Nely Koon is probably Penang’s unofficial “Queen of Cakes”, with her range of rich sponge cakes, cheesecakes and fruit crumbles, many incorporating her favorite fruit: the cempedak or jackfruit.
58-year-old Nely Koon started her foray into the food business with a tiny pop-up cake stand, which she called Nellcis Cakes, at the Little Penang Street Market (which opened only on the last Sunday of each month) back in 2006. She garnered quite a loyal following there, and decided to operate on more regular hours with a stall at Red Garden Food Centre a few years later. Nely finally opened her own place, Passion Heart Café, on Muntri Street in 2013. It was there that Nely started offering savory items to complement her array of cakes and sweets, and her popular Jawa Mee was born.
Nely’s Jawa Mee is far & away the tastiest version of the dish I’ve ever had, anywhere! her noodles were slathered with a rich, thick gravy, flavored with chicken stock, tomatoes and tomato puree, and thickened with sweet potatoes and potatoes. Among the garnishes were a whole hard-boiled egg, fried tofu, shredded lettuce, and the crispiest, lightest shrimp fritters on the island.
I’d always wanted to try the other menu offerings whenever I come back to Passion Heart Café, but invariably ended up ordering the ultra-popular Jawa Mee which Nely said constituted 90% of her customer orders.
We had two of her desserts when we lunched there last week:
Apple crumble - absolutely delish, and we particularly loved the whole almonds added to the apple filling, which provided an pleasant textural crunch.
Cempedak cheesecake - it’s worth trying any of Nely’s cempedak creations, if one is adventurous enough to try the cempedak/jackfruit - as it’s a seasonal fruit, and Nely orders 3 tons of the fruit each time, and freezes them, guaranteeing their availability the whole year round.
Passion Heart Café is located at its current premises on Jalan A.S. Mansoor since 21 Sep 2019.
Passion Heart Café
23, Jalan A.S. Mansoor, 10050 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-443 1336
Operating hours: 11.30am to 9pm, daily except Tuesday.