Ayer Itam is a mainly Chinese township located on the foothills of Penang Hill, just a bit over 6 km from George Town. Nowadays, it’s regarded as an outer suburb of the city. In the old days, Ayer Itam functioned as something like Helm’s Deep to Edoras, in Tolkien’s LOTR-talk. During the heat of the Penang Riots of 1867, when rival triad gangs turned the streets of George Town into a battlefield, city-folks seek refuge in Ayer Itam.
It was the same during World War II, when waves of Japanese bombers rained death and destruction on the streets of George Town: on 11 June 1941 itself, 5,000 people were killed or maimed in one day alone when the bombs fell. The next day, tens of thousands of shell-shocked George Townians flooded the streets of Ayer Itam, quadrupling the population there overnight.
Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple is an Ayer Itam landmark which overlooks the town.
View of Ayer Itam (foreground) and George Town (background) from Kek Lok Si temple
Nowadays, Ayer Itam is a bustling agricultural township where we’d go to hunt for good food. Its bustling morning market has a Chinese village feel to it.
We opted for breakfast at Ka Pin Coffeeshop, popular for its Penang-style Hokkien noodles - a mix of yellow wheat noodles, thin rice noodles and beansprouts in a spicy-savoury prawn-pork broth, garnished with pork-ribs, shrimps and hard-boiled egg, and topped off with crisp shallots and more chili paste for added heat. It really was the tastiest rendition of the dish I’d had in a while.
The other popular stall at Kapin Coffeeshop is the Nasi Lemak, coconut-scented rice with shrimps with chilis, fried fish, crisp-fried anchovies and hard-boiled egg; and a Nasi Ulam. a herbal rice salad.
Nasi Lemak - pretty average rendition here. Not too impressed.
Nasi Ulam - one of the best versions of this dish I’d had in Penang. Truly a must-have here.
Kedai Kopi Kapin (Kapin Coffeeshop)
Jalan Paya Terubong, Kampung Pisang
11500 Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia