Penang Food Trail 4: Breakfast Time in Penang!


Roti Canai

Ah Breakfast. Of the three main meals of the day, this is the most special one for me because I seldom have the time to sit down for a nice slow meal. So when I am on holiday, I especially enjoy the luxury of sitting down to a breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs and toast which is usually part of the hotel package. But since we were in Malaysia, I was willing to forgo the bacon and eggs (which I can make at home) for my all time favourite breakfast food, Roti Prata (Roti Canai in Malaysia).


Roti Canai along Transfer Road

This famous Roti Canai stall which is basically set up along the side of an old abandoned warehouse is just the thing that makes your heart pump a little faster -- the thought of eating an authentic no-nonsense Roti Canai that is designed to fill your tummy and tillilate your tastebuds. These guys just don't really care about how the Prata looks or whether the amount of oil they use is going to clog up your arteries. They are just there to make the Prata quick, get it on your plate, get it down your stomach and get you out of there.


Highly irregular but strangely attractive Roti Canai (Prata)

Everybody says that when it comes to Roti Prata, the Malaysians beat Singaporeans hands down. I could never understand why. Afterall, they are all made by foreign workers from Southern India nowadays. So why can't Singapore Roti Prata be better than Malaysian Canai? Or is it the environment where you eat the Prata that really adds to the flavour and enjoyment of the meal?


Roti Canai the way most Penangites eat them

We all found the Prata to be very tasty but a little chewy. I guess in Singapore we are used to Prata being more crispy. The curry was nice but I found the dahl to be a little burnt (was it meant to be that way?). Overall, I enjoyed the meal but it wasn't the holy grail I was looking for. 4/5 Perhaps the problem was that we did not eat the Prata the way it was meant to. Most of the people there ate theirs drowned with Dhal and chicken curry.



Taste aside, I would still come back here for breakfast just simply to soak in the atomosphere and enjoy the slow pace of life in Penang. There is no address for this place, so I wonder how they would be able to receive their mail, but you can easily spot it if you travel along Transfer Road.



If Kopi and Kaya Toast is more your kind of breakfast, then, I am told, that the place you have to visit is the Toh Soon Cafe which is located along Campbell street, off Penang Road. This little coffeeshop, which really is more like a coffee-alley, really, even has its own bakery where they bake their own bread.


Napalese man toasting bread over charcoal used to boil the water

With the resurgence in the popularity of Kopi and Kaya Toast in Singapore over the last decade or so, we Singaporeans are really spoilt for choice when it comes to getting our Kaya Toast. With competition, the different stalls are always thinking of ways of being more efficient and churning out the Kaya Toast quickly.

Not so in Penang. Here, things still get done the traditional way. Well, I say traditional, but perhaps it is just one of those things that never get fixed because it works. You know how sometimes you just put some scotchtape over a piece of your household furniture and tell yourself it is just a temporary fix and that you would do a proper job later? Well, the way they toast their bread here reminds me of that scotchtape phenomenon.

Here is a bustling coffeeshop, having to churn out hundreds of toastbread each morning and they do it by employing a foreign worker to squat at the base of the boiling water to use that charcoal to toast the bread! I guess maybe they feel that the extra proximity to the earth would impart an earthy flavour to the bread which makes theirs special. OK, I haven't visited any other Kaya Toast places in Penang so I can't tell you if this is the norm in Penang.


Bread with butter and sugar

As I mentioned earlier, I think we are spoilt for choice in Singapore and the standards of our Kopi and Kaya Toast is better as a lot of stalls use quality butter and homemade kaya to make their toast. However, if you want to have a simple cup of kopi, boiled eggs and eat bread with butter and sugar while relieving the good old days, this is the place to be. The bread here is very old school. It's very dry but airy with little taste on its own. It's a good vehicle for absorbing all that melted butter. 4/5

It's a good thing that our hotel stay does not come with the complimentary breakfast. I hate to be tempted to eat a typical hotel breakfast when there are great breakfast places around Penang where you can have your meal and enjoy the cool morning hours just watching time moving at a really slow pace.


Toh Soon Cafe, along Campbell Street off Penang Road

19 comments:

BreakfastLiverpool said...

Did you ever try the Hong Kong classic of french toast sandwich filled with peanut butter and topped golden syrup and melted butter

P. Chong said...

The Penang canai is called that and not prata because it is different from Singapore's version of prata...which is totally different from paratha in India. Canai is elastic, chewy. Singapore's prata is either fluffly or super crispy. I love all of them (I am tempted to do a wahcow muahahahah...but maybe not...)...that's just the style.

BreakfastLiverpool, Cafe de Hong Kong at Balestier Road, Singapore does this version. See http://people.timezone.com/pchong/cdh2/frenchtoast.jpg

wahcow said...

to do a "wahcow" has many different meanings pchong...mooohahahahah

when in penang, we did have pratas that are drowned in the sauces....indeed they taste better because they are not crispy to begin with in the first place....overall, it was a good breakfast.

As for the bread, i never understood why they must toast the bread right at the bottom, its quite inefficient to bend down, squat and make just 4 pieces of bread at any one time. The bread took 15 mins to arrive on our table by the way. All in all, i still prefer our singapore kaya, bread and kopi....unless we are talking about Ipoh Kopi of course !!! mooahahahahaahha...

I gotta find out what is call "do a pchong" ..moohahahahah

ieat said...

Yes I think we are fortunate to have really good Kaya Toast in Singapore. I think the standard is quite good already and will be hard to beat unless there is a really really shiok Kaya somewhere in Malaysia.

Yes Ipoh Coffee, we now have white coffee here right? But I never really thought it was that good.

Pratawise, I think the chewy type is good if you want it to soak in the curry. The chewing adds to that carbo boost. But i still prefer crispy as I like the contrast between the curry and the crispy prata.

allie said...

I found that SG's prata is slightly more oily compare to Msia roti canai. But for sure, the prata has its own uniqueness too (The crispiness).. Yummy...

Holy Drummer said...

The best 'prata' I've had to date was not in SG, not in Malaysia, but in Bangkok. Unforgettable~

Think kaya is very unique to SG if not the region. Got potentially huge market to tap on overseas. Ya Kun has led the way in Taiwan and it's proving to be a hit.

chaozhouzi said...

Errh, ieat, heard of the kaya toast at Kluang, it is located at the railway station there.

P. Chong said...

HolyDrummer...where in BKK? I am in Bangkok now till Sunday...would love to sample your personal best prata.

I don't think kaya is unique to Singapore, but perhaps the region.

Holy Drummer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Holy Drummer said...

Hey P.Chong!

It is directly opposite the budget hotel I stayed in, Samran Place - http://www.samran.com/map.html.

Okay I'm going to try and pinpoint the exact location as best as I can.

Situated within the Siam/Silom District;

By subway, you can take the BTS to Ratchathewi station and you are about 5 minutes' walk away. Exit, walk a few metres ahead and turn left into Petch(a)buri Road. Take a straight walk along the main busy road until you see the hotel on your left. The stall is directly opposite. I rahter not take the risk with jaywalking there because it is very fast traffic - Cross at the first overhead bridge you encounter and backtrack a little.

If travelling by taxi, alight along Petch(a)buri Road, very near the cross-junction of Phaya Thai Road. Should be at the corner exactly off Soi Petch(a)buri 5.

It's a very small roadside stall operated by a Muslim couple. ONLY OPEN AT NIGHT, so I suggest supper around 8-9pm to be a good time before they sellout early. Don't know which day(s) they are closed, but weekends should be a safe bet to visit.

It is side by side with a bigger "Sarabat" stall selling familiar drinks, also operated by a few Muslims because the stalls are in proximity to a local mosque. You can't miss it. The sellers are tarik-ing the tea and brewing coffee by the ubiquitous long kettles.

What to order: Banana Honey Prata, Mutton Murtubak, all the variety of pratas they have and wash it down with a nice cup of hot teh tarik or kopi.

P.S: I conversed with them in simple Bahasa Malayu and found out they actually were from Malaysia initially, decided to move to BKK.

Hope you can find it and tell me if you feel the same way as I do.

Cheers!

Samuraisama said...

There is one simple dish that has 2 names
In Singapore and Malaysia that has same fame
No one knows why different names it had became
Eventhough it is cooked in a way more of the same

It came from Pakistan or India sometime back
Just a typical dough on the table they lay it flat
They then flip it like they have no energy lacked
And finally pan fry it until becomes a crispy snack

The pan fried dough is called the Prata in kopitiam here
But is called Canai across the causeway by our Malaysian peers
Before the names Canai and Prata - ROTI - is what they want to hear
However they are called - it's exactly the same food that is quite clear

But a food to be eaten needs to have a meaning make
Therefore a bowl of curry is needed to give it a wake
Some likes pouring it all over the plate for a wet look's sake
And then use fork and knife to eat it like a piece of steak

shikin said...

Hello
If you are ever in Eunos, try the roti prata at Sickander at the wet market just opposite the Eunos MRT. They served their pratas with Tulang in curry (extra 50cts) and with a dollop of sambal with your curry. I always associate sambal with curry as Roti Canai though.

Zoe Francois said...

Fantastic! I love roti!

Hillary said...

I have to confess the only roti bread I have ever had is from Flat Top Grill and they serve it with the stirfry you put together yourself. It's so good though!!

Veronique ♥ Singapore said...

If only I could eat one roti prata toniqht ! But... unfortunatly I live in Paris. I hope I will come back to Singapore soon !

Nice regards to all of you.

Katlyn said...

Ummmm all those yummy food makes me hungry already, No doubt Penang is the place to be when it comes to food. I can’t believe I’m seeing these wonderful photos…ok gotta go makan. I’m so hungry now…

I compiled Penang Tourism Guide recently. Please visit and have some comments .. Hopefully I will visit Penang soon :)

cheers Ö

enilit said...

Hi hi, I've been reading your blog with interest 'cause I've somewhat lost faith with Singapore hawker fare over the few years I've been here. Somehow many of the food-places my friends bring me to don't seem to reach the standard. Hmm ...

But anyway, about kaya toast: I still reckon that the Kluang railway station kaya toast is the best. You can feel the butter melt in your mouth, literally. They aren't stingy with the butter either, and the bread is done the traditional way, over charcoal. The kopi is also reputed -- it seems that the Johor sultan even drives up all the way for it!

There's another Kluang "specialty" that I have yet to find elsewhere: beef tripe noodles. I think it's the handmade rice noodles that makes the difference.

I'd recommend Kluang as your next food-stop. :) The town's only a bit more than an hour's drive north of JB.

White Water said...

hihi, Transfer Road roti canai is one thing that I swear on everytime I go back to Penang. I've been living in Sg for nearly 10 years already and there is not one which is able to compare with this stall.

To have the greater taste from this stall, order either mutton or beef curry without any dahl. It is just fantastic.

misscraftyfingers said...

Transfer Road Roti Canai is indeed very good. But it is also the only place at which I ate in Penang that gave me a tummy ache. LOL. Perhaps it's because of the extra fumes from the scurrying vehicles along the roads. haha. But nonetheless, I'm glad to have tried it.

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