Generally, one can count on a Penangite’s recommendation when it comes to his/her hometown’s cuisine yes?
Well, I’m a Penangite. I lived in Penang until I was in my twenties and personally, I could cook some Penang hawker dishes myself.
And I am telling you that the Penang food buffet over at White Rose Cafe is legit, well worth your dollars and you should be planning a meal here ASAP!
Granted, individual taste palates may differ and food in the island itself might taste marginally better, but if trip to Penang isn’t possible in the near future, and if the cravings struck now, here’s the best news for you – White Rose Cafe’s famous Penang Hawker Fare promotion is currently ongoing until 1st Jan 2018.
The hotel had band together almost a dozen Penang hawkers in one venue, each a master of a selected dish. That means, the twelve live stations in White Rose Cafe are manned by staff or workers from established Penang hawker brands.
They were flown into Singapore by York Hotel and will be dishing out 11 perennial Penang favourites prepared àla minute for both lunch and dinner for guests.
High notes of the buffet include Char Koay Kak, cubed fried radish rice cake pan-fried under high heat with soy sauce, chopped chai poh (preserved radish), bean sprouts, eggs and chilli paste. A more luxurious version, such as the one served here, had squids and prawns.
I zoomed in on kuey teow thng (Penang kuey teow soup) to kick-start my Penang food feast that evening. Though not as popular as its soupy cousins the Hokkien Mee or Laksa, it is a personal comfort food of mine.
The stock for Penang kuey teow soup should be clear with mellow sweetness. I like mine with duck blood and duck meat, but understandably these were omitted here since I doubt Singaporeans would know how to appreciate those.
Upon the first sip of the soup, I closed my eyes and felt myself transported back to Penang. So comforting!
The Penang Prawn Mee was another winner. The broth possessed wonderful depth of flavour and umami sweetness. This was achieved from hours of painstaking boiling of prawn heads, shells and pork ribs.
A sprinkling of freshly fried shallots just prior to serving is a must.
Another Penang favourite of mine is the Fried Oyster. We Hokkiens call it “oh chien” though in SG I believe it is known as “Or Luak”.
The ratio of eggs to starch makes all the difference for the taste and mouthfeel while accompanying the chilli must be right. Big fat oysters; lightly seasoned and cooked are stirred into the egg mix just prior to serving.
This oh chien also happened to be one of my top picks in Penang – the one at Northam Beach Cafe.
A whiff of the tangy fish broth told me this bowl of Penang laksa will surely satisfy. Nevertheless, the proof is in the eating and from the first sip, it hit the spot. Granted, the noodles were not the original fat version found in Penang but one would just have to make do this one time!
The Penang Char Kuey Teow
Another dish that was done right was the Nyonya Nasi Lemak.
Some of us maybe more familiar with the common nasi lemak with fried chicken and watery sambal but an authentic Nyonya Nasi Lemak is served with sambal belacan and the rice should be richer in coconut milk.
The lorbak in Penang is a fun snack plate where diners choose from an assortment of ingredients to be fried. Once done, the selected items are chopped into bite-sized pieces and served accompanied with a thick starchy gravy plus chilli.
For this buffet the lorbak aunty offers pork meat rolls, prawn fritters, deep fried beancurd, yam and sweet potato.
Another authentically Penang “snack” dish is the Cuttlefish Kangkung. It is not as commonly revered as other Penang delights since boiled tender cuttlefish and water convolvulus isn’t everyone’s kind of food.
I love it though. This dish relies heavily on the quality of prawn paste sauce used and yes, absolutely fresh, large cuttlefish.
Speaking of prawn paste and snacks, the Penang Rojak is another snack that needs no introduction. Spicy, pungent and sweet at once thanks to the combination of fresh fruits with the strong flavoured paste, this can be rather addictive.
For a sweet ending (I started my meal with it!), there is the Chendol and Ice Kacang. There is also the Ban Chang Kueh which was made freshly on the spot.
The Penang buffet have been a recurring event at White Rose Café, York Hotel Singapore for the past few years. It is immensely popular for a good reason, the food is legit and it’s an incredible deal – a buffet deal at S$29++ per person in Orchard area is not something you see every day.
Currently this Penang Hawkers’ Fare runs thrice annually and the current installment will run from 15th December 2017 to 1st January 2018.
White Rose Café, York Hotel
21 Mount Elizabeth
Tel: +65 6737 0511
December 15, 2017 to January 1, 2018
12 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. (Lunch)
6.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Dinner)
Adult S$29* Child S$20* (Mondays to Fridays)
Adult S$33* Child S$23* (Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays)