Roti jala is a popular Malay crepe, which has a trademark lacy appearance from the way the batter is drizzled onto the griddle pan. The crepe gets its richness from the use of fresh coconut milk, and is tinted yellow using turmeric. It is served as a savoury dish, accompanied by a curry - I prefer either chicken, mutton or beef curry, but there are many Malaysians who’d have it with sardines, fish curry or dhal curry.
One of the best spots for roti jala is Warisan Bonda stall at Astaka Taman Tun Sardon, a popular 24-hour hawker centre in Taman Tun Sardon, a largely Malay-Muslim neighbourhood.
The 38-year-old stall founded by Zubaidah Haji Hussain, is run now by her grandchildren, all hailing from Bachok, Kelantan - a state on the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia, which is the bastion of good Malay cooking. It does prove true here - its curries, both the chicken and beef versions, are the best I’d tasted in recent memory anywhere in Penang.
The siblings have segmented their respective tasks and everything went like clockwork: sister Ummi Marina Marzookhy churned out the lacy roti jala crepes by the dozens over two large hot plates, Mami Wan Benjo Merican takes care of the pulut kuning, Sharifah Balkis Syed Osman does the lontong and soto ayam (which I’d not tried), and brother Azkhir Marzookhy serves out the roti jala to order, whilst Anuar does the nasi lemak.
One needs to be be early to make sure one gets the chicken curry option which usually sells out by 9am (the other option - roti jala with beef curry is not too bad, actually). Warisan Bonda (it means “Mum’s Heritage” in Malay) does very good curries, with a sweet cardamom, cinnamon & cumin bouquet of aromas, and a delicious gingery flavour. One of the best-tasting curries I’d had anywhere.
The roti jala crepes itself here is soft, moist and has a subtle richness from the coconut milk used in its batter. Perfect accompaniment for the curries.
Astaka Taman Tun Sardon gets pretty busy each morning, and offers a huge variety of Malay-Muslim eats - nasi lemak, nasi lemuni, Malay kuehs, roti canai /murtabak, mee goreng, etc. As it’s located in a Malay-Muslim enclave, the food is all halal and you won’t find any Chinese food stall here.
For me, Astaka Taman Tun Sardon is a veritable gold-mine of good Malay eats, and a must-visit if one is ever in Penang.