IN one word, Kandaqstan brings up images of crowds and long queues patiently waiting at a stall or restaurant for a plate of steaming hot rice and a melange of curries with meat, fish, eggs, ladies’ fingers, coconut chutney and green chillies. And it comes from Penang, from the heyday when it was a bustling free port and workers, stevedores and even top maritime officials wanted a quick meal that had the daily dose of protein and carbohydrates, with flavours that would make you eat any time of the day and night. That meal is called Nasi Kandar: rice and dishes that were originally in pots within wicker baskets balanced on a wooden pole and brought to the gates of the 24/7 ports in George Town and Butterworth. What is it in this meal that people rave about, lust for, travel for miles and line up for? And where are the best nasi kandar? What gets the maximum five ladies’ fingers on the Kandaqstan rating system?