[Penang, Malaysia] Taiwanese light eats at Osmanthus Alley

The new 6-week-old Osmanthus Alley is owned by the same folks who used to run Mama Goose trailer cabin food-truck at Hin Bus Depot. With their new, larger premises here, they can now offer an expanded menu, containing many of the familiar favorites from their Mama Goose days.

Light Taiwanese snack items pre-dominate, but their offerings ran the gamut from Shanghainese “lion’s head dumpling” to Szechuanese hot-and-sour soup, and British-Chinese staples like crispy shrimp toasts, as the chef, Master Tang (as he calls himself) spent 10 years (2004-2013) in London, working in Chinese restaurants there like Leong’s Legend on Gerrard Street, Chinatown.

  1. "Lion’s head dumpling" - Shanghainese braised pork-meat ball. I quite liked the version here. But then, I’ve always enjoyed every “lion’s head dumpling” I’d ever had, except for my very first one - back in 2000 when I was on a 7-week business trip in Beijing. I’d never seen or heard of a “lion’s head dumpling” back in Singapore, so was curious enough to try it on my second week in Beijing. It was the vilest dish I’d ever encountered up till then: obnoxious-tasting (either Beijingers do not have access to fresh pork, or they mixed other sort of meats into the mince) and super-greasy - I felt an oil slick spreading from my lips to the corners of my mouth (ugh!).

The one served here was light, non-greasy at all, and had a nice, delicate flavour.

  1. Ma-po tofu - the classic Szechuanese spicy-savory dish which combines custardy soft neutral-tasting tofu with a tongue-numbing, spicy sauce, flecked with garlicky minced pork. Quite a respectable version here, though far from the best rendition I’d had in Penang (the honors go to Great Delight Kitchen on Phuah Hin Leong Road).

  1. The other Szechuanese standout on the menu here is their ultra-spicy-sour Suan La Tang soup. One can order the soup with or without Szechuanese wontons, which has thicker skins than Cantonese-style wontons. We opted for the version with wontons.

  2. Beef fillets in black pepper sauce was the tastiest dish we had, well-balanced, with a strong but not overwhelming black pepper flavor. The capsicums and onions provided pleasant textural contrasts to the tender beef slices.

  1. The Crisp, batter-fried prawns and apples in wasabi-mayonnaise here was a sinus-clearing mustard-gas-attack-on-a-plate. I suspected they perhaps have a commis chef who accidentally doubled, nay, tripled the wasabi portion in the dressing. We practically cried though that course.

  2. Shrimp toasts - I ordered this out of an odd sense of nostalgia. A retro British-Chinese Chinatown staple, it’s on the same level as shrimp cocktail or crab Rangoon, something you remember from out of the Sixties or Seventies. It’s done pretty well here, though. I’d order it again, and again.

  1. This other dish was much more interesting, and perhaps a nod to the chef’s Penang origins: Kafir lime leaf-scented stuffed chicken wings.

  1. This vegetable dish was one of my favorites: Szechuanese dry-fried green beans. The version here didn’t seem to have assertive enough flavors, though (the usual Szechuan version will have garlic, ginger, preserved mustard green, dried chili peppers and Szechuan peppercorns in generous amounts), and the green beans had not been charred beforehand, as should be done for this dish.

Overall, some hits and some misses.

The eclectic decor is filled with some amazing driftwood art-pieces, the chef’s own handiwork on days when he’s not cooking.

Osmanthus Alley
Hin Bus Depot, 59 Jalan Gurdwara
10300 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6011-1181 2722
Operating hours: 11am to 9pm Mon-Tue, Thu to Sun. Closed on Wed.


Cute spot. Not sure about the food, but it’s very prettily presented.

Also love “lion’s head” meatballs/dumplings. I think I like them a lot more in Guanzhou. Also quite cheaper than in HK :+1:

Why don’t have have real Taiwanese snack foods, though? I always have a great time eating and visiting Taiwan.

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I love Taiwanese snack food, too - but that genre is much harder to find here.

Despite similar cultural origins between Penang and Taiwanese cities like Taipei, and especially Kaohsiung (the majority of the populace here and there descended from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, Fujian), the Taiwanese have a stronger Hakka and Fuzhou influence in their cuisine, whereas Penangites are much influenced by the Teochew/Chaozhou, Hainanese and Cantonese - very different taste preferences, as a result.

Penang is also more multicultural, with the mainly Hokkien populace having acquired a taste for chilis and strong spices. Szechuanese food, with its chili content, bridges this local Chinese desire for chili-heat, and the need to preserve a “Chinese” identity of the cuisine here.


Missing Taiwanese food now!

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Can’t quite define “food Porn”. But this photo just might qualify. I’m drawn back to it. And back to it. And …

Terrific review as well.



Thanks, Jim. Waiting for when you come. :grin:


Back at Osmanthus Alley last weekend for lunch with fellow HOer, @Nathan_Jones.

Braised Peking spare-ribs - not one of those slow-cooked-till-meat-falls-off-off-the-bone rib dishes, but it has been cooked till the texture was at its optimum tenderness - yielding, but not mushy-soft. The sauce was the usual complex combination of soy sauce with its various counterparts (oyster sauce, fish sauce) but spiked with the deep, mellow flavours of fragrant Zhenjiang black vinegar.

Eggplant in garlic sauce - this is a simple, almost too common, Shanghainese stir-fry: eggplants, garlic, red chili, soy sauce and sugar. Each Shanghainese/Chinese cook will have a variant on it using the basic ingredients above, but with minor additions or variations. The one here has minced pork for added protein, then topped with fresh, chopped scallions.

Stir-fried tomato & egg - another pure comfort food (for the Northern & Eastern Chinese) - a simple combination of beaten eggs and chunks of freshly-cut tomatoes. I remembered a visiting Shanghainese professor (during my university days in Australia) who’d cook a soup version of this - simmered tomatoes, with eggs beaten into it, then seasoned with MSG - for her dinner every day! For the Southern Chinese, and the Chinese diaspora in South-east Asia, mainly Hokkiens/Fujianese, Cantonese, Hakka, Teochews and Hainanese - this dish don’t even exist for us!
Penang-born Chef Tang obviously learnt this dish from his days working for the Shanghainese-slanted Leong’s Legend in London Chinatown, and added it into his repertoire:

The restaurant was pretty busy, and was full the whole time we were there - a testament to its ability to appeal to Penang’s rather finicky dining crowd.


Agreed, pure comfort food, although I’m more familiar with the tomato egg soup.

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