So you are at Balik Pulau because some locals swear by the laksas here. Note I use the plural, because there are actually two types of tasty laksa you will find here – Asam and Siam (lemak) version. Once you get past the winding hilly roads leading to the small town, finding the laksa stalls will be a breeze – since they are just along the main street and better still, opposite each other!
There are two famous stalls here, one at Kafe Chuan Heong which I posted before and Kim Laksa at Nan Guang Coffee Shop. After having tasted both sides of laksa in the same afternoon, I personally do not find a lot of difference between them.
So to be honest, I can’t tell you which is better because it all boils down to your personal taste. But my preference leans towards Chuan Heong’s – simply because the soup is made spicier hence suits my palate better. And not to mention the coffee shop is more comfortable to eat at too.
Balik Pulau is famous for two things: durian and laksa. Here, two types of laksa are widely available: assam laksa and lemak laksa, where the latter is also known as Thai/Siam laksa. I seldom venture into Balik Pulau because the drive is quite strenous due to the long, windy road. But for personal satisfaction sake to explore Penang entirely, I took a trip to visit the small, quiet town that is currently experiencing much deserved developments. You will find Balik Pulau still as laid back but at least not that ‘ulu’ as being peddled around in the past.
Assam laksa is a love or hate it to death thing. If you happen to loathe it then you might want to give the lemak version a try. The gravy is prepared with coconut milk giving it the creamy and slightly sweet taste instead of being sourish. Ingredients wise it is similar to assam laksa, still the same ikan kembung, cucumber, pineapple, cili padi etc and still topped with prawn paste (optional) I actually prefer the lemak version, am not a fan of sourish food.
If you are tired of eating the same old Penang Assam Laksa at all the already renowned places in the island, there is an alternative.
In Jawi (a small town in the mainland side of Penang) there is a famous laksa stall called Wan Li Laksa, or more commonly known as Jawi Laksa. Located next to Jawi’s Tua Pek Kong temple, it is a favorite with the locals as well as the neighboring towns.
As much as I wanted to show the laksa from the original stall, I was just too lazy to drive all the way to Jawi just to have a bowl of it. Another reason is because Wan Li Laksa has a branch in Taman Mutiara, Bukit Mertajam, which is just 5 min away from my house. So why travel so far for the same thing lol. Click here to continue reading >
Penang Road is one of the streets in Penang where food stalls and coffee shops are concentrated at. Among the many great street food that you should never miss are the Penang Road Laksa and Cendol. Heck, your trip to Penang island won’t be even considered complete less you tried them. Try the laksa first for some hot and sour sensation, then indulge in some sweet, cool and refreshing ais kacang or cendol.
The assam laksa here at Joo Hooi Coffee Shop @ Penang Road is really good, soup is thick with lots of fish meat. If it can be well received by me who’s not a big fan of laksa, it must be not bad right? Oh yeah, please do not confuse this laksa with Sarawak Laksa or KL’s curry laksa.. in Penang we call assam laksa simply as laksa only. Besides the name, there are almost no similarities among them. The ingredients, cooking method and even the noodles are different. So, you can’t compare their tastes.
The boss revealed that her Assam Laksa broth is prepared fresh daily with a lot of shredded fish meat – the main ingredient that could either be kembung or mackarel fish depending on the availability. But the outcome taste is still the same regardless of the fish used.
This is one of the few places in Penang where you could still find chunky fish meat in the laksa broth, and every mouthful you take is guaranteed to have fish meat in it. Noodles and the toppings are only secondary to the tastiness of a bowl of Penang Assam Laksa.
The lady boss busy preparing laksa for the customers. As you can see, she has prepared all the noodles and stacked them up nicely. Which is why laksa can be prepared so fast, just pour the hot soup over the noodles a few times, garnish and it’s done. Her husband has a laksa stall at BB Coffee Shop at Bayan Baru, just a few doors away from Sunshine Market.
Along the street you will find a lot of cendol stalls, all claiming themselves to be famous lol. But, it is very easy to spot the most famous one simply by looking at the number of customers. Seems like quite a number of celebrities have visited this “Teo Chew Chendul” stall like Phua Chu Kang and Mary all the way from Singapore. Their photos, with a big thumbs up sign are being displayed proudly in front of the stall.
This is their famous cendol, quite good actually. For me all cendol tastes almost the same. So, I can’t really tell the difference lol – it contains the usual green starch noodles, coconut milk, shaved ice and red beans. By the way, I noticed that the Malay version of cendol has brown sugar in it.. making it even sweeter. Most of the people would just stand around the stall to eat the cendol. And it can get pretty messy too. There’s no way your hands can be clean after eating, so be prepared and bring along some tissues ok.
Ah, for the ais kacang I don’t think you can stand by the road side and eat. Better go into Joo Hooi coffee shop and enjoy it slowly. Those green round jellies are certainly eye-catching, aren’t they? I have never seen other ais kacang stalls using this as one of the ingredients. Compared with Swatow Lane’s, this is a clear winner.
Update (2010): I went back to Joo Hooi and re-ordered their Ice Kacang. It costs RM2.60 now and does not come with those green sago pearls anymore. The reduced ingredients aside, it still tastes good but not as great like last time.
If you’re not a Penangite, coming here is quite tricky because it’s actually situated off Penang Road along Lebuh Keng Kwee.. refer to the map below for direction lah. Keep an eye for this green corner coffee shop named Joo Hooi.
Penang Road Cendol
Joo Hooi Cafe (愉园餐室)
475, Jalan Penang
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.027 E100 19.839
Business hours: 11.30am to 5pm (Off days not fixed)