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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Penang Trip: Toh Soon Cafe @ Day 2

While most cafes have at least a decent establishment from which food is served, Toh Soon Cafe does otherwise.   This old time charmer located along a back alley on Campbell street has been here for ages from the looks of it.  But while many might associate old to rusty, Toh Soon Cafe still attracts a large crowd daily showing that the folks still have what it takes to remain competitive.  Its customers range from Penang-nites and their families looking to start their day to teenagers as well as inquisitive foodies like myself.


No. 148, Lebuh Campbell, George Town

Pulau Pinang 10200, Malaysia

Closed on Sundays it seems

This placed is famed for the usual suspects such as the butter and kaya toast as well as hard boiled eggs.  Other Malaysian delights served here includes packed Nasi Lemak as well as curry puffs.  While the large crowd clearly shows that this place is popular, is the food really as good as it seems?  Well, to find out I ordered my staples.

The first thing we had was the pre-packed Nasi Lemak which should not have been more than RM1.20 each :)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am not sure whether the Nasi Lemak here were packed by the Toh Soon Cafe itself or brought for sale by another vendor.  But really, I could not be bothered about such details after my first spoonful  The coconut rice is cooked perfectly grain by grain with its fragrant just right.  It is simple but you would be surprise how many people still make blunders cooking rice.  What made me even more chuffed was the anchovies used here.  Coming in at 10am, I expected the typical sad anchovies that have turned soft because it was pre-packed but I was wrong. It was still crispy and went well with the mildly sweet sambal! Totally yums!  Both my mom and dad were pretty impressed.


The next one was a simple kaya butter toastOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While I have again mentioned “simple” kaya, I have not had any good ones back home in Perth as most of the ones sold are either too sweet or have no fragrant =/.  The toast that day was presented like little planks and had a decent spread of butter and kaya between them.  Prepared the old way, this was toasted in a charcoal oven which gives it that good old charcoal flavour albeit very minimal.  For me, this tasted good although I was expecting more kaya as the toast was rather thick.  But would I make my way to Toh Soon Cafe just for the toast?  Probably not.  Yet, there is something terrible nostalgic about having toast prepared in such a manner.   Not like I was born while my mom used a charcoal oven.  No, I had electric and gas but still, there is just something about such places that keeps me keen.


Last but not the least is the obligatory soft-boiled eggs.  A significant or at least common breakfast food across the globe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA dash of soy and pepper followed by a quick stir creates a magical flavour which I have always loved.   I really enjoyed this.  However, it would be an overstatement to say that the eggs at Toh Soon cafe were the best as I found the egg yolks not runny but was rather solid.  But to highlight it as a major problem would be rather petty.  It was just good old eggs in the end.


Once we were done, we walked away without paying more than RM20.  The included drinks, toast, and nasi lemak for three people along with eggs for me! I was like WoW! Cheap cheap!!  Even by KL standards, it was really cheap!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fiesty lady in green was the lady running the show for her bosses where money and orders were concerned ;)!  Quick and efficient she was.


By the end of the meal, I was not so convinced that this little eatery was worth the hype when judged solely based on the food that we had that day.  Yes, the Nasi Lemak was great but that was about it.  Even then, the Nasi Lemak might have came from elsewhere. The toast was noteworthy and the eggs were passable.  Our drinks came fine though dad lamented the quality of his coffee.  He said that it was nowhere near the standards of a typical kopitiam.  However, add in all the memorable things which humans often overlook such as the history of this place, its setting, simplicity and suddenly, it becomes an emotional eat.  Its charisma is overflowing with dedication no longer seen.  Yes, they have foreign workers serving the goodies, but ultimately it was the old timers that were preparing the food.  Furthermore, coming out of bed to such convenience is always nice.  At the end, I was sold.  Definitely worth a revisit.  So there you go, my little review on this charming little place called Toh Soon Cafe in Penang.  Definitely a noteworthy eat along with the Hawker fare on Kimberley Road.