After the non-stop eating binge in the morning, we decided to do the touristy thing again and visit Penang Hill. We figured it would do us good to explore the place so that our tummies were ready for the next bout of food tasting. (To be honest, I lost count of the number of meals we had that day.)
Penang Hill is located 6km from the center of Georgetown, and was used as a retreat during the British colonial days. Now it’s a major tourist attraction, with a hotel, nature reserve, museum, gardens and restaurants/cafes. It’s not very tall, only 833 metres high. To get up there, you can take the train from the base station located at its foot.
It’s quite pleasant to be up in the hill, and I can understand why it was used as a retreat as the weather is not scorching hot despite it being a sunny day. For those who don’t want to walk and explore, you can opt to rent a buggy with a driver. But we would rather walk since we had so much food earlier; and Buddy was delighted to see wild monkeys along the road. While strolling around, we kept hearing an animal roaring; and Buddy wondered if there was a tiger somewhere. Of course, judging from the nonchalant attitude of the people there, it didn’t seem like a dangerous beast was on the loose.
It turned out the sound came from the Dinosaur and Aviary Garden. Buddy was excited when he saw the big dino figures and went straight into the garden while I was still wondering if it was worth paying for the entry fee. It turns out there is an admission fee for adults but not kids, which is not surprising. This place is using the kids to get the adults in, because Buddy couldn’t wait to climb onto the T-Rex.
The garden is really no big deal, at least to me, since other than the fake dinos, the birds are mostly made up of peasants, peacocks and some parrots though they are real. Buddy was more interested in the Dinos of course. If you do get pulled in by a kid, be prepared to feed the hoard of hungry mosquitoes in there. You will need DEET to protect yourself from those bloodsuckers.
My husband wanted to check out a colonial restaurant with a beautiful view that comes with an “atas” name of David Brown. We had to climb up a flight of steps to reach it, and it touts itself to be the highest restaurant in Penang.
I have to say the place is rather serene, and there is a beautiful garden next to the alfresco dining area with a pond in the middle. We decided to have a short break here, and ordered drinks and a dessert of bread and pudding. We would have ordered lunch if not for the fact that we promised my father-in-law that we would take him to this Teochew restaurant for lunch. (He kept talking about this restaurant that we had to oblige.) My husband and Buddy gave the dessert the thumbs up. We should return in our next trip to try the proper food.
At David Brown restaurant, there is an added bonus of a spectacular view of Penang city.
Now, for that Teochew Restaurant, Goh Swee Kee, located at 5, Jalan Sri Bahari, at George Town. To be honest, we had never heard of this restaurant and didn’t see it being recommended on TripAdvisor unlike Tek Seng. But my father-in-law insisted that the food was very good. Apparently it was the favourite restaurant of my husband’s Uncle who had introduced it to his dad. On the way there, I did a quick research to find out what the signature dishes are. It turns out to be quite popular among the locals.
In Teochew cuisine, the braised duck is a quintessential dish and naturally we had to try it, Besides, I love duck.
Other dishes included the stir fried egg plants with sambal, the fried Loh-Bak (five-spiced pork roll), and braised cabbage with mushroom.
I have to say the food was better than what I expected; very tasty and balanced flavors. Like the egg plants, they were cooked to the right texture, not too soggy nor chewy.
The highlight of the meal was the oyster noodle with fresh sambal. Once the sambal was mixed into the noodle, the aroma was amazing! The noodle, soaked in the sauce, and the juicy oysters was so good that we had to order a second plate as my husband was trying hard not to devour everything and would have ended up in a fight with me.
Even in Singapore, we can only find the oyster noodle in Teochew restaurants though I haven’t tried any. But a related dish that is commonly available is the Fried Hokkien prawn noodle, where basically the prawn replaces the oyster. (On a side note, we discovered a stall that offers fabulous fried prawn noodle, after we returned to Singapore, that would have been even better than this oyster noodle dish in Penang, if it is paired with the fresh sambal. In fact it would have been a dish made in heaven.)
To round off the meal, we had Orh Nee (yam paste with sesame seed, gingko nuts and dried orange peel). Knowing that this dessert is very satiating and the yam paste is really thick, a large spoonful is served on a sauce plate to each guest.
Our verdict on Goh Swee Kee? It’s two thumbs up! A must-visit restaurant for anyone who visits Penang for its fabulous teochew cuisine.
That evening, which was also the last night in Penang, we wanted to go to the Pulau Tikus Market Hawker Center for hawker food, which is quite close to the coffee shops that we went this morning. However, among checking Google, my husband found out that it was closed. We tried another so-called night hawker street but it turned out to be a pathetic couple of stores. My father-in-law suggested a Hainanese resturant but it was not opened until 7.00PM, and it was not even 6.00PM then. At the end, all roads lead back to Tek Sen, which turns out to be just round the corner.
In addition to my favorite Sambal Kachang Botol, we tried a few new dishes, like this fried tofu with egg white sauce, the bitter-gourd with salted egg, and the prawn paste chicken wings.
When all else failed, Tek Sen will not disappoint. Indeed, these dishes are just as tasty as expected. Though simple food but very yummy. At least, we had a very satisfying dinner to round off the trip.
Well, I guess you noticed that I didn’t mention anything about the famous Penang Assam Laksa and the Char Kway Teow. It’s not that we did not want to try them, and we did include them in our food tour. The problem is that, because we stayed at Bayan Lebas, which is about 30 minutes’ drive to Georgetown, it was quite a hassle for us to follow through. Plus we had to take into consideration Buddy’s nap, and even my father-in-law wants his nap. The constant to-and-fro travelling was very exhausting for us, and we had to pare down the trips. In fact, both my husband and I suffered from headaches from the exhaustion. We decided that, for the next trip, we should rent an airBnB apartment in Georgetown. We had a car and driver who brought us around, though we also discovered it’s quite easy to Uber around and the fares are pretty cheap (for Singapore standard).
So, if you are planning a food tour in Penang, stay in Georgetown where the best food is, and go for Uber.