Small portions always pack a punch

Relatively cheaper Hawker food in Penang, albeit modest portions, perfect for smaller eaters

WHEN one thinks of Penang, the first thought that comes to mind is food.

If you are coming from out of state, you should savor Penang’s gastronomic offerings before returning home.

There is a distinct feature of Penang hawker food that many outsiders have complained about; serving size tends to be small.

Using char koay teow as an example, the portion can be so small that if you’re really hungry, you can swallow it in two bites.

This sparked many conversations among those who have recently traveled to other states.

Many said the same thing, that Penang hawker food portions are smaller even though they are cheaper.

A friend from Kuala Lumpur prefers smaller portions because then he can order other dishes and taste different flavors before his belly gauge reaches its maximum.

Another friend grumbled a bit because she and her friends usually have to order more than one portion of something if they are traveling in a group because the portion isn’t big enough to share.

Nevertheless, everyone agrees that food from street vendors in Penang is relatively cheaper than in other states.

As a light eater, Penang hawker’s food portions are perfect for me, but there are times when I have to order an extra snack.

The other day I managed to steal time for a hawker lunch.

Afraid of not being able to finish a plate of chicken rice, I opted for a bowl of pan mee (wheat noodles).

The noodles were delicious but the portion was small even for me.

The bowl of noodles was RM7 which seemed ok as it had an egg and minced meat but I wasn’t satisfied.

Whenever I order wantan mee, my usual hawker dish, RM5.50 or RM6.50 per plate is enough for me but not for a colleague.

He would choose rice over wantan mee because he finds the portion too small.

I notice that in other states like Kuala Lumpur and Perak, food from street vendors has become more expensive, but the portions there are almost double what we have here.

I remember a few years ago when ordering a glass of carrot juice for RM7 in Kuala Lumpur, I thought it was too expensive, but the portion was too much for one person.

Recently my boss went to Perak for a holiday and later explained that he had ‘the best curry mee ever’ which cost him RM21.

I thought that was exorbitant, until I saw a picture of it: the curry mee came in two bowls – a large bowl of noodles and another large bowl of condiments.

It looked like a wonderful, almost sinful meal, and I had honestly never seen such a portion size in Penang before.

Perhaps food vendors in Penang are so concerned about keeping their prices low that today, with global food prices rising, they would rather reduce portion sizes than increase price.

For a visitor who hasn’t been here in months, in addition to our char koay teow, they might want a bowl of Hokkien mee at the same time.

Thus, with smaller portions, the visitor can then enjoy two dishes.

In the end, it looks like you’ll pay the same amount as if you added the price of the two dishes over the price of a large meal elsewhere.

For me, it’s a win-win because you can taste the wonderful delights we have to offer without overeating or wasting food.

The idea of ​​large portions can be intimidating to someone who is a small eater.

I remember freaking out when I saw the size of a burger in Canada years ago.

Our local burgers are tiny in comparison, and I’ve been told that people in the West eat more because of their bigger builds.

I’m comfortable with Penang hawker’s food portions as it’s always nice to have a side of lor bak with my bowl of laksa and not feel stuffed.

With so many street food wonders here, smaller portions mean we can share an extra dish or not waste food.

We are often advised to finish the condiments and leave the rice or noodles if we are full.

It just means wasting food, and the hawkers here may have decided to offer smaller portions at cheaper prices could be one way to reduce waste.

It suits me well as someone who does their best to finish every grain of rice or strand of noodles in my dish.

Next time you order something in Penang, keep in mind that portions may be smaller but are relatively cheaper so you can order more.