Hin Bus Depot is Penang’s premier arts & craft market, which opens every Sunday. Besides stalls featuring artworks & handicraft by local artists and sculptors, exhibitions and, performances, there is also a collection of food stalls offering a mix of local and international eats.
We were there last Sunday, the second day of Chinese New Year, and a short Teochew (Chaozhou) opera performance was held in conjunction with the festival.
It was close to lunch, so we tried a few food options there. One of the most popular stalls was the Penang asam laksa stall by 66-year-old Mr Lim Eng Seng, a genial retired civil servant who now makes an appearance at Hin Bus Depot every Sunday.
Mr Lim’s asam laksa is rice noodles, covered with a spicy-sour fish-based soup, garnished with fresh mint leaves, julienned pineapple, chopped torch ginger, red chilis, shredded Chinese lettuce leaves and chopped raw onions. The dish gets its piquancy from the addition of thick, strong-smelling fermented shrimp sauce - a Penang specialty.
Another popular stall there is the sourdough sandwich stall, which offered thick, richly-stuffed sandwiches - the most popular one is with sliced lamb.
There was also a Thai-run stall offering glutinous rice, with either sliced mango, or stuffed jackfruit. These were a bit disappointing as the glutinous rice was steamed plain, instead of infused with sweet coconut milk. The desserts were covered with coconut milk and sprinkled with crisped yellow lentils.
Another popular stall there is the Malay Nasi Lemak, run by Opah, a matronly Malay lady who cooked coconut milk-enriched rice, served with either fried chicken or a dry chicken rendang curry. Other accompaniments were crisp-fried anchovies, groundnuts, slices of fresh cucumber and hard-boiled egg - all standard nasi lemak sides.
Other Malay snacks offered included cucur badak - a favourite of mine: basically a toothsome, deep-fried sweet potato-based croquette, with a spicy grated coconut-dried shrimp, turmeric-infused filling.
The Malay dessert, onde-onde is worth a try - mochi-like boiled dumplings, scented with pandan leaves, which also gave them a green hue, covered with freshly-grated coconut. The onde-onde has molten Gula Melaka, or palm sugar, centres. The version here was quite average.
There is a traditional push-cart offering Malay-style pizzas. These are thin-crusted pizzas with localised toppings.
The caneles by a stall offering French baked goods were really good.
As it was Chinese New Year season, Mandarin oranges were offered gratis to all visitors last Sunday.
Hin Bus Depot opens every Sunday from 10.30am onwards, and stalls start closing after lunch, around 3pm.