This new-ish 5-month-old Indian stall at Star Hotel on the corner of Carnarvon Street and Hong Kong Street (now re-named Cheong Fatt Tze Street) unexpectedly serves simply the best Indian appam (pancake) in George Town. Fronted by the young-ish Sharilesh Subash, genial and polite, who makes the most perfect-looking thosai (Tamil for Indian dosa), roti jala (a Malaysian lacy pancake) and the fluffiest appam I’d come across in Penang. All these are served with a small portion of chicken curry.
Thosai - this is the most perfect rendition of the popular South Indian pancake I’d seen anywhere. The golden-brown crust encased the fluffiest, spongiest Indian-style pancake I’d had, with no tinge of fermentation one usually detects in Indian thosai.
Roti jala - a popular lacy pancake unique to Malaysia and Singapore. It’s usually purveyed by Malay or Indian vendors, but also occasionally offered by Peranakan (Baba-Nyonya) eating places. The origins of this lacy pancake can perhaps be traced back to Thailand, where smaller, finer renditions of this dish, called la tiang (ล่าเตียง) and filled with minced pork or shrimps, has been mentioned as far back as the reign of King Rama II (1767-1824).
The one offered here by Chef Shari is carefully prepared and looked so much better than those I’d found elsewhere.
Appam. To me, this is the piece de resistance at this place - beautifully-rendered Indian appam, with or without egg. The egg ones come either with a beaten egg or a slightly cooked whole egg at the centre. The slightly sweetish batter complemented the savoury egg and the spicy curry sauce beautifully.
The beaten egg version - fluffy and very tasty:
Sharilesh’s stall usually sells out by 10.30am, so one does need to come early.
Situated on Carnarvon Street, Star Hotel’s *kopitiam" (traditional Chinese coffeeshop) competes with 3 other very well-established kopitiams on the same street: Ping Hooi (famous for its char koay teow and lor bak stalls), Seng Thor (famous for its lor mee stall) and OO White Coffee (famous for its gu bak mee/beef noodles and oh chien/oyster omelette stalls)
Star Hotel’s kopitiam is better-known for its roast duck rice (Yat San) which opens for lunch (1.30pm-3pm). It also has Koay Teow Th’ng stall run by a Mr Por, whose older brother (Por Beng Kuan) runs the famous koay chiap stall along Kimberley Street. The koay teow th’ng here is quite a respectable version, and comes with duck-meat, minced porkballs, cubes of pig’s blood jelly and pig’s offal. Light & tasty clear soup. Perfect with a dip of light soysauce & chopped bird’s eye chilis.
One can also opt for the “dry” koay teow version, where the flat rice noodles have been tosssed in a tasty sauce made from a concoction of light & dark soysauces, pork lard, sesame oil and other condiments, then served with a side soup containing Chaozhou-style fishballs.
Another popular stall there is the Hokkien Mee stall, run by a temperamental chap who’s assisted by his wife who does the serving. I never got round to ask his name as his tempestous working relationship with his wife sees them squabbling throughout the time we’re there.
The Char Koay Teow stall also churned out a pretty respectable version of Penang’s iconic fried rice noodle dish. Opt for duck egg instead of hen’s egg to get a richer flavour.
This kopitiam encapsulates what Penang’s traditional Chinese coffeeshops are like - with interesting local hawker dishes, complemented by traditional local coffee or tea.
The Star Hotel
246 Carnarvon Street (corner of Cheong Fatt Tze Street)
Opening hours: Early morning daily, 7.30am thereabouts.