Just Caffe, George Town, Penang

It’s hot in Penang, really hot, so why not take a stroll to the Esplanade and enjoy a bit of sea breeze,  If it’s a clear day you might even get a good view across to the mainland and around to Straits Quay and Tanjung Tokong.

Esplanade George Town Penang, Fishing at the Esplanade, GeorgetownCatch of the day on the Esplanade waterfront

 Anywhere in Georgetown is really only a short walk, so you can get to the Esplanade (Padang) easily on foot. From Komtar it would take a maximum of 25 mins.

It’s an interesting area. On one side of the Esplanade you have Fort Cornwallis and although it’s not the oldest fort in Malaysia it is still pretty impressive. When Francis Light took control of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 the fort was built to protect Penang from invading Pirates, from Kedah, and the French.
It was actually never used for this purpose and was mainly an administrative office for the Island.

A lighthouse in the shape of a ships mast was built at the fort in 1882, but similarly it served no navigational purpose. In 1804 the fort was updated in brick and stone from it’s original nibong (palm) construction and in 1920 it’s 9 metre wide moat was filled in due to a severe outbreak of malaria.

Lighthouse Fort Cornwallis Penang,ships Mast Lighthouse Fort Cornwallis Penang

Today the fort is a tourist attraction and has recently been privatized. Just inside the fort is a statue said to be the figure of Francis Light. In actual fact it is really William, his son. Since no painting of Francis was ever found, the closest likeness was that of William, who, like his Dad, was also a pretty amazing guy considering that amongst other things he founded and designed the City of Adelaide, now a sister city to Penang.

Cannon Fort Cornwallis Penang, Seri Rambai Cannon PenangThe Seri Rambai Cannon at Fort Cornwallis

To be honest, there’s not a lot to see in the fort. A cannon, Seri Rambai cast in 1603, takes pride of place on a corner of one wall. This has quite a reputation for helping barren women to become pregnant, if they sit on it and wish for a child! There’s a bit more of a story about the way it eventually ended up in Georgetown but otherwise it’s just a Cannon. In one part of the grounds is an ammunition magazine and in another area is an old chapel where the widow of Francis Light is said to have married her second husband, John Timmers.

Martina Rozells married John TimmersThe Fort Chapel where Martina Rozells married John Timmers

Recently a restaurant has been built inside the fort which as yet we haven’t tried for the simple reason that it now costs RM 20 for tourists, (up in price this year from RM1) to enter the fort, even if you just want to eat at the restaurant. Okay, they apparently give you RM10 back on displaying your receipt if you spend over RM20 on your meal, but since we have already visited the fort dozens of times in the past I really don’t feel like paying RM 10 each for the priviledge of eating, especially when I can’t even check out the menu at the entrance to the fort. More of a matter of principle than the cost.

Fort Cornwallis wall of stone & brick Cannons positioned on the wall of the Fort, but never fired.

On the other side of the Padang you will find the recently re- painted and very colonial Town & City Halls. The Town Hall, closest to the main road was completed in 1883 and was largely used for entertainment. It had a full size ballroom, an assembly room and a library.

Town Hall George Town Penang, Esplanade Town Hall PenangThe Town Hall Penang

The City Hall, closest to the sea, gained its name in 1957 when Penang was granted City Status. It is well known as the first building in the state to have electric light bulbs.
This beautiful Victorian building built in 1903 continues to be the administrative department for the whole of Penang Island.

City Hall Esplanade George Town, City Hall Penang Administrative OfficesThe City Hall, Penang

Around the corner from the Town Hall & facing Light St is The Dewan Sri Penang. Here is the main concert hall/ theatre for Georgetown where most of the top shows are staged, especially during the month long Georgetown Festival.
On the same side as the DSP but one street further on you will find Jalan Green Hall. Nearly at the bottom of this street on the right you will see Just Caffe. Don’t try finding it on a Saturday or Sunday. They’ll be closed.  They are open every other day between 8.30- 5.30pm.

Just Caffe Panini and Pesto PastaJust Caffe owners Kelvin & Kirsten

If you would like a touch of local culture then instead of walking along Light St to get to Green Hall follow the path along the water front past the City Hall. Stay close to the beach wall and keep going. You will pass a fairly large Malay food court on your left. After this you will cross a small bridge and continue over a very broken path. Watch your footing here as recent stormy weather and strong waves has broken up the path and it is a bit wobbly and uneven in parts. Most days here the locals enjoy catching a few fish. Be mindful of their fishing lines along the path.

Local food court on ethe Esplanade George TownThere are steps into Jalan Green Hall just about where the man with the white socks is sitting

Keep going until you see a small street food area covered with umbrellas. In the centre of the wall there is a set of steps. Duck your head as you go over the wall. There’s usually a canopy at about neck height. Walk through the stalls into the street. This is Green Hall. A few paces, and you will see Just Caffe on your left. There are tables, chairs and plants outside. You can’t miss it.

Just Caffe Outside eating areaThe Garden area at the front of Just Caffe

When you have found Just Caffe and if you appreciate good food, do sit for a while and enjoy. This is a super cool & relaxed cafe. The menu isn’t huge by any means but what they do have, they do very well and will have you coming back for more.

If you like panini then this is the best in town. Various flavours are on offer. The Patient Partners favourite is the Green Hall Guru. Loaded with chicken, cheese, greens, and a curry aioli, it’s simply exploding with flavour.
Mine is the Veggie Lovers panini with cheese, capsicum, basil pesto and aioli. The bread is so fresh and toasted to crunchy perfection.

Just Caffe Guru Panina, Exploding with flavour,The Green Hall Guru Panini with Spicy Cajun Fries on the side and a Tomato Dipping Sauce

Panini with vegetables, pesto and cheeseThe Veggie Lovers Panini

I find it difficult each time we go there to choose between the panini and the pesto pasta. Both taste equally delicious. Basil pesto has to be one of my all time favourites. I could eat it daily if my quirky stomach could handle the garlic. At home I now make a walnut & basil pesto and use asafoetida, a pungent Indian spice that smells and tastes like onion & garlic and brilliantly tricks the taste buds into thinking its the real deal!

Pesto Pasta with Chicken Olives & ParmesanA favourite of the Caffe,  the delicious Pesto Pasta

The basil pesto pasta at Just Caffe comes with slithers of chicken and a very generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and black olives.
There is often a beef stew to keep those red meat eaters happy and another Pasta with meatballs of either beef or chicken.
Cajun fries are a great side addition to the paninis or just something a little lighter for a snack.

Cinnamon Scrolls at Just Caffe,Cinnamon Rolls at Just Caffe PenangThe Best Cinnamon Scrolls in Penang

Make sure you leave plenty of space for dessert, all of which are superb. The cinnamon scrolls are literally to die for, not to mention the melt in the mouth Dutch biscuit. We love these so much that at times we have put in special orders to take home and share with friends ( that’s of course if the PP doesn’t eat them all first!!)  Kirsten’s cakes are all homemade so you can never be sure what will be the bake of the day, but I guarantee you won’t be disappointed whatever the choice.

Just Caffe Chocolate CakeJust Caffe Chocolate Cake with extra rich chocolate ganache

I can’t stress enough how good the food is here but what makes it super special is the staff. The friendly, efficient and relaxed attitude of owners Kirsten and Kelvin make it a welcoming space to enjoy either a quick coffee & cake, a long lunch with friends or the chance to catch up on some study. ( the Segi College is just across the street). If their aim is to please their customers and make them feel welcome then that’s exactly what they do.

Happy Customers at Just Caffe Green Hall PenangJust Caffe, a perfect place to catch up with friends.

Coffee at Just Caffe is consistently good and a glass of their homemade lemonade or Italian soda is a welcome and refreshing drink after the hot but interesting walk to find one of the best lunch spots in Penang.

Cake & Coffee at Just Caffe PenangCoffee & Chocolate Cake. What better way to start or end a day!!

Open from 8.30-5.30 Mon – Fri.
Address. 52, Jalan Green Hall. George Town, Penang

Ferringhi Coffee Garden, Penang

Living in Australia we are well used to travelling huge distances. Whether it be to visit family, go to a market, see a show, go to the beach or anything for that matter, spending an hour or two or three or more in our car to get there is not a problem.
So sitting for 45 mins on a bus from the centre of George Town to the touristy area of Batu Ferringhi just to have lunch is pretty normal stuff for us.
Some would wonder why we’d do this especially when there is no shortage of food on the streets of George Town.

It’s simple. The Ferringhi Coffee Garden is only in Batu Ferringhi .
It’s also just as well that we had no idea how good it was when we were actually living in Batu Ferringhi or we would have broken our budget well before it was time to return to Oz.!! Now we go there as often as is possible. Making up for lost time.

Garden Area at ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi, Orchids at Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu ferringhiThe partially covered Garden Area At Ferringhi Coffee Garden

Ferringhi Garden is a high end restaurant. One side of it is fine dining. The menu definitely dictates the price. I haven’t eaten there, but I’ve read the reviews and they are all very complimentary.

On the right side of the restaurant looking from the road is their all day dining venue, The Ferringhi Coffee Garden. Considering my love of the bean, anywhere now that happens to have ‘coffee’ in it’s name sparks my interest and that is how we discovered this gem of a cafe.

Step inside and you will be dazzled by its beauty. Apart from the greenery that lines the walls there are the most stunning orchids everywhere you look. The flowers are so perfect that they could almost be plastic. They have to be touched for you to believe that they are truly real.

Almost plastic orchids,Ferringhi Garden Batu Ferringhi, Penang National Park, Pantai Kerachut PenangSo many stunning Orchids

On each table is a vase of flowers. The last time we were there they were exquisitely coloured pitcher plants. I believe that these co-exist and thrive in an area where there are orchids. No wonder they looked so healthy.

Carnivorous plants, pitcher plants, Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu FerringhiThe Cafe is full of amazing Pitcher Plants

We always choose to sit outside in the garden area so we can feel the lush vegetation around us. Living in George Town, where we co-exist with nothing but buildings it is a treat to escape the concrete jungle occasionally and breathe in some good clean green Oxygen.

Garden at Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi Penang Following a trek in the National Park it seemed as though we had came out of one jungle and into another!!

The garden is partially covered so there is shade from the sun, there are fans and some minimal protection from the rain. If you prefer aircon and no sun then you might prefer the pleasant inside area.

We are immediately welcomed by the cafe waiting staff.  They are friendly, polite and professional. Some of them also work in the fine dining restaurant at night, so the customer service is excellent.

Their menu is full of options. It’s too hard to choose. I can only hope that we can return enough times to try everything.

Ferringhi Coffee Garden Menu, All day dining menu Ferringhi Coffee Garden arAll day dining menu with plenty of choices

I love taking our friends to this cafe. Not only do we enjoy a great social lunch but it’s a chance to check out what everyone has chosen to eat. That way I have a better idea of what to eat next time!! I also get to take more pics for my blog post!!

A few weeks ago we did a jungle hike in the National Park at Teluk Bahang. A relatively easy walk ( with quite a few large steps which might make it difficult for anyone with severe knee problems) , but well worth the trip. Taking this hike, rather than the one to Monkey Beach we were able to see the meromictic lake and the turtle hatchery. We spent some time enjoying the pristine beauty around us and  the smell of the sea air before catching a local boat back to the Park Headquarters.

Local Boat from Pantai Kerachut, boatman at penang National ParkHire a boat at the start of your hike from the Park Headquarters

Pristine Beach at Pantai Kerachut,Penang National Park,Smallest national Park in AsiaPristine beaches at Penangs’ small but beautiful National Park

Meromictic Lake Penang national Park, Smallest National ParkThe Meromictic Lake where different layers of water never mix.

Turtle Hatchery Pantai Kerachut Penang National Park MalaysiaBaby Turtles just born at the Pantai Kerachut Turtle Hatchery

By this time we were pretty hungry and what better way to look after our grumbling stomachs than a lunch at Ferringhi Coffee Garden.
We caught the bus from the park into Batu Ferringhi, just a short trip, providing the bus driver doesn’t leave you sitting in the bus while he says his prayers at the local Mosque!! But that’s okay. It’s a chance to have a bit of a snooze after the hike.

Pantai Kerachut Jungle Hike, Penang National Park,Easy hiking on the jungle track to Pantai Kerachut

This particular day we all ate different things. Great for my pics!!
Not only did our meals all arrive at the same time ( although the PP and I are used to this at Coffee Garden it is not a common occurrence in Malaysia and our friends were suitably impressed!!)
There’s nothing worse than your partner getting his meal first and finishing it before yours even arrives and then sitting there like a spare part while you hurry to finish so he can eat dessert or have a coffee!!)

Below are pics and descriptions of our meals. We were all full of praise for the chef. The meals were incredibly tasty and beautifully presented.

Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon at Ferringhi Coffee GardenEggs Benedict with  smoked salmon on a light English muffin The Hollandaise sauce was tasty & smooth and the eggs poached to perfection.

Chicken pie Upside Down at Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi PenangUpside Down Chicken Pie. Chicken, vegetables and a poached egg nestled above a flaky layer of puff pastry. A favourite of my Patient Partner

Salmon Pizza Ferringhi Coffee Garden, Batu Ferringhi best pizza, thin base on salmon pizza Ferringhi Coffee Garden PenangSmoked Salmon & Prawn Pizza with a superbly thin base and crispy crust

Salmon pesto and poached egg on potato mash, Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi PenangMy favourite dish. Salmon, pesto and poached egg on a potato mash surrounded with crisp bread croutons, greens, tomato salsa & a drizzle of beetroot puree.

The table settings have class. Double insulated coffee glasses from Bodum, cutlery that is heavy, feels good and sits comfortably in the hand. Milk is served in a cute white porcelain cow and dainty scones are served along with jam and really real fresh cream on a wooden platter.
These are little things that add to the ambience of a restaurant or cafe and complete an exceptional dining experience.
But none of these matter without exceptionally good food.
I believe that Ferringhi Garden Restaurant and Ferringhi Coffee Garden have both of these.

Coffee at Ferringhi Coffee Garden, cow milk jug, bodum glass Ferringhi Coffee Garden, Batu Ferringhi RestaurantsGreat ambiance, wonderful meals, beautiful flowers, great company. What more could we ask for!!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the hi-tech bathroom!!

Guan Seang Cafe, Armenian St, Penang

On the corners of Armenian & Lebuh Pantai, ( Beach St) are two of my favorite places to eat in Georgetown. On the left is Cozy in the Rocket, a Western style cafe, famous for its Pasta, desserts and good coffee. On the right is Guan Seang Cafe, famous for its beautifully cooked local dishes such as Assam Laksa, Spring rolls and Nyona Kuih.

Assam Laksa Guan Seang Cafe, Helen & Chew Guan Seang Cafe Armenian St Penang, Old Bicycles Guan Seang Cafe afAssam Laksa, Spicy & Sour, at Guan Seang Cafe

If you have ever had the good fortune to eat at this cafe then you will already have met Helen & Choo the hard working and super friendly couple who run Guan Seang.

Helen & Chew, Guang Seang Cafe Armenian St, Owners of Guan Seang Cafe

This impressive building dates back to 1907 and was at one time owned by Choo’s father who ran a bicycle shop here, which he started with a loan of $50.  After he passed away the shop remained empty for some time until Choo and Helen restored it and opened the cafe in 2013.

Guan Seang Trading Cafe, Cafes on Armenian St Penang, Asam Laksa, Ice Kacang, Cendol,

In memory of his fathers business, 2 old bicycles are hanging from the ceiling in one of the dining areas. Old photos of Georgetown and not so old LP’s of singers during the 1960’s and 70’s hang reminiscently on some of the cafe walls.

Old Bicycles Guan Seang Cafe, Bicycle on the wall mural Georgetown, Heritage Building 1907, Armenian St CafesOld Bicycles from the shop owned & run by Choo’s Father

Old Records at Guan Seang Cafe Penang, Old LP's 1960-1970, Cafes GeorgetownOld LP’s from 1960’s & 70’s remind us that we once had gramaphones

On the 5 foot way outside, iron artwork, such as those gracing many of the streets in Georgetown’s heritage area, depict scenes of the city’s life in its early years. For those who prefer to eat outside several tables provide shelter from the hot sun. These also give customers a first class view of the famous Georgetown mural of the children on the bicycle. I guess this is quite a fitting piece of artwork considering its right opposite to a shop that used to sell them!!

Iron Artwork Guan Seang Cafe, Five Foot Way, Armenian St Penang, Bicycle on the wall, Georgetown ayView of Armenian St from inside Guan Seang Cafe

Five Foot Way Guang Seang Cafe Armenian St Georgetown, Bicycle on the wall Georgetown, Guan Seang Trading Cafe

Inside is where it really happens, with the culinary expertise of Helen. Creating fresh and tasty meals in the same way her mother once did, using whatever produce happens to be available on the day, she has become expert at creating her unique flavours, often using herbs & greens from her own garden.

Guan Seang Cafe, Cafes on Armenian St Penang, Healthy Local Food, Mural of Bicycle on WallLunch at Guan Seang Cafe on Armenian St

Each day Helen will have several dishes on offer which can be mixed and matched and served with a portion of steamed rice and a soup. There are usually one or two dishes with meat, fish or tofu and one or two veggie options.

Guan Seang Lunch, NO MSG, Healthy local Food, Armenian St Cafes, Georgetown PenangHelen’s tasty dish of mixed veg, chicken & rice, served with a soup on the side

Chicken, Potato & Veg Lunch on Merdeka Day 2016 Our Merdeka Day Lunch at Guan Seang Cafe

If you want to spice up your life then her Assam Laksa is not to be missed.
Fried rice and Helen’s homemade spring rolls are all time favourites. I think these are the best spring rolls I’ve eaten. Usually a snack meal I stay away from due to their greasiness, this was not the case at Guan Seang. They were incredibly light with a beautiful flaky pastry and no hint of oiliness.


Homemade Spring Rolls at Guan seang Cafe, No MSG, No additives, Spring Rolls on Armenian St Penang, Bicycle on the wall muralHelen’s Homemade Spring Rolls at Guan Seang Cafe

To cool down on a really hot day and for something sweet, do try the popular Malaysian Cendol. This mixture of shaved ice, red beans, gula melaka, coconut milk, cubed black grass jelly and pandan is really delicious, but way past the comfort zone of my poor fructmal stomach.

Nyonya Cendol at Guan Seang Cafe, Local Dessert Penang, Pandan, Cendol Armenian St, Penang, Bicycle mural of childrenIcey Cold & refreshing Nyonya Cendol

To play it safe I opt for the traditional Perenakan dessert treat of Nyona Kuih and leave the Patient Partner to sample the more adventurous local delicacies.

Merdeka Lunch Nyonya Kuih, Traditional Nyonya Dessert, Guan Seang cafe, Bicycle Mural PenangTraditional Nyonya Kuih, time consuming to make, but worth the wait!

To quench a thirst the fridge is stacked with a variety of drinks, including bottles of nutmeg juice, another speciality of Penang. Also available are coffee, tea and milo, either hot or iced and refreshing coconut water.

Puddings & Jellies Guan Seang Trading Cafe, Nyonya Desserts Armenian St Georgetown, Bicycle on the wall PenangJellies, Puddings, Soups, Tofu Desserts and fresh Coconut.

We like to eat regularly at Guan Seang as it’s a great lunch stop. The food, unlike some similar dishes you might find on the street stalls in Georgetown, is not swimming in fat and does not contain MSG. The prices are incredibly affordable and the customer service is superb.
I highly recommend this cafe for a healthier local food experience in the heart of the heritage area.

Barley Soup Guan Seang Cafe, Armenian St Cafes, Healthy Barley SoupHelen’s  Healthy Homemade Barley Soup

Cozy in the Rocket


We wish the talented couple responsible for Cozy all the best in their next venture.

If you love a good pasta, then Cozy in the Rocket is a must visit in Penang. This cafe with its eclectic blend of homemade tables, antique chairs, bric-a -brac and a wall that boasts a kaleidoscope of hand painted bottles, should be on everyone’s list of great places to eat in Georgetown.

Cozy in the Rocket entrance on Lebuh Pantai Georgetown Penang, black & white awning on Cozy in the Rocket Cafe PenangThe entrance to Cozy in the Rocket on Lebuh Pantai (Beach St)

Although slightly hidden behind a couple of striped bamboo blinds, Cozy is not difficult to find. After all, it’s side fence and wall is a well known George Town landmark. Yes, you guessed it!! The famous Bicycle mural. The one that draws crowds of selfie taking tourists from around the world and has taken over from the iconic rickshaw as the symbol of Penang Island.

Heritage Penang, Trishaw Georgetown Penang, Temples, Prewar houses, Cozy in the Rocket, bicycle mural Penang, pasta, desserts Armenian StKing St in George Town with it’s amazing Temples & iconic Trishaw, once the symbol of Penang

This is a second for the young owners and creators of Cozy in the Rocket. In 2010 they opened a tiny cafe on Armenian St, only a few paces from their current location. Amelie, named after the French movie of the same name, was the first of its kind in George Town. Serving amazing pastas made by the talented and self taught Loh Choon Kueng (Hong), coffee, smoothies and fresh local fruit juices made by partner Yen, this tiny cafe with only 5 tables soon became too small for the increasing number of appreciative customers.

Amelie Cafe Armenian St, Cozy in the Rocket Georgetown Penang, Fresh Pasta, Bicycle on the wall in Penang, Murals in Penang, Lithuanian Artist in Penang, Armenian St Bicycle on the wallAmelie Cafe, a once popular, welcoming place to eat on Armenian St

Tiny Amelie Cafe on Armenian St Penang, Amelie Cafe now at Cozy in the Rocket, Bicycle on the wall, Great Pasta in penang, King of Desserts at Cozy in the RocketThe very compact Amelie Cafe, closed now but the new venue of Cozy in the Rocket is a few steps away on the cnr of Armenian & Beach Sts

Amelie made way for Cozy and although the space is bigger nothing has changed as far as the food. The kitchen is spacious and more user friendly for Hong who once cooked in an area about the size of a postage stamp. Yen has a large serving counter now, a commercial size espresso machine, a larger fridge and room to move. She used to share this area with Hong on the postage stamp!!

Delicious Iced Chocolate at Cozy in the Rocket,Yen's double chocolate Iced Chocolate at CozyYen’s Deliciously Moorish Real Iced Chocolate

Pastas are still fantastic. Hong makes them himself from scratch and they are cooked to perfection. Don’t expect a quick meal here, this is not fast food. Every dish is made to order and if you are a large group, then you may not get your meals served all at the same time. Hong is the only chef and each meal is hand crafted. This takes time.  Equally, if it’s very busy and you have a plane to catch, then first  check with Yen how long your meal will be.  If you can be patient, have a drink or read a book ( don’t expect wifi here), then these pastas are definitely worth the wait.

Tagliolini Fromaggio & Bacon Pork & Sausage Meat at Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Pasta in Penang, Best Pasta in Penang, Cafe in Georgetown Penang serving Pasta dishesTagliolini Fromaggio with Bacon, Pork & Sausage Meat

Tagliolini with Mushroom & Truffle Oil, Mushroom Pasta at Cozy in the Rocket, Great mushroom Pasta in PenangTagliolini with Mushroom & Truffle Oil

Pasta at Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Fructose friendly Pasta at Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Pasta minus Garlic & OnionMy special Fructose Friendly Prawn & Tomato Pasta

Now you might be wondering how Cozy in the Rocket got its name. I certainly did and yet everytime I went there I forgot to ask Hong because I guess I just liked the name and it didn’t really matter! However I did find out recently that it was one of his favourite songs from a group called PSAPP. It also happened to be the theme song for a favourite TV program of his called Grey’s Anatomy.

Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Hand Crafted Pasta, Great Desserts in Penang, King of Desserts, Pasta near Bicycle on the wall, Georgetown, PenangThe bright & spacious venue of Cozy in the Rocket in the busy Heritage Area of George Town, Penang

Do NOT leave Cozy without sampling one of Hong’s homemade desserts. I really believe he is the King of dessert and cake making in Penang. His ability to blend texture and flavours to the max is uncanny. If you have the chance to sample his chocolate brownie, pannacotta and brûlées then you will know what I mean. The dessert menu changes regularly, sometimes even daily depending on available ingredients and Hong’s creative flair.
I guarantee you’ll be back for more!!

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Passionfruit Cream & Praline topping, Cozy in the Rocket Desserts, Great Pasta in Penang, Lithuanian artist, bicycle on the wall in Penang,Armenian St Penang, Cozy, g

Shia’s Homemade Granola Penang

On the corner of Beach St and Church St Gaut in the Commercial district of Georgetown, Penang, you will find an old grey coloured building called India House. Built in 1937 in an Art Deco Style by a wealthy Indian Chettier, it is mostly remembered for housing the United States Information Services. Today, it appears a little run down and the Indian architecture is somewhat obstructed by sign boards attached to the front along the Beach St side.

India House Penang, Indian Chettier Penang, India House, cnr of Beach St & Church St Gaut, George Town, Penang

Once you’ve had a good look at the front of this impressive building with it’s elephant sitting in pride of place below it’s name, take a walk along the Church St Gaut side and just a couple of doors along you will find a bright and welcoming little shop that is home to Shia’s Granola.Shia's Granola Shop. Church St Gaut Penang, Homemade Granola, India House George TownShia’s Granola in the India House Building on Church St Gaut

Now in it’s 3rd year of what is fast becoming a regular stop for Penangites who are serious about their health, this cute little shop is surely here to stay.

Considering the healthy nerds that the Patient Partner and I profess to be, I am seriously surprised that we haven’t found Shia’s until this year, after all, we only live a couple of blocks way!  As soon as Facebook (thank you) alerted us to what we have been missing  for the past two years we were there like a shot, eager to try a new taste sensation.

Homemade Granola Penang, Shia's cute shop, The shop on Church St Gaut, Georgetown

We were greeted by Alishia and Ke Wynn, the  young owners of Shias Granola. The passion for their business and a desire to provide a quality health product for their customers is clearly evident. Ke Wynn is also a Private Fitness Trainer so if you feel that you’re in need of a work out or just need to improve your general health then give him a call. Remember, achieving good health is holistic. Exercise and good food go hand in hand!

We perched at the counter on two high stools and with watering mouths we watched the making of our Granola Bowl Smoothies. The Patient Partner opted for the Peachy Mango whilst I couldn’t resist the thought of Choc Banana, a blend of yogurt, banana, peanut butter, cocoa, chia seed & Granola. The P.P’s was a mix of peach, mango, yogurt, chia & Granola.

Shia's Homemade Granola, Mango & Peach Granola, Peachy Mango Granola Bowl

Our oohs! and aahs! as we ate proved they were not only very moorish,  but also a cool & refreshing treat in such hot weather. The Granola was deliciously nutty  and thankfully not overly sweet.

Choc Banana Granola Bowl, Shia's Homemade Granola, Delicious GranolaChoc Banana Granola Bowl

As well as their homemade granolas Shia’s also retail a range of  products made locally by other entrepreneurial young Penangites, such as Jams, nut butters, Ginger Beer and teas. Apart from the teas we have had the pleasure of eating and drinking all of these products as most are made by friends, and we can highly recommend them.

Hand Crafted Flower Teas at Shia's Granola ShopHand Crafted Slimming Flower Teas available at Shia’s Granola

We have been back to satisfy our taste buds at Shia’s several times since our first visit. There are less than a handful of cafes in Georgetown where we feel we can get a descent cake or dessert that isn’t loaded with saturated fats, synthetic cream and artificial colouring.

Strawberry Granola Bowl Penang, Homemade Granola George Town, Strawberries, Granola & ChiaShia’s Strawberry Granola Bowl with Yoghurt, Chia Seeds and Vanilla

At Shia’s we can feel confident that we are eating a snack, smoothie, dessert, that is not only nutritious, but also tastes pretty damn good!

Shia’s are open every day at the moment as they are still trialing weekend hours but remember that the only seating they have is a couple of stools at the counter. Don’t let this stop you though as it’s easy to take these smoothie bowls away and eat them on the run, or just prop outside on the steps.

Shia's Homemade Granola Menu, Healthy smoothies at Shia's GranolaShia’s Smoothie Bowl Menu

You can also phone through your order and they will have it ready for you as you pull up in your car.

Shi's Granola Menu in Penang, Church St Gaut Shia's Homemade GranolaShia’s Healthy Breakfast & Dessert Menu

Which ever way you decide you won’t be sorry.  I think you’ll want to try them all!!

Granola, Peanut Butter, Sauces, Shia's Granola Shop, Church St Gaut Penang








Coffee in Kuala Lumpur ( Part 1 – VCR)

We covered a lot of ground in our two short visits to K.L. this year. but sadly it wasn’t enough time to drink as much good coffee and eat as much great food as we would have liked. After all, there’s only so much a stomach can handle in one day!
Infact the reason we went there twice was so we could get to all the cafes we had missed the first time around, and we still failed miserably! K.L. has embraced the coffee culture big time and for two coffee snobs from Melbourne in need of a great brew, what could be better?

Only a 5 hr bus trip from Penang and we are dropped off just a short walk from KLCC. By this time we’re pretty desperate, not just for a coffee but something to eat. The bus, Aeroline, is very comfortable, infact it’s far more comfortable than taking the plane, it just takes 4 hrs longer. But it’s a good chance to enjoy a book, write a blog post, or delete hundreds of unwanted photos from your iPhone !!
There’s plenty of leg space, especially if you book the two front seats upstairs and you can even have headphones and watch a movie or two.

They do provide a meal along with your ticket price and water, tea or coffee, but if you enjoy eating good food, then I suggest you take your own.
On our first trip the meal was a plastic container filled with two spongy looking bao. One with sweet bean and the other with a filling of curry. They looked to me like something I use to wash my dishes with, though according to the Patient Partner they tasted slightly better than they looked.
The second trip it was some sort of noodle dish, so possibly slightly better, but I decided to pass.

Bao meal on Aeroline, Food on Bus Penang to Kuala LumpurSweet Red Bean & Curry Bao on route to K.L. from Penang

Arriving in K.L the bus parks at the Corus Hotel a stones throw from Avenue K, a shopping centre on the same side as the Corus, and just opposite the Twin Towers. Here we found our first coffee stop, Urbean, a small cafe with some  healthy dishes on their menu and some nice coffee. Nothing sensational, but nevertheless quite okay and very convenient as we used this station a lot during our visit. Espresso Lab is right next door to Urbean so you have the choice.

Urbean Avenue K, Coffee at Avenue K Kuala Lumpur, Coffee at KLCC StationGood food & coffee at Urbean, Avenue K at KLCC Station

I had listed a few cafes that we should check out and had planned VCR as our brunch venue for our first day. We found our way to Jalan Galloway at Bukit Bintang and the lovely old house that is home to this popular cafe, and Keith Koay the current Malaysia Barista Champion.

VCR House, Jalan Galloway Heritage House, VCR Kuala LumpurHome to VCR Cafe on Jalan Galloway, Kuala Lumpur

We had high hopes for a great coffee and were not disappointed. We agreed that it was the best we had drunk in all our years in Malaysia. We both had a long black. The grinder was perfectly calibrated and the espresso shots were smooth and full of flavour with no hint of bitterness.
Keith Koay took out 16th place at the World Barista Championships in Dublin, Ireland this year, and it was easy to see why!

VCR Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Galloway Cafe VCR, Great Coffee at VCR K.L.For a quieter moment at VCR choose a weekday. Getting a seat at the weekend can be difficult

For brunch the Patient Partner chose the Turkish Eggs, a chickpea dish with egg, chicken chipolata, spinach and yoghurt in a thick tomato sauce, with crusty sourdough bread for dipping & scooping, whilst I settled for something slightly more decadent.

VCR Turkish Eggs, Chickpea dish at VCR K.L.Tasty Turkish Eggs at VCR

If you happen to visit VCR then I would suggest that you do NOT leave without devouring the French Toast. I have eaten many french toast dishes in my life. I’ve made many myself, but this one is a winner. In fact I dreamed about it for a month until we re-visited K.L.

Decadent French Toast At VCR, Brioche French Toast at VCR Cafe Kuala Lumpur, French Toast in K.L.The Best French Toast Ever

A thick slice of Brioche Bread soaked in egg & toasted to perfection, was the base of this delicious meal.  A scoop of Raspberry sorbet  balanced precariously on the top. ( I chose the sorbet rather  than the espresso Icecream for fear of a fructose reaction.) A raspberry compote drizzled over the toast. Next to the brioche,  a layer of biscuity crumbles sitting on a mocha sauce and sprinked with pepitas. Delicious!!

There was plenty to choose from on their menu and I would  loved to have tried the more savoury dishes. However being blessed this last year with fructose malabsorbtion I was fairly limited with choice. So, luckily it meant that I had to choose the French Toast again on our second visit to VCR!!

The service was prompt and the staff were friendly. I have since read a couple of negative reviews on facebook about this cafe, mostly with regard to  having a long wait for a table & service at the weekends. Obviously none of these people have been to the top cafes in Melbourne where it is not unusual to have a wait of 30-45mins. Naturally they are busier at the weekends when people aren’t working so if you are in a hurry or too impatient to wait for a great coffee and meal then I’d suggest a visit during  weekdays.

Some customers also complain that the coffee is too expensive. Coffee beans cost the same worldwide so how can cafes make it any cheaper regardless of which country it is.  Sure, in K.L. you can get a local Kopi for less but the beans used are mostly inferior in quality compared to the best Arabica beans that are being used by cafes such as VCR.

VCR Menu, Brunch VCR, Coffee VCR, French Toast VCRVCR’s Mouthwatering Menu

Turkish Style Eggs VCR, VCR Kuala Lumpur, Raspberry Sorbet, Brioche French Toast,Enjoy, we did!!






Coffee v Durian

A few days ago we listened to a talk give by a young American called Lindsay Gasik. She calls herself a Durian Nerd and she travels around the world exploring the many different varieties of what is known in Asia as ‘The King of the Fruits.

Her love & passion for this prickly, smelly fruit that repulses most Westerners with its pungent fragrance, but excites those that learn to love it, has given her the chance to explore areas of the world she might never have visited.
Now I’m not quite sure if we love coffee more than Durian, it’s a fine line. When we’re eating a good Durian, maybe a Red Prawn or Masang King variety we would probably agree that it wins hands over, and yet…….a great coffee, well, there’s nothing that compares with that either!  Of course, the after effects of both are very similar.

Red Prawn Durian

If you love Durian as much as we do then eating too much in one sitting, which we often have, will heat up the body, make you feel a little spaced out, dehydrated and sleepy. Too much coffee will do the same thing after the initial high.
As an antidote for the after effects of Durian some say that drinking water directly out of the  shell solves the thirst and that dipping your hands in the water will take away the smell. But a tasty little fruit known as The Queen Of the Fruit will help to cool you down.  With a coffee overdose, plenty of water will help while you are drinking it.

Mangosteen, Queen of the Fruits, Cooling after Durian Beautiful Mangosteen, Queen of the Fruits

( for more Durian info from Lindsay click here)

Like Lindsay, our love of coffee has added something extra to travel and the chance to explore areas otherwise unknown.
Running tours has given us the chance to travel more but it’s often the time alone that we explore and discover.

Healthy Food in Penang

Penang is said to have some of the best street food in all of Asia. Certainly there is no shortage of it. Hawker stalls are everywhere. There’s no excuse for going hungry, you can eat at any time of the day or night. I love to walk the streets of George Town at night. The balmy weather, the street lights, the colour, the sound of food sizzling in woks and above all the smell of many different spices wafting into the night air and playing games with my taste buds.

Spicy Streetfood Curries Night Life in Little India PenangStreet Food in Little India George Town Penang during Ramadan

 Even after nearly 20 yrs of coming to Penang, Little India still excites me with it’s busy narrow streets, loud Bollywood music blaring from corner cd shops, coconut stalls, flower shops, saris, jewellery, Indian sweets, sundry stalls, spice shops, chapatis, dosa, curries and lassis. In fact Little India has it all, not to mention a few temples thrown into the mix.

Roti Cart Little India Penang Bread Cart Little India Bread Cart in Little India, George Town, Penang

For many years we lived on the street food. We loved the variety and flavours that we couldn’t get in Asian food back home. We were training hard with our Tai chi master every day, lunches and afternoon teas were all local cafes and dinners were in food courts or on the street. We were younger too and our bodies coped with foods that we realised in later years were not always nutritionally great. Every now and then we were treated to a meal cooked by our local friends and we tasted the difference in the quality of a home cooked meal and the somewhat greasy equivalent from a street hawker.

Oxidised Oil, Street food, greasy foodDeep Fried Street Food in Penang

We also noticed the difference in the colour of home cooked food. I could never understand how the veggies on the street and at the Nasi Kandar stalls stayed looking so bright & fresh, until I realised that they were all cooked with MSG. I should have realised why I always felt so thirsty after eating at a favourite vegetarian cafe.

Nazlina Spice Station Laksa Nazlinas’ Delicious Homemade Laksa at her Spice Station Cooking School

Except for one bout of food poisoning  when we stupidly ate icecream on an island that used generators and turned them off for nearly half of each day, we never got sick. And food was cheap. We would spend about $15-20 per day for both of us and that was eating more upmarket than a local person, eating say, a Char Kwaoy Chow or Bee Hoon for about 70cents. But even with all the exercise the Patient Partner gained weight every time we were in Penang. We rarely had the feeling of total well being. We could argue that this was due to the heat and lack of air quality that we are so fortunate to enjoy in Australia but we also realise now that we were not getting a totally nutritious diet.

Cooking Mee in Georgetown PenangFried Bee Hoon at a local Street Stall in George Town

Whilst Asians have grown up on a diet of noodles and rice we have not. Our bodies  need different nutrients according to our location and upbringing. Interestingly enough the health and body shape of many Asians, especially the Chinese, who have been lured into the world of the west & its fast foods has changed dramatically.  And, so have we.  In Australia we eat very well and we realise that if we want to stay young and active in old age we need to fuel our bodies with what they need most. Great quality food, exercise, pure water and clean air (unfortunately clean air is not always available in Malaysia!! )

Tai Chi Penang, Armenian Park Tai Chi, Early Morning Tai ChiEarly Morning Tai Chi at Armenian Park in Georgetown

 Street Food in Asia is so much a part of its culture and heritage that it can’t just be ignored. We still love to sit at a street stall or in a local kopi shop for a drink with friends, to relax after an early morning Tai Chi Session and to soak up the atmosphere of the amazing city that we have adopted as our second home.

Hawker fare Penang Breakfast in Penang Relaxing in PenangMorning Hawker Stall in Kimberley St Georgetown

 Even before my new friend fructmal began doing her damndest to change my life we found we enjoyed Asian street food less each year.
For this couple of foodie nerds who spend each Saturday of every week hunting & gathering at whatever farmers market happens to be on, a plate of fresh, organic veggies is far more appealing than a plate of greasy noodles cooked in blackened oil and doused with MSG

Straits Quay Farmers MarketOrganic Veg at Straits Quay Monthly Farmers Market in Penang

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Asian food. During our 18 yrs of traveling we’ve been lucky enough to sample some amazing local food from several Asian countries.  Tastes we would never have had in Australia. How could we ever have known what Yak butter, buffalo curd, smelly tofu, idlis with coconut chutney or tarantula legs tasted like if we only  ate lettuce &  bean sprouts!!

Idlis with Coconut Chutney, Indian IdliSouth Indian Idlis made using Fermented Black Lentils & Rice

If you happen to be on a two or three week holiday go for it. Try and taste all you can. Experiment like crazy and enjoy the local food and drink. If food intolerances are not an issue then a few weeks of eating food that may taste great but is perhaps not nutritionally great won’t do you any harm.

But living long term in Asia is a different story. We don’t want to compromise the health that we enjoy. We love the quality of the food we buy in Melbourne. We make it a challenge there to stay away from the processed crap found in supermarkets and enjoy our day at farmers markets stocking up on fresh veg, organic eggs, locally caught fish and seasonal fruit for the week ahead.

Organic Veggies Melbourne, Melbourne Org VegFresh Veggies from a Melbourne Farmers Market

Buying quality fresh food in Penang can be difficult, though recently a few small farms have started growing organic or chemical free fruit & veg. One of these is Happy Farm at Relau, an organic farm run by Mr Lee, a hard working young man with just an acre of seasonal produce. On the day we visited his farm there was not a lot ready to be harvested but what we did buy such as lettuce, cucumbers, Bok Choy and pea sprouts were absolutely beautiful. What we didn’t eat immediately stayed fresh and tasted delicious even after several days.

Mr Lee also runs a delivery service. A package of available veg of the week will cost very little.  Real Food, a vegetarian cafe at Straits Quay that run a farmers market on the 3rd Sunday of each month, is the pickup point.

Happy Farm Penang Mr Lee Organic Farm PenangOrganic Happy Farm at Relau in Penang

Should you decide to take a trip out to the farm make sure you check out Mr Lee’s beehives. You can have a really close look at these because the bees are the non stinging variety. I’ve never seen this kind of bee before, and what was even more interesting was the pot as I think it’s called, which stores the honey. There were only a few of these in each hive, which, by the way, is a rather expensive tree stump with an entrance the same as a hole in a branch.  The nectar is collected from the surrounding tropical fruit trees so it should taste quite amazing. Extracting the honey from the pots is done manually and is incredibly time consuming. Mr Lees’ hives are quite new so at the moment there is only enough honey for his family but he hopes that in the future there may be enough to sell.

Non Stinging Bees and pots Happy Farm PenangBeehive at Happy Farm showing the Pots containing the honey

A stones throw from Happy Farm is Wonder Wilder Farm. We have yet to visit this one although we have eaten some of their lovely herbs at a local restaurant where an interesting talk was given about the farm and  the meal was cooked with the the creative flair of Chef Mathijs Nanne.

Wonder Wilder Org FarmMeal cooked by Chef Mathijs using  herbs from Wonder Wilder Farm

Much of Penangs’ fresh produce comes from the Cameron Highlands where the temperature is cooler and conditions are more conducive to growing a greater range of veg.
Other than that what we see in street markets and supermarkets is brought in from overseas, often Indonesia or China, and since we are finding out more each year about the chemicals used on and in their food production then we are probably better giving them a big miss, although I’m not sure that what is grown in Malaysia is any better!

We can’t complain these days about the lack of Health Food, or organic shops as they are called here in Penang. I guess this is a bit of a misnomer because not everything in them is organic!  They are popping up  almost as fast as cafes in Penang and in areas I haven’t yet checked out.

However, some are a bit short on what I would call Health foods, as they appear to be selling lots of tinned powders and packaged goods, often from China, and much of it is soy based.
From what I see they have nothing much that is to do with health and I don’t shop in these.
On a positive note there are shops such as I.E Organic in Pulau Tikus and Just Life at Hillside in Tanjung Bunga that have a wide range of healthy products including  fresh organic veggies and free range eggs.

IE Organic shop Pulau TikusGood Organic Shop with adjoining cafe serving healthy local dishes

We do most of our buying at IE as it’s a bit closer to us.  Just Life is further out of town and can be a little more expensive. The staff at I.E. are lovely, especially Sam who runs the shop as well as the wonderful little adjoining cafe.We love to eat here, the food is a healthy take on local dishes such as the Hakka Lei Cha (Thunder Rice), a spicy Rendang dish, Pineapple Rice, Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Fried Bee Hoon, a superb Laksa as well as an Indonesian Lodeh Rice and Nasi Lemak.

ie Organics Vietnamese Egg RollsDelicious Vietnamese Egg Rolls with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Laksa at ie Organic Pulau Tikus, Vegetarian Laksa in Penang, Spicy Laksa at IE Organics Pulau TikusSuperb Flavour in this Vegetarian Laksa

There are also a few set menus that include an apple cider or longan & honey drink and either soup or dessert, and if you like you can upgrade for an extra RM4 and have their delicious sugar free ice-cream. Why wouldn’t you?!!  And if you happen to be lactose intolerant then they do have a vegan icecream.  The prices are very reasonable, main meals are around RM 11.50 to about RM 15. Set meals are around RM 12.50 ( so cheap for this quality of food) and all ingredients where possible are organic or chemical free.

Hokkien Lei Cha (Thunder Rice)Hakka Lei Cha (Thunder Rice)

Nasi Lemak at IE Organics Pulau Tikus, Vegetarian Nasi Lemak ie Organics in Penang, Spicy Nasi Lemak in Pulau TikusSpicy Nasi Lemak with Antioxidant Rich Blue Pea Flower Rice

As for dessert, the cakes are hard to resist. Made using coconut oil, free range eggs and coconut sugar I can rarely get out of the cafe without devouring one of them at least. ( I could probably eat two!!)  Their chocolate & walnut brownie with a scoop of double chocolate ice cream is a must have!!

Tip: If you happen to visit this cafe and have a food  intolerance such as Gluten, Fructose or Lactose then please let them know what you can’t eat. I have found them to be extremely happy to avoid any problem foods you might have in certain meals.

Pulau Tikus is an easy trip from George Town on the bus. The 101, 102,103 & 104 will take you. Get off at the Burmese Temple & Reclining Buddha and walk past the temples to Burma Rd. Turning left, cross over the road and you will find Solok Moulmein on the right. The Interesting Pulau Tikus market is on the right and if you like markets this is well worth a visit.  Inside the market is a small stall called LSY Health & Organic selling a small range of health foods including some vegetables & fruit.  If you feel like a bit of healthy refreshment on the go then do try one of their organic juices.

Also in the market you will find a stall with a lovely lady selling  products from Happy Goat Farm in Balik Pulau. Goat milk can be a great alternative for anyone who has an allergy or intolerance to cows milk, as it is far more easily digested, and therefore more gentle on the stomach. This is especially so for small children and babies. As well as milk they also supply, kefir, yoghurt and cheeses. My three children all had allergies to cows milk and suffered with hives and eczema until they were changed to goat milk. From then on they never had another problem with the skin.

Turn left at the end of Solok Moulmein and you will see IE Organic on your left. It’s right opposite a nearly finished block of expensive apartments.

If it’s the right time if the day you will see an Indian couple making String Hoppers. Do try it. It’s rice flour pushed through a wooden mold and layered like lace onto a steaming upturned basket. When cooked it’s piled into several small oblong layers and served in paper, alongside a mixture of coconut & sugar. Very moorish!!

Putuh, String Hoppers, Pulau Tikus MarketPutu Mayam or String Hoppers Near Pulau Tikus Market Penang

A little further on from IE on the same side is another Organic shop called Oon. We do get a few items from here too. Like IE the staff are very friendly and the shop has a reasonable range of items.
On the right hand side of Solok Moulmein is Go Organics. I like the feel of this shop. It’s small and packed full of stock.  What they do have is a good selection of Gluten Free products and they did manage to get us some Schars Gluten Free bread (one of the better tasting GF breads) when we needed it for a  member of one of our Penang tour groups.

Just Life in Hillside is a beautifully laid out shop with a good selection and its the only place I can buy Australian Millet. They usually have a fridge full of organic veggies and its my favorite place to buy Shampoo & Conditioner as they sell the Indochine range of skin products which I love. Their basil and lemongrass soap is gorgeous, it smells and feels divine and I often put a bar in with my clothes as I’m sure it keeps the silver fish away.
I know there are a few other shops that I haven’t explored yet, but I’ll get round to them in time. I’ll update when I do.

Is Posh Porridge the Next Big Thing?

I love this article written by Annie Stevens in the  April Edition of Australias’  Delicious Magazine. Just sums up all my thoughts about AMAZING PORRIDGE.

‘Topped with everything from violet sugar to mulled wine, porridge has never been better.
Here are some of my earliest memories of porridge. The watery slop served at a swimming camp that still somehow reminds me of the smell of chlorine, and the perfect steel cut oats that dad lovingly prepared each morning. The ones that my brother and I sulked about because we were pretty certain that every other kid in the world got to have Coco Pops and why were stuck with boring old porridge? Oh how things change (sorry Dad).

Because now my thoughts often turn to creamy porridge topped with a glug of cream, sliced banana and brown sugar. Or if I’m feeling virtuous, porridge made with quinoa flakes and almond milk, with a dollop of nut butter and berries.

I’m not alone. Porridge is now a sexy food. Which seems rather incongruous given its general colour and texture. But scan the breakfast menu of cafes such as Edition Roasters in Darlinghurst and spot the bowl of grött and glögg, Danish porridge with house mulled wine, decorated with rehydrated fruit, honeycomb and lavender (just TRY and resist ‘gramming that), or the oat porridge strewn with strawberry and rhubarb compote, violet sugar and pistachios at Richmond’s Top Paddock.

We’re not even talking about things like Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge when we say porridge is getting posh, it’s just that after 32, 000 years (yep, the ancient people were said to eat porridge for breakfast) we’ve maybe hit porridge nirvana.”

Brent Savage, co-owner and chef at Sydney’s Yellow says that the “yellow-bix” oats, fruit, maple and buttermilk dish remains a popular choice on his weekend brunch menu. Partly, says Savage, because people choose porridge because of the mood they’re in.
“Porridge is surprisingly popular these days, especially now that we are coming into Autumn. People seem to be nostalgic about their childhood experiences of eating porridge at home…sometimes good, sometimes bad,” says Savage.
“I love the feeling of satisfaction after you eat it.”

“Porridge is also bang on the clean eating trend, given that plain old oats are high in fibre, protein and the low GI factor keeps you full longer. Plus, there’s the fact that you could swap in other health-conscious grains such as quinoa or amaranth instead. For Corie Sutherland, co-owner of Edition Roasters, the versatility of porridge is a key factor in its appeal.

“Porridge is getting fancier per se, because it’s such a plain staple. There are so many possibilities and creative things you can do with oats and other various ways to cook them, and why stop there – there are other wonderful grains that we can turn into porridge … its versatility is astounding as a culinary premise,” he says, adding that at home he tends to make okayu – Japanese rice porridge.

Another facet of porridge’s rise is due to it being an unlikely winner on Instagram. Indeed, in a direct competition to avocado toast, you can’t scroll too far without coming across a snap of someone’s bowl of porridge lovingly decorated with symmetrical lines of banana slices or oats sitting pretty in a puddle of syrup, often hashtagged with #porridgeporn or #porridgelovers.

It seems porridge lovers are a tribe, with leaders that include the likes of food blogger and cookbook writer Ella Woodward from deliciouslyella who flies the flag for porridge addicts with her regular porridge ‘grams. She describes her love of porridge on her blog as like “eating a giant hug,” which is not inaccurate. Plus, it might even help you to live longer.

All of which adds up to porridge pretty much being the ideal food for the finicky times we’re living in. The inherent customisation that porridge offers is endless – from Jamie Oliver’s recipe for quinoa, oat and linseed porridge topped in his new book, to model Chrissy Teigen’s mum’s “hangover curing” rice porridge in her book Cravings. As for what’s next in porridge? For Sutherland at least it might just involve “something fermented” on the menu at Edition Roasters.

There are, however a few cardinal rules of porridge. Namely, that you must use decent, chunky oats, get the liquid to grain ratio right (purists use only water, but experiment to find your own preference), consistent stirring is essential for creaminess, and as any Scotsman would tell you – don’t forget the salt.

Oh and there’s probably one more porridge rule for the modern day fan to abide – don’t take too long Instagramming your bowl. Because it doesn’t matter how you make your porridge or how many roasted nuts and seasonal berries you sprinkle on top, it remains a truth that there’s nothing sexy about a cold, solidified bowl of oats.”

Five bowls of porridge to try in Sydney.

1.  The foxy spring porridge at Bread and Circus – organic oats with toasted coconut, banana, blueberry and a dollop of organic clotted cream (optional but recommended).
2.  Grött and glögg at Edition Roasters – Danish porridge with house mulled wine, decorated with rehydrated fruit, honeycomb and lavender.
3. Yellow-Bix oats at Yellow – oats, fruit and buttermilk.
4. Polenta porridge at Kettle Black – burnt maple, textures of strawberry and basil
5. Brown rice and sweet miso porridge at Bills – coconut yoghurt, mango and lime

And, as a last link for my posts on porridge have a look at one of my favourites from The First Mess, an award winning food blog by Canadian Laura Wright. Laura’s beautiful photography tantalizes the taste buds and all her recipes are created from plant based and seasonal food.

Vanilla Bean Millet Porridge with Lavender Strawbs & Superseeds

Millet Porridge
Photo Courtesy of The First Mess


Amazing Porridge

Weekend Notes is a great way to find out what’s happening in Melbourne and surrounding areas and when I read that various cafes serve up a great porridge I just had to check them out. The Patient Partner LOVES his porridge. I think secretly he loves it because it’s the only time he puts lashings of sugar on anything. Admittedly I’ve weaned him onto using coconut sugar which is an improvement on the mounds of regular brown sugar he was using. This type of porridge made with oats is our quick breakfast for when we have to leave the house really early as on days when we drive into the city to do our farmer’s market shopping.

But on weekdays our porridge is made with millet, quinoa or amaranth, topped with a mixture of fruit, nuts,  yoghurt or kefir and perhaps a drizzle of coconut nectar.

Millet & Amaranth PorridgeMy Millet & Amaranth Porridge

It’s my job to make the porridge while The Patient Partner makes our salad for lunch at work. And it’s all finished off with a cup of filtered coffee made quickly with the Aeropress using freshly ground coffee beans from any one of our favorite Melbourne Cafes.

Its a good way to start the day. Plenty of quality protein to provide energy, probiotics for a healthy gut, fruit for vitamins and the caffeine hit to get us out the door!!

The Big Wave Cafe in Newhaven Phillip Island was recommended by Weekend Notes and as we needed to visit the Patient Partner’s Mum in Cowes we decided to leave early and give their porridge a try.

My PP’s lovely Mum nearly fell off her chair when we told her we paid $14.50 for a bowl of porridge. Had Uncle Toby’s rolled oats gone up that much she asked!    She still wasn’t  convinced when we told her that this was a delicious breakfast bowl of quinoa and black rice, topped with banana, rhubarb, stawberries, passionfruit, coconut milk, mint leaves and pure maple syrup to finish it off.

The Big Wave Porridge Phillip IslandThe Big Wave Porridge

I particularly liked the addition of the fresh  mint leaves and as I now have a huge pot of it growing in my garden I have been adding it to my  own millet or quinoa porridge. Lavender flowers are another tasty  sprinkle from our garden. The beauty with porridge is that you can be as creative as you want. It’s come a long way from plain boiled oats.

I have rather horrible memories of my time in Scotland as a teenager many many years ago.   It was my first job out of school and I was staying in digs run by an incredibly tall landlady with an incredibly short temper. I don’t think she liked having lodgers because it seemed to me that she did everything in her power to make sure no one would ever return.One of these was to serve bowls of stodgy porridge for us every morning for the duration of our stay. Not only was it thick and almost cold it was drenched in enough salt to give us  early onset of heart disease. Thinking back, apart from the obvious taste difference it possibly was no worse for health than the porridge my Mum made for us as kids with spoonfuls of  cream and brown sugar.

Scottish Porridge OatsScots Porridge Oats with Salt

Now the search is on for more porridge options from around world.
Much of our year is spent in Malaysia and there porridge is a savoury. Most often a tasteless boiled rice or congee spruced up by the addition of chicken or fish head and lots of salt. Not a healthy option maybe but really good if you have a dodgy stomach. It seems to help just like chicken soup does when you’re not feeling great.
In China this same rice porridge/congee is served up for breakfast and unless you are a local its hard to eat it without adding some fruit.

Just found a great porridge online from NourishbyAshlyn. An awesome site for those with fructose malabsorption, but also for anyone wanting some healthier options. She writes well too so her website is entertaining as well as informative.
Her Banana Porridge is delicious and you can be as creative as you want with the toppings. I used Loving Earth Choc Hazelnut Butter instead of Peanut and a mixture of bluberries and raspberries. Every mouthful a taste sensation.

Banana PorridgeAshlyn’s Banana Porridge

When in Malaysia we have a bit of an in joke with fellow expats about porridge days. Usually its the day of the week when we cant be bothered making anything more elaborate than the quick Scots type of oats with some added tropical fruit, but I had no idea until recently that there is actually a WORLD PORRIDGE DAY.

If you would like a list of amazing porridges, sweet and savoury and feel you could make a difference to the lives of poor children in various countries around the world then click here.

 Happy Porridging Everyone!!