Heritage on a Plate

Try These 3 Japanese Food Places in Penang

Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hi, guys! I wanted to show you something a little different for today’s post.

I’ve really been digging into all the new Japanese food spots that have opened in Penang recently. It’s a pretty new experience for me, coming from a very Indian and local Penang upbringing. So, with a friend in tow, I went Japanese food hopping the other weekend. Here’s a three interesting places you might enjoy!

Snacks at Fuku in George Town

Fuku Eatery and Desserts is a cafe restaurant, book and merchandise store as well as a chocolate bar in George Town. It’s a a lot of things at once! Luckily, the food is good. Like, suprisingly good.

japanese food snacks penang george town fuku 1

Since it was brunch time, we ordered light (ish). We got the sweet potato croquette, tori karaage (fried chicken mmm) and fries. The croquettes were good, but the tori karaage was one of the best I’ve ever had. Perfect amount of spice for my Penang palate, a nice cooling mayo sauce to complement it, and a fresh tangy burst of flavour from the lemon. I’m definitely going back for it.

And by the way, make sure to stop by the chocolate bar. The chocolate is good, made in Malaysia and they have an assortment of very interesting flavours to try. Great for souvenirs!

japanese food snacks penang fuku tori karaage

Sushi Lunch with a View at Akiyoshi in Jelutong

Akiyoshi just opened recently, and they’re branding themselves as an izakaya-style bar in Penang. Informed by several Japanese shows on Netflix, I can tell you that izakaya means “informal bar.“ I’m not sure what a formal bar is, or how high it’s been set, but I’ll get back to you.

We ordered the small sushi platter and honestly, it was pretty fun having a few drinks, eating sushi and looking out at the sea. I’m no sushi connoisseur, but I thought the ones here was alright. Nothing really bowled me over, but it was fair fun and they had a beer promotion going. I’d come back with friends who prefer more subtle sushi flavours, especially if we’re planning on drinks.

japanese food sushi penang jelutong akiyoshi
japanese food penang sushi akiyoshi automall

Donburi Dinner at Isaribi Tei in George Town

I’m going to come out and say that I really, really love Isaribi Tei. Why? Well for one, the food is damned good. It doesn’t feel watered down or overly-localised for the Penang crowd. Secondly, the guy who runs this place is grumpy. Not rude or unpleasant, just a grumpy old guy. And I love it.

Look, when you do what I do for a living, you eat in a lot of restaurants. Food trucks, vendor stalls, I’ve been to quite a few. And when you find a place that has character and isn’t afraid to be itself, you hang on to it. This place is one of those.

The reviews on Google are divisive. The owner will give you a lecture about asking for extra wasabi and not finishing it. There aren’t any young adults in uniform to greet you with a preppy Kon'nichiwa and a bow while they slowly die inside. In short, you’re going to love it, or hate it.

For our visit, we ordered salmon croquette (deja vu), ebi (shrimp) gyoza - which I forgot to take pictures of, rainbow maki sushi and kaisen katsu donburi. The last one is a rice bowl with fried fish and oyster omelette.

All of it was really good, but you already know that. I don’t have any training in Japanese cooking, but I immediately tasted the difference in the sushi. The rice preparation adds so much great texture and flavour. I cant really think of any other sushi place I’ve been to here that did it so well.

japanese food penang isaribi rainbow maki sushi

The kaisen katsu took a bit of getting used to on my part. Most of the donburi in Penang are chicken katsu curry or some variation of that. The salty, briny sea flavours here took me by suprise. I really grew to enjoy it, but I can’t seem to find any information online about this type of donburi. If you know anything, leave a comment!

japanese food penang isaribi donburi

Also, the sake was good and I got pretty tipsy. Bonus!

Food Experiences are Human Experiences

“So what’s up with all the Japanese food lately, Danny?” I hear you ask. Well, I believe that food is a way into a place - into someone’s home, their experiences, even their hearts. There isn’t a type of cooking more diametrically contradictory to Indian cooking than Japanese cooking, in my mind. The philosophy of flavour and ingredients are completely different.

So, I’m on a journey to learn a different worldview. And I’m doing it by eating really delicious Japanese food. Pretty good deal! I hope you enjoy being on this journey with me. Until next time, guys :)

Try These 3 Delicious Food Places at Jalan Alor and Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

Food Tour, Malaysian Food, TravelDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! It’s been a month of long weekends and holidays here in Malaysia. I finally took a well-needed break and headed down to Kuala Lumpur to catch up with friends. And guess what we filled our time with? Yup, here’s even more food for your reading pleasure.

First, A Quick Brunch at Jalan Alor

 Kam Heong Chicken

Kam Heong Chicken

 Salted Egg Fried Beans

Salted Egg Fried Beans

 Tuhau from Sabah, sambal and fermented variety

Tuhau from Sabah, sambal and fermented variety

I arrived, as I usually do in places, hungry and ready for food. My friend Sarah joined me for a quick lunch with a twist - she’d brought some tuhau from Sabah.

Tuhau is a Kadazan Dusun appetizer made from wild ginger. It’s often prepared with sambals or sometimes fermented and used as a garnish, and its very hard to find on the Peninsula! It pays to have friends who also love food :)

We settled in for some simple local favourites, and the tuhau really brought an exciting flavour to the table (pun!). Crunchy, with a strong herb taste, fragrant and pungent, it elevated a simple and very common selection of lunch dishes into something special.

 I spent way too long trying to think of duck puns

I spent way too long trying to think of duck puns

 Pork Ear in Sweet Soy Sauce

Pork Ear in Sweet Soy Sauce

The next day, we came back to this stretch of Jalan Alor to visit a shop called Uncle Lim. If you’ve been following our blog posts, you’ll know I have a special place in my heart for good duck rice. And this one was pretty good! We also got a helping of pork ear that was delicious.

The next time I’m in the area, I’m definitely coming back for this. The duck rice stall is called Pin Chen and you’ll see signs out on the street advertising Uncle Lim’s various stir fry dishes and Pin Chen Duck Rice.

Nyonya Dishes and Chicken Wings for Dinner

 Mango kerabu is one of my favourite things in the world

Mango kerabu is one of my favourite things in the world

 Nyonya-Style Assam Laksa

Nyonya-Style Assam Laksa

 Ayam Sioh - first time I’ve ever had it!

Ayam Sioh - first time I’ve ever had it!

Nyonya food is enjoying something of a resurgence in recent years, which I’m very happy about. It used to be very difficult to find Nyonya food, as most of the dishes were cooked at home and not usually sold at shops or by street vendors.

I’d heard about Sarang Cookery from a friend. Their rustic approach to the ambience and reputation for good food made them a top priority on my visit. We ordered the mango kerabu (mango salad), telur cincalok (omelette with sweet fermented shrimp sauce), assam laksa (because of course) and ayam sioh (chicken cooked in tamarind and bean paste sauce).

I’m already looking forward to visiting again to try the other things on their menu. They have very limited seating space, so if you’re planning to go on a busy weekend, call ahead to check for availability.

 Best chicken wings I’ve ever had, not even kidding right now

Best chicken wings I’ve ever had, not even kidding right now

 They also have cendol to go with the chicken wings!

They also have cendol to go with the chicken wings!

Guys, I did it. I’ve found the best chicken wings.

Sweet, sticky, spicy and mouth-scalding hot, the chicken wings from Ticklish has unexpectedly made its way to the top of my Chicken Wings List (yes, I have a Chicken Wings List.)

This was one of those happy suprises that happen when you’re wandering about after dinner. I wasn’t really expecting to get anything else. Gotta stick to that diet, I told myself. Then I smelled the aroma- fat and skin crackling on a hot grill, sticky sauce bubbling luxuriously in the heat, the sweetness of butter softly being brushed onto moist, tender flesh.

Following that gorgeous aroma brought me to this pop-up stand by Ticklish. I somehow restrained myself from getting the pork ribs as well as the chicken wings. The concept of this place really tickled me (pun!) - barbecue and nyonya desserts. Oh, and the chicken was everything I thought I’ve ever dreamed of. Succulent, spicy, satisfying. Absolutely relished every bite and I’m coming back for the pork ribs!

Evening Drinks at a Rustic Gin Bar

 The signature Gin Pahit. Loved that it wasn’t saccharine sweet like most cocktails here. Only got the pun much later.

The signature Gin Pahit. Loved that it wasn’t saccharine sweet like most cocktails here. Only got the pun much later.

 They also have delicious mocktails for who don’t drink alcohol. I forgot what this is called, but it’s sirap inspired.

They also have delicious mocktails for who don’t drink alcohol. I forgot what this is called, but it’s sirap inspired.

I’d been looking forward to visiting Pahit for a while, and oh boy was I excited to get the chance. If you’ve spent any time in Penang, visiting the local food places or the upsurge in local-themed bars, this place will feel familiar.

I’m by no means a gin connoisseur, but I really enjoyed the Gin Pahit I ordered. It had an original approach, very interesting flavours and it was really a departure from a lot of cocktails I’ve had here. Slightly bitter but fragrant, it might feel challenging if you’re used to very sweet drinks. But I really relished the opportunity to explore everything this creation had to offer.

Yeah, you guessed it, I’m going back!

I hope this post has been helpful if you’re planning a night out around the Jalan Alor/Bukit Bintang area. I might link up a few of these as a series down the road. What do you think? Did you find this post helpful and do you want more? Let me know in the comments.

Friday Flashback: Our 3 Favourite Dishes at Mandarin Cafe

Food Tour, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! This week, I'm bringing you back in time to a lovely lunch date at the Penang suburb of Island Glades.

We're headed to the Mandarin Cafe, a place locked in a bitter lunchtime struggle with their arch-nemesis, the Genting Cafe. It is an epic conflict for the best roast duck rice, a thunderous battle of char koay kak supremacy, a buffet rice saga for the ages.

OK, maybe it's actually more like some friendly competition between two very popular food places during lunch. But that means the food. is. fantastic.

1. Penang Hokkien Roasted Duck Rice

hop penang food tour hokkien roasted duck rice 2

One of the most popular lunch dishes in Penang is the roasted duck or chicken rice.

You'll find stalls from George Town to Batu Feringhi selling this quick, delicious and nourishing dishes for crowds of hungry locals.

In Penang, we prefer the roasted style. In other parts of Malaysia, like Ipoh, you'll find that steamed chicken is more common.

But one thing we can all agree on is that juicy, crackling, sweet roasted pork belly is a real treat.

I like to get my roasted duck or chicken rice with sio bak, the Penang Hokkien name for roasted pork belly, or siu yuk as it is commonly called in Cantonese.

 I took a lot of time to make sure this picture makes you hungry

I took a lot of time to make sure this picture makes you hungry

2. The Popular Lunch "Nasi Ekonomi"

In a hurry or on a budget? We have a dish for that.

 Sweet and sour pork with crunchy shallots, okra sambal, fried long beans and steamed cauliflower with mushrooms. This was some good eating.

Sweet and sour pork with crunchy shallots, okra sambal, fried long beans and steamed cauliflower with mushrooms. This was some good eating.

Behold, the ultimate in mix 'n match goodness. The "nasi ekonomi" (literally Economy Rice, meaning it's cheap) is a buffet style lunch time dish with vegetable, meat, desserts and even sweetmeats or "kueh".

Small shops or vendors may have 10 or 12 dishes, but really popular lunch places can have up to 30 different dishes for you to choose from.

The Nasi Ekonomi is an elegant way to appeal to customers from different economic background. Having a tight month? Pile up on vegetables and cheaper meat dishes. Got your bonus in? Go to town with crackling pork, roasted chicken, wild boar and more.

The Malay community also has a similar approach which is called "Nasi Campur" or mixed rice. I'll get you caught up on the various Penang nasi campur soon :)

3. Char Koay Kak

 Spicy, savoury, tangy, crunchy and accentuated with fried pork belly, egg and cockles. Garnished with crunchy salted turnips and served on a fragrant banana leaf. You have to try this stuff.

Spicy, savoury, tangy, crunchy and accentuated with fried pork belly, egg and cockles. Garnished with crunchy salted turnips and served on a fragrant banana leaf. You have to try this stuff.

It is difficult for me to express just how much I love a good char koay kak. It's all the great flavours of Penang food beautifully expressed in one dish.

These grilled rice cakes (in some places, it's radish cakes. But in Penang we like the neutral flavour of rice) can be found throughout the day. We'll have them for breakfast, lunch and supper. The spicy, fragrant aroma will immediately make you hungry, regardless of the time of day.

The char koak kak at Mandarin Cafe is probably one of the best I've ever had. My other favourite is at Lorong Macalister in the mornings. I usually get the duck egg option and thank my lucky stars the whole time I'm having it.

***

Ok, that's it for this week! I'll be back again next week with some more food picks for great Penang eating. Safe travels and good eating!

There's a lot of good food in Penang. The Friday Flashback series will help recap some of our recommendations and help you decide which delicious dishes to have on your trip to Penang. For more food favourites, read Part 3 of our Friday Flashback series.