With its opening one month ago, Nest Khun Thai has finally rectified what had been a rather puzzling mystery in this historic part of George Town: why is there not a single Thai restaurant on Bangkok Lane?
Bangkok Lane straddles the area between Wat Chayamangkalaram, Penang’s premier Thai temple, built back in 1845, and the old Siamese settlement where the earliest Siamese-Christian refugees came to stay in 1786 , after Captain Francis Light claimed the Prince of Wales Island (Penang’s old name) for the British East India Company.
Bangkok Lane - a largely quiet, residential area until recently.
The early Siamese, Burmese and Chinese emigrants who settled in Pulau Tikus integrated with each other in terms of food and culture, giving rise to the unique Straits Chinese community in Pulau Tikus. The famous Penang street food, asam laksa, was one of the results of this cross-borrowing/cross-pollination between the different food cultures. It appears to incorporate influences from both Thai “khanom jeen nam ya” and Burmese “mohinga”, all using rice noodles in a sour-spicy fish-based soup, accented by lemongrass, galangal and tamarind, festooned with a bouquet of fresh herbs.
Penang-Nyonya cuisine’s close affinity and resemblance to Thai cuisine also indirectly caused the dearth of actual, authentic Thai food in Penang - most Thai cooking here had been altered to suit the Penang palate: less fish sauce, less sweet, less chilis, etc.
Nest Khun Thai is a welcome addition to Pulau Tikus’ culinary scene, as it sticks to its Thai origins closely, giving little away to accommodate local Penang taste preferences, like many other Thai eateries here do.
Nest Khun Thai is strategically located on the end of Bangkok Lane nearest to Pulau Tikus Market.
Our dinner this evening:
Yam woon sen - glass noodles salad, with shrimps, squid, long beans, cherry tomatoes, red onions and cashew-nuts.
Hor mok talay - steamed seafood spicy custard pudding.
Tom yum gai - spicy-sour soup with chicken.
Kaeng som pla kapong - spicy, steamed seabass.
Khai jiao cha om - climbing wattle-leaf omelette
Mixed vegetables - Chinese-style braised Napa cabbage, carrots, broccoli and enoki mushrooms.
Tub tim krob - Thai “red rubies” dessert of water-chestnuts coated in red-tinted tapioca starch, served in iced, sweetened coconut milk, with jackfruit strips. Excellent rendition.
Kaeng buet fak-thong - boiled pumpkin in coconut milk. This was a very simple dessert to make, but difficult to get the flavours absolutely right. The chef here made a perfect one!
Bua-loy khai wan - tiny little globes of glutinous rice balls in a rich, sweetened coconut milk soup, with a poached egg. This dessert is served warm, and is perhaps my favourite Thai dessert of all time. In Bangkok, I go to a popular little shop on Rama IV Road for this dessert.
I think the desserts were the best part of the meal. If I do come back here, it’ll be for those.
Nest Khun Thai
39 Bangkok Lane (Lorong Bangkok), 10250 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-675 8275
Opening hours: 11am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-9pm Mon-Fri, Sun