[Penang, Malaysia] Christmas Day dinner at Great Delight Kitchen on Phuah Hin Leong Road

Great Delight Kitchen is perhaps Penang’s most under-rated Chinese restaurant - a small, inconspicuous eatery along a row of townhouses on Phuah Hin Leong Road which produces an eclectic mix of Chinese regional dishes, all of which punched above their weight in terms of flavours delivered.

We decided to have our Christmas Day dinner here, rather than risk facing the crowds at Penang’s more well-known, popular restaurants like Maple Gold, CRC Restaurant or Fong Wei Heong, which would probably also require a week’s advance booking.

Great Delight Kitchen’s menu always seem to have too many dishes that we wanted to try on any given visit. Our dinner choices this evening:

  1. Assam pedas Red Snapper - this is a classic Penang-Chinese dish, a result of its centuries-old fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking techniques and ingredients. “Assam” means ‘sour’ in Malay, and “pedas” means ‘spicy’, so it’s basically a sour-spicy fish stew, cooked using a whole local white-fleshed red snapper. Only the Chinese in South-east Asia utilises so much herbs in their cooking, a testament to their 400-year presence in this tropical region, where native cooking styles (Siamese and Indonesian) have been assimilated by the Chinese.

The “assam pedas” gets its tongue-searing spicy flavours from an almost-shocking amount of chili paste, and sourness from slices of the acidic tamarind fruit (called “assam gelugur” or “assam keeping” in Malay). The stew gets its fragrance from onions, blue ginger (Malay: “lengkuas”), lemongrass (Malay: “serai”), torch ginger (Malay: “bunga kantan”) and kaffir lime leaves (Malay: “daun limau purut”). Tomatoes are added for an extra sour-sweet slant, and okra to slightly thicken the stew (almost akin to gumbo).

The red snapper are cut up and added to the stew at the last minute, and served just cooked: possible in Penang where the fish is usually so fresh, it was probably still swimming this morning.

  1. Guangdong Da Liang fried fresh milk - we had to have this as it was the first time I’d seen “fried milk” on a menu in Penang. 30-40 years ago, we had fried milk - more like soft curds, batter-fried - in New Mayflower Restaurant in London Chinatown every time we visited the city. A dish which originated from Shunde district of Foshan City in Guangdong province, Southern China, it does not exist in Singapore, then as now! We “may” come across this dish if we happen to chance upon any restaurant which specialises in Shunde (the Cantonese called it “Shun Tak”) cuisine in Hong Kong.
    Over here at Great Delight Kitchen, the chef combined the batter-fried milk curds with fresh crabmeat, braised the whole concoction and crowned it with a generous scattering of toasted pine-nuts. It’s served on a bed of crisp-fried rice vermicelli for an added textural dimension.

  1. Lion’s head dumplings - this is a classic minced pork dish originating in Eastern China, and very common in Shanghai. The version here is the stewed one (the other is served in a soup).

  2. Bitter-gourd with salted duck’s eggyolk - another popular Chinese-Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant dish that’s become ubiquitous in many a family dinner table. The version at Great Delight Kitchen is one of the better ones I’d tried, either in Malaysia or Singapore. The bitter-gourd had been salted and drained, before being batter-fried till golden & crisp, then wok-fried with mashed duck’s egg-yolk, chilis, curry leaves.

This was certainly one of the better Chinese restaurant meals I’d had in Penang, which is better-known for its hawker/ street food than its restaurant food, in general.

Great Delight Kitchen
29, Phuah Hin Leong Road
George Town, 10050 Penang
Tel: +6042189503/+60102199503
Operating hours: 11.30am-10pm daily, except on Saturdays.


All looks good. Halfway through preparing Xmas dinner I vowed I’d go to a Chinese restaurant next year. Just a quick question on the lionshead dumpling. I have come across one very large lionshead meatball rather than several small ones. Are these particular to Shanghai and/or Penang?


Bitter gourd and salted yolk dish looks grrrrrrreat! I like both ingredients so I probably like this dish.

Have heard of fried milk but haven’t tried it. The meatballs look very savoury and saucy.

I have just eaten rice here in Sicily. It’s deep-fried, shaped in oval and pear form. Super crispy on the outside, saucy and cheesy on the inside.



Here in Boston, Lionshead meatballs was a featured item at a Shanghainese restaurant.

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The single large dumpling is the correct serving style. Each diner would have his/her dumpling like this in a single serve.

The smaller dumplings as what I get here at Great Delight Kitchen (and also at Beijing Impressions in Sydney last week) are modern-day modifications to the traditional serving style.

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Back here again for Sunday lunch today, this time I brought along a “ham yue fa laam pou” (pork belly with salted fish, stewed in a claypot) gourmet expert to come & try the rendition here with me. I tasted the dish myself and could not for the life of me tell the difference between this one and the ones I’d tried in other restaurants. The dish - flavoured with dark and light soy sauce, oyster sauce, dried chilis, scallions, Shaoxing wine, onions and pungent salted fish - was too robust for my palate to discern any subtle variations.

Imagine my surprise just now, when my expert taster guest declared the version here to be the best he’d ever had - even better than his erstwhile favourite version! I’m going to take his word for it. :joy:

My favourite item here is the bitter-gourd in salted duck’s egg-yolk here: crisp, salty, slightly sweet and bitter-ish - a perfect balance of flavours and textures which the chef here got right each & every occasion I was here.

The piece de resistance for our lunch today was the sōngshǔ guì yú (squirrel-shaped mandarin fish) which I last had at Sydney’s Beijing Impressions last week. The whole fried fish here at Great Delight Kitchen had terrific textures - crisp on the outside, beautifully moist inside. But, taste-wise, it paled significantly, compared to the more authentic flavours I had at Beijing Impressions last week where, I suspect, the chef was Beijing-Chinese, whereas the chef here at Great Delight Kitchen is obviously Penang-Chinese, whose cooking has been localised to suit the Penang palate.
It’s still very good, just not like the ones I’d tasted in Shanghai or elsewhere in China.

The last dish was a simple stir-fry of baby bok choy with bacon & garlic.

This place is still my current favourite spot for a good restaurant-style Chinese meal in Penang.


Long time I haven’t seen this on a menu, don’t know if it’s falling out of fashion. But the version I ate was presented as dim sum and the appearance was different. Would like to order it when see this dish somewhere. Must be good with crab.


Looks like battered or breaded fresh cod fish …

Soft inside, and sweet.