Wandering around the roads of Penang’s Chinatown, we found ourselves pooped out by mid-afternoon. Contemplating a message, or anything indoors, really, we encountered shop after shop advertising blind massages (yes, blind!), one shadier than the next. Nix that thought.
I secretly wanted to escape our exploring just to find a hot bowl of Laksa, despite the near 100-degree heat. Keeping my eyes and nose peeled for a hawker stand, I casually suggested finding a bite to eat, despite the odd 4:30pm hour. Luckily, the two boys agreed. Hooray! Foodie adventurer: 1. Tired boys: 0.
After ducking down some sidestreets, mostly empty (we found out the streets of Penang become raucous and lively just after dusk, after the sun goes down and the heat begins to evaporate from the black tar roads), we came across a couple of carts on the street selling thin lo mein noodles, pork jerky sandwiches, and thick rice noodles. Just down the street, I was happy to see a bustling garage of a food court.
Barrett and I became distracted by the carts that lined the street, with Barrett getting a Malaysian flat jerkey sandwich and me a paper-wrapped packet filled with thin fried spicy noodles. As we were bantering with the noodle man, whose mind was absolutely blown that the DiploMan could speak Chinese, our friend Gordon ran up to us like a little kid who just saw the tooth fairy. “They have a huge slab of fried bacon over there!” He pointed back behind us towards the food court.
I didn’t believe it. Bacon doesn’t really exist in Asia– at least, not in the capacity that it does in the states. Pork belly, certainly, is HUGE around these parts. But the curing/smoking/slicing of it doesn’t really happen.
My skepticism was partially defeated (I wish I could say it was fully defeated). Yes, there was a huge slab of bacon-looking meat that looked fried, hanging on a hook at a vendor cart. But it wasn’t quite the same as bacon– not cured or smoked or nearly as salty. But I was unable to resist the temptations of fatty port, so we ordered a couple orders over rice and an order of charsiu (traditional Chinese red-braised pork) over rice.
The orders took less than five minutes to come out. I watched as the “chef” behind the stand unhooked our slabs of meat and coarsely chopped them over a flimsy plastic plate prepped with a mound of rice. I realized this was less of a kitchen operation than it was a deli. Slicing meats and laying them over carbs– that’s a sandwich!
Our orders of meat and rice, along with our takeout packet of noodles purchased from down the street, were gobbled up in a snap. Seriously, probably eaten quicker than it’s taken you to read through this blog entry. Paired with a bottle of beer, it was the perfect 4:30pm snack on a hot Penang day.
I’ll take this over a blind massage, anyday.