Friday, 31 October 2014

Yeng Keng Cafe & Bar Hainanese Western in Penang

I have been to Penang many times ever since I took a rumbling bus from Singapore with my buddy TTP, when we were teenagers. I always remembered Penang as a foodie's paradise because of it's wide variety of delicious multicultural street food. So, I was not surprised at all that Lonely Planet picked Penang as top spot in the world for foodies in 2014.

Other commitments had kept me away from Penang for more than 10 years, so I was really excited about my visit at the courtesy of Original Century Food Pte Ltd, maker of MyOri Penang White Curry Noodles.

My first dinner in Penang was at the iconic Yeng Keng Cafe & Bar.


Yeng Keng cafe and bar is the small F & B outlet of Yeng Keng Hotel, a heritage boutique hotel (20 rooms only) along Chulia Street at the heart beat of the UNESCO World Heritage City of George Town.


The heritage boutique hotel is full of quaint old furniture like this intricate and very inviting day bed.


The bar counter at Yeng Keng cafe is a throwback from British colonial days. White marble top, velvet bar stools, ornate mirrors, and dark wood glass cabinets with half full empty whisky bottles inside :D

I felt very at home here.

It reminded me of 1980s Tengah Air Base in Singapore, where Hainan Ah Ko (chefs and bartenders) served cocktails like Gunner and unforgettable Hainanese style Western food in the old Tengah Officers Mess. (We called it TOM.)


Yeng Keng is often full house, so it is best to call ahead of time and make reservations. (Tel: +604 262 2177.) When we stepped in, every table was reserved. So, everybody had called in advance :D


Affable Chef Tan Jee Yong PJK is Yeng Keng's Executive Chef. Born in Hainan (China), Chef Tan started as a kitchen help in his teens and slowly made his way up to become one of Penang's best known chefs today. Chef Tan had worked in the kitchens of colonial British Army camps and in the venerable Penang Club (founded 1868) where he made his name as one of Penang's top Hainanese chefs.

Yeng Keng cafe serves a variety of Hainanese Western, traditional Hainanese as well as local favourites. 


We started our dinner with this large rugby ball shaped Macaroni Pie (RM78++) served in a boat shaped bowl.


The airy eggy meringue's skin was lightly browned and the light puffy crust tasted of egg white with some sweet notes.

The egg white pastry crust encased a savoury-sweet stew of mushrooms, carrots, eggs, pieces of tender chicken, and soft macaroni in house made brown sauce.

I like Yeng Keng's Macaroni Pie.


Oversize Hainanese style deep fried spring rolls (RM7++ each).


Inside the crispy wrap, it was packed full of clean tasting chopped cabbage, carrot, chicken, turnip, mushrooms, crab and prawns.

The crispy rolls were served with a house blended sauce of HP sauce, A1 sauce, tomato, cut red chilies, onions and other seasonings/ condiments.

The deep fried rolls were not greasy and very likable.


Spinach Lamb Roll (RM125++)


The nicely tender gently gamey lamb wrapped a soft core of spinach and bathed in savoury sweet brown sauce. The dish was served with sides of crunchy lady's fingers, peas, potatoes, cauliflowers, broccoli and carrots.

Lamb lovers must try.


Yeng Keng's signature Hainanese chicken chop (RM18++).

The younger folks in our party reached immediately for the bottle of ketchup before tasting the first bite :P

As for me, I like to eat my food without condiments, as far as possible.


The tender juicy boneless thigh meat was wrapped in a coat of egg white which was fried to a golden brown crisp. The chicken chop was blanketed in a gooey gravy which was filled with sweetness from carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peas and onions.

Executive Chef Tan shared what makes a Hainanese chicken chop. The eggy crust (no flour) and the au naturale brown sauce are the keys :D

Yeng Keng's unique Hainanese chicken chop is a definite must try. 


Yeng Keng Hainanese chicken rice - RM90++ (serves 5 persons)

Though this was priced at a huge premium above the average market price for chicken rice, Yeng Keng's chicken rice set was very popular. 

Indeed, this is one of Yeng Keng's signature best sellers.


I like my poached chicken this way.

Well cooked but still retaining the chicken meat's natural sweet juices and tender, smooth texture.


Yeng Keng's chicken rice was packed with aroma and savoury flavours because it was fried before boiling in chicken stock. The rice was mostly loose and fluffy but there were some clumps as the grains were a starchy variety.

Yeng Keng-Cafe-Bar-Hainanese-Western-Penang

Yeng Keng's chicken rice was also served with a large bowl of chicken soup sweetened with carrots and cabbage. 


The chili sauce is a crucial element that makes or breaks a chicken rice dish. Yeng Keng's chili sauce was a good balance of tangy, sweet, savoury and spicy.

A Hong Kong company once offered to buy Chef Tan's chili recipe for a 5 figure sum but Chef Tan turned it down.


Yeng Keng Hainanese noodles (RM14++) are very popular with guests.

The yellow noodles fried with chicken, seafood, vegetable and smooth savoury gravy were easy to like.

As our dinner were into the last dishes, I noticed the lights suddenly dimmed.


It was time for Yeng Ken's signature Bomb Alaska to make a grand, dramatic entrance. Yeng Keng is the only place you can get this unique sweet dessert in Penang.


Yeng Keng's signature Bomb Alaska (RM40++). Eggy, not too sweet fluffy butter cake meringue with treasures of ice cream and fruits inside.

It's 4 scoops of ice cream, mixed fruits buried in a butter cake meringue covered with egg souffle and flambeed with whisky.


All of us has an inner child.

We can see Chef Tan's inner child, every time he gleefully torches a Bomb Alaska :D

Chef Tan is passionate about his art and is a strong advocate of consistency and standards of food served. It's a trait Chef Tan picked up from his own old master who insisted that every dish served must be of the highest standard.

Chef Tan has a light touch which brings out the natural flavours and aroma of the hand picked ingredients. Chef Tan likes to use natural ingredients like carrot, peas, potatoes to sweeten his dishes (instead of using too much sugar). I enjoyed the clean tasting, natural flavours of the ingredients a lot. Others may prefer more assertive flavours with heavier use of seasonings and condiments.

Come again?


Acknowledgement: Original Century Food Pte Ltd, maker of MyOri Penang White Curry Noodles supported my visit to Penang and my mission to "Put Every Good Hawker on the World Wide Web".

Side entrance from hotel side

Restaurant name: Yeng Keng Cafe & Bar 
Address: 362, Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
GPS: 5.419006,100.334959
Tel: +604 262 2177
Hours: Lunch | Dinner
No pork, no lard, no Halal cert

Date visited: 24 Oct 2014, 25 Oct 2014

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I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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