I am so glad to have found a place that sells a mean serving of authentic Penang Assam Laksa, and it is conveniently located along the shophouses right next to Aljunied MRT.
This modest looking place is called Penang Food Restaurant. Besides serving lots of other standard Tze Char dishes, they also serve Curry Fishhead, Steamboat, and some unique dishes and rice set meals. However the main highlights should be their Penang specials.
The first thing I ordered was the famous staple street hawker food in Penang, the Penang Assam Laksa, which comes in 2 sizes; $4 for the big, and $3 for the small bowl. The assam laksa fish gravy was thick and yummy! It was very tangy tasty and spicy, full of minced mackerel. The prawn paste (the black sauce dribbled on top) called Haeko or Otak Udang, was a nice and necessary complement to the assam laksa.
The thick white rice noodles were chewy, garnished with thinly shredded cucumber, onions, pineapple, mint leaves, chopped ginger, chilli and prawn paste. I remember when I was in my teens, when I first visited Penang and had my first serving of its Assam Laksa, I hated it, because it was so different from our local lemak milky Laksa. I did not even finished the dish then, and thought it was so fishy. Now, I love it so much, I always slurp up all its gravy. The pungent, sour and fiery Assam Laksa is a very unique Malaysian creation from the Nonya heritage.
Next on the list was their Penang Prawn Noodles which comes in 2 sizes too and also you have the option of small prawns or big prawns. The small prawns shelled while the big prawns are unshelled. I would suggest the Big Prawns version which has more kick. The prawn noodle broth was thick and so comforting.
Called Penang Hokkien Mee, the prawn noodles were topped with 2-3 gigantic prawns, hard-boiled egg, lean slices of pork, kang kong, beansprouts, and shallots. The soup was steeped in a rich and flavourful prawn stock. Simply satisfying.
The next must-try is the Penang Char Kway Teow. They use kway-teow, or flat noodles to create a stir fry dry version. Ingredients used include shrimp, cockles, egg, chinese sausages, beansprouts, chives, lard and top with a fresh lime to be squeezed on top of the dish. The Char Kway Teow has wok hei (ie. charred aroma from frying) and done nicely. Yummilicious!
A nice rice set to try is the Mongolian King Ribs Rice. The meaty ribs (deboned) are slightly spicy with a little gravy and stirfried with spices, onions, curry leaves, black pepper etc... all of which went very well with warm steamed rice. It is a nice meal by itself if you are in a hurry.
Other more common dishes are the Hor Fun, which is the usual 'wet' version with fishcake, lean pork, chye sim, egg, squid and shrimp. I think this is quite ordinary.
Another Hor Fun I tried was the 'dry' version, which closely resembles our local Char Kway Teow, stir fried in dark sauce but with the same ingredients as the wet version. I find it was a tad oily for my liking.
My mom was not feeling very well that day when we visited the restaurant. So she ordered just this Spinach Centruy Egg Soup to go with steamed rice. Ingredients for this delicious and simple dish are young spinach, garlic, century egg, salted duck egg, fried tiny white ikan bilis and wolfberries, with condiments like salt, pepper, and chinese cooking wine. This was very nice with slightly thick broth.
A side dish we tried was the Golden Tofu, which was deep fried and served with salad cream. While the outer crispy layer was crunchy, the soft tofu inside melted in the mouth. I think they mixed tofu with other ingredients, and delivered this tofu dish with a punch. I am drooling just thinking about this dish now.
All in all, a very nice try in this coffeeshop restaurant. My family enjoyed it. We are going to try some of their ala-carte dishes next time, or their steamboat or curry fishhead. I would not mind going back just for the Penang Assam Laksa alone. The owner cum one of the chefs is a friendly guy always with a smile.
Penang Food Restaurant
76 Lorong 25A Geylang
(Next to Aljunied MRT)
Tel: +65 6841 3002