The Wok Cafe is a newly opened restaurant at Kota Damansara serving home-cooked authenthic Penang Style Nyonya Cuisine. If you’re from Penang, The Wok might sound familiar because their first branch – Hot Wok is indeed located in Penang along Burmah Road (previously at Tanjong Tokong).
Opened only about a month ago, Mervyn the head cook and owner extended an invitation to me to their restaurant to try their Nyonya cuisine and Penang hawker food. Being an avid fan of Penang hawker food, I was eager to find out if The Wok could live up to the standards.
It was a surprise visit because I happened to be at Kota Damansara for dinner and suddenly remembered about Mervyn’s invitation. After meeting the owner himself and got ourself seated, he presented us with The Wok’s menu, which was extensive and had almost all the Nyonya food I’ve ever known. But I was actually more interested in the Penang hawker food listed in the last page, lol.
Anyway take a look at the drinks, can you guess what are they? No they are not teh ais and sirap bandung but soya milk mixed with gula Melaka and rose syrup respectively! I think I have openly expressed my dislike towards gula Melaka before but when combined with soya milk, it was a great and refreshing drink for me. This is so simple you can try making one yourself!
A serving of Otak-otak (for two persons) cost RM5. Under the soft and squishy fish paste was a layer of fish meat. I enjoyed it but I might have loved it more if only it was spicier.
Since Mervyn stressed that they have retained the original Penang cooking style when it comes to their hawker food, the easiest way to verify this claim was to order a bowl of Hokkien Mee (Prawn Mee) @ RM6.
And truthfully enough, the Prawn Mee was of Penang style with light and sweet tasting soup packed with prawn flavor. Interesting enough, some nice and crunchy lard was present in the noodle. Ah.. it has been a long time since I last tasted a good bowl of Prawn Mee like this in KL.
Char Koay Teow, the iconic Penang hawker food @ RM7. There’s simply no other food that can represent Penang better. I particularly ordered this because I had been deprived of a good Char Koay Teow for months, lol.
If you feel RM7 is expensive for Char Koay Teow, well don’t be because that’s the standard price for any restaurants here. Besides, the price is justifiable by the big portion and the four huge, fresh sea prawns. My god those prawns were so meaty and juicy.
The Wok included sliced fish cakes into their Char Koay Teow, which is not a norm in Penang. And one of my favorite ingredients, cockles was missing too. When asked about the cockles, Mervyn explained that the cockles were not fresh that day so they were omitted from the dish. An acceptable explanation. I wouldn’t want any unfresh ingredients in my Char Koay Teow that would spoil the whole dish or, worse still, cause me food poisoning later.
To be honest, it tasted nice for a plate of Char Koay Teow especially those yummy prawns.. simply heavenly. But if compared to the real Penang style Char Koay Teow, I found the authenticity to be lacking due to the lack of the special fragrance and ‘wok hei’. I feel I am very picky, lol.
Just to be fair, it’s not easy to be a master in all Penang hawker food. Even Penang hawkers themselves are specialized in their very own food only. You won’t be able to find a stall selling both great Prawn Mee and Char Koay Teow, would you?
Mervyn then suggested that we give their Penang Hokkien Char a try. Hokkien Char is a fried noodle (usually yellow mee mixed with vercimilli mee) with dark soya sauce and meat, prawns and vegetables @ RM7. Sometimes liver is included as well.
Like the Char Koay Teow we had earlier, The Wok wasn’t stingy with the ingredients. Huge juicy prawns and generous strips of meat were given.
If eaten on its own Hokkien Char seems like a very normal noodle, which is why sambal is so important for this dish. Sambal is like the soul of Hokkien Char, to provide the desirable spicy and slightly sourish flavor to this noodle. Even just a hint of sambal would make all the difference in the taste and open up your appetite.
But not all sambal would make the cut yeah, because only authentic Penang sambal is qualified for the task. Well, I am glad to say Mervyn has managed to cook the Hokkien Char and sambal very faithfully according to Penang style.
Then it was time for desserts. First up was Cendol @ RM3.30.
And followed by Sago Nangka @ RM3.30 too. Both SL and I preferred this to cendol because the jackfruit bits and sago were just much enjoyable compared to starch noodles and kidney beans. This is highly recommended for desserts.
The father and son team of The Wok Cafe has put in a lot of effort decorating the restaurant to give it a 50-60s feel. With many Nyonya decor, antiques, photos around, dining at The Wok Cafe felt like being sent back to the past.
Round marble tables and old coffee shop chairs will bring out the nostalgic feeling in you. Provided if you’re born before or around the 80s lah, else I doubt you would feel a thing lol.
I know Penang Hokkien Char is not easy to find in KL after being here for some time. So, if you’re curious about how Hokkien Char tastes like and not visiting Penang anytime soon, do head to The Wok Cafe to try it. The Nyonya cuisine looked pretty interesting as well and I won’t hesitate to return to sample it. And if you’re staying near Kota Damansara, do know that I am pretty jealous of you because you have easy access to great Penang food cooked by a true Penangite lol.
The Wok Cafe
Authentic Penang Nyonya & Local Cuisine
26, Jalan PJU 5/21
The Strand, Kota Damansara
PS* – The Wok Cafe is located at the newer shoplots across the road from Kayu’s Nasi Kandar. After turning into The Strand from the traffic light, keep left and you will notice a big electrical shop and Alliance bank. The Wok Cafe is just behind.