Dining Out: Penang Coffee House, Hawthorn

by April@MyFoodTrail on August 19, 2009

in BYO Place, Cheap Eats, Dining Out, Hawthorn, Malaysian

Penang Coffee House
549 Burwood Road, Hawthorn VIC
(03) 9819 2092

Cuisine: Malaysian
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.

Inside Penang Coffee House

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.

Roti $6

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.

Fried white radish – chai tao kueh $11.20

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.

Fried sambal vermicelli $11.20

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

Penang Coffee House on Urbanspoon

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

spatulaspoonandsaturday August 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm

this is what is called carrot cake in singapore isnt it? i love that stuff. ive always wanted to try to make that (lets add that to my wishlist of things i would make if i werent so lazy)


Iron Chef Shellie August 19, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I like your "overall" and "will i return"… great idea!

I have ALWAYS wanted to try this place, cos it's SO hard to find good Malaysian food. Think after reading this, and hearing a few other not so positive reviews I may give it a miss. I think mumma is bringing home take away from Rasa Malaya tomorrow night and they are usually good =D


Stephcookie August 20, 2009 at 8:16 am

I looove chai tow kway! Hehe pork lard always helps the taste in my opinion 😉 Though I have to have it with beansprouts, it's not the same without it!


Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 10:35 am

Penang char kway teow is my favourite comfort food and it never fails to deliver. I've had curries, laksa and other noodles there but it's the char kway teow that is superior to any I've had. Other places don't get the egg right and don't make it spicy enough.


Maria@TheGourmetChallenge August 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Interesting meal. I think the lack of sauce would have annoyed me too.

I dont think i've ever had white radish cake, but this sounds quite appealing. Might have to give it a go.


Rilsta August 20, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Hi spatulaspoonandsaturday: I wish you had a shorter name, I'll just have to start abbreviating to ss&s;! 🙂 Yes, this is carrot cake in Singapore! I tried making it a number of weeks ago but it didn't turn out well. Once I master the recipe, I shall post it here!

Hi Iron Chef Shellie: Thanks! My cousin in law actually suggested I do something like that so lazy people or people who think I ramble on too much can just look at the pictures and read the end bit! Haha!

Is Rasa Malaya that place opposite Monash Caulfield?

Hi Stephcookie: My aversion to beansprouts has been well documented! In Singapore they never serve it with beansprouts either!

Hi Anonymous: Thanks for the tip. If I go back there I will have to try the char kway tiow!

Hi Maria: Do give it a go because you don't find it anywhere else. It is actually very similar to the radish cake you find at yum cha.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 20, 2009 at 8:29 pm

I love radish cake too! When it's right, it's oh so right (and love some crispy browning on the edges too). My cousin from Singapore was shocked when he saw carrot cake here! He was expecting a radish cake type of cake 😛


Anita August 20, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I understand why calling radish cake – carrot cake would be misleading especially for Aussies. I've never heard of radish cake, but I would have imagined something totally different, it looks great and tasty though.


spatulaspoonandsaturday August 21, 2009 at 7:47 am

haha it isnt my name. its my blog name, it's a funny blogspot thing because if youre on wordpress and you log in using wordpress id, it doesnt give you an option to enter your name! anyway, you can just call me kat, which is, you know, my name!


Rilsta August 25, 2009 at 9:13 am

Hi Lorraine: Yes I know what you mean! It's funny how it's called carrot cake when there are no carrots!

Hi Anita: Even though it is called radish "cake" it is a savoury dish!

Hi Kat: I know your name! 🙂 I was just replying to the spatulaspoonandsaturday said…


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