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Penang Food: Try This Chinese Teochew Restaurant in George Town

Penang Food, Malaysian Food, Heritage and CultureDanny MahesComment

Hello, friends! We’re back with more delicious ideas for what to eat in Penang. Although the street food here is popular, Penang is also home to many traditional and modern restaurants serving tasty meals. So, if you’re wondering what to do on a lazy afternoon, here’s a local restaurant worth checking out:

A Teochew Style Lunch on Lebuh Melayu, George Town

If you’re wandering down Lebuh Melayu in the afternoon, you might see a pair of heavy wooden doors that look ornate and festive. Decorated with red lanterns and cloth, it seems ready to spring out at you. But tiptoe inside and the vibe is just the opposite. Cool air punctuated with fresh greenery and large splashes of sunlight fill this place. You’ve entered Chao Xuan Restaurant, a place that prides itself in its Straits Chinese identity.

Lotus Root Soup - light, nutty and perfectly punctuated with the flavour of spring onions. It made for a really great appetiser.

Lotus Root Soup - light, nutty and perfectly punctuated with the flavour of spring onions. It made for a really great appetiser.

The Straits Chinese are traders, migrants and refugees who’ve made the Straits of Malacca their home. Coming from various ethno-linguistic and geographic backgrounds in China, they’ve adopted local customs and beliefs - creating a unique and fascinating sense of shared identity. It’s important to remember that there is a vast diversity of customs, traditions and food associated with this community, and Chao Xuan is one expressions of that diversity.

This place gets mixed reviews, in large part because of their philosophy of preparing and serving Teochew-style food that is as close as possible to the style and flavours they consider authentic. Penang food can be very bold and intense, and the more subtle flavours at play here is not to everyone’s taste. But we loved it!

Braised duck - the flavour of the duck was front and centre, with the sauce providing a great accent to the taste. Eaten with the stickier rice served here, it was very satisfying (and filling!)

Braised duck - the flavour of the duck was front and centre, with the sauce providing a great accent to the taste. Eaten with the stickier rice served here, it was very satisfying (and filling!)

We ordered a simple but satisfying meal for two, but there’s lots of options to explore at this place. Their menu mostly sticks to their theme of traditional (or as close to traditional) Teochew flavours, with the occasional flourish of spicy sambal or fried snack inspired by Malay or Nyonya cooking. If you’re thinking about what to do in Penang for lunch, and you’d like a break from the flavours of local street food, this is a good place for a change of flavours. We’re very interested to visit again and try more of what they offer. And of course when we do you’ll hear about it

Tofu in soy sauce - light and flavorful, it worked very well as a snack on the side

Tofu in soy sauce - light and flavorful, it worked very well as a snack on the side

When you’re ready for more Penang street food, check out these Three Types of Penang Noodles

Penang Food: 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.

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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.