[Penang, Malaysia] Jawi-Peranakan lunch at Jawi House, Armenian Street

Jawi House on Armenian Street features food from the Straits-born/Peranakan Muslim community which consists of Punjabi, Persian, Arab and other Muslim patrilineages intermarried with local Malays. Their cuisine is an amalgamation of Persian, Afghan, Punjabi & Malay cooking styles.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Penang academician, Dr Wazir Jahan Karim, who decided that she wanted to preserve her Jawi-Peranakan family’s culinary legacy by coming up with a cookbook, “Feasts of Penang: Muslim Culinary Heritage” in 2013. Jawi House was opened later that year, fronted by Wazir’s son, Nurilkarim Razha, and features recipes from the cookbook.

Our lunch today consisted of:

  1. Kerabu Mangga - green mango salad, with lemongrass, torch ginger, red & green chilis, coriander leaves and dried shrimps, in a light, sweet & sour dressing, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. The version here is less tart and mild compared to the fiery Thai version (“som tum”), and less salty & pungent as the Jawi-Peranakan version do not use fish sauce (“nam pla”) in its dressing.

  1. Levant Platter consisting of hummous (mashed chickpeas), Baba Ganoush (pureed eggplant) and Armenian salad with bread chips, feta cheese, tossed in lemon juice and olive oil. Pita bread is served on the side. This is a nod to the many Arab families which settled in Malaya/Singapore (e.g. Alsagoffs, Alkaffs, Aljunieds, Angullias) and contribute to the region’s culinary richness.

  1. Jawi Bamieh Lamb - a mild-flavoured, spiced lamb stew with okra. Local Indian bread called “Roti Bengali” which accompanied the stew was perfect for soaking up the juices.

  1. Lentil rice, served with beef masala. This is a lunch plate where a mixture of rice & yellow lentils are cooked with turmeric, coconut milk and aromatic spices such as cardamom & cinnamon stick.

  1. Nasi lemuni - a Northern Malay rice dish. This dish is accompanied by a chicken masala curry. Nasi lemuni is an interesting rice dish which incorporates a local leafy herb known as “daun lemuni”. which is believed to have medicinal values and normally incorporated into the postnatal diet of women in the Malay/Muslim community, during the one-month-long “confinement period” where the new mother’s diet is closely monitored and she’s “confined” to certain foods believe to have restorative properties. Irregardless, I find nasi lemuni to be very tasty, with a distinctive pleasing herbal scent. The chicken masala curry (just like the lamb bamieh stew) has a fairly liquid gravy and very mild in comparison to Indian, Malay, Nyonya or even local Penang-Chinese curries.

  1. Dessert: Bubur cha cha. This is a popular Malay dessert of various root vegetables (taro, yam, cassava) plus sago & cendol noodles cooked in thick coconut milk, sweetened with palm sugar, and scented with pandanus leaves.

Jawi House Cafe Gallery
85 Armenian Street, George Town
10200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-261 3680
Opening hours: 11am-10pm daily, except Tuesdays.


We were back in Jawi House yesterday to film a food segment for the on-going Penang Arts Council’s O:PEN project highlighting heritage food spots around Penang. This episode explored Jawi-Peranakan cuisine served at the Jawi House.

Our dinner spread:

Mangga kerabu - a local green mango salad. It’s pretty distinct from the Thai version due to the addition of aromatic torch ginger, local herbs like “ulam raja”, and its milder dressing.

Cucur udang (prawn fritters) and fried tofu, with a spicy peanut sauce

Nasi lemuni, accompanied by a Jawi-style chicken curry

Laksa lemak - this was absolutely delicious: rich in coconut milk, with a mild spicing reminiscent of Kedah laksa.

Prawn biryani - this is a wonderful change from the usual chicken/lamb biryanis, with its lighter, crustacean flavours.

Bamieh lamb stew with okra, served with toasted roti Benggali - almost like a local Jawi “gumbo”, with its complex yet mild-spicing. Jawi Peranakan cuisine seems very gentle compared to the assertive Tamil, Keralan, and other ethnic Indian and Malay curries in Penang.