[Penang] Lunch at Sifu Nyonya Cuisine, Rope Walk

Amongst Penang’s burgeoning Nyonya restaurant scene is the small, family-run Sifu Nyonya Cuisine on Rope Walk (Jln Pintal Tali), which has its own band of loyal customers.

We were there for lunch today, and affable owner, Peter Leong, was on-hand to recommend us the house specialties, all cooked by his 70-year-old aunt, Head Chef Madam Beh Geok Wah.

Our lunch spread:

  1. Stingray gulai tumis (hot-sour stringray and okra curry)

  2. Tau eu bak (soy-braised pork with hard-boiled eggs)

  3. Asam prawns (tamarind-marinated prawns)

  4. Inchi kabin (fried, spice-marinated chicken)

  5. Jiu hu char (shredded jicama with dried cuttlefish, shitake mushrooms, carrots & pork)

  6. Lor bak (5-spiced meat rolls)

  7. Pomelo kerabu (spicy pomelo salad)

  8. Nasi ulam (rice salad with salted duck’s egg)


  1. Gandum (called bubur terigu in Singapore and Malacca) - sweetened wheat porridge with coconut milk and palm sugar.

  2. Bee koh moi (called pulot hitam in Singapore and Malacca) - sweetened black glutinous rice porridge, with coconut milk and dried longans.

  3. Bubur cha cha - sweet potato, taro, yam and tapioca jelly soup.

It’s a small, unpretentious restaurant, with only 7 tables, so advance booking is essential, especially for dinner. Taste-wise, it was quite average.

Sifu Nyonya Cuisine
154, Jalan Pintal Tali (Rope Walk), 10100 George Town, Penang
Tel: 04-3051867 or WhatsApp 012-4106688.
Open: 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-9.45pm Mon-Tue, Thu-Fri.
11.30am to 9.45pm (open all-day) on Sat & Sun. Closed on Wed.


Well that’s a pity. It looks good, though.

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It was pretty popular, but its cooking is more Chinese-Hokkien than actual Straits-Chinese - the latter favour more intense chili and spice flavours. Straits-Chinese or Nyonya cooking adapted Malay flavours (lemongrass, galangal, fermented shrimp/belacan, pandan, etc.) over centuries, whilst the Chinese-Hokkiens stuck more closely to their Chinese roots by toning down on chili, pungent local herbs, and even coconut milk usage.

Some things were also not right at Sifu:

  1. The inchi kabin spiced fried chicken was served with Thai-style sweet chili sauce, instead of the traditional Worcestershire sauce with cut, red chilis. This is a culinary faux pas which a Straits Chinese/Nyonya will never commit.

  2. The nasi ulam was tinted blue (using butterfly pea flower). Straits Chinese/Nyonya never tints nasi ulam blue. It’s usually yellow from the use of fresh turmeric, which was also absent from the dish here.

  3. All the three desserts lacked the taste of fresh, thick coconut milk, nor the sweet-savoury balance of flavours requisite in Nyonya desserts.

IMO, Penang’s three best Nyonya restaurants are Ceki, Bibik’s Kitchen and Baba Phang, all of which are Michelin-selected.