Heritage on a Plate

Penang Food

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 :)

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.


Intermission: Some Penang Food Favourites!

Food Tour, Malaysian Food, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hello! This week I wanted to take a break from our regular Penang in Pictures and Friday Flashback series, and show you some gorgeous food pics. Oh, and if you don't already know, the "intermission" is from old films they used to show at the cinema. Typically, midway through the film there'd be a 5-10 minute cut for toilet breaks. That's when you'd go out to stretch your legs and top up on the cinema snacks like chickpeas and sugared nutmeg. It was pretty cool!

Penang Kopi (Local Coffee)

if you've met me or been on one of our food hops in Penang, you'll know that I'm addicted to the local coffee. This stuff is so good. The local coffee, or kopi as we call it here, is often flavoured with spices, butter and palm sugar. If you walk into a shop and ask for kopi, you're in for a wild ride. Flavours can range from nutty and sour to sweet and spicy. It usually comes with condensed milk and sugar, so you might want to ask for less sugar, or strong and black with no sugar or milk to really savor the flavor.

hop penang food tour coffee kopi

Nyonya Otak Otak (Braaaaainnnsss)

When the zombie apocalypse finally rolls around, I'll be well prepared. By which I mean that decades of enjoying the Nyonya Otak Otak in Penang will have prepared me to consume brains as a zombie.

The dish is actually made from mashed fish and flavoured with spices, curry powder and in Penang, daun kaduk (wild pepper leaf). It's steamed in banana leaves for the Nyonya version, which has the consistency of a nice custard. The Malay community will grill it, giving it a more solid texture quite similar to fish cake.

The name itself means "brains" in Malay, due to its... well, brainy look. The otak otak is notoriously difficult to photograph, so I'm pretty happy this shot came out looking anything other than a brainy pile of mush :P

hop penang food tour nyonya otak otak

Penang Nyonya Assam Laksa

These pictures were initially part of the Laksa Shootout series, but I decided they were a little too specific. I wanted to capture the range of colours and ingredients, and the little quirks at different shops.

hop penang food tour assam laksa

This picture is from the Penang Road Famous Laksa, and I really loved how the colours from the mint, shallots, torch ginger flower and pineapple (!) really came together.

hop penang food tour nyonya assam laksa 1

This is from the other laksa place just up the road, and I really loved the detailing on the chopsticks. It gives the place it's own personality. I've become aware in the last few years about how strongly we are conditioned to consume without pause, with no chance to take a breath and critically examine the things around us. Things like this remind me that this isn't just another laksa on the list. It's a place with it's own character, personality and history.

Something to remember as we explore this beautiful world together. Safe journeys and good eating.