[Penang, Malaysia] Nasi kandar dinner at Nathrah Sari, Bee Ghah Coffeeshop

In Penang, where the nasi kandar trade is traditionally dominated by Tamil-Muslim men from Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) district in Tamil Nadu, Nasi Kandar Nathrah in Teluk Kumbar goes against the grain with its all-women crew.

Located at Bee Ghah coffeeshop, Nasi Kandar Nathrah Sari is headed by owner-chef, Sari, a consummate Nasi Kandar-woman who’s ultra-polite, and incredibly neat, even as she helped each of her customers pick their choice of dishes, and expertly mixes-and-matches the gravy atop one’s plate of rice.

Bee Ghah kopitiam is more than 80 years old, owned by the Teoh family, and Nathrah Nasi Kandar has been operating there since Sari’s grandfather, Shaikh Daud’s time about 66 years ago. Upon her grandfather’s passing, the stall was passed down to his two daughters, thus starting the matriarchal lineage of Nasi Kandar Nathrah.

Sari’s mother was the elder daughter. Note that when one goes to Bee Ghah coffeeshop, one sees TWO nasi kandar stalls on either side of the coffeeshop: the one on the left is run by Sari and only opens in the evenings, 6.30pm onwards. The queue is always long, as her nasi kandar is one of the best in Penang, and tasted better than almost any other nasi kandar stall I’d ever been to.

Sari’s aunt, Kak Azizah, only operates her nasi kandar stall (Nasi Kandar Daud) located on the right-side of the coffeeshop in the mornings, from 7.30am onwards daily (no official days off, although she may close it for her own vacations). I’m told that the “morning” nasi kandar has thicker gravy than the “evening” nasi kandar.

If you’ve not found a nasi kandar stall where you can smell the aroma of its curries 100 feet away, you need to come to this one. Sari’s “daging cincang masak hitam” reminded me of the sort one gets in George Town’s old, long-gone mamak places like Ghani, Meerah or Dawood, and which old survivors like Hameediyah seemed to have lost.

The tiny, 8-decade-old Bee Ghah Coffeeshop, a 40-minutes’ drive (30 km) from George Town. It’s owned by the Teoh family who also serves traditional Hockchiew kopi, with toasted Benggali roti and homemade kaya. It’s currently managed by siblings, Mdm Teoh Goh Eng, 75, and her younger brother, Teoh Kong Chai, 66. Mdm Teoh has worked in the coffeeshop started by their parents since the age of 10.
Bee Ghah is located right next to the high-rise Lexis Hotel on Jalan Teluk Kumbar, the main street, so it’s pretty easy to find.

Bee Ghah Coffeeshop
34 MK9, Jalan Teluk Kumbar
11920 Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +016-411 8024
Opening hours of Bee Ghah Coffeeshop: 7am to 9pm daily, except Saturdays 7am to 6pm.

Nathrah Sari’s Nasi Kandar stall operates: 6.30pm till 9.30pm daily, except Saturdays (closed).


Keeping different hours – Not quite the family feud level as Puma and Addidas or:


Yes, a rather “civil” agreement amidst the hostilities.

Did you ever hear of this supposed “gentlemen’s agreement” between the UK and Nazi Germany that Germany would not bomb Oxford and Cambridge if, in return, Britain did not bomb Heidelberg and Göttingen? That’s to spare the university towns in both countries from the ravages of the war. I first heard of it from my German colleagues when I was in Heidelberg on a long work assignment back in 2000. But then, my colleagues could’ve just been repeating what they read in Prof. Stephen Hawking’s 1993 book, Black Holes and Baby Universes and other Essays where he talked about his parents’ decision to move to Oxford precisely because of the above arrangement.

Food looks sensational! Squid’s eggs as in the roe sacs? I have never had it. Would go here to eat it.

1 Like

Yup! I was multi-tasking (rushing some scripts for my editor on a new book) when I prepared the illustration for the pictures - and realised later that I used “squid eggs” and “fish eggs” instead of “squid roe” and “fish roe”. Too lazy to make the changes before I posted, and was hoping no one would notice … but you did! :joy: :joy: :joy:

That’s new to us. Casting away our mindset in this nuclear age of mutually assured destruction and adopting a WWII vantage, is it possible the confident soon-to-be victor would want those institutions intact to enhance the peace or even occupation?

1 Like

I’m a big fan of roe and have never had squid’s! I think I’ll have a fantastic time eating in Penang (in a near future).

PS: if I’m good at anything it’s noticing details. No self-respecting perfectionists and control freaks who aren’t good at noticing details.

1 Like

I wasn’t even sure if it was indeed true (that there was such an agreement), but it did seem quite logical to preserve those beautiful towns with their historic buildings. Yes, as a victor, I’d certainly want to see some semblance of civilisation preserved.

Which is also why Heidelberg is so incredibly picture-postcard pretty. All its castles, medieval streets and ancient bridges are all still there, untouched by WW II bombs.

Do come, and drop me a line if and when you do. :grin:

1 Like
1 Like

Alternatively, that none of the four cities had any strategic targets, either industrial or "morale sapping ".

1 Like

Maps exist to confirm that, when the bombing attacks took place on Manchester (my nearby city), in late 1940, the raiders had orders to try an avoid hitting the Midland Hotel on the edge of the main city centre area. It had been designated as the German headquarters for the area in the event of them winning the war.

What they didnt miss was my grandfather’s office building. The family stored all the important documents in the company safe thinking they’d be, erm, safe. Wrong.

1 Like

Sad! :frowning_face:

But the family all survived, right? That’d be something to be thankful for.

Absolutely. It was a night raid so the offices would have been unoccupied. And Dad was away with the army in India & Burma. I go back to the Great War to find two great uncles killed though.

1 Like

I did German studies in my first year in university, and one of the books on our reading list was Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front ). Heavy stuff - young men were sent out like cannon fodder at the battlefronts.

Great book (which I’ve only read in English - my German just about capable of reading enough of a restaurant menu to be reasonably certain of what most of the food will be.)

1 Like

I often wondered what difference in emotions the story will evoke when one reads the English translation, as there are some things conveyed in German which one cannot translate into English without losing some of its nuances, and in this case, gravitas.

Even the title of the book, for instance - Im Westen nichts Neues translates literally to “Nothing New in the West”, as to say “All Quiet on the Western Front” in German does not carry the same “feel” for a German reader.

I remembered watching the Ben Stiller/Robert de Niro 2000 comedy, “Meet the Parents” in Frankfurt. The German title of the film was “Meine Braut, ihr Vater und ich”, which translates literally as “My bride, her father and me”. :grin: