January 4, 2015 by Wayne.
I’m writing this during the trip – during the downtime when we head back to home base, to rest our stretched stomachs and prepare for the next food journey. And charge phones.
The following is a rough account of our food trip to Penang, coupled with some shots I took along the way (low quality JPEGs to minimize load time, the full album is on FB).
…which reminds me, I haven’t used Day One in ages. Since last year, really.
We arrived at the airport and hailed a white cab to Cocoa Mews. The staff at this place are super friendly btw. We got a quick tour of home base. The doorway is pretty much hidden away, but it’s surprisingly roomy inside. We were shown to our room, which ended up being pretty tiny. Bunk bed, a coat rack, a small wooden clothes-rack, and just about enough space to put our bags down. It seemed more like an afterthought than a room, like a place to fill the gap between the last regular room and the shower. Oh, yeah, communal shower and toilets. Strangely, I didn’t have problems waiting for other people on the floor, since no one else seemed to really use them. Hmmm.
Once we put our stuff down, we headed out for a quick walk through Armenian street and beyond. I wanted to get the briyani at Jawi House for our first lunch, but it was closed. Thanks, new year. Feeling relatively despondent, we trudged around, stopping for brief coconut water breaks, and ended up at a food court opposite the Chew jetties.
Lunch here was, unsurprisingly, very forgettable. Terrible start to the food journey. But I managed to meet up with a dude from Lowyat and bought his Canon 600D for a good price. A very good price. Spent some time figuring out how to work the video mode though.
We then walked to Prangin Mall, where Danny picked up some shorts and I bought a new class 10 memory card. Before realizing that I already had one. Yay!
From there, we headed straight to an early dinner at Naughty Nuri’s. Very good ribs here, for quite a reasonable price (both characteristics that do not apply to Acme South, by the way). The meat here is fall-off-the-bone tender, though the sauce isn’t particularly noteworthy. It does, however, step up a notch when liberally slathered with the chilli. Definitely a recommended destination if you have the craving for ribs – and I think there’s a newly opened branch in Sri Hartamas or something.
We hailed a cab back after that (really didn’t need to, it’s so near! But we didn’t know that at the time) and complained about the smell. We were then moved to two separate rooms for the night. Each had a queen-sized bed and a TV on a dresser. Plus a coat rack AND a clothes-rack each. Basically, each room was double the size of the previous one. Good stuff. Good staff.
After that, Sasha and friend (Nicole?) picked us up and we headed to Narrow Marrow. Interesting place. The giant yeti thing was really cool. Plus the toddy mojito was interesting. Most importantly though…cute kitten! Stray kitten that they’re probably gonna take in. Didn’t manage to get a photo of it cos I didn’t bring my camera out at the time. Silly me.
After that, we went back and rested for a bit. Unpacked our stuff etc. Then it was out to Beratur for supper (less than 2 minutes’ walk from Cocoa Mews). We took the beef curry and squid egg. Exquisite stuff. On a whole different level from the shit that dares to call itself nasi kandar here in KL. Over in Penang, it’s basically like a religion.
What a perfect way to end the first day of the new year. So so good.
After nasi kandar, we walked down Chulia street to explore a bit. Went through love lane too, after which we headed back.
As soon as we got up, we walked down to Chulia Street and rented bicycles for RM8 per day (from Betel Nut). Got them for 2 days, which meant we’d have to return them at 10pm on day three. Receptionists (god damn, can’t remember their names) were pretty shocked when we told them we managed to rent for RM8 instead of RM10. Granted, they weren’t mountain bikes but those really aren’t necessary. I got a light one that handled decently enough and made it super easy to quickly transition from sidewalk to road. Pretty much a must when you’re cycling in the hellhole known as Penang roads.
We then cycled over to Jalan Transfer for some roti canai banjir with ayam, as well as roti bakar and half-boiled eggs. Pretty good stuff. Would like to get the roti canai separately in the future, so I can see just how crisp it is without the chicken curry.
After breakfast, we headed over to the camera museum. But only after getting very lost and making a huge circle back to where we were. An hour later, we managed to find Muntri street and checked out the museum. Very cool stuff. I usually never recommend tourist spots, but this is definitely an exception if you can spare the time. There was a nice guided tour too. All for RM10 each (thanks, expired student card!).
Afterwards, we cycled back to Armenian street and ate at Jawi house. As per day one plan. The lamb stew (can’t remember the proper name) was alright. The briyani, though, was excellent. Easily one of the best I’ve tasted; it beats Fierce curry house by a pretty massive margin.
Really good stuff, which is why it’s #3 on Trip Advisor for Georgetown eateries, I guess. A lot of the locals don’t seem to know about it. Apparently it was opened around 2 years ago by a cultural conservationist and seeks to preserve Jawi recipes.
It was back to Cocoa Mews then, where we rested for a bit. I began editing and uploading photos, as well as writing this post.
And then it was on to the centerpiece of the trip – the legendary Siam Road ckt.
Although, of course, we got hopelessly lost trying to get there. Spent over an hour cycling, and about the same time waiting for our order once we arrived. I had the time to write this long ass caption on Instagram:
Plebs argue over the best ckt in Penang, Malaysia, the world etc – but they’re missing the point when it comes to this place.
Siam road ckt isn’t really about the food. It’s about the experience. You cycle here from little India, get lost, refer to old school maps, and end up in a queue 1 hour later. You order and watch him do the old dip technique in lieu of washing the plates. He fans the spitting charcoal flame while two dozen Asian eyes flick across the shop, stealing stares at the master’s stall across the road. There’s a curious glazed sheen to these eyes – a numb vacantness as they wait in despair, desperation, animal hunger. You wonder if yours look the same. Maybe less slinty.
But after the first sixty minutes, you settle into a most peculiar, serene state of mind. Time slows down but it doesn’t matter because you’ve stopped looking at the clock. Instead, you watch the shadows of newcomers dance across your table; you exchange nods with your fellow waiting comrades and take sips of your ever-diluting tea.
And then it comes and you’re done in a few minutes and you swear you’ll never wait that fucking long again. But you will, of course. It’s the best ckt in the world, after all.
Although word has it that the Ah Leng ckt at night is just as good. Or, rather, just as good in its own way since it features a dryer, more seafood-y kind of ckt.
Immediately after ckt, we cycled directly back to Chulia street to meet up with Sasha for dinner. Danny & I had the wan tan mee while she had koay teow th’ng.
After dinner, we went over to Mugshot Cafe for a bit and had the jackfruit & gula melaka homemade yoghurt. Sasha took a latte though and said it was just alright. Mugshot’s really beautiful inside. Loving all these Penang cafes in heritage houses. Though I bet it gets annoying after a while, the same way I’m sick of Melbourne-ripoffs in KL.
Oh, and of course (of course!), midnight supper was a trip to the one and only Line Clear. The fried chicken was dry and tough this time round, but the squid was as good as I remembered. And the kuah that we got…my good god. That banjir deliciousness. It’s insanely good. I could live off just the rice and the multitude of curries, I really could.
Like a crackhead who can’t be long parted with his fix, Danny went to the gym in the morning, purportedly for a pre-breakfast workout. Naturally, he got lost, and missed breakfast. I went ahead to check out Toh Soon cafe but apparently, it’s closed permanently. I might be wrong though. After walking around a bit (okay, a lot), I had Tuai Pui curry mee at Kimberly, which was on the list anyway. Pretty good stuff! Was a nice change being able to sit in a not-crowded place, too.
The plan was to head to Hameediyah for lunch, but Danny got lost exiting the gym and by the time we met up, we had to head right over to the 1600 pandas installation first. I parked my bike outside the Armenian Heritage Hotel (Danny didn’t bring his), and we walked over to Cheong Fatt Tze mansion. Which isn’t on Cheong Fatt Tze road, for whatever reason.
The panda installation was very disappointing. Tiny pandas scattered low down on the floor with a shitload of people crowded around, trying to take photos. What a waste of time queuing up (and the queue for this was insane, though at least fast-moving).
After that, we walked to Budan’s Brew down Argus lane/street/whatever. Very secluded spot, this cafe. Interior was very bleh, but the stuff served (that I tried) was quite impressive. I had a potent green tea latte with a delectable huge croissant – very fluffy inside, very crisp outside. Great stuff. A step ahead of the usual fare in KL, as per usual with Penang.
We then walked back to pick up my bike and headed back to Cocoa Mews. After a short rest, Sasha picked us up to visit the 2nd hand book stores at Chowrasta. I bought 5 books, and I’m really not sure why. The pressure, I guess. They weren’t going for cheap, to be honest. If you’re in KL, you’re probably better off just going for warehouse sales. Especially Popular’s, which tends to stock some sensational titles hidden amongst the usual suspects.
The book stalls are quite a sight, though. Books tower overhead in loose rafia-string-bundles, and at some spots there’s just barely enough space to squeeze through. Certainly no space to turn around. Or even bend down to see the books at the lower levels. Those stacks are doomed to obscurity, at least until they’re picked up and replaced with their more visible compatriots.
After all the book excitement, we headed over to China House for their legendary cakes. Legendary to me, at least. I really do love them, they’re so much better than – yeah, you get the drill. And of course I love the layout. Such a beautiful, beautiful place with so many sections to explore and sit in. We ordered 3 slices of cake but couldn’t finish them.
Initially, we planned to get dinner at Batu Ferringhi and catch the sunset there. We decided to forgo that and grabbed Hokkien Mee at Presgrave instead. Truly excellent stuff. Added on pork belly, roast pork and pork intestines for maximum porkiness.
Once we reached Batu Ferringhi, we went over to Bora Bora cafe by the beach. It’s a bit further down from Hard Rock cafe. Which was where YY was. Which I knew because I accidentally looked at my newsfeed while trying to get to FB notifications. Oh well. Life eh?
Anyway, we had mango lassi by the beach. It was pretty shite. Sasha assured us it was good the previous time she was there (sure, Sasha!). At least the beach was windy as fuck. Too windy to light up, even. We walked along the beach as the darkness swelled, then headed back.
Back at Cocoa Mews, we picked up our bicycles and returned them. A sad moment, this. I truly enjoyed cycling around for food places – it’s much much faster than walking. Although it’s also much easier to miss landmarks/street signs etc and subsequently get very lost. Also, can’t really take photos while you cycle. More difficult to, at least.
Right after returning the bikes, we walked over to Line Clear for our final nasi kandar of the trip. I’ll miss you so much, but I’ll definitely come back for you! We had kambing and daging this time round, and I can’t even tell which round was better. So goddamn good, Line Clear.
At 9.30 in the morning, we left for Hameediyah. It was closed. We therefore went over to Tai Tong dim sum instead, since it was really nearby. Plus it’s a Yenchieboy recommendation. That has a lot of cachet round these parts.
The dim sum was pretty good. Didn’t fancy the century egg porridge much, but I’ve never been much of a fan of porridge. Keep that for when I’m too old for solids, I always say.
After that, it was back to the hostel to pack and check out. We left our bags downstairs with the receptionist, and headed off to get oh chien. But I realized, too late, that I had brought us down the wrong end of the road. Was a bit too near our departure time to try to head back down and weather through the queue, so we headed to Sky Hotel (Wai Kee) Char Siew rice instead. Ended up having to wait for 30 minutes for this one. If not more.
Was it worth it? Kinda. I think my plate got too much burnt ends though, there was hardly any meat. Definitely a good deal better than what I’m used to, of course.
After that, it was back to the hostel, where we got into our booked cab and headed off to the airport.
And so that wrapped up an incredible trip to Penang. I’ll miss Georgetown a hell of a lot. I’m already missing it now, as I put in the photos here in KL.
It’s not too early to plan the next food trip, right?
Personal fave spots this trip:
- Nasi Kandar Beratur, Jln Kapitan Keling (beef curry, squid egg) – opens around 10pm
- Jalan Transfer roti canai banjir – mornings
- Jawi House Cafe Gallery, Lebuh Armenian (beef briyani)
- Presgrave 888 Hokkien Mee, Lebuh Presgrave
- Siam Road char koay teow – opens around 3pm
- Camera museum, Jalan Muntri
- Line Clear nasi kandar, Chulia street (squid curry, daging, kambing)
- Budan’s Brew, Argus lane (green tea latte, croissant)
- China House (ALL THE CAKES)
- Sky Hotel (Wai Kee) char siew rice, Chulia street
Spots missed (but on the list):
- Hameediyah, Lebuh Campbell (briyani, chicken curry, lamb korma, murtabak)
- Lam Ah Coffee Shop, intersection of beach & chulia, opposite lebuh pantai fire station (beef koay teow, oh chien)
- Hot Bowl (white curry mee + deboned noodles)
- Lorong Seratus Tahun (deep fried pork intestine noodles)
- Bangkok lane mee goreng
- Ayer Itam laksa
- Ah Leng ckt at night
- Ban Leong Ean coffee shop, Armenian street (hokkien mee)
- The Alley, Stewart Lane (cronuts, churros)
- Mish Mash, Muntri street (ginger soda, nachos)
- Passion Heart, Muntri street (sandwich, cakes)
- Penang hill
- Tropical spice garden
- Peranakan mansion
- Penang butterfly farm
- Penang national park