One nice thing about spending so much time in Penang (up north every 10 days on average it's been for us, lately) is that it's afforded the opportunity to move beyond our tried-and-true favorites and branch out into virgin (for us, anyway) culinary territory. You don't have to eat prawn noodles on every single visit when you know you'll be returning soon.
We've had our eye on this Melayu Street wonton mee stall for quite a while; it's on the route we take when we walk a friend's dog. Within 20 minutes of arriving in George Town last Thursday we were placing our orders. Finally.
The set-up is basic: a mobile cart and a few tables right on the street. Umbrellas and plastic tarps add protection from sun and rain. (The latter, unfortunately, also eliminate any chance of a breeze and make eating here a rather sweaty experience).
This hawker is a master of his art; after lifting the egg noodles from their bath of boiling water he tosses them high, sending strands of pasta flying into the air and a shower of water droplets over his cart.
We ordered our wonton mee 'dry'. In Kuala Lumpur this would land you a plate of drained noodles and choy sum tossed with soy sauce and (if you're lucky) lard oil and topped with slices of char siew (barbecued pork), a small bowl of broth and wontons on the side.
Here, our noodles and greens arrived in a bowl, partially submerged in the usual soy sauce and lard oil (praise be) thinned with a little broth. Char siew slices graced the little hillock of pasta, but so also did wontons. Pickled green chilies filled the bowl of our spoons. (In KL they'd be in a separate sauce, to which you'd probably add a bit of soy sauce.)
The verdict? Thumbs down on the char siew, which was lean verging on dry and not at all smoky, as a good piece of barbecued meat should be. The slices, a tell-tale fakey crimson at the edges, are certainly not the product of a 'cue expert.
But for the rest of the dish we would, and will, return to this stall. The dumplings are silky but substantial of skin, their filling richly porcine, and since they're not floating in hot broth they don't go all mushy within a minute of serving. The noodles are the perfect balance of tender and chewy-elastic, what a Taiwanese would call 'Q-Q'. And the 'sauce' is very nearly all about the lard oil. It's kind of like eating bacon fat mixed with just enough soy sauce to season.
And that is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
Wonton mee stall, corner of Melayu Street and Toh Aka Street (a block from Beach Street), George Town, Penang. Afternoons only, from about 2 to 6.