Penang Coffee House
549 Burwood Road, Hawthorn VIC
(03) 9819 2092
BYO: Yes, $0.80 per person
Price: Entrees $4-$6, noodles $10.20-$13.00, mains $13-$17.50. Minimum charge $10 per person
Parking: Along Burwood Road or side streets
Hubby used to go to Penang Coffee House quite regularly before he met me, but once we started going out, I introduced him to other Malaysian places so he stopped going. He took me there a few times, but I found the food was just okay and the prices were more expensive than other places. The last time we went must be at least 3 years ago.
On a Friday night, hubby suggested that we give Penang Coffee House a go since we haven’t been for a while, and I was convinced because it is the only place in Melbourne that I know serves white radish cake (chai tao kueh). White radish cake is originally a Teochew dish, but you can find it at practically every hawker centre in Singapore, which is where I developed my taste for it.
White radish cake is also known as carrot cake, but calling it carrot cake can be quite misleading, because for one, carrot is not an ingredient in the cake and two, carrot cake is known in Australia as a sweet cake. White radish cake is essentially rice flour mixed with Chinese white radish (daikon) and steamed. The cake is then cut into smaller pieces and wok fried with a dark sweet soy sauce, salted radish/turnip (chai po) and egg. Spring onions are sprinkled over as a finishing touch. The texture of the cake should be firm enough to hold its shape but be soft in the mouth.
Whenever we drive past Penang Coffee House, I always see a queue of people waiting outside. They don’t take bookings so we decided to go early on Friday night. There were only another 3 or 4 groups in the restaurant, but by about 7.30pm, it was starting to fill up.
We started off with a serve of roti. The roti itself was nice – it was beautifully crisp on the outside and ends but because it was so thick, the inside was still doughy and chewy. The accompanying curry sauce was literally just sauce with one small potato. I would have liked them to be more generous with the amount of sauce, since after all, it is just sauce. The curry wasn’t too spicy but I find it lacked depth of flavour.
Next came the fried white radish cake (chai tao kueh). It normally comes stir fried with beanshoot, but we requested it without. It tasted as good as I remembered, firm but still soft inside and was very tasty. The pork lard cubes probably helped the taste too! It was quite spicy for me but I couldn’t get enough of it.
The last dish was the fried sambal vermicelli. The noodles didn’t have much dimension or flavour – it just tasted very spicy and smoky. There was 3 calamari, 3 prawns, a few pieces of fishcake, beans and cabbage in the noodles. We also requested no beanshoots in this dish.
Overall: Slightly higher prices and smaller serves for Malaysian food, but still a cheap eat. I found the noodle dishes were lacking in ingredients and hubby was still hungry after our meal. Waitress was friendly and food was served quickly.
Would I return? Not really, probably only again when I am craving the white radish cake!
Over & Out, Rilsta xx