Lunch today - kebab burger from Raja Burger on Union Street. Burger-man, Mohamed Ibrahim, is the son of the legendary Raja Ghani Raja Mydin, who plied his trade at the Esplanade back in the early-70s. Raja Ghani, who turns 80 this year, has retired to Madurai, India.
The elderly Raja Ghani gained fame as Penang’s kebab king after an eventful lifetime of cooking: he left high school after just the second year (at St. Xavier’s Institution) in 1955 and hitch-hiked his way to the Indian sub-continent. He worked in a restaurant in Afghanistan, where he learnt how to prepare the blend of exotic spices that was to become the hallmark of his kebabs & burgers.
Raja Ghani also worked as a cook for the British army’s Nee Soon garrison in Singapore from 1966 to 69, before returning to Penang and starting his hawker business.
His son, Mohamed Ibrahim (“Just call me Ibrahim”, he said), still has Raja Ghani’s original tray bearing the selection of spices in front of him to spice up his kebabs and burgers.
Ibrahim has a large selection of burgers to choose from, but we opted for the goat-meat kebab burgers - which were huge discs of well-spiced goat-meat patties, served in-between an extra-sized burger bun, topped with chopped raw onions. Ibrahim normally topped his burger patties with ketchup and mayonnaise, but we asked for him to exclude that from our order, as we wanted to taste the subtle spices in our kebab meat pattie.
Each of the kebab burger was twice the size of a normal burger, and Ibrahim had thoughtfully quartered each of the kebab burger to make for easier handling. They were really good.
They reminded me somewhat of the shami kebabs I’d had in Pakistan - aromatic from all those spices: cloves, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and replete with gingery and oniony flavours. It was hardly chili-spicy, as Afghans are not into chilis, and this carried on in Ibrahim’s cooking till today, despite local Penangites’ predilection for spicy-hot food.
Raja Burger operates at:
- Union Street/Lebuh Union (near the intersection with Beach Street/Lebuh Pantai) from 11am to 8pm, Mon to Fri (Sat, Sun & bank holidays off)
- Gurney Drive Hawker Centre from 5pm to 12 midnight daily, except Tuesdays. Open on bank holidays
Tel: Ibrahim +60164463238/Azlan Shah (Ibrahim’s brother) +6016-4973907