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© Stephanie Meyer
In the early days of my travel life, I fell in love with Malay food and with the island of Penang. Pound for pound, this little island may have some of the best food in the world. On Kimberley Street or New Lane in the central city of Georgetown, the hawker stalls come alive at night and they serve some of the best chow in town. Penang is known as one of the world’s greatest hawker capitals, so believe me when I tell you that the best food isn’t found in restaurants, but instead comes from any of the gazillions of little food stalls that typically focus on one iconic dish, usually a signature family favorite passed down through the generations. From laksa to crispy oyster omelet, from wonton mee (noodle and wonton soup) to curry mee served dry and spicy, from rojak to Chinese steamboats. Everyone has their favorite, and it’s taken me decades and many trips to this part of the world to develop a semblance of expertise.
One of the most delightful and thrilling finds was a small spicy-grilled-chicken stall that served a hybridized Chinese-Malay-Thai-inspired dish representative of the biggest trend in Penang-style street fare, the mash-up. It took me years of noodling in the kitchen to figure out something barely resembling the insane aroma, heat, texture and sweet toothsome excellence of the little barbecue cart I found in 2003 and was never able to find again. Some food discoveries are like that—quicksilver. Along the way to perfecting that chicken dish (or failing to, depending on how you look at it), I made this recipe. It’s nowhere near the original model, but oftentimes accidents and experiments create new favorites. The results here aren’t authentic, but they are delicious, and I make this almost every week in the summer at the lake house. If you like grilled chicken (and I love grilled chicken), this recipe is for you.
Go to Recipe: Grilled Peanut-Lime Cornish Hens, Penang-Style