Travel Diary » Discovering great food in Batu Ferringhi
Late last year we started formulating a plan.
Colin: "Renting a 5 bedroom house in Penang is almost the same cost as storage in Australia. Lets more our gear to Penang and travel from there!"
Tracy: "Great! Anywhere but Batu Ferringhi."
Tracy: "It's touristy and the food is crap. We'll end up driving four times a day to Tanjung Bungah to eat, shop and send the kids to school so lets live there"
Colin: "But the houses are cheap in Batu Ferringhi and our friends live there"
Tracy: "Yeah but the food is crap and over priced!"
OK so the conversation was a little longer ... it went on for four months in fact. May arrived and we landed in Penang ready to house hunt. I was still firm on my 'No Batu Ferringhi' decision. But when we went looking for a house to rent, the houses in Batu Ferringhi were the cheapest and best value. Then we found a perfect house to rent a few doors down from our friends with the perfect yard and I had to give in. We've moved into our new house and the gear's arrived (more on this in another post) but setting up the kitchen is going to be a long process thanks to not enough storage space and a fridge that decided to burn out after two days.
So this week has been a crash course in finding the best places to eat in Batu Ferringhi. I have to say I've been pleasantly surprised. My original belief that every restaurant was either over priced or served sub-standard food has been proven wrong. While there are certainly a lot of restaurants that won't have you looking for the best flight deals to Malaysia to return in a hurry, there are actually some really nice places to eat in Batu Ferringhi.
Here are our top 5 pick of places to eat in Batu Ferringhi, based on the quality of food and price.*
*I've included prices in Malaysian ringgits and USD but for reference 1USD/1AUS is approximately equal to 3.5 ringgits, while 1 pound is 5 ringgits.
Tucked down the far end of Batu Ferringhi, opposite the Bayview Hotel, is Enca Restaurant. The menu is extensive. Do you feel like Indian, Italian, Chinese, Malay or Western cuisine? Enca has it all and it's all delicious. Prices are cheap too when compared with other restaurants of the same standard in Batu Ferringhi. A medium curry, naan and rice will set you back 12 ringgits ($US3.5), while a medium pizza costs 14 ringgits ($US4).
OK, so their butter chicken is not in the same 'I want to be buried with this sauce' league as Sri Ananda Bawang's, our favourite restaurant in the whole world, but it's really good.
The best thing on the menu so far that we've tried? The vegetable makhanwala and cheese garlic naan - both are superb.
We had the pizza there late one night after a concert at the nearby Hard Rock Hotel and it was delicious ... although we'd had a lot of beer so anything would have been delicious at that point! But that brings me to another thing that makes Enca great - they're open all the time. The staff are really friendly and helpful - they happily made changes to meals to suit the kids, remembered our names after the second time we ate there and are just generally nice guys. The menu also has a great selection of foods suitable for kids.
Open for lunch and evenings just outside KFC are two rows of unassuming roadside stalls lining either side of the street. They're not fine dining, they're not going to win awards on decor but they do serve fantastic food. Always busy, the night time Chinese restaurant is the last stall on the left hand side of Jalan Sungai Emas. From local delicacies to familiar favourites like sweet n sour chicken, the prices and flavour are great although they use an almost lethal amount of MSG (they'll happily not use MSG if you think to ask).
On the opposite side next to the fruit stand (a handy place to know about with kids for it's pre-cut fresh fruit) is my downfall on those days when I've skipped lunch and made the mistake of going down to the shops mid afternoon starving. This small stand serves deep fried battered fruits and vegetables at .50 ringgits a piece (15c). It's riduclously cheap and tasty ... and equally bad for you. I try to balance the bad out by telling myself I'm eating vegetables even if they're deep fried, but the layer of grease on my fingers doesn't let me delude myself long.
Our favourite stall is on the left hand side of the road, opposite the fried banana stand. A makeshift sink on the side of the street and blue table clothes mark a local eatery run by a really friendly Malay lady with excellent English and great curries. Colin is a fan of her fall apart in on your plate mutton korma. I love eating there because not only does she have a great range of vegetarian options, her English is so good she can explain all the various dishes too me. I like trying new things ... but only if I know what they are! Below is her fried chicken, tomato rice, beans and home made Dahl filled with onion and vegetables. You'll get change from 10 ringgits ($US3) if you order this dish with a drink.
Open 24 hours (except for one hour on Fridays over lunch when all the staff have gone to prayers), Khaleel is located on Jalan Sungai Emas just past KFC. It's the last shop in Eden Parade. They're one of the cheapest breakfasts in Batu Ferringhi. If you like spice, ask for chicken curry and dahl mixed together to go with your roti. Two rotis with dahl and a drink will cost between 2.50-4.00 ringgits ($US.80-1.20).
Khaleel's lunchtime Nasi Kandar buffet is really good. We're yet to try their fish head curry but have been assured it's good. The fried chicken and rice with vegetables and various gravy sauces is delicious, but the best chicken is the one served in a sweet onion gravy. At dinner time they've recently started serving burgers, in addition to their Nasi Kandar and tandoori naan menu. It's hard to beat a large burger with fries for under 10 ringgits. A serve of rice, vegetables and two pieces of chicken generally costs 8 ringgits, as does chicken tandoori with naan and sauce. Khaleel serves excellent Tea Tarik and lemon ice teas, but my favourite is their Ais Lemon - lime juice with sugar and ice. One of the best I've had in Penang.
Just past the Park Royal and the small lane leading down to the beach is Helena's Cafe. The menu is a little limited and some items are a little pricey but when your fed up with rice Helena's is the place to come. As well as local Indian and Chinese dishes, Helena's serves sandwiches, omelettes, sausages, chicken schnitzel, french fries and a rarity in Malaysia - bacon! Helena's is a great place to eat if you are travelling with young kids. The staff are really friendly and the menu is kid friendly. Fresh juice, baked beans, jam toast, toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches and sausages are all options, and Helena is happy to mix and match. Hayley's a big fan of jam toast with sausages, followed by ice cream.
For adults, if you like tandoori try the tandoori fish with naan and mint dip. At 14 ringgits ($US4), it's possibly the best dish I've eaten in Batu Ferringhi. You might find it cheaper elsewhere but it was so tasty I didn't mind.
Long Beach is local hawker food lite - it's a hawker food court aimed at foreigners. Like most tourist eateries, the dishes here for the most part are pale comparisons of what you'll find elsewhere in Penang and each dish is a ringgit or two more than you'll pay elsewhere. But the atmosphere is good and it's not a bad place to start exploring Penang foods, although sadly the best dishes are international ones there. The pizzas are good and the Japanese Tepanyaki stall serves great teriyaki chicken with bean sprout fried rice. Local highlights include the satay stand where the satay is served with personality, the Indian stand and the seafood stall with it's spicy crab and prawn dishes. Most of the noodle stalls are OK. The Char Kway Teow is a bit oily but very tasty and the Won Ton Mee is good.
Over the next few months we'll be exploring Batu Ferringhi more so hopefully I can add to this list. If you've been to Batu Ferringhi and know a great place to eat we'd love to know.