By now most of us have eaten the instant version, if not at least heard of, Penang White Curry Noodles, thanks to at least 25 brands of the instant noodle craze.
So, on my first trip to Penang (after 10 years), I told myself that I must taste some real Penang White Curry Noodles.
This morning my friends Irene and CJ took me all the way from Georgetown to Air Itam to track down this well loved Penang White Curry Noodle stall.
"You have to squat or sit on small stools to eat", Irene warned me. "No problem!" I told told Irene. In fact, I think that is very fun and charming :D
This no signboard stall is at the busy market near to the famous Kek Lok Si temple in Air Itam, Penang.
You cannot find a more humble stall.
This is a no signboard stall under a big tree on a side lane off the main road, Jalan Air Itam. The stall is along the same lane leading to Air Itam Chinese Methodist Church.
The stall is set on the floor. A hanging green canvas curtain barely shielding the stall from the blazing morning sun. An assortment of small stools of different heights were strewn across the front of the stall.
(There is more comfortable seating across the lane at the small kopi stall and dim sum stall. Just need to buy some items from these stalls and they will allow customers to use their tables and chairs.)
This very humble no sign board stall is run by two elderly sisters. (So, this stall is also known as the "Air Itam sisters curry mee".)
Beautiful ladies Lai 来 (left) and Heang 香 in their eighties, seated on small stools were hard at work, and very cheerful and sprightly. They were obviously enjoying themselves.
No one is certain who invented Penang White Curry Noodles but sisters Heang 香 and Lai 来 who have been selling this dish in Air Hitam in Penang for over 60 years, are definitely among the pioneers :D
"When we started, a bowl of curry mee cost 10 sens", Hiang 香 told me proudly. (It's RM4 a bowl today.)
This is the large pot of broth with tau pok (fried tofu), kept simmering over a charcoal stove.
Penang White Curry Noodles keep the spice and coconut broth separate from the chili sauce.
The large pot of fiery pulpy sambal chili.
Here is the not instant Penang White Curry Noodles.
The mildly savoury broth had a light body and little coconut milk. It was also only slightly spicy.
The difference that made all the difference was the sambal chili. When added to the broth, it gave the stock an addictive spicy kick. Customers can add as much of the sambal chili as they can handle - depending on how much hot punishment they can take on their tongue and lips.
The yellow noodles and bee hoon were generic. But, there were several pieces of these pork blood curd (which will excite especially many visitors from Singapore as this is not available on the island).
There were a few small pieces of dried cuttlefish (giu her). Nice chewy mouth feel but the giu her flavour was quite slight.
The sisters also serve this fried mee hoon with giu her but I didn't try it.
This may not be the tastiest curry mee in Penang (I am still looking), but it is probably the most famous and well loved.
When you are in Penang, Air Itam has many interesting sights to visit, including this old school Penang White Curry Noodles. You will not just enjoy a delicious bowl of curry noodles but also witness living history in Penang. This legendary stall alone is worth a trip to Air Itam.
Acknowledgement: Original Century Food Pte Ltd, maker of MyOri Penang White Curry Noodles supported my visit to Penang and my mission to "Put Every Good Hawker on the World Wide Web".
Restaurant name: Two Sisters Penang White Curry Mee (No Signboard)
Address: off Air Itam Market, Jalan Air Hitam, Pekan Ayer Itam, Penang
Hours: 7:30am to 1:00pm
Date visited: 25 Oct 2014
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