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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.

***

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.

 

Friday Flashback: Our Favourite Penang Food Part 3

Food Tour, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! Another Friday, another food flashback here. I hope your week has been going very well, and that you're going to be getting some much needed rest for the weekend (or some much needed excitement?) When I was going through pictures for this week's FF, I came across some really delicious rice dishes that I haven't had in a while. I'm putting them up so you can go find them if you're in Penang for the weekend. But I'm also putting them up as a reminder for me to go eat them again soon :P

Penang Nasi Campur

In Penang, we're big on rice especially during lunch time. The nasi campur or "mixed rice" concept is flexible, affordable and nutritious. It's like a buffet of dishes and you can choose the ones you fancy to go with your serving of white rice (sometimes cooked with ginger, or with butterfly pea flower.)

One of my favourite nasi campur places in the afternoon is Pak Yusof Nasi Melayu at the Traders Cafe on Jalan Macalister. The picture below is from 2017, and you could say this was a pretty light meal compared to my usual visits. I took some fried fish with sambal (chili paste and lime) sauce, tauhu sumbat (stuffed fragrant tofu), bean sprouts and egg. But they have easily 20-30 different dishes out for the weekday work crowd.

Behold the seductive glow of carbohydrates

Behold the seductive glow of carbohydrates

Penang Pork Rice

Nestles in one unassuming corner of Lebuh Chulia is probably one of the most popular pork rice shops on the island. Wai Kee Char Siew sells pork rice every afternoon and the place is filled to the brim with hungry, expectant fans. You'll have to come early, around 11.30am, just to get a spot. Once the crowd starts going, there's an average 15 minute wait before you get a table.

Just a note about this (very overexposed) picture. I was still fiddling around with camera settings and trying to figure out how to take semi-decent food pics at the time. So, it's not really my best work. But I figured it was... informative?

hop penang food tour pork rice

Kailan Pork Rice

Ok, stay with me here. I know it looks err humble. But this here is one of my all time comfort foods. It's made in a little stall at the KOMTAR building on Jalan Magazine, by a husband and wife couple. Chopped and steamed kailan, with salted fish and roasted pork belly, served with piping hot white rice and a sour-spicy Thai chili sauce on the side. It's crunchy, salty, so pork-fatty good. When I'm having a bad day, this and a cup of iced Kopi makes it all better.

hop penang food tour kai lan pork rice

Ok, that's it for this week! I'll be back again next week with some more food pics rummaged from the depths of my memory as well as my SD card. Eat well!

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 2 of our Friday Flashback series.

 

Friday Flashback: Our Favourite Penang Food Part 2

Food Tour, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! I'm back with a FF post for you. Back in 2016, we used to do breakfast food tours as well as the current lunch and dinner hops. It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it. But we've had to put it on hold so we can concentrate on making the lunch and dinner hops the best they can possibly be. I'm really looking forward to doing it again soon, though!

Breakfast in George Town: Chowrasta Market

I took these pictures sometime in 2016, I think? They've been sitting on my hard drive since and I thought this is a good time to put them up! The Chowrasta Market in George Town is a historic site and the original site was founded in 1890. It was named for the South Indian Tamil community that made up most of the vendors at the time.

These days, it's represented mostly by the Chinese small vendor community. The structure itself has been renovated, but is a press of stalls crowding the surrounding streets in the morning. You'll find everything from produce to plastic pails to underwear here! I'm mostly here for the food though.

hop penang food tour breakfast market

Penang Curry Noodles

The curry noodles at the Chowrasta Market Food Stalls is really popular. It's a creamy, sweet broth of coconut milk and curry accented with spicy shrimp paste on the side. It's served with seafood, egg noodles and vermicelli.

The curry noodles at the Chowrasta Market Food Stalls is really popular. It's a creamy, sweet broth of coconut milk and curry accented with spicy shrimp paste on the side. It's served with seafood, egg noodles and vermicelli.

Penang Chee Cheong Fun

Chee Cheong Fun is flat rice noodles served with sweet, tangy, sour and soy sauces. You'll find this dish in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur as well, but in Penang we like to do it a little bit differently. The local version is served with thick sauces that includes either a sweet chili sauce or a spicy sambal. This place is just around the corner from Chowrasta Market, on Lebuh Kimberley.

Chee Cheong Fun is flat rice noodles served with sweet, tangy, sour and soy sauces. You'll find this dish in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur as well, but in Penang we like to do it a little bit differently. The local version is served with thick sauces that includes either a sweet chili sauce or a spicy sambal. This place is just around the corner from Chowrasta Market, on Lebuh Kimberley.

I'm going to have to visit the Chowrasta Market again sometime soon. It's best to drop by early-ish in the morning, and I feel like a good time is around 8.00 a.m. By then, the usual crowd is mostly done with their grocery shopping, but the stalls are still open and ready for the breakfast crowd. Go take a look when you can!

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 breakfast favourites, read Part 1 of our Friday Flashback series.