Penang is one of a handful of Malaysian restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s located off Glendora Ave, in Hong Kong Plaza, an ostentatious strip mall anchored by a big supermarket. Word has it that Penang was first opened and run by a Burmese film actress, Soe Myat Thuzar. Upon divorcing her American husband, she sold the business. Since then, the restaurant has changed hands several times.
A worrying sign was the lack of diners in for dinner that day. Aside from our party of 4, there were no more than 4 other groups scattered throughout this restaurant. The food was certainly decent, but not nearly enough, at least in my humble opinion, to crown Penang as LA’s best Malaysian restaurant.
What the Burmese call palata, the Malays call roti canai. They’re both variations of the popular Indian flatbread, paratha, which is a perfect accompaniment to curry. The curry dip was tasty but the roti canai was rather dry and crispy.
We also got the asam laksa, which is worlds away from the conventional laksa, a coconut milk noodle soup. Asam laksa is a sour, fish-based noodle soup, with the dish’s distinctive sour taste coming from tamarind extract. The laksa was wonderfully pungent, smelling of fermented shrimp paste. Surprisingly hearty.
The pan-fried noodles (mee goreng) were neither good nor bad. Lacking in protein, that’s all I can say. Just about everything drenched in sweet soy sauce tastes good.
My dad also ordered Penang’s rendition of the Thai stir-fried drunken noodles. Quite a confusing combination of noodles: the flat rice noodles and random threads of rice vermicelli. Perhaps the chef was drunk? As with the mee goreng, lacking in protein.
We struggled on whether to order dessert, whether the shaved ice could possibly bring us back to our memories in Kuala Lumpur, wolfing down hearty bowls of shaved ice in the tropical heat. Both left us unimpressed. The ais kacang was puny.
The other shaved ice dessert, cendol, was missing its signature ingredient: green-worm like rice noodles made with pandan leaf.
971 S Glendora Ave, West Covina, CA 91790