Update: I decided to update this post a bit as I have some new makan places to add.
I have been living in this Sungai Dua area since 1994.
That was the year I entered university.
And that means I have been living in this area for about 14 years.
And that means I have been eating around this area for 14 years.
Which is a long time. Grrrr! I don’t know if that’s good or bad…
So suddenly I think: ya, actually I eat a lot around this area and I know some lovely and affordable places to eat. Not only Chinese food. I think this post was partly induced by Derek who asked me where else to eat porridge besides the one he goes to in Bukit Jambul. (Yes, Derek, I’ve tried that porridge place – Nic’s fave place to go for stewed pig ears and fatty pork! I just can’t stand the humidity and dirt of that shop.)
OK, so here goes.
Dinner: Bak kut teh/fish meat noodles/pork porridge
Now this place is one I’ve been eating at since I was a freshie. The bak kut teh is one that I find most palatable and with the right kind of bak kut teh taste. (Very important – I grew up in Selangor where BKT is the breakfast staple and we swear by our BKT. BKT in Penang can be tough to get right. Either they’re too heavy-handed with their BKT herbs or they have the proportions not quite right. Or it’s too watered down. Or my main gripe is – it’s supposed to be meaty bones but in Penang they serve you everything but meaty bones. You should see the chunks of meaty bones in Klang BKT. In Penang, BKT is mostly fatty pork!)
They sell on most days except Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s located at the corner house of Taman Permai, right across from Tesco Extra. Their fish and pork porridge is not bad either but I think there’s a heavy dose of MSG. That’s why so tasty!
Dinner: Fried or Dry Bak Kut Teh
Yes. As weird as it sounds, there is something called Fried Bak Kut Teh. It is for people who like meat but perhaps like their BKT dry. Now how can BKT be dry? It’s always soupy right?
This stall, which is just a couple of paces away from the corner house BKT (see above) opens at night. It does soupy BKT but also a fried version. The fried version gleams with dark soya sauce and meat pieces or meat bones are interspersed with sliced okra and dried red chillies. It does taste incredibly wonderful too, even if there’s no soup to slurp!
This stall is at the corner coffeeshop (which is a row of shops inside Taman Permai on your left as you drive into Taman Permai). Besides the dry BKT, you can also have some very good Sar Hor Fun (though portions are quite miniscule!) and Hokkien Mee. Of course these are from different stalls. This coffeeshop has good variety of food but it is closed on Monday.
Lunch/Dinner: Ta Jai Thai Zhu Char
I love this place because it’s where I get my dose of petai! I love eating petai and petai isn’t cheap. It’s not that petai is rare (It isn’t). It’s due to the fact that petai pods grow high up on the tall petai trees and are hard to pluck. Petai tree branches are also easily broken so no one wants to do the dirty business though petai is really very good for your kidneys.
Ta Jai is Thai Zhu Char which means Thai quick food. It is located at a corner coffeeshop inside Taman Permai.
You can have individual dishes (like me, I always go for Petai Fried Rice which is really spicy but tastes so good) or you can order dishes to go with your rice (Thai tom yam and Thai dishes like otak-otak etc). If you order tom yam, get them to cook for you their White Tom Yam which is even better than regular Tom Yam. If you order fried rice, remember to ask for their Thai sambal!
The dishes are inexpensive and taste amazing. It’s run by enterprising Thais who speak Hokkien. They open for lunch and dinner.
Now nasi lemak for breakfast is very common around this area.
But I would NOT go to Pelita Nasi Kandar for this Malaysian favourite (anyway, they sell out by 10am and by then you have to settle for some crappy cardboard-like roti canai).
The better nasi lemak can be found at Kayu Nasi Kandar and it’s there almost all morning. The sambal tastes better too. And even if Kayu runs out of nasi lemak (which in unlikely), you can order their roti canai which is buttery, crispy and fragrant.
Breakfast: Roti canai
There’s 2 nasi kandar places which serve good roti canai – not too oily, fluffy and best of all, come with a good dhal curry. I have never enjoyed Subaidah Nasi Kandar because I had one horrible experience (OK OK, I should give it a chance) so I did. I tried its roti canai and it fulfills all the criteria that I set out for a good roti canai. The other good one can be found without a doubt at Kayu Nasi Kandar. Its roti canai is slightly sweet but goes very well with the generous dhal curry – a creamy, mild concoction. Hint – you can get good roti canai inside the USM campus too – look for the hidden Subaidah Nasi Kandar which is located at Dewan Budaya. Their fried chicken is very good too.
Dinner: Fried rice
Everyone who lives around Sungai Dua will know about THE Fried Rice King. People seem to know his mobile phone number too (and I will explain in a while WHY it is SO important to have his number).
Fried Rice King is a bald, dour-looking Chinese guy who fries fried rice so good that people can wait up to 45 minutes for his hot off the wok rice. He starts business at 4.30pm or 5pm and goes up to 11pm or so, ably assisted by his Indonesian girl fridays. (Don’t be surprised if they yell at each other – it’s really playful bantering!).
That man fries 10 portions of fried rice each wok and still, people have to wait. Each grain of rice is absolutely to die for. Remember to ask for the sambal belacan which is great with the hot fried rice.
Note that The Man has passed his skills to his son. So if you go looking for a bald Chinese man, you won’t find him. The “son” (I never asked, I assumed he was the son) fries good fried rice too.
Fried rice king in action, his stall opens at 4.30pm!
If you don’t want to wait in line for 30 minutes or 45 minutes, call his number 012 438 5275 and pre-order! Then you can jump out of your car and collect your packets (yes, you will buy more than 1 packet believe me) of fried rice.
My favourite is the fried rice that comes with the “pai kut ong” (superior pork ribs marinated and fried and coated with a sweetish tomato sauce). The ribs are of a generous portion and the rice is fragrant and fluffy. But the belacan fried rice is yummy too. Fried Rice King is located at the Wah Li Coffeeshop at Taman Pekaka. The coffeeshop faces the Pekaka Square building.
Dinner: Chinese zhu char
Gim Hin Cafe is on the main road of Jalan Sungai Dua, opposite Taman Permai. It is just before Tesco Extra if you are coming from the direction of the USM Sg Dua gate. Next to this place is a shop repairing cars and bikes. Zhu char usually means Chinese stir fry. It means food or dishes that are cooked fresh and served hot with rice or Chinese fast food. I have been eating here since my freshie days because food here is affordable and absolutely yummy! I have seen the owner’s children grow up too. They were mere kids when I started going there. Now they’re in their 20s! Ohmigosh.
Anyway, food-wise, the zhu char is fast and signature dishes here are the curry fish head as well as the steamed herbal soups – watercress soup, lotus root soup and pig’s stomach soup. Actually, they do very well with any dish.
Portions are good and prices are reasonably cheap. A dinner of rice with 3 dishes for 2 persons (drinks not included) would be around RM 25 or less. But you must go early (6pm or so) if you want a table. It’s a noisy Chinese-style coffee shop so be warned.
Lunch & dinner: Ah Hooi @ Red House, USM
How can I discuss food without talking about Ah Hooi @ Red House in USM?
I’ve been eating here since my first year on campus and I am still eating here, 14 years on! It’s almost a USM institution. Food is economy rice, with 15 or so of dishes to choose from. It was my home away from home when I was studying in USM.
The food’s straightforward and tastes like mom’s cooking. The signature dish is the fried shark meat (which I used to eat a lot until I learnt that shark meat contained mercury!). I even sms-ed to The Star a couple of weeks ago to recommend them as my favourite economy rice stall. When Ah Hooi’s daughter found out I was the one who texted in my SMS, she was very pleased.
Her brother (Ah Hooi’s son) has opened a stall at Anjung Budi where he stir fries a good number of quick meals for students on the go. He does fry up good noodles, mee hoon and rice. He also has 1 dish meals like oyster sauce chicken with white rice or “lam phnui” or rice drenched with chicken and prawns in a gooey gravy not unlike your regular “sar hor fun” gravy.
Parking at Anjung Budi is really bad so you will do better parking at DK A and walking up to Anjung Budi. The good part is, you get to enjoy your meal on a deck overlooking the famous USM swimming pool. Much of the lovely Penang Bridge view is blocked by the new developments on the reclaimed land though. Enjoy the view while it’s still there!
Lunch: Chicken rice
Chicken rice at Bali Bali Cafe (which used to be called Mandarin Cafe) is always good. Been eating here for donkey years too. Their chicken rice is oily and appetising, their chicken smooth and tasty. As regulars, we get soup on the side with chicken feet too (which is my fave by the way). Their char siew is soft and melt-in-the-mouth moist too. This stall is the same as the other chicken rice stall at Happy Cafe (Taman Pekaka) which is down the road and turn the corner after Tesco Extra.
Lunch & dinner: Thai belacan rice
If I don’t get the urge to have chicken rice at Bali Bali Cafe, there’s always the Thai belacan rice or Thai kerabu rice. Both rice (RM4) come with braised pork meat, julienned fried omelette, crunchy ikan bilis, a peppery soup and a kickass Thai sambal. If you order the Thai kerabu rice, it comes with shredded sour mango too. The beauty of this dish is the harmonious blend of textures and tastes (sweet, sour and spicy) which revs up one’s appetite instantly.
There’s many more eateries and shops along Jalan Sg Dua but I think it’s your turn to tell me if you know this area too. And if you do, share your fave eatery!
Update: I decided to update this post a bit as I have some new makan places to add.