I have written many posts on the food in Penang – where I have been and where I have eaten. Some places I will go back again and again. Others I will only go once – it was either not worth revisiting or it was just too far to get there.
Penang is well known for the best food in Malaysia, and most who have tried do agree it is the best place to sample a cross section of a true Malaysian food culture – from cheap hawker food to the expensive fine dine restaurant at historic colonial mansion and 5-stars international beach hotels. There is food to suit everyone’s budget.
In this last visit, I have visited a couple of new places, and revisited a few of my favourites.
“The Nyonya Breeze” is an authentic Peranakan or Straits Chinese restaurant, located at the upmarket Straits Quay at Sri Tanjung Tokong. It is a way out from where we lived on the other side of the island. It was my first visit there. I love a good nyonya food, and Nyonya Breeze did not failed me. It lived up to my expectation of a good Nyonya cuisine, especially the Nyonya curry – Kapitan Chicken. In addition, I ordered Inche Kabin (deep fried chicken), Choon Piah, Jiew Hu Char, Belacan Fried Rice and Nasi Ulam. I was blown away by the delicate and yet complex flavour of the Kapitan curry chicken. It was one the best dish on the table. I thought the price was reasonable for a restaurant quality Nyonya food, which is not a simple food to prepare and cook. I will go back again and again if I have lived closer to the Straits Quay.
Another new place that I have tried on this trip was a seaside Thai restaurant, “Khun Thai” or “Simply Thai”. My partner and I came across this restaurant last year when it was opened only a week. It is a distance away from the city of George Town, on the way to Balik Pulau. It is located in Gertak Sanggul, and has a lovely view towards Pulau Betong and the open sea. It is idealic with a rustic “kampung” (village) feel. On this trip, we were making a road trip to Balik Pulau in search of the famed Penang Asam Laksa. I will come to that later.
The last time we discovered this restaurant, we had a fresh coconut juice. A nice, refreshing way to cool down in the hot, humid weather listening to the waves crashing against the shore. This time, we ordered 4 dishes to share – soft shell crab, glass noodles with king prawns, kerabu squids and duck eggs salad. We love our Thai food. Unfortunately, Simply Thai is just that…simply Thai. It did nothing for us. We were quite disappointed. The kerabu squid was so spicy that killed the flavour of this dish. On a scale of 10 for hotness, it hits over the 10 mark! The soft shell crab was just plain battered, and the duck eggs were bland with uninteresting flavour and texture. The glass noodle was the only decent dish on the table, with the prawns overcooked and tough. Maybe we did not ordered the right dishes. The only thing we enjoyed most at this restaurant was the beach settings, and the Tuk-Tuk outside with a puppy sleeping underneath the front wheel.
Poor puppy looked like just been ran over by the Tuk-Tuk.
Before, we stopped at Khun Thai on our way back from Balik Pulau – probably one of the remaining old township on the island – we had a bowl each of the famous Balik Pulau Laksa. This was the first time I have tried the most talkabout laksa in this small town. I ordered the Asam Laksa, and another bowl of Siam Laksa. The two types of Laksa originated from Penang, and a must try for any visitors to Penang. Otherwise, you have never been to Penang. Both laksa were extremely good at this little stall, next to the old wet market (which was unfortunately closed down by the local council). Rich and complex with plenty of all mashed up mackerels in the spicy, fragrant broth. The spoonful of “Heh Ko” (prawn paste) added into the broth lifted the saltiness with a pungent but yet aromatic flavours. I also tried the sour plum nutmeg juice served at the “kopitiam” (coffee shop). It was worth the drive and trip for one of the best in Penang. Other places that serves good Penang Asam Laksa includes Air Itam and Padang Brown.
Another Thai place I tried on this trip was at the Chinese clan jetty. I have been there once, and revisited on this trip with a friend from Sydney who happened to be back at the same time visiting her parents. This Thai restaurant is family owned and they actually lived and cooked from the same jetty home. I love the tranquility of this simple and humble home cooked open air restaurant. I was even lucky enough to spot a vibrant blue kingfisher a few metres from us. This restaurant serves humble meal at a reasonable price.
As we left the place, we walked back towards the main road, Weld Quay. Along this stretch of road spreading across the five different clan jetties are pockets of street stalls selling famous Penang hawker food. One particular street stall struck me which had been there from generation to generation of the same family, selling Penang “goreng” ie Penang style battered street snacks – sweet potatoes, yam, banana, cempaka (type of tropical seed fruit), and other varieties. I had to try some and they were extremely tasty, unhealthy and addictive. This is the best stall for the Penang goreng snacks and very reasonably cheap.
Penang without fail has to be the single most interesting place for food in Malaysia.