[Penang, Malaysia] Breakfast options from Nyonya Kim, Tanjung Bungah Market & Food Complex

The Penang-Perth connection: the husband & wife team of Kim and Richard Spicer’s unique take on Penang-Nyonya kerabu beehoon & nasi ulam at Tanjung Bungah Market’s little neighbourhood hawker centre:

Penang-born Kim does all the cooking, whilst Perthite, Richard, takes orders and handles the cash.

Kerabu bee hoon is essentially a spicy, rice vermicelli salad, served at room temperature. It gets its main flavours from a myriad of traditional ingredients in the dressing: sambal belacan (chili-lime-fermented shrimp paste), raw onions, lemongrass, torch ginger, kerisik (toasted, grated coconut), etc. Kim’s version seemed to tone down on the “sambal belacan” quotient - fine for me, who’s really not into chili-spicy food, but am not too sure how other Penangites feel about this. Also, the “kerisik” and torch ginger were not evident.
But Kim makes up for it by providing delicate slices of fried tofu, crisp fried anchovies and groundnuts for some extra textural crunch, fresh pineapple & cucumber slices and sprigs of mint.

Nasi ulam - was the other dish we had: a rice salad usually served cold/at room temperature, and usually tossed with some aromatic herbs and spices like laksa leaves (Vietnamese coriander), fresh lemongrass, fresh turmeric root, mint leaves, wild betel leaves, torch ginger, lime leaves, Thai basil, etc. Here, again, Kim made her own version, where she dialed down on the more pungent herbs, and made up for its with her anchovy-groundnut topping, and fresh pineapples-cucumber-mint leaves trinity.

We were pretty full from the carb-heavy meal, and chose to take-out the third option on their menu: the Malaysian nasi lemak, tinted blue using the natural colours of the butterfly pea flower, and served with a piece of turmeric-marinated fried chicken and a hard-boiled egg.

The Spicers have actually stumbled upon the secret of having a 3-day work-week. They sell their popular Nyonya staples out by mid-morning usually, and only operate on Sat, Sun & Mon, from 6am till everything is finished, about 10am.

Nyonya Kim, Stall #A14
Tanjung Bungah Market & Food Complex
Jalan Sungai Kelian, Tanjung Tokong
11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang
Tel: +601162484183
Opening hours: 6am till 10am, Sat, Sun & Mon only


Peter - I know from your many past posts that it’s most unusual to see an Anglo at at hawker place. Can’t recall any previous, so is Richard actually unique in that respect?

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Quite rare in Penang, but you do see them around every now and then. As for the neighbourhood they’re in, Tanjung Bungah’s population is around 72% ethnic Chinese-Malaysians, with a 6% expat population (mainly British, Europeans, Australians, etc.). Since Chinese-Malaysians usually speak English (rather than Mandarin), besides the local Hokkien dialect, it’s very easy for English-speaking people to fit in.

Food looks very nice, Peter.

One of the good things about being on holidays in Singapore and Malaysia is there no language barrier. Some of the few countries in which Chinese speak English to each other as one of their official languages.


Exactly! Once, back in 2011 when I’d just moved from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, I was exploring the back-streets of KL Chinatown. Walking down a dingy old alley, I saw a small beef noodle shop, with steam rising from its pots right out of the door - like a scene from old HK or Guangzhou. There was a wizened old man in a white undershirt preparing the noodles. For a moment, I was contemplating what to say to him in my shaky Cantonese - I know that KL’s older Chinese who’re mainly Cantonese pooh-poohed speaking in Mandarin (which they felt was too formal, and some of them don’t even speak it), and their knowledge of Hokkien or Teochew (Singapore’s most common dialects) are almost non-existent.

Just then, the old man looked up at me - and this vision of an old Cantonese man in a traditional Chinese back alley setting, looking 100% a Cantonese hawker from some isolated Chinese village opened his mouth and English words flowed smoothly out: “You want to try my beef noodles? Have a seat inside”. I smiled inwardly, trying hard to suppress a giggle and was thinking at the time, “Hey, I’m in KL, not China. And that old Chinaman’s spoken English sounded better than mine!”. :joy::joy::joy:


But, that was precisely why we traveled extensively to Asia before we had our kid. We wanted to go to places where we wouldn’t hear English as the language of currency. We feel like travel should be challenging.

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Except in some contingency situations, like when I really needed to use a toilet when in downtown Seoul. I went into a large, ultra-modern bookshop where all the young staff were immaculately dressed in very smart uniforms. I asked the ones at the service counter where the toilets are, and none of them could understand me! Luckily, of them had a English-Korean phrase book there. Anyway, I now have the phrase, “Hwajangsil oedi imnika?” seared into my mind forever. :joy: