[Tanjung Dawai, Kedah, Malaysia] Lunch at Chooi Peng

With international borders still closed because of the COVID pandemic , we are currently limited to travelling within Malaysia. However, with the lifting of restrictions on inter-state travels, at least we in Penang are now able to drive to neighbouring Kedah state’s towns nearby for lunch.

One of these is Tanjung Dawai, a rustic seaside fishing village, just over an hour’s drive from George Town, Penang. One of the cottage industries at Tanjung Dawai is preserving fish by salting them. The salted fish are sun-dried, before being packed and shipped off to the main cities like Alor Star (Kedah’s state capital), Sungai Petani, and Kulim, and across the state border to Penang’s Bukit Mertajam, Butterworth, etc.

We took a drive to Tanjung Dawai (my first time here, actually) and were buying some of the processed seafood stuff when the shopkeeper pointed us to the only good restaurant in the village: Chooi Peng, recommending us to give it a try. Never one to turn down a local rec (even though we were stuffed from a meal at Sungai Petani barely an hour go), we decided to give Chooi Peng a go.

Oh my, I thought we may have stumbled upon a hidden dining gem which the city masses have not discovered yet! What we had:

  1. Steamed flower crabs - these were simply steamed with ginger, scallions and fresh coriander leaves, then drizzled with good quality light soy sauce and a few drops of fragrant sesame oil. The sweet-fleshed, succulent flower crabs were fresh off the fishing boats across the street!

  1. Steamed prawns in egg custard - the fresh prawns were embedded in egg custard, drizzled with the same soy sauce-sesame oil combination as for the crabs, then topped with ginger, chopped scallions and fresh coriander leaves. All done with the lightest touch, so the natural flavours of the seafood are not overwhelmed by the sauces and dressing used.

  1. Stir-fried Teochew “mee teow” noodles - the “mee teow” is a toothsome wheat noodle from the Chaozhou region of Southern China. Since majority of the Chinese in Kedah and the mainland part of Penang are Teochews, the cooking at Chooi Peng (whose owner-chef, Eng Chooi Peng, is Cantonese) has been adjusted to cater to the Teochew palate, which favours lighter, more subtly-flavoured dishes, as compared to Cantonese or Fujianese/Hokkien cooking styles.

The “mee teow” noodles here, lightly stir-fried with shrimps, choy sum greens and beansprouts, lightly flavoured with fish sauce and soy sauce, was the best rendition of the dish I’d ever had! It’s served with sambal belacan and bird’s eye chilis in light soy sauce, for some extra heat.

  1. Steamed clams with minced garlic and bird’s eye chilis

This has got to be the best seafood meal I’d had this year. Who knew? Away from the big cities, in an inconspicuous corner of largely rural Kedah state, one finds perhaps one of the most talented seafood chefs around, quietly plying his trade, serving mainly gruff fisherfolk and the rice paddy farmers nearby.

Kedah state is known as the “Rice Bowl of Malaysia” due to its rice paddy fields.

Address
Chooi Peng
187 Tanjung Dawai
08110 Bedong, Kedah, Malaysia
Tel: +6016 4977170
Opening hours: 1.30pm to 9.30pm daily, except Tuesday.

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Fab! What a find.

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This place had me at steamed clams with garlic. The custard prawns look fab, too.

I ate steamed clams with basil almost every day in Kaohsiung. Very partial to bivalves.

What are some uses for dried fish? In clay pot steamed dishes? I never know what to do with them and never bring them back from Asia.

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Well, I’ve never saw egg custard using prawns so big. Must be delicious!

Lol, a delicious meal when not hungry, this place must be divine. Is it possible to go there without a car, from Penang?

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It’s rather out of the beaten track, so you really do need a car for this.

But it’s an interesting area - despite it being in Kedah state, it’s actually closer to George Town than to Alor Star (Kedah’s state capital to the north). Before we ate here today, we visited the archaeological site of the 5,000 year-old Neolithic Penang Woman site, and the remains of the Bujang Valley 3rd-century CE Hindu-Buddhist temple ruins.

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The locals love to use salted fish (soaked/rehydrated) to cook curries, or pan-fried, then used as topped for claypot baked rice. There are really quite a few recipes out there.

My personal favourite is a salt fish soup, with tofu and minced pork meatballs.

A little goes a long way, so you don’t really need to buy a lot.

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Thanks. Nice soup. The dried fish sold here don’t look very high quality like I see in Asia (more like dog treat :frowning: )

In Moldova I ate them straight up with beer in a pub like all the locals. It was a fun experience. I ate the dried, smoked fish with both hands. Took me some time to extract all the meat whilst the locals went through their bags in no time.


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Great find. I need a car here. Getting tired of what I can access via Grab down in KL.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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