Penang’s Roti and Hainanese Chicken
Today, we are getting a report on Malaysian lunching from profiled luncher Stephanie.
Penang was the first restaurant I dined at when I moved to in Philadelphia back in 2006. My mom and I somehow found ourselves at Market East Station on a bad recommendation. It was raining, we were hungry, and Penang boasted the most attractive facade in Chinatown. Over the years, Penang has become my default place for hearty Malaysian soup noodles and flavor-inspired meals when I’m in the mood for non-Chinese food in Chinatown. And conveniently enough for me, Penang also offers one of my favorite lunches in town for under $10.
As a precursor to my meal, I ordered the Roti Canai ($3.50), a crepe-like Malaysian flatbread accompanied with chicken curry. The thin dough had a wonderful was delightful texture, chewy in some areas and crispy and flaky around the edges. As for the curry, it was spicy and robust with pronounced Indian influences. Pieces of tender chicken and stewed potatoes dotted the curry, and the roti served as the perfect vessel for scooping up savory pockets of warm curry.
My entree quickly followed, a glistening plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice. (Penang offers a choice of breast meat or drumstick. I went with the latter.) Served at room temperature, the chicken was succulent and tender, the meat nearly falling off the bone. Even on its own, the chicken was minimalistic but delicious. And only $5.75.
The chicken was plated with two types of sauces – a house-blend soy sauce and a spicy pepper paste. The soy sauce, which I highly recommend spooning over rice, was lightly sweet and enhanced the flavors of the dish without overpowering the chicken. The pepper paste, in contrast, was bold and added another dimension with echoes of chili peppers and ginger.
The Hainanese Chicken Rice easily would have garnered a near-perfect score if it wasn’t for one devastating component – the rice. As opposed to traditional recipes, where the chicken is cooked over the rice and thereby resulting in delicious, chicken-oil-coated kernels, the rice served to me was simply your typical Chinese take-out white rice.
All in all, my meal at Penang provided ample satisfaction of my taste buds and instant gratification to my belly. And, as indicated by my receipt (a penny under $10!), my wallet was most content, as well!
The + (What someone who likes this place would say)
- Solid Malaysian cuisine, a rarity in Philadelphia!
- Ideal for culinary explorers
The – (What someone who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Not always by-the-book, where traditional recipes go
- Service falls on a sliding scale, hovering between wait staff asking too many personal questions or ignoring you altogether
- Not everyone is in to room temperature chicken
Penang, 117 North 10th St, 215 413-2531