[Penang] Tina's Kitchen, Kimberley Street

Tina Loh is the feisty, loquacious owner-chef of her eponymously-named Tina’s Kitchen, a cosy 20-seater on Kimberley Street. Tina cooks and serves, whilst her amiable septuagenarian mother helps out in the kitchen, and sometimes at the cash counter.

Tina’s nifty, little menu comprises mainly Penang-Nyonya dishes. Because of its smallish set-up, each dish at Tina’s Kitchen would’ve been cooked in a family-sized pot and, consequently, has that elusive home-cooked flavor which one is hard put to find inside most of George Town’s commercialized Nyonya restaurants.

We actually found Tina’s Kitchen by accident. Having walked past its front door numerous times as we traversed the old Chinatown quarter seeking out better-known eateries, an item on their menu pasted upfront caught my eye one day: it read Mary’s Cream Cheese Rangoon, showing a picture of golden, crisp-fried dumplings.

I’d NOT seen the retro Crab Rangoon for ages!! It used to be something we’d have at the now-defunct Trader Vic’s in Singapore. Back then - four decades ago - it was the height of fashionable eating to be seated at a table under the shadow of a Polynesian canoe suspended from the rafters above one’s head, whilst waiters served giant cocktails festooned with tiny umbrellas and tropical flowers. We’d order Bongo Bongo soup and Crab Rangoon for starters!

So we went into Tina’s that first time. Her version didn’t include crabmeat, just soft cheese. It didn’t matter. Those were absolutely delicious! We went back there again twice the same week.

These were what we tried in our three trips there!

  1. Mary’s Cream Cheese Rangoon - crisp and crunchy on the outside, and creamy-rich inside, I could eat a dozen of these at one sitting. It was named after Tina’s mum, Mary Loh, who made it for the family since back in the 60s.

  1. Lor Bak - these were 5-spiced Chinese meat rolls. Very good, but I’d still prefer the ones from lor bak-specialty stalls outside.

  1. 𝘛𝘰𝘰 𝘛𝘩𝘰𝘳 𝘛𝘩’𝘯𝘨 - pig’s stomach in peppery chicken broth, with ginkgo nuts and carrot. By jove, this was the best rendition of the soup I’d ever had in Penang, Singapore, or anywhere in this region! It was light, yet savory, and lightly peppery. The pig’s stomach strips and chicken thigh-meat were melt-in-the-mouth tender.

  2. 𝘕𝘢𝘴𝘪 𝘜𝘭𝘢𝘮 - rice salad with salted fish, 𝘬𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘬 (toasted, grated coconut), fresh purple shallots, and crushed nuts, served with 𝘈𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳 𝘈𝘸𝘢𝘬 (Nyonya pickled vegetables), 𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘣𝘢𝘭 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯 (chili-fermented shrimp paste) and with a squeeze of lime.
    This dish was Tina’s specialty so we just had to order it. I’m not a nasi ulam fan, so my dining companion had to eat most of it.

  3. 𝘑𝘪𝘶 𝘏𝘰𝘰 𝘊𝘩𝘢𝘳 - stewed, grated jicama with shitake mushrooms. This dish was above average and a must-order here.

  4. 𝘛𝘰𝘰 𝘒𝘢𝘩 𝘊𝘩𝘰𝘳 - pig’s trotters stewed with ginger and black vinegar. One of the better versions in town.

  5. 𝘈𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘺 𝘙𝘰𝘴𝘦’𝘴 𝘐𝘯𝘤𝘩𝘪 𝘒𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘯 - spice-marinated, fried chicken, served with 𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘰𝘩 𝘵𝘢𝘶 𝘦𝘶 (home-brewed Worcestershire sauce). One of the most authentic-tasting renditions of this dish I’d found in Penang, although Tina’s use of only chicken wings threw us off a bit here. “Aunty Rose” referred a family friend who shared her popular recipe with the Lohs - the Chinese calls every older person “uncle” or “auntie” as an honorific term.

8) Peach agar-agar pudding.

  1. 𝘉𝘦𝘦 𝘒𝘰𝘩 𝘔𝘰𝘺 - sweet, black glutinous rice porridge, with coconut milk. This was very good, but Tina dialed down the sugar level quite a bit: present-day locals tend to want less sugar, but this messes up the “traditional” flavors of the old desserts.

  2. Bubur cha cha - another of Tina’s specialty: tapioca, sweet potatoes, purple yam and tapioca jelly (called “cha cha” by the Portuguese-Kristang community in Malaysia, and what gave this traditional Nyonya dessert its name) cooked in coconut milk, sweetened with palm sugar. Again, the sweetness level has been reduced. Else, it’d have been the best bubur cha cha I’d found outside a home in Malaysia.

Tina’s Kitchen
70, Lebuh Kimberley (Kimberley Street), 10100 George Town, Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: +6012-480 6666
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm Mon-Tue, Thu-Sun. Closed on Wednesdays.


Interesting. I’ve only come across Crab Rangoon once before - in a place in Key Largo, Florida. My notes from that meal remind me I did a bit of research into the dish and it appeared to be a Chinese-American one, so it’s interesting to find it in your part of the world. I didnt particularly really enjoy it, my notes saying it "may not have been my best ever menu choice. An overly thick pastry enclosed a small amount of underseasoned crab, formed into bite-sized “pasties”. The saving grace was a Thai sweet chilli sauce which probably came straight out of the bottle". Your experience sounds much, much better

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The version here used wanton wrappers, which were crisp and aromatic when deep-fried. The filling was just cream cheese. Very simple but very nice.


Crab rangoon most likely was developed in Trader Vic’s kitchen.

It does show up often on the New England area on Chinese-American menus. The pastry that encloses it is typically a wonton wrapper. The base is cream cheese into which scallion is folded. Then it should also include shredded surimi, but I’m noticing a lot of places seem to be using finely shredded carrot now, which makes it entirely too sweet. My favorite places will also flavor it with a little curry powder.


Thanks, Amanda! Very informative.

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We live on the northern California coast, and almost all of the Chinese-American restaurants here have crab Rangoon on their appetizer menus. Maybe because there used to be a Trader Joe’s in San Francisco? We often order it. Our favorite restaurant calls it crab cheese puffs. They’re fine, but yours look better!


Trader Vic’s? :wink:

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Yes - Trader Vic’s! Thanks.

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Happy to help!

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