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Island imports

FOOD recommendations often come to me in the weirdest ways. Take, for instance, this Penang One in Puchong, Selangor. I rarely venture to that part of the city on my own and only uncovered it from a friendly tip doled out by a stranger.

This nice person whom I had sat next to at a funeral wake was extremely generous with her food recommendations. The moment she heard I had a food blog, it all came pouring out.

“You must try this place in Puchong as it has duck kway teow soup,” she said. My eyes glittered when I heard those magic words.

I always remembered how my ex-colleague from Penang would whine that she could never find anything genuine in Kuala Lumpur since no one served it with duck meat.

Instead, the versions we had in the Klang Valley were glorified fish ball soup noodles with nary a duck blood cube nor duck meat in sight.

Thus one day, I made a road trip via the network of highways to discover this modern kopitiam set up to serve all kinds of Penang hawker food.

From what I understand, their modus operandi was to transport the ingredients from the various stalls up north on a daily basis to recreate these street food items for us poor, deprived Klang Valley folks.

Good stuff: The duck kway teow noodles are as authentic as they come.

When I saw the menu filled with all those goodies, I wish I had the stomach to try everything in sight. How could I resist my favourite Macalister Lane chee cheong fun (RM3.30) – silky soft rice rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with the pungent prawn paste sauce.

The stall outside Seow Fong Lye Café has been around for more than 50 years and they make their own sauces.

I may have been sidetracked with my chee cheong fun appetiser but I stuck to my guns and ordered the duck kway teow noodles (RM7.90).

Brought in from a stall in Penang’s Cecil Street market, the sweet duck broth is paired with silky smooth kuey teow noodles.

There was the duck meat, shredded pork meat, fish cake, pork meat ball, fish ball and lo and behold, even sliced spongy coagulated duck blood.

Since I am no true-bred island girl, I ta-pau some for my Penang born colleague. As he slurped down the sweet tasting soup, finishing it to the last drop, I knew I had struck gold with this place.

For char kway teow (RM8.90) that needs to be fried a la minute, the ingredients – down to even the soy sauce – were brought in from a Kampung Jawa stall to replicate the original.

Penang chee cheong fun with homemade prawn paste sauce.

It is still a rather decent version, well above the ones in the Klang Valley and uses decadent pork fat and large prawns. They also do the silky duck egg version (RM9.90).

I have been back numerous times to try the other menu items. The curry mee is from a stall known as Ah Keong located at New Cathay, Jalan Burma.

The coconut rich broth is slurp-worthy with all the essentials, such as pig blood cubes, cuttlefish, tofu puffs and cockles.

The Asam Laksa (RM7.90) which hails from the Lorong Selamat Kopitiam is the sweet and thick version with chunks of fish. You can also order Siam Laksa (RM8.50) from the same stall.

The Hokkien Mee (RM7.90) from Bark Thong in Kong Bee Lee Kopitiam at Pulau Tikus may not be one of the super famous ones but this prawn and pork based noodle holds its own against the other more famous stalls we have in the Klang Valley with its broth topped with deep-fried shallots and pork ribs.

Dessert is the eponymous Ais Kacang (RM6.50) from New World Park Foodcourt along Swatow Lane.

The shaved ice dessert is doused with goodies like attap chee (palm fruit), soft black grass jelly shreds, red beans, sweetcorn with a dash of rose red syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It resembled the real deal with its signature orange melamine bowl that I blinked twice to check if I was not in Penang.

The luxurious Special Golden Dumpling with double the ingredients.

They also serve cendol (RM5) with soft red beans and the nyah kuih (RM3), a chewy chilled cake made with tapioca flour and flavoured with thick gula Melaka (palm sugar) syrup.

You can also enjoy Hokkien rice dumplings from Cintra Food Court. Choose from the dark coloured Hokkien version (RM5.50), a luxurious double ingredients version called Special Golden Dumpling (RM8.50) and a Cantonese version for RM4.50.

One word of caution: Penang-nites used to the island prices may not appreciate the pricing that is more attuned to Klang Valley pockets.

My Penang colleague was horrified to find out that bowl of duck kway teow noodles was RM7.90 versus the RM2.80 price he claims he would have forked out in Cecil Street.

Since I’m a Klang Valley girl, I felt prices were rather fair since I was dining in the comfort of modern amenities instead of the hawker stall. The menu items also come with options for add-ons at a price.

Takeaway containers are charged RM1 but they waive that charge if you bring your own.

Every time I visit this place, I always feel like I am in Penang – I over order every thing in sight. While the real deal is about four hours’ drive away, this place scratches my itch for Penang’s hawker gems.

*Boo_licious blogs at masak.blogspot.com and tweets at twitter.com/boo_licious.