I know some people scoff at Song River Cafe being a good place to eat in Penang, maintaining that it’s only meant for tourists and that most self-respecting Penangites would not patronize that place. Well, I’m not really bothered about this, because I have my favourite dishes there and yeah, I am not a Penangite – call me a “visitor” or “tourist” if you like but I do like to have a meal or two in Song River Cafe whenever I’m in Penang.
Facing the sea, along Gurney Drive, Song River Cafe maintains an old-world feel with typical rickety metal-top kopitiam tables, uneven cement floor and its perimeter lined with various stalls – most of which are open in the evenings/nights when the place turns into a hawker centre. Breakfast and lunch are served by the cafe until past noon and we’re here for their special dishes.
I used to be amazed that the people who patronize Song River Cafe would order main-meal dishes for breakfast but then I discovered, when the food is good, it doesn’t really matter what time of day you eat them! I heard that one of their specialities is their “white Bak Kut Teh” which is the lighter version of the usual BKT. But then, we’re not there for BKT and besides, our preference is for the thicker, darker BKT, Klang-style.
So, along with our favourite Steamed Kway Teow with Fish, we ordered main-meal dishes like Fried Eggs with Bittergourd, Tofu with Brinjals, Belacan Fried Chicken Wings and for good fibre measure, Stir-fried Sweet Potato Leaves with Belacan! Yes, all these at 9.00 am for breakfast!
Their “star noodles” is their Hokkien Fried Prawn Mee (RM36 for Medium portion) which essentially has just 2 ingredients: yellow mee and prawns… and perhaps decorated with some spring onions. The dish may look pale and bland, but believe me, its far far from that! The prawns are fresh, sweet and succulent and that’s all that’s needed to flavor the noodles.
Steamed Kway Teow with Loong Tan fish
Ever since we tried their Steamed Kway Teow with Fish a couple of years ago, we have always made it a point to go for this whenever we are in Song River. A very simple dish that showcases all the natural sweetness of the fresh fish slices which smother the smooth kway teow – all that’s needed is just a dash of superior soya sauce and a sprinkling of chopped spring onions and fried garlic. A stellar dish, in my books. We had this on 2 consecutive mornings – the first morning we had Loong Tan Fish-head (giant garoupa) and on the 2nd day, it was Barramundi (siakap) Tail! Both are equally scrumptious, although the pricing differed. We love the gelatinuous skin of the loong tan and the firm sweet texture of the fish. The barramundi’s texture is a bit softer but no less delicious. Prices depend on the market price of fish for the day.
When Fried Eggs with Bittergourd (RM8) was recommended to us, I had visions of a plate of bittergourd omelette. But oh no, when the dish was served, it’s actually some thinly-sliced bittergourd mixed with soft gooey eggs that’s just lightly & perfectly fried and then flavoured with a dash of that awesome soya sauce. Utterly and crazily good. Trust me, it is… because we ordered this same dish the very next day, too!
Fried Eggs with Bittergourd
Another dish which we ordered AGAIN on the 2nd day was the Tofu with Brinjals (RM10). Again, a very simple dish – just fried tofu, topped with fried brinjals and dried shrimps. Somehow, even though the tofu and brinjals were soft in texture, they blend well and the briny dried shrimps complete the dish.
Tofu with Brinjals
Belacan Fried Chicken Wings
Belacan Fried Chicken Wings (RM12) and Sweet Potato Leaves with Belacan (RM10)are dishes that should be eaten with white rice but we polished them off anyhow, without rice as we were already full with the noodles and kway teow. Both dishes were executed well – the fried chicken wings were darn addictive.
You can be sure we will be back at Song River Cafe when we are in Penang next. Yep, we are tourists, albeit local ones
Song River Cafe
65 Persiaran Gurney