18 December 2014

B-Kyu Tour of Penang - Macalister Road, Jalan Transfer Roti, Wa Kafe, Penang Road and Sri Ananda Bahwan

The last bits of our Penang trip, where we unsurprisingly find out that what's famous isn't always necessarily best.

On the edges of Georgetown we find some upscale fancier restaurants, complete with greeters and cooling mist.

But it's the wee market stalls we love the best, so we headed down this promising looking market street.

It's all famous. All of it. Some even take the name of other 'famous' dishes at other places in order to be even more famous.

So we decided to not worry about that nagging feeling that the famous places weren't going to be any good and dig in and try some dishes we hadn't eaten yet.

First up a plate of loh bak for 5 ringitt, a mix of fried pork coated in tofu skin, tofu cubes, prawn fritter, fish balls and a spring roll with dipping sauces. It reminded us of those 'mixed entrees' you get in old style chinese restos. Sauces were much more sweet than spicy.

Kangkung squid (famous, natch), almost raw squid served on a bed of cooked kang kong (a type of water spinach).

The vegetation is hiding under the squid, like opposite day in Spongebob Squarepants.

We thought we should get in some fried oyster. It's famous after all. Famous! The char koay kak was not so lucky to be famous.

Fried oyster face. A plate of sweet tasting oysters cooked in an omelette and served with chili sauce mixed with ground peanuts, a fantastic texture.

Just down from famous land the friendliest dude in Penang is making small pandan flavoured pancakes.

We can never resist green food. Hot and coconutty, they were a perfect sweet end.

Is there any band more excellent than the Excellent Band?

Breakfast again, this time back on Jalan Transfer near the Malilala Bakery.

Roti with soft poached googy piled on top of charcoal grilled slices of buttered bread. Pour on soy and sprinkle pepper as you please,

Roti with chicken curry. Awesome chicken curry, the star of the show. Thick and red, the maryland sits on top but all you really want is the sauce.

We've had terrific wan tan mee back home in Sydney, so we give this fella a try on Kimberly Street.

It was OK. We're getting fussy after only a few days in Penang. The green chilis in soy to the side packed a potent hit, whooh!

Action station in random kitchen.

Newsagent pussycat helping with the paw swiping, which must be done at least twice daily.

We'd earmarked, or stomach-marked, this place on an earlier walk up around Lebuh King. We saw fresh Malay food which is some of the best food you can hope to find.

Ready-to-go goodies, it's a help yourself affair where you load up your plate and the bill gets added up at the end. Expect to pay about 8 ringitt, more if you have lots of meat dishes. We get in before the lunchtime officeworker rush and it's all fresh and ready to go.

The owner / cook is not so lucky to have a lazy start to the day, she gets up at 4.30 and goes to the market for ingredients then cooks all the dishes, at least 15 different kinds. She was proud of her food which is always a good sign.

Plate no 1:Salted egg, tofu in sambal, yellow fish curry and okra, green beans with kidneys.

Plate no 2: Cabbage, potato leaves, potato, green beans sliced with carrot and a big piece of deep fried crumbed chicken.

Wa Cafe is on the corner of Lebuh Gereja and Lebuh King.

We saw this 'window sherbet' shop earlier in the trip and make a special trip to try it. It's a surprise it doesn't have 'famous' on the sign, because it actually is famous.

Ais sarbat has been served through a window on this spot on Lebuh Tamil since the 1930's. It's a mix of coconut water with rose essence, basil seeds and shavings of young coconut.

It's average. It has that lovely supersweet 'pink' flavour but it's kind of flacid, like it needs a load of ice. Maybe they make it without ice for gweilos. Who knows.

We head up the top of Mount Penang Hill, have an expensive beer, then go back.

Killer doberman.

How can we go past this pretty picture? Plus, it's not just famous its 'famouse'.

Great shophouse vibe inside the Joo Hooi cafe on Penang Road.

Great shophouse aunties.

It was all looking great but the Penang laksa just didn't seem to be made with any care. There was little or no mint or chopped ginger flower. The broth was fine and had a good amount of fish but not as thick as the one at Air Itam. Shawn liked it. Alison poo-pooed.

A duck meat th'ng is a light broth with silky rice noodles, a good simple soup. There was a small amount of shredded duck meat on top. Thumbs up.

And because it's right next door, we decide to try the Famous Cendol, completely ignoring the probably just as good stall across the alleyway.

The workers here move quickly, there didn't seem to be a lot of careful creation just a 'turn them over fast' frenzy.

What we ended up with is a milky bowl of ice with a spoonful of gula melaka that turns the milk brown. When you drink up the last of it there's that cornflakes at the end of the bowl flavour, someone should make an ice cream flavour of this stuff.

There's simply too many cafes and restos to try in Penang in a week, they all look so inviting.

For a last evening feast we head back to Little India to Sri Ananda Bahwan for some vegetarian fare. Little India in the early evening is one of the best times to wander through. Music is blaring from the shops and colourful saris shout out their vibrant hues too.

We choose some thali, a mix of curries and daal with rice and chapati. Even the after dinner sweets are served at the same time.

A masala dosai served with a selection of minted yoghurt, daal and a curry for dipping.

We are intrigued by the Manchurian Mushrooms, perhaps they are some plot to brainwash us into becoming vegetarian. These are fantastic, it's like sweet'n'sour pork for hippies.

On our last night we discover our dream bar, which is basically a bottle shop with a bunch of plastic tables out on the street, and a barman waiting for his application for charm school to be approved. We are also thankful we knew about it on our last night and not the first, it would have been a messy week.

Definitely not famous.

We wonder home on our last night. So much food to try. Only one lifetime.

For a final Penang breakfast we hit the streets back around Jalan Hutton, it became a favourite spot for us. We especially liked the tea without the shovel fulls of sugar normally found elsewhere.

Roti with egg and chicken curry for our final Penang breakfast. Giddyup.

We love Penang.


  1. You went to "Antarabangsa" - wow! Created a bit of envy, and few smiles and laughs here . Four cans of beer for about RM 10 , cheap dodgy whiskey from Burma - and they might even sell Sarawak lemon gin - the fastest way out of Georgetown on a Saturday night. Very "international', indeed.
    The place appears to be getting a bit of publicity of late. The bar at the posh E&O, it certainly isn't.

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  3. Fantastic travel post as always :)



Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).