Dining at the Padang: Penang Popiah
By CK Lam - Monday, Apr 09, 2012
There are several eating spots in Penang that has successful endured the test of time, with several lasting for decades and a handful for a century! Established since 1966, the Padang Brown Food Court or affectionately known as simply ‘Padang’ houses some of the best hawker food the island has to offer. This food court is located at the corner of Perak Road and Anson Road, right beside a green field and directly behind the Dato Keramat Police Station.
This place does bear a historical significance to the island as it is one of the first centralize food court built by the Penang Municipal Council. With an overwhelming appeal of hawker food, Padang is divided to two wings, with the left hand side packed with Chinese hawkers during the afternoon. In the night, the right-hand side is predominantly brightly lit Malay and Indian stalls offering plenty of food choices. Throughout the food court, metal stools and tables are placed right in front of the stalls, with some under the shade.
The popiah is probably the first choice for many who visit Padang. The owner will assemble the roll to the customer’s specification. The basic roll comprise of a single piece of popiah skin topped with sweet thick black and chilli sauce, vegetable and small heaps of stew shredded Chinese turnip. This is followed by bean curd and the most important ingredient, crab meat! The roll is drenched with a generous dose of gravy with robust crab flavour.
Besides that, there is also the pasembur (Malaysian Indian salad consisting of cucumber, beancurd, turnip, bean sprouts, spicy fried crab, fried octopus) stall, located right beside the popiah stall. This Chinese version of pasembur differs slightly from the Malaysian Indian type. All plates are served with fresh shredded turnip, bean sprout and cucumber, topped with bean curd, crispy prawn fitters and jellyfish strips. The semi thick sweet and lightly spicy sauce is doused over it. The combination of the texture and taste are pleasant and keeps many coming back for more.
Other crowd favourites include the char koay teow (Char Kway Teow to us), Penang laksa, as well as pan fried tau kua (bean curd). Do leave some room for the kerabu beehoon and the Nyonya kuih as well. There are plenty of drinks to choose from, ranging from the cendul and ice-kacang to fresh coconut juice and lychee juice.
The night stalls have their own specialties to offer, with Mamak pasembur and the usual flare of mee and nasi goreng. One favourite stall has to be Al-Bismi Soup – serving beef, chicken and mutton soup. The impressive large cauldrons line in front of the stall holding the different soup is enough to tempt the diners to at least make an order!
The soup kambing (mutton soup) came served with pieces of potatoes and Bengali roti (bread). The well flavoured broth is far from ordinary! The soup is very aromatic with a distinctive flavour, rich in herbs and spices. The soup goes hand in hand with the bony pieces of meat and is well complemented by the slices of bread.
Over the decades, the place has dilapidated but overall, the arrangement is tidy and organised. It remains one of the best places to sample a plethora of Penang’s hawker food under one roof. There are abundant parking lots in the front of the premises. Entrance to the food court and the parking lot is directly behind the Dato Kramat police station.
Padang Brown Food Court
Corner of Perak Road and Anson Road 10400 Penang, Malaysia