What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Penang? Nasi Kandar. And here is a list of the five top Nasi Kandar joints in Penang, as attested to by the Penangites who were consulted during this compilation.
But first, a refresher course on Nasi Kandar.
Back in the day, Indian Muslim immigrants would roam the port and streets of George Town with heavy baskets of steaming rice and pots of fragrant curries hanging off a bamboo or wooden pole balancing on their shoulders (hence the name kandar, or stick).
Nasi Kandar is a hearty meal, always served with a way too generous portion of fluffy, white rice and a smorgasbord of protein selections. These are topped up with “kari banjir”. It is not Nasi Kandar if the plate is not drenched in curry. It’s just not.
Oh, and don’t expect a wide selection of vegetables either — options are limited to stir-fried cabbage and long beans, but honestly who bothers about vegetables here?
It can be enjoyed piping hot for breakfast, lunch, dinner and, of course, like a real Penangite, for supper at 1am because that is when it tastes the best.
Ask any Penangite and most of their best memories involve a humble plate of Nasi Kandar enjoyed with their family and friends.
Here are the five Nasi Kandar restaurants that are in every Penangite’s guidebook.
1. Deen Maju
Do not be surprised to see throngs of hungry people queuing up in the hot sun outside this restaurant in Jalan Gurdwara, just for a plate of Nasi Kandar.
The quick service and good food make up for the queue. The juicy fried chicken with crispy skin and squid eggs are not to be missed.
Recently recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records as the country’s oldest Nasi Kandar, Hameediyah has maintained its deliciousness for seven long generations.
The mix of spices that gives its Nasi Kandar its unique taste has been carefully maintained for the past 114 years.
But don’t just enjoy the Nasi Kandar, the murtabak has also won a special place in the hearts of customers.
3. Nasi Kandar Kampung Melayu
Some Penangites have said this restaurant is No 1 on their list. Located in Ayer Itam, customers flock to this stall for the Nasi Kandar.
The restaurant is so popular, it has been reported that it is a favourite of the Kedah royal family as well.
4. Deen Jelutong
Drive past Deen Jelutong at midnight and there is still a long queue for a plate of Nasi Kandar.
The perfect supper dish after a night out with friends, try out the fried chicken and squid eggs, all loaded on a plate of steaming rice drenched with curries of all kinds, truly the perfect way to end the night!
Those who grew up in Gelugor would be familiar with Shariff. Ask anyone and they will tell you his Ayam Masak Kicap and onion omelette are the highlights of the menu.
Now located in a food court at Brown Garden, this stall cannot be missed because there is always a queue of people waiting for a plate of Nasi Kandar.
This stall only opens in the evenings and whether one gets to scratch the Nasi Kandar itch depends very much on luck. Because of how tasty the food is here, it tends to sell out fast!