This place we would have posted long ago, had it not pulled a 'now you see it, now you don't'. It's a hoppin' chapati shack just up the street from our favorite lor mee stall in George Town, Penang. We stumbled upon it back in June while doing some street food research for an article (not out yet).
Nasi kandar, rice and dishes served on banana leaf, and tandoor chicken served with naan are easily found just a block away, in the city's Little India. Stalls specializing in hand-patted chapati are not as plentiful. In addition to this place, called Maj, there's one up the street. But it's Maj that consistently packs in the crowds.
After that initial visit we returned to Maj a week later, only to find its metal doors rolled down and adjacent corrugated metal roof-protected 'dining area' devoid of tables. This scenario repeated itself on our next eight or so visits. By mid-September - Ramadan already - we'd pretty given up hope.
Then yesterday, after two breakfasts (one being hands-down George Town's best nasi kandar - details to come) we rounded the corner and Maj was open and humming, as if it had never ceased operations at all. After rubbing our eyes to make sure it wasn't a mirage, we hurried over and grabbed a table.
The atmosphere in the dining lean-to was festive. Apparently we weren't the only ones who'd been missing those chapati.
Like many eateries in George Town Maj has been in the same family for over fifty years. Its thin, supple chapati - patted, rolled out, and griddled at the rate of one every fifty seconds - are huge in wheaty flavor and fragrance. They wear a few black blisters and a heavenly toastiness from just enough time on a hot tava.
We could eat them by the dozen with no accompaniment at all. But it would be a shame to miss out on Maj's chicken curry, which is just spicy enough and the teeniest bit sweet, with heavy cinnamon overtones. The bird is perfectly cooked; even white meat pieces are tender and very moist.
Maj's owner continues to insist, as he did on our first visit three months ago, that the place is open every day except Sunday -- though he does acknowledge that 'sometimes we close'. So I'm afraid you'll have to take your chances. But if you find Maj's open, you've hit the jackpot.
Gerai Makanan dan Minuman Maj, Lebuh Ah Quee at the corner of Lorong Pitt, 7am-6pm. Closed Sunday.