[Penang, Malaysia] Ceki Nyonya Restaurant, Sri Bahari Road

3-week-old Ceki is the latest addition to Penang’s burgeoning Nyonya restaurant scene. Competition on Sri Bahari Road is stiff, besides two other Nyonya restaurants - one-year-old Bibik’s Kitchen and half-year-old Baba Phang - it also has to contend with long-established Goh Swee Kee Teochew Restaurant (吳瑞記菜館) which has been operating there for more than two decades (and before that in Transfer Road for just about as long) and also the very popular Foong Wei Heong (风味小食馆) which is famous for its braised pig’s trotter for the past decade-and-a-half.

Ceki is fronted by Esther Tan, whose husband, Francis Tee, does all the cooking based upon heirloom Penang-Nyonya recipes passed down by Esther’s grandmother.

What we had for lunch here:

  1. Tau yu bak - a braised pork dish of Hokkien origin, but very popular in Penang even in Nyonya restaurants. The version here is one of the best we’d had commercially in town: the meat was caramelised but not too sweet, and still retained its juiciness - highly recommended, although we couldn’t quite understand why the form tofu cubes were not braised together with the pork belly pieces, but cooked separately before being assembled together on the serving dish.

  2. Inchi kabin - chicken pieces marinated overnight in spices and coconut creme, then crisp-fried to order. Done very well here.

  3. Perut ikan - the classic Penang-Nyonya fish maw-vegetable stew, replete with various types of herbs and vegetables, cooked with preserved fish maw and shrimps. The version here also included coconut milk for an added richness - rarer to find, but authentic all the same. Very tasty.

  4. Otak-otak - the Penang-Nyonya-style which has a texture closer to Thai hor mok than the form Malacca or Singapore-style Nyonya otak-otak. The rendition is rich, though not as strongly spiced as I’d expected.

  5. Sambal goreng - despite its name, this quirkily-named Penang-Nyonya dish does not contain any sambal (chili paste), but consisted of shrimps, lemongrass, coconut milk, shallots, garlic and belacan (fermented shrimp paste). The pale-coloured dish is usually served garnished with toasted cashewnuts. The version here is very tasty compared to the tepid versions I’d had elsewhere in town.

Desserts include:
6) Bubur cha cha - this dessert of sweet potatoes, cassava and taro cooked in coconut milk and Gula Melaka (palm sugar), scented by pandanus, was freshly-cooked and well-balanced in its flavours.

  1. Bee koh moi - also known as pulut hitam in Malacca and Singapore, it’s black glutinous rice cooked in palm sugar, and topped with coconut creme before serving.

Overall, Ceki holds its own against its rivals with distinctly lighter and fresher renditions which I much prefer.

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Address
Ceki Nyonya Restaurant
11-A, Jalan Sri Bahari
10050 Georgetown
Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6011 1051 7976
Opening hours: 11am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm daily.

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You had my attention at the mention of braised pork. That dish looks fantastic!

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Great post as usual! Keep up the good work! :slight_smile:

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That’s the Hokkien/Fujianese version of the Chinese classic dish, Dongpo pork - its creation was attributed to 11th-century Song Dynasty poet, Su Dongpo.

The same dish was adapted into Southern Japanese/Kyushu/Okinawa cuisine, and is known in Japan as Buta no kakuni. The Aussie chef in the following video, Adam Liaw, was winner of Season 2 of Masterchef Australia in 2010.
https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/nagasaki-style-red-braised-pork-belly-buta-kakuni

Where’s that best version that you have had non-commercially in town then? :smiley:

Unfortunately, the best “tau yu bak” are usually home-cooked, so most of the times, if we get invited to a relative or friend’s home, their rendition will definitely taste better. Perhaps the secret is in the small portions prepared in a home, but which restaurants could not replicate: a lot of times, the pork was a bit too dry or even “hard” (from re-heating or over-cooking) when you order in a restaurant.

Ah. That’s why it looked so appealing - I’m a big fan of Dong Po pork.

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Back to Ceki for lunch today. Food’s just as good - if not actually better now.

The Tau Yu Bak (Soy-braised pork belly & tofu) and Inchi kabin (Deep-fried, spice-marinated chicken) were particularly good today.

The three desserts were also very well-executed - fresh coconut milk and good quality palm sugar used:

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Oh, man, that belly pork just looks fantastic!

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Ceki’s braised pork belly is the best in town!

How does the Nyonya version compare with Hangzhou style dongpo?

I’ve had it in a few spots there where it is one large piece of melting pork belly in a crock-like dish…it’s awesome but super -ich. One piece more than enough to share…

The Hangzou dongpo pork is much softer, melt-in-the-mouth texture, due to its long, slow-cooking process (1.5 to 2 hours), whereas Nyonya tau yu bak would’ve been cooked for perhaps 40 minutes to an hour max.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold