[Penang, Malaysia] Roti jala from Warisan Bonda, Astaka Taman Tun Sardon

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.


Fantastic report, as always.


Back for more this morning.

Azkhir Marzookhy churned out the roti jala with clockwork efficiency:

Roti jala with chicken curry.

Roti jala with beef-and-potato curry - this was even better than their chicken curry.

The beverage just has to be hot Teh Tarik - frothy milk tea.

Astaka Taman Tun Sardon is located in a mainly Malay-Muslim neighbourhood, so its food offerings here are mainly Malay and all halal.

One of the other stalls here sold “pulut udang”, a glutinous rice snack with spiced shrimp-grated coconut filling, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. In the northern part of Malaysia, the Malays call these “pulut udang”, whereas the Baba-Nyonya (Straits-born Chinese) community called them “rempah udang”. In the southern part of Malaysia and Singapore, the Malay term is “pulut panggang” (“udang” means shrimp, “panggang” means grilled".

Since Baba-Malay language (used by the Straits-born Chinese) is closer to Indonesian than Malay language, there’s every likelihood the Baba-Nyonyas mispronounced the Indonesian word for this food item, “lemper” as “rempah” (“rempah” in Baba-Malay actually meant “spice mix”).


Back to Warisan Bonda for breakfast this morning. Believe me - one does NOT need coffee to jolt one awake here. Who needs caffeine when one can have spicy, delicious beef or chicken curry to set one’s tongue tingling.

Warisan Bonda’s curries have that elusive old-fashioned flavours which seemed to have largely disappeared from Penang’s Malay culinary world. This is how I feel each time I have a taste of their curries - an Anton Ego moment a la Ratatouille:

What we ordered this morning:

  1. Pulut kuning with gulai daging - the steamed, glutinous rice was tinted a rich yellow using fresh turmeric root. It’s scented with pandanus leaves and gets its rich flavour from coconut crème.
    The beef curry has that amazing, intoxicating scent and deliciously deep flavours which perhaps only the Kelantanese-Malays can conjure up.

  2. Roti jala with gulai ayam - lacy, eggy crepes, also tinted yellow using turmeric, served with a Malay-style chicken curry, which tends to be more milder on scent than South Indian versions, and less coconut-rich compared to Nyonya curries. But this one was perfect to go with the roti jala (which already has a rich flavour from the inclusion of coconut crème in its batter). Best ever version on the island. So glad that this stall emerged unscathed from the 2-month COVID lockdown.

The queue is back!


Couldn’t resist coming back here for the roti jala. I just realised that, after tasting the lacy crepes twice in 4 days, the texture of the crepes produced by Mdm Zubaidah (who only cooks on weekends) is finer than the ones her son and daughter made on weekdays. Tasted “better”, too, as if the crepes had been cooked slightly longer, making them less toothsome, and without the “raw”, eggy taste I encountered on my last trip here 4 days back.

The queue is much longer on weekends, which is why I’d preferred to come here on week-days. The longest wait I’d had to endure was 40 minutes in the queue on one particularly busy Sunday morning last year. But this weekend, with Penangites slowly emerging from the 2-month COVID lockdown with more than a bit of trepidation, crowds at food courts are still pretty sparse and we hardly needed to wait more than 5 minutes to get our food.

But if it meant getting better, perfectly-cooked crepes from Mdm Zubaidah herself, I think I’m quite willing to endure longer wait times. Her curries were, of course, the best I’d tasted in Penang, bar none.


My system rejects this kind of food but I would still want to try it.

Hopefully your favourite roti maker is there whenever you have a craving.

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So far, keeping my fingers crossed, all my favourite food purveyors are still there - they’ve all seemed to have emerged from Penang’s 2-month lockdown none the worse for wear.