First Look

Pop Up to Plano for the Weekend Penang (Malaysian) Hawker Fare

Penang food spread
Penang food spread Didi Paterno
The thought of enduring a 34-hour flight with two layovers to Penang, Malaysia, can be overwhelming. Yet many still dream of tropical evenings in the salty sea air, sitting on a plastic stool at a folding table heaving with plates from hawkers who’ve mastered their signature dishes over generations.

But one can actually still make the dream happen. And all it takes is a drive to Plano.

Tasty Egg Roll — disguised as your standard suburban Chinese restaurant serving up cloying Chinese American favorites — is a Penang street food heaven from Friday evenings through Sundays. While this location has been open for 22 years, the Penang-influenced menu only made an appearance in 2018 when Adeleine Ooi took over the restaurant. She decided to take on the challenge of recreating her hometown favorites in the Lone Star State.

This Herculean task did not come easy. She flew back and forth from DFW to Penang, connecting with hawkers who were willing to share their lifetimes of recipes and techniques.
click to enlarge Penang weekend menu - DIDI PATERNO
Penang weekend menu
Didi Paterno
“Practice, lots of practice!” she exclaimed about perfecting the recipes. Seven dishes initially made it to their secret menu. The restaurant never advertised this new fare, but the secret was out by way of Penangite, Malaysian and Indonesian customers. Today, these dishes are posted on the wall inside the restaurant with more than 25 mains, desserts and drinks, with occasional specials posted on their Facebook page.
click to enlarge Char kway teow - DIDI PATERNO
Char kway teow
Didi Paterno
This menu can be daunting. A good place to start is the char kway teow, a stir-fried noodle dish tossed with fish cake, shrimp, mung bean sprouts, scrambled egg, green onion and lap cheong (Chinese pork sausage) served on a banana leaf. It captures the "breath of the wok," known as wok hei, penetrating each mahogany, soy-drenched strand with smoke, sweetness and umami.
click to enlarge Hainanese chicken rice - DIDI PATERNO
Hainanese chicken rice
Didi Paterno
Two rice dishes to order are Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak. Hainanese chicken, while paler in color than the golden-roasted chicken you might be used to, does not lack flavor. The seasoned broth from the poached chicken is wisely repurposed as the foundation of the rice. Dot the chicken and rice with the mix of salty dark soy and fresh fiery garlic chili water for sophisticated simplicity.
click to enlarge Nasi lemak - DIDI PATERNO
Nasi lemak
Didi Paterno
Nasi lemak is a Lego project. Using your spoon, start with a chunk of the fried chicken, add anchovy and peanut, sambal-doused cucumber slices, boiled egg and coconut rice, then eat all together. The multicolored flavor and texture spectrum explodes: spicy hot and cool, crispy and chewy.
click to enlarge Roti canai - DIDI PATERNO
Roti canai
Didi Paterno
If one is hankering for a hands-on experience, go for the chicken curry with roti canai. Tear a piece of the flaky, layered roti, dunk it into the thick, spicy coconut milk curry and use it to grab the fall-off-the-bone tender chicken.

This list of suggested dishes and a full tank of gas is more than enough to take your taste buds on a round trip to Penang — all under one roof sans a passport, plane ticket and jet lag.

Tasty Eggroll 7200 Independence Pkwy #248 (Plano), 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
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