Deen Nasi Kandar stall at Toon Leong coffeeshop has been operating at the same spot for more than 80 years now - the current stallholder, Sirajudeen, is the great-grandson of the original owner. Since 1936, Toon Leong coffeeshop is owned by the Teoh family.
Nasi kandar is one of the dishes which Malaysians & Singaporeans identify with Penang - an amazing one-plate rice dish served with your choice of meat & vegetable curries, all mixed together to form a messy mound of deliciousness unlike anything else you’d have ever tasted.
The curries are mainly of South Indian Tamil-Muslim origin, with very distinct flavours and aromas which set them apart from other regional Indian, Malay, Indonesian or Thai curries widely available in Penang. Traditionally, Penang’s nasi kandar vendors all hail from the Ramnad district of Tamil Nadu in India, whilst the spice-women who traditionally provide the spice blends and curry mixes which characterise nasi kandar curries came mainly from Tenkasi and Kadayanallur districts in Tamil Nadu. It is this very unique combination of Ramnad cooking techniques and Tenkasi/Kadayanallur spice blends which resulted in the extraordinarily aromatic and distinctive Penang nasi kandar curry flavours.
A nasi kandar server is a “mixologist” of sorts - his skill is judged by how well he mixed-and-matched the various types of curry sauces onto your plate, resulting in a hodge-podge of sometimes contrasting flavours which will somehow come together to become better than the sum of its parts.
Come early to Deen Nasi Kandar at Toon Leong - before 9.30am - if you want to taste its “gulai ikan keli” or catfish curry, which tend to sell out by mid-morning.
Toon Leong coffeeshop itself has a sedate, retro feel, with regulars - elderly men of Chinese, Malay & Indian extraction, all local Penangites, lounging around, having their morning cuppa of Hainanese-style brewed coffee or tea and chatting with each other.
Traditional Hainanese kaya (egg-jam) and butter toasts are also offered, to be dipped into one’s coffee or soft-boiled eggs before eating.
Deen Nasi Kandar
Toon Leong Coffeeshop
84 Jalan Transfer (intersection of Transfer Road and Argyll Road)
George Town, 10050 Penang
Operating hours: 7am till 3pm daily (closed alternate Sundays)