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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.