Penang is not just about the usual Char Koay Teow, Kueh Kak, Nasi Kandar, Assam Laksa, Cendul etc.. There’s a range of local cze char and restaurants that many residents flock to and only smart travellers join in on. These places have over 100 years of history between them and there’s nothing fancy about them. They are just sincere and consistent with their food and let it do the talking. Service is efficient as can be expected of such crowded spots and only the spoiled will find them curt, at best. The place is swamped with both the older and the wired generation, every day.
1/ Teksen Restaurant, 18/20 Carnarvon Street, 12pm-3pm/ 6pm-9pm, closed Tuesdays. Tel +60129815117
Dinner starts at 6pm at this kopitiam restaurant, but it’s already full with chomping customers then. They give you a poker card as a waiting number token and you are usually seated 15 to 20 minutes later. The food comes fast and are mostly quick and fast wok stir-fry stuff with some soups and curries. Practically no one misses the Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi (RM16)- sliced roasted pork fried with thick soy sauce, garlic and sugar. This is so moreish and sinful and it begs for rice to pair it off. The Assam Tumis Stingray (RM45) is not quite the best I’ve had in Penang but it ranks way up there and I’ll have it again in a heartbeat. The tamarind tang in the curry is not overly sharp and the spices are just kind enough. The stingray is fresh, moist and soft. Slather the curry over the rice and you’ll get under the skin of this dish. As is how it’s done, their Sambal Kacang Botol (RM14) or four angled beans is wok tossed for “wok-hei” or high heat fragrance yet retains it crunchiness. The sambal is spicy and rich with some fresh prawns to distract and endear you to it. Check out their daily soups- the Lotus Root and Pork Ribs (RM10) I had was on point. I can easily taste the dried cuttlefish used in the broth and the umami and sweetness was magical.
2/ Foong Wei Heong, 25 Jalan Sri Bahari (off Jalan Penang), 11.45am-2.15pm/5.45pm-9.30pm daily. Tel: +604 261 1918
This place harks back to the 80s when white and red cloth lined the tables and the noise can only be silence as you shut the world out and concentrate on the food. The menu, you will notice, is helmed by top notch chefs in the kitchen as much skill is required. The simple Lotus Root and Celery (RM18) had one extra edge, bits of dried teepo (dried fish bones) that sharpens the sweet and soft crunch of the vegetable dish. Young roots are used and the tuber flavour is mild. The antidote to it was the Deep Fried Crispy Pork (RM25) done in sweet sauce- they deep fried bacon slices and tossed them in garlic and a honey- soy sauce, much like crispy bak kwa. Another popular dish, done so simply , is the Steamed Garoupa (RM78) , they slice them into chunks and it’s steamed with a ginger-soy sauce. The lure is the freshness of the fish and the bite which comes from the rubbery skin, left intact. This is also where I’ve had the best Oyster Noodles (RM20). The flavour of the shellfish did not overwhelm but paired so softly with the sauce. The noodles were blanched perfectly and it was so easy to like.