Archive for October, 2009


IMG_1370   Lok Pin at Anson road is a place selling Fish Head Behoon, Chicken Rice, Hokkien Mee, Wantan Mee, Loh Bak and (according to the stall’s owner own saying) “Famous Asam Laksa Anson Road”. On the street in front a few more hawkers selling pancakes, fruit, Mee Goreng…

The café itself was under renovation. I don’t know what it looked like before but now it seemed  they were busy turning it into a more modern place, with more fancy seating and tables and a few flat screen TVs on the walls and giving it a so-called trendy look. We’ll have to come back another time to see the final result. I’m always a little wary about this kind of renovation. Most of the times it turns a beautiful place into a cold venue with no traditional or heritage feel left at all. I wonder what the stance of Unesco is.


 The Penang Asam Laksa we ordered was worth every sen. Nice sourish, not watery it is one of my favourite plates and one of Penang’s signature dishes, totally different from laksa from other Malaysian regions. A yummy balance of sweet, sour  and spicy flavours. One suggestion: don’t miss it!IMG_1372

Loh Bak is also very good, …especially as I forgot to pick the most important item when I was chosing among all the different goodies… Hmm, yes after they fried our plate and served it to our table, my wife wondered where actually the Loh Bak was???… Right, my blooper for the day.IMG_1383

 Where is the Loh Bak hiding, he?IMG_1381

Some tropical downpour all of a sudden helps to cool the temperature at lunch hour. 

 According to pancake specialists (not me… yet), the pancakes from this stall just opposite Lok Pin are among the better on offer. Have a look at this review of a Ban Cheang Koay stall: http://www.penangtuapui.com/2008/06/speedy-makan-makan-part-4-ban-cheang-koay-anson-road/

After a huge but short downpour, the streets are drying in only a few minutes and everybody resumes cooking, buying and eating. This place below, called “Kedai Kopi Juventus” is the neighbour of Lok Pin and sells among others Curry Mee, not FC Juventus T-shirts. It’s the old style small kopitiam with neon tubes, not fancy but I like the atmosfere perhaps more.IMG_1385

Have a look at this café just a little round the corner, I think on Siam street. These are the ones I personally like much more than the new modernised places. All it needs is a decent maintenance and eventually some restoration, not modernising. No need to make it look like boring western places without a soul.IMG_1388

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Ang Hoay Loh occupies some space on the grounds of the State Chinese Association of Penang on Perak road.

Upon arrival the parking seemed full. We drove on and made a left turn, another left and another to check again about their parking lot. I got slightly irritated by the mess on the parking ground. People just seemed to drive in and stop their car anywhere, without caring about others. That resulted in an awesome occupation of 100% of the total parking grounds by less than half of the cars that could easily have fitted in otherwise… #@$%%*!!

Right, as the saying goes: “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

You imagine the mess after a while?

You imagine the mess after a while?

   I pulled our car into the main entry drive and managed to get it between 2 or 3 others. Of course that was not helpful for the next one to arrive but he, I didn’t start this kind of not-so-smart-behaviour visual cacophony. “Where are the guards when you need them?’ came to mind.  

Anyway, we were in and got ourselves a nice table allowing me to continuously overlooking the parking lot. In case of, you know…IMG_1425

 A real nice table with strategic outlook. Now how about ordering some food.IMG_1426

 I read from other reviews that one of their must try dishes was a soup made with rich pork meat and bones stock. The kind of stock that is simmering over a low fire for hours and hours with some onions, celery, other veggies, maybe a bay leaf and a clove and herbs. Revealing in the end of the process all the finesses of their flavours.

 The soup is served with green or white cabbage and pork meat that was previously put through some kind of batter (?), then deep-fried in oil before being served into the soup.  After deep frying the pork is crispy but softens up when in the bouillon. Spring onions are added just before serving to your table. I liked it very much but had to add a few loads of white pepper as the meat and the cabbage tend to sweeten the soup too much for my liking. Anyway, thanks to the peeps that brought this dish to our attention. It’s called Bak Kee and a winner in my book although the stock could have been made richer, or so say my taste buds.IMG_1429

Among the other dishes, one was very simple but special for me, as I’m kind of an enthusiastic tofu lover.  Stir fried tofu in a (again) sweetish gravy with veggies they called leek but to me looked more like some local bak choi. Very tasty dish that was served with prawns. I only had to add some chilli and soy sauce plus as usual more of my friend: “the white pepper”, for an extra kick.

 I don’t recall the correct local name of this dish. I just call it fried tofu with prawns and veggies. My only remark: I would have preferred some more prawns and veggies.IMG_1433

 Finally, the mystery of the parking mess was about to be solved too. All the time we were hearing a ladies’ choir/singing group in the background, voices emerging from the main building. After a while the singing stopped and a crowd of older ladies emerged, all going towards different cars and starting to honk to be able to leave the premisses. So, they probably parked there in the earlier morning when the eating place was still closed, leaving their cars  all around the [then empty] place and thus oblivious to the mess they were about to create? I refuse to think this was a one-off happening. So? Maybe the Associating should try to get its act together and find a way to solve this very local problem without having to call in rocket scientists, I guess?

All together it was fun though, especially at the end. As irritated I initially was, I now just looked at the  confused scene and could not hide a grin on my face when slowly walking towards our car for allowing the local version of Motown’s Supremes or Miami’s Golden Girls  to get out of the mess started by them and them only… Funny to see and hear some of them getting a little excited for not being able to leave as fluently as they came in.

Standing in the backof this pic and just enjoying those aunties, fiercely trying to get out of the labyrinth they created. Was funny after all!

Standing in the back of this pic, just enjoying the scene of people fiercely trying to get out of the labyrinth they created. Was funny after all!

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Some thoughts, not directly related [yet] to good food, although it’s a sign on the wall that also our dear hawker food, traditional centres and even cafes and local restorans are probably more endangered than we think…  in a not too far future. 


Every time we fly back to Penang, I am mortified  to see at what quick pace George Town is changing, not always for the better. Old big mansions left without  basic maintenance are falling literally apart, sold already to the real estate “developers” who start planning how to get authorisation and permits for another high rise with shopping mall, another hotel and more so called upscale condos. However, after its listing by UNESCO in 2008, the 18 meter height restrictions were imposed. So what’s going on with city planning?A city landscaping mess... and that was only 2006!  Serious action needs to be taken to preserve and restore historical houses, heritage mansions and to not allow high rise construction everywhere.  

According to an article (March 26, 2009) by Yusof Sulaiman, eTN Asia/Pacific :

 [Quote] Together with Malacca, UNESCO has proclaimed George Town a historic site of The Straits of Malacca as it “constitutes a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century.

“It is believed there were “inconsistent and contradictory” statements given to UNESCO as part of Penang’s listing process, according to Ooi Chun Aun, an aide to Penang’s chief minister. He has now proposed holding an “official domestic inquiry” to extricate itself from being at the end of a legal lawsuit by four property developers who claim they have been prevented from continuing with their hotel building projects because of height restrictions, under terms of its World Heritage Site ruling. [Unquote]

Could be much nicer... How about cleaning away some of the road polluting fron that building? And a lick of paint on the outside walls?

Could be much nicer... How about cleaning up the car exhaust related pollution from that building? And a lick of paint on the upper outside walls.

George Town also has streets full with rows of pre-war “shophouses” where generations of Penangites lived and still live, conduct businesses, operate restaurants or traditional craft chops on the ground floor, their living quarters being upstairs. Smart way to avoid rush hour traffic from and to work. 

although many houses nowadays remain in a questionable condition.More pollution and... not cleaned in about a decade?

 IMG_1244Individual owners also have some responsibilities…



IMG_1275A good thing is that here and there people who changed those houses into pure residential housing achieved fine and remarkable results. Pictures here about a few examples along Burma road and another successful renovation along Bangkok road.IMG_1007bis2

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Contact Person: Mr. Ong Chin Hong

This restaurant in Lorong Chulia is probably older than we are. Many Penangites know the place “since always”, they have been eating at Shing Kheang Aun with family, parents and siblings since their childhood. Some actually remember the present owner when he was a young pre-teenager and the restaurant was ran by his parents!

It’s said to be renowned for its Hainanese as well as for its local Penang cuisine. Although not only a seafood place, we always order at least one fish preparation. Depending on the daily availability you get pomfret, garupa or other delicious fishes, cooked in different ways.119_FUJI0012bis

Mister Ong still uses recipes from his father, such as a pomfret or other fish cooked in a tamarind and ginger flower gravy with curry, served to your table displaying a delicate balance of flavour and taste.IMG_0964 Are you all getting hungry yet again?IMG_0965We also enjoyed a small dish of  Loh Bak. Very nice and flavourful, not dry or oily but I still prefer the one served at the Kek Seng Cafe. However, we for sure are not going to complain!

 IMG_0966Also their grilled prawns are a must-eat. They taste a little “smoky” and have that typical wok or grill flavour that I can not really describe but like so much! It’s as different as the taste of pan frying over a gas stove compared to BBQ-ing or grilling over a charcoal fire.IMG_0969

 The fresh veggies with spring onions, cabbage and mushroom were simple and just fine. They were cooked in a not spicy gravy and went along very well with our bowl of plain white sticky rice. (I always add more white pepper though and chilli, but that’s just me.)IMG_0970

For reservations – Tel: 04-2614786, Mr. Ong Chin Hong. Address: 2 Chulia Lane – 10200 Penang. Closed on Monday.

Just aside the restaurant, its own personal parking lot  including a guard, welcomes the cars of the patrons. Class!

IMG_0960Above: Lorong Chulia and its typical houses.

Unfortunately, a lot of these original pre-war shophouses turn shabby. So a good thing that Penang is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites Program since 2008. Let’s hope that concrete action will be taken to preserve and restore these houses. They were simple but cleverly built with street-long arcades providing shelter from rain or sun, but many nowadays remain in a questionable condition. BTW, being part of the Unesco heritage program is not a magical solution guaranteeing good preservation. It’s an ongoing process. Local authorities and government must act on it. Otherwise site will lose their status. So: keep pushing the elected representatives into real action to protect heritage buildings and mansions.

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This Chinese old style eatery is situated on Lebuh China, close to the corner with Lebuh King. China street is one of the oldest streets and used to be the main Chinese commercial street in the early days. In Hokkien it was called “Tua Kay”, meaning main street. Lebuh China starts just in front of  the oldest Chinese Buddhist Taoist temple in Penang, dedicated to both the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin Teng) and the patron of sea travellers (Ma Po Cho). It was built by the first Hokkien and Cantonese immigrants in the early 1800s.  IMG_1008bis

The restaurant has been around for a very long time and is well known for its Char Siu and its Kangkung Ham Har.

They also serve some real great fish tofu, cooked in a soya bean gravy. ( It’s one of my personal favourite dishes at Heng Kee). IMG_1011

We also like their very fresh little prawns. Together with the veggies, the tofu and a bowl of rice, it’s a very tasty food for Lunch.IMG_1019

Let’s not forget to add some spicy Chilli.IMG_1020

Each time we are back in Penang we try to visit Heng Kee. We don’t always succeed though as there are so many, many eating places that we also want to visit.

Heng Kee Restaurant. – Owner: Wong Chan Toong. – 6o, Lebuh China, Penang.  TEL:04-2610010

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After the accidental discovery of a Malay stall proposing a do-it-yourself Assam Laksa dish, we finally were about to reach the initial target of our expedition journey. It’s situated close to the sea, along a small river in the Kampung Jalan Baru, a Chinese community close to Batik Pulau.IMG_1475

I saw a lot of private houses that were having hawker stalls on their grounds, although most of them were not in operation. We got the impression it was a  friendly small community where everybody knew everybody. Next time we visit, I want to walk a little around in the village and also follow the river to the sea. Maybe we could try to ask some of the locals to show us around in one of their little fishing boats.IMG_1487

So,there it was! We finally found the place. We drove into a big parking lot and were ready for some reputed food. The house in the background was the major cooking place. Alongside a house in front, there were also a few stalls, selling Loh Bak and fruits.IMG_1488

Loh Bak and Fruit stallsIMG_1486

Assam Laksa & Hokkien Mee ready to be served!  At the left side of the house in the back, there is a covered terrace with tables and seats for the customers.In the beginning there only was one other table being occupied but by the time we left, people were already waiting to be seated.IMG_1484

About the quality of the Hokkien mee and the Assam Laksa, we can only agree that it is up to its reputation! I really recommend this place without hesitation and I suggest that you gals and guys go and try it out for yourself. The people serving and cleaning the tables were all very friendly. It’s a small family business from their house, only open for customers during the weekends.

The Loh Bak was also very tasty.IMG_1480



 A big bowl with tasty succulent Hokkien Mee.IMG_1478

 The Laksa, very rich with a thick fish soup.IMG_1482


 It was our first visit but clearly, we will be back for more.IMG_1483

All those little fishing boats along the river leave a very nice impression and add to the attractiveness of  this Kampung. It’s clearly not yet a site for visiting tourists and I hope it stays that way. IMG_1489



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This was going to be a challenge: I only had very few information how to find a certain place I read about. It was way out of town, a private house in a fishing village on the West Coast, near to Balik Pulau. Anyway, we’ll be trying to find it. Moreover we wanted to drive via Batu Feringgi, the Telok Bahang dam and reservoir all the way to Balik Pulau. A very scenic road through the hills of Penang. At times it remembered me of some driving I used to do in Europe’s Dolomites or Ardennes. When we finally arrived in Balik Pulau, we started asking around, got lost a few times but finally we had the impression we were nearing our destination driving along Jalan Bharu (P16). For the exact location check the map at the end of this post. Along this kampung road look out for a small bridge over a also small river; before the bridge on the right you can see the stall, it’s a small makeshift place. It’s a Malay food stall promoting its own Assam Laksa. I think the place is called Sungai Pinang kampung. We decided to have a look and have some food, in case we wouldn’t find our initial target.


A friendly Malay lady told us the Laksa on offer was a self service operation thingy. So we started to fill a bowl with those thick rice noodles, chopped some onions and the other laksa ingredients like bunga kantan flower ( torch ginger in English), cucumber, lemongrass, chilli, mint…


The fish stock is made with mackerel (ikan kembung) and its most important feature is the assam ( tamarind) which gives the soup its typical sour taste.


The good thing about that self service was that you could pick more or less of the ingredients and noodles according to your preferences .


After all the ingredients were added the lady did pour the hot Laksa broth in our bowls and then it was up to us to judge the dish.IMG_1471

 It was tasty and although the broth was rather light we did enjoy it very much. After we finished the lady put a box with homemade cookies on our table, inviting us to have some. IMG_1472

Price: 1 Ringgit/person all in! Incredibly cheap.

IMG_1469After paying we innocently asked the shop owner if she knew about some Chinese community in the neighbourhood that was reputed for its Hokkien Mee. (We didn’t mention Chinese Penang Assam Laksa, as we thought it might not please her.)  And yes, she knew about that place, only 1 or 2 km down the same road along the river on the outskirts of a local Chinese fishing village. So, we were going to have more food and more precisely the food we initially came for! I’ll write about that experience in a next post.


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IMG_1508bisA well established seafood restoran mostly patronised by locals. Fresh seafood and many fishes like garupa and pomfret, depending on the catch.


I especially enjoy their Shark’s finn soup. I understand that nowadays the PC police is frowning upon that dish but I  like the taste. There is crabmeat added. I normally spice it up by adding  white pepper and some kind of soy vinegar sauce.Sharkfinn soup

You can order your food from a large menu. Usually though my better half has a good idea what to order without looking at the menu. We only ordered a few items as we just returned from a serious food excursion to Balik Pulau.IMG_1510

For starters we got a succulent dish of prawns cooked with veggies ( flat green beans, mushrooms, carrots and onions) in a lightly thick tasty  sauce.IMG_1512 

Adding chillies and white pepper to my taste.IMG_1514

As we already had steamed whole fish many times at other places, we ordered the fish to be served grilled.IMG_1513

 It was very well done, a crispy skin with soft but tasteful fish meat that easily came of the bone. This is one of my favourite preparations and cooked really to my liking.

Siang Pin Seafood. – 598, GF-02, Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Penang. Tel:012-4960546 – 016-4522923 – Jocelyn Cheong – Sole Proprietor.



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Wa i chiak Hokkien Mee!

According to Wikipedia there are 3 kinds of Hokkien Mee. My favourite is the Penang version.

Hokkien hae mee
(prawn noodles)
Hokkien char mee
(fried noodles)
Refers to either the Penang prawn noodle or Singapore prawn noodle Refers to the Kuala Lumpur Hokkien noodle
Soup based (Penang) and stir fried (Singapore) Stir fried
Egg noodles and rice noodles Fat yellow noodles
No dark soya sauce used Dark soya sauce is used
Prawn is the main ingredient with slices of chicken or pork, squid and fish cake.
Kang Kong (water spinach) is common in the Penang version
Slices of chicken or pork, squid and cabbage


Together with Penang Assam Laksa and Char Koay Teow, Penang Hokkien Mee is one of the signature dishes of the state and more precisely of the island [Pulau] of Penang. The soup is a ‘sourish’ and ‘shrimpy’ tasting seafood broth using fresh prawns, dried shrimps and pork meat. It’s served with egg and rice noodles, small prawns, sometimes with thin slices of pork and a half hard boiled egg. Served with a spoon of chilli paste for an extra kick aiming at your taste buds. I’ve eaten Penang Hokkien Mee at different kopitiam and hawker stalls and here I’m trying to get a few of them in some kind of  ranking with my personal rating.

Kedai Kopi Kwai Lock is one of the bigger coffee shops in Pulau Tikus. It is located at the corner of Jalan Burma and Solok Moulmein.

HokkienMeeRating: 13/20.

Good balance between the sourish broth and noodles, little prawns. A decent but average plate. Good spicy chilli. It’s a big coffee shop and very busy in the morning.

Kedai Kopi Swee Kong is situated just opposite Kwai Lock, also on the junction of Jalan Burma with Moulmein. Opens very early in the morning till about 9:30. Reopens afterwards for lunch.

HokkienMeeRating: 15/20

Comes without the egg but it’s very tasty. If I recall correctly there are also some small clams mixed in the broth. Worth a try but do come early,  you might have to wait a while as the place can be very crowded.

Kafe Khoon Hiang – Jalan Dato Keramat at the corner with Jalan Dunlop.

HokkienMeeRating: 9/20

When I ordered the dish was looking very promising. Alas, at the first tasting it turned out to be a disappointment. The secret of a good typical prawn broth was definitely not mastered by this cook. Way to sweet and even adding lots of chilli paste was not able to improve the taste. A pity.

Bee Hooi Coffee Garden– on Kimberly road is a big cafe. We were strolling through the neighbourhood and decided to have some refreshments at the outside terrace. Then my eyes made contact with a Hokkien Mee stall in full schwung. Of course,I had to order a bowl> Mind you, only for analysing and rating purposes [grin].

IMG_1316  Rating: 15/20

Very good balanced broth with many prawns and added hard boiled egg.

Kedai Kopi Classic –  Address: 126, Jln Perak, opposite Padang Brown food court. It has the reputation of being one of the best Hokkien Mee stalls on the island and yes, the stall lives up to that reputation!

HokkienMeeRating: 18/20. Simply superb.

Sungai Samagagah-Kuala Jalan Bahru. Fishing village near Balik Pulau at the Kampung Jalan Baru. Private houses that open their kitchen for guests only during the weekends. This one is famous for both Hokkien Mee and Penang Assam Laksa. The Hokkien Mee was very good and served in a rich broth with plenty of sliced prawns and pork meat. Yummy.


Rating: 17/20. Excellent, full of rich flavours. Quality ingredients.

My apologies for only reviewing a small number of outlets. I’m sure there are many more excellent Hokkien Mee sellers. It would take a life time job to review them all. When returning and testing more places I’ll update this post.

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Lam Heng Cafe is a corner coffee shop at the end/beginning of Macalister Road. It’s in this place that the sisters operate their business. The kopitiam also offers Assam Laksa, Mee Jawa and their own Otak-Otak. They say the Laksa is also of superior quality but I haven’t tried it out yet. Next time…

2007 Picture courtesy to Jay Jun's blog

2007 Picture courtesy to Jay Jun's blog


Regarding the Sisters and their reputation, I admit being a tad sceptical. No doubt that their Char Koay Teow is among the better on offer in Penang but I must say that the quality is lacking consistency, especially when the skinny Sis is stirring the wok. Sometimes it’s completely out of balance, like on our visit in June, but then again, last week the plate was perfectly cooked. I don’t know how to explain those inconsistencies unless maybe that the girls are getting older and are loosing some of their skills. Not impossible, as I experienced the same with some elderly members in my own family.

I prefer the CKT cooked by this sister:

IMG_0934Anyway, my biggest complaint regarding this stall/cafe is their use of styrofoam plates and throw away chop sticks. Ok, there is no need for using their best china plates, porcelain spoons or high-end ivory chop sticks. Good hard plastic plates/spoons/chop sticks will do, thank you very much.  I’m thinking to bring my own plate and chop sticks but am a little bit afraid that might cause a tantrum… Anyway, someone with more guts than I have, ought to tell the sisters that they are really a lazy bunch, apparently oblivious regarding the impact on the environment. We, our kids and grandkids do really appreciate.  NOT!


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Ah Leng

Location :  Kafe Khoon Hiang, Jalan Dato Keramat/Corner with Jalan Dunlop, Penang. Opening hours are from 8am till 2pm and their closing day is Thursday.  It’s situated in the same  neighbourhood as  Padang Brown food court and Kedai kopi Classic. A highly recommended area for food lovers.



Anyway,  after some 12+ visits in 5 years, [trying  to make that now a 4 times visit per year] I’ve made up my mind about the Penang Char Koay Teow. It’s basically a great dish but at some places it’s way overrated. So, I stopped asking for the special or extra add-on stuff, as I personally feel that the basic dish is the right one. No need for extra big shrimps or prawns, neither for (too sweet) mantis prawns. Just K.I.S.S. =  keep it stupid simple.

I’ve had the CKT at various places and personally I prefer it with regular chicks… Oops, I mean chicken eggs, instead of duck eggs.  Anyone out there tried with goose egg? (Grin).

Thus, when we made our way to Ah Leng, I already knew I was going for the regular dish and boy, THE WORKS! It was simply a great treat!

IMG_1334 Tastewise?  The fast frying-and-tossing-noodles technique of the wokmeister plus a professional handling of the heat, resulted in a most delicious Char Koay Teow dish.  Malaysia, truly Asia? CKT: truly Penang!


Another stall in the same Kafe was selling Hokkien Mee. As I’m a big fan of that dish, I could not resist and ordered a bowl.


IMG_1337It looked very nice but after tasting, it was a bit of a disappointment. Not spicy, not sour, the soup tasted sweet.  A pity for sure, but then again, who am I to judge? Lots of people, looking like regulars, came and ordered the Hokkien Mee. So, lets agree to disagree and accept that personal taste is very different from person to person.


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