There's no shame in a between-meal meal. Sometimes, when you're on the road and time is limited, circumstances dictate that the number of squares in a day exceed three.
On a quiet Sunday morning, when Penang's Jalan Transfer was otherwise deserted, almost every seat at the long tables that stretch from either side of this roti stall's prep area was taken.
We weren't looking for a meal, or even a snack. We'd followed a hearty breakfast at a bustling neighborhood market with a couple of cuppas at a local institution. Now, we were on our way to a Hainanese coffeeshop for what promised to be a sizeable early lunch.
But this place was really doing the business. The air of concentration hanging over the rows of customers tucking into roti and curry, combined with the enticing smells wafting from the mammoth stainless steel pots at the center of the action, spoke to us: 'Do not pass this by!'
We're glad we listened. Our almost grease-free, light, flaky, and admirably layered roti was one thing. The chicken curry that accompanied it was altogether another: fiery, slightly sweet, and indescribably, addictively delicious. What was that unidentifiable flavor? A surfeit of cardamom? A hint of fenugreek? Some odd combination of dried spices and fresh herbs not usually associated with a chicken curry? The guys running the place weren't talking.
But the mystery ingredient(s) in the red chicken curry dished up at this forty-year-old stall has had us guessing for going on four months now. It will, in the end, draw us back to breakfast on Jalan Transfer.
Roti stall, Jalan Transfer near Jalan Argyll (just down the street from this coffee shop), Penang. Mornings.