Monday, August 13


One of my favorite restaurants in the bay area is Banana Leaf, in Milpitas. Its Malaysian cuisine is second to none, and the wait is always busy and the food always good. However, I am not able to get there as often as I like, and this saddens me. I was heartened to learn from blogger Lyndsay that there was an oft-praised Malaysian restaurant in the SGV, called Penang. She sent me the article in LA Weekly about it, and suggested I make the trek out to West Covina.

What caught my eye in the article is that it mentions the quality of the roti canai at Penang. Roti canai is a treat from the gods and should not be missed if possible. Immediately I made it my mission to eat at Penang the next time I got down to southern California. The opportunity came when I decided to treat all of my cousins to dinner for a particular cousin's birthday. Various significant others came along, bringing our party number to 11.

Finding the place was a bit difficult, as it is located in a corner of an ethnic strip mall that is chock full of places to eat. Inside, the decor was a bit tropical, and gave me the weird feeling that I had been there before. Which, of course, I hadn't. We were seated promptly since I had made a reservation, and after a bit of wrangling with my cousins we were finally able to order some drinks. They unanimously decided I would order everything, and left the food decisions to me and my boyfriend.

First I ordered some appetizers: three of the roti canai, the curry puffs, and a beef and chicken satay. The curry puffs came out first and we split the four huge pieces among ourselves. They look plain from the outside, and are stuffed with hearty curried goodness on the inside. It was a good start to our huge meal.

When the roti came out, I warned everyone that they were only good when piping hot, and wouldn't taste as good within a minute of sitting on the plate. They heeded my suggestion and the light, buttery layers were snatched up and dipped into the waiting chicken curry. The combination, as I mentioned before, was heavenly.

Suddenly, the food started coming. I say suddenly, but it took a bit of work on my part to attract the attention of the waiter to order my entree choices as we were eating the appetizers. Not everything came out at the same time, but this was expected and no one seemed to mind. I ended up ordering a couple of Malaysian classics like beef rendang and char kway teow, thrown in with coconut fried rice and sizzling shrimp, and two sambal vegetable dishes.

Everyone laughed as I hurriedly tried to take pictures of everything, but they were much too hungry to really wait. The beef rendang was tender and flavorful, and went well with the rice. I have to recommend the asparagus sambal, but not the samal petai (pictured next to the roti canai above). The green peas in the petai had an uncooked taste to them that my untrained tastebuds weren't prepared to like.

The sizzling shrimp was a hit, but everyone concluded it was a lot of work to get the shrimp out of the shells. One of my cousins decided to save himself the trouble and ate the shell, too. The char kway teow was spicy and reminded me a lot of beef chow fun, while the coconut fried rice was pleasing but uneventful.

At the end we decided to forego dessert because we were too stuffed, but the waiter brought out a small block of jello/pudding like dessert. The flavor was simultaneously salty and sweet, which I didn't really like. However, it did find favor with some of my cousins. Next time I would try one of their desserts off the menu.

It was unanimously decided that Penang was a good place to eat, and that we were all stuffed to the gills. I would return again for the roti alone! It was that good. I must, however, throw in a compliment to Banana Leaf, who still makes the best roti canai I have ever tasted.

971 South Glendora Avenue
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 338-6138

Sunday-Thursday: 11:00am-10:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00am-10:30pm

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Anonymous annie said...

I have never tried malaysian food, looks like I have been missing something good

1:01 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

I love that place. My family and I go there whenever we're at West Coast Plaza

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Sapphire said...

I've been to both places...i have to disagree with you on who is better... penang is a little more authentic, reminds me more of the food back home. Although Banana leaf have good desserts.

As for the 'petai' it does have that uncooked taste to it, but that is how it's suppose to be. I don't think its meant to be cooked to much. its also called 'stinky beans' b/c it will leave your pee smelling like it afterward.

I love reading your always gives me idea on what to eat for dinner.

6:26 AM  

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