[Penang, Malaysia] Street eats at Coco Island, Gurney Drive

Coco Island Street Food is the newest casual dining hotspot on Gurney Drive. It’s also been seeing more action, especially in the evenings, ever since Bali Hai has moved its morning dim sum and evening seafood dining operations over to Coco Island’s premises, consolidating the two previously separate dining entities.

With the current pandemic lockdown which has reduced international arrivals to Penang to zero, and inter-state travel lockdown in Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley, where a quarter of Malaysia’s populace (and where the most affluent segment) resides, Coco Island’s business is currently fueled purely by local, internal Penangites’ demand.

We weren’t in a mood to splurge on a seafood dinner, which can run into the hundreds of dollars if one chose the more expensive live shellfish from the water tanks, which ran the gamut from Alaskan king crab to Boston lobster.

Instead we stuck to the local street food items:

  1. Chicken satay - these were very good: well-marinated chicken (one can also opt for beef or lamb) skewers char-grilled over open charcoal braziers. The slightly spicy peanut sauce dip was absolutely spot-on.

  1. Lor bak - this is a selection of deep-fried pork rolls, prawn fritters, tofu and century egg with pickled ginger, all served with a spicy chili dip, and a savoury, unctuous 5-spice scented “lor” (meaning “braised”) dip which is streaked through with egg-white ribbons.
    The lor bak stall here is operated by the Lim family, whose original outlet at Kampung Malabar in George Town’s Chinatown quarter is 80 years-old, and is one of the most well-established lor bak spots in Penang.

  1. Chicken curry Kapitan with deep-fried mantou - Curry Kapitan is a traditional Penang-Nyonya dry curry - the rendition here was pretty tasty, if not exactly authentic (genuine curry Kapitan needs to have the strong scent of lemongrass, and topped with fragrant kaffir limes leaves).

  1. Nasi tomato with ayam goreng berempah - very tasty combination of fragrant steamed rice flavoured with tomatoes and scented with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom, with crisp-fried spice-marinated chicken. Some acar pickles, hard-boiled egg and deep-fried poppadums completed the ensemble.

  2. Khao kha moo (braised Thai-style pork leg) - I love khao kha moo is a big way. In Bangkok, I usually go to the Saint-Louis district (so-called as the warren of streets and alleyways are located behind the Saint-Louis Hospital in Sathorn) for my khao kha moo fix. But since the COVID lockdown meant international travel between Penang and Bangkok is impossible, I had to content myself with this localized version: less sweet and less piquant.

We had chilled ambarella juice - refreshingly tart.

We need to come back to try other food options here.

Address
Coco Island Street Food
104, Persiaran Gurney (Gurney Drive)
10250 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-229 8881
Operating hours:12 noon to midnight daily

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Nice but too clean and modern. Is it like this in much of Malaysia now?

My eyes are used to seeing the filth and homeliness of (rural) China or Vietnam more than 10 years back. And I’m a clean freak. :shushing_face: I had a great time eating there.

No, only in parts of Malaysia, or even Penang. Most Penang coffeeshops actually look like One Corner Cafe.

Have you been to Taipei or Kaohsiung in Taiwan? Penang would resemble those cities more than any in China today, although Penang will be more multi-cultural.

Most office workers in Penang are more likely to lunch at one of the cafes or casual eateries in town like this one pictured below, rather than at the more casual coffeeshops/kopitiams.

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Yes, I’ve been to those places as well. These developed Asian countries put us to shame. Much, much cleaner and nicer. We hate to answer the most common question “where are you guys from?”. We are ashamed of this country. Anyways…

It’s been 20 years since we visited Malaysia. There must be a lot of changes since then.

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Oh yes, a lot of changes, especially in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and, to a lesser extent, Penang.

Penang’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, so the city has a strict set of rules to conserve its historic buildings (its old downtown even has height restrictions for buildings - none over 4-storeys), unlike Singapore & KL where much has been lost when graceful, old structures were pulled down to build skyscrapers. :expressionless: :-1:

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold