Putu mayong is a plain looking Indian food that many might not give a second look. At one glance it will pass for mee hoon or vermicelli as that is what it looks like.
What is putu mayong?
The name of this food basically gives away what it is is all about, which are rice flour and coconut. Some say that putu mayong in its current noodles form might have been influenced by the Chinese when Asian countries began trading centuries ago.
How to eat putu mayong?
To me, having putu mayong in this form makes good eating sense for a simple reason. In its noodles form, coconut sugar and grated coconut gets mixed up really well into the putu mayong. Hence, you get a taste of the coconut sugar and grated together with every bite of the putu mayong. For me who have a sweet tooth, this is as good as it gets.
My parents, on the other hand prefer more grated coconut to go with the putu mayong. I guess this is because when you bite into the ‘rice flour noodles’, every strand will be accompanied by the release of the coconut milk from the grated coconut. This gives it a small spurt of the milk which in turn will tease the taste buds and leave you craving for more. Since my mom is usually the one who does the buying of the putu mayom, she will always ask for extra grated coconut.
I guess most of us will be forgiven to be found thinking that with such a simple food, surely every putu mayong will taste the same. I have been trying out putu mayong from different coffee shops and street vendors and have this to say. A good putu mayong will still stand out.
Where is the best putu mayong in Alor Setar?
If you want to get a taste of what good putu mayong taste like, there is this uncle who sells it at night just opposite Alor Setar Recreation Club. His cart can be found on the road, on same side of Amansuri Residences from around 7.30 p.m. most nights. By 9.00 p.m. he is usually sold out.
He used to be there almost every night but I guess age is catching up with him and he takes more off days now. I have always remembered his cart there for as long as I can remember and mom have been buying from him for that long too.
You get 6 putu mayong for RM5. It is pricier than the usual putu mayong sold by other vendors but I feel they are worth it. No other putu mayong has come close to it in terms of fragrance and taste.
What makes his putu mayong nice is he keeps them warm in his steamer on his cart. Over the years I have learned to tell his putu mayong apart from others. When he lifts the cover of his steamer, there is always this fragrant smell that teases your nose. And if that is not enough, when you open up your packet of putu mayong at home, you get another whiff of fragrance from the coconut sugar.
Give the putu mayong a good squish with your fingers to mix it with the coconut sugar and grated coconut and you will get a complimentary blend of sweetness and creaminess with the bland ‘rice flour noodles’ in a mouthful. For me, it always leaves me wanting more of the sweet fix. For my mom, she prefers it with less coconut sugar and more grated coconut as she likes the taste of the grated coconut more.
Mom started buying his putu mayong again after a 2 year hiatus forced by Covid-19. She got hooked back onto it after one reacquaintance with it. On one of the nights when she went to his usual location, she noticed that there were very little putu mayong left. Add that to the fact that a man rushed down his car and tried to cut queue to get his putu mayong, the uncle’s son told Mom that many regular customer’s would go to their house to get their putu mayong after Mom asked him why there were so little putu mayong left on his cart. Mom, of course asked for his location.
Since then, she has been going early to his house which is located behind INS Maternity Center, to buy the putu mayong. On her first visit there, she discovered that he was still making his putu buluh. These putu buluh rarely made it to roadside cart as they would be scooped up by the early birds. His putu buluh is quite special as they are mixed with raisins. However, I wished I could have more raisins in them.
Between putu mayong and putu buluh, I think I prefer the putu mayong.
There is another cousin of putu mayong, the putu piring. Steamed in small plates, this Malay version of putu is shaped like a flat cake. Unlike the putu mayong which comes in strands like noodles and putu buluh which comes steamed in a bamboo case, putu piring is steamed in a small circular plate with the coconut sugar sitting in the circular flat cake. He doesn’t make this but I have tried this from one of the stalls nearby. His putu mayom is still my favourite.
The uncle occasionally will make masala vadai to sell. He doesn’t make many of them but they are quite delicious and probably among the best vadai that I have tasted. His vadai has a rich aromatic taste of herbs and has a nutty taste. You find slices of green chillis and curry leaves in this dal. However, one needs to take precaution not to take this snack too often as it is fried in oil.
And this uncle’s putu mayong remains the best in Alor Setar. However, it might fade into one of the food that folks here would reminisce about as this uncle is already in his 70s.
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