vessels.

These days, such a scene is quite rare; and when I come across one, it never fails to tug at my heartstrings.