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Georgetown, Malaysia
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The 17 Essential George Town Restaurants

Where to find char kway teow, hokkien mee, asam laksa, and more in Malaysia’s historic city

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Georgetown, Malaysia
| Getty Images/Tetra images RF

A typical day of eating in George Town, Malaysia, might go like this: Start with the Malay breakfast staple of nasi lemak and a cup of sweet, frothy “pulled” tea. Lunch might be a southern Indian thali or, if you’re keeping it light, a bowl of asam laksa, a noodle dish that blends Malay and Chinese ingredients and flavors. Dinner could mean a visit to a street stall for oh chien, Chinese-style oyster omelet, or char kway teow, the city’s famous fried noodle dish. And for dessert? Stop into a modern cafe for some of the world’s best ice cream — highlighting, of course, Malaysian ingredients.

Nowhere else in Asia is it possible to flit between cuisines so effortlessly. Geography and history have left the Malaysian state of Penang with a unique culinary footprint, one that spans Malay, Chinese and Indian ingredients and techniques. And with its UNESCO-recognized historical core, George Town’s shophouses, Chinese and Hindu temples, mosques, and churches serve as a fitting photogenic backdrop to the menu.

Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 21 Malaysian ringgit (Less than $5 USD)
$$ = 25 - 42 Malaysian ringgit ($6 - $10 USD)
$$$ = 46 - 84 Malaysian ringgit ($11 - $20 USD)
$$$$ = More than 84 Malaysian ringgit ($20 USD and up)

Austin Bush is a food and travel writer and photographer who has lived in Bangkok, Thailand, for the last 20 years. He’s contributed to more than 30 titles for Lonely Planet, and his latest book, The Food of Northern Thailand, was a finalist for a James Beard Award.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Rojak Ho Wei Jeng (101 Rojak)

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One of Penang’s most distinctive — and tastiest – dishes is rojak, a salad-like dish of crunchy, tart and sweet fruits and vegetables topped with a thick dressing that unites sweet, savory, and spicy, garnished with crushed peanuts and raw sugar. One of the best places to get it is this stall at a seaside, semi-open-air hawker center. It’s supposed to be open evenings but don’t be surprised if you find it closed without explanation (a frequent occurrence). If you catch it on a good day, grab a tub of the dressing to take home. [$]

From above, a paper plate on a green plastic tabletop, loaded with slices of vegetables and fruits beneath a thick dark dressing and dusting of crushed nuts
Rojak

Lebuh Queen Appom

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Appom, sometimes known in English as “hopper,” is a crispy, bowl-like crepe of Sri Lankan origin. With a lightly tart flavor, teeming with crumpet-like holes, sporting a just-cooked egg, if you like, and served with a curry-like dip, it’s also one of the best breakfasts in George Town. This stall has no formal name nor sign; look for the blue canopy across from Express-Mart. [$]

From above, a plate with a large, sponge-like, eggy crepe beside a small bowl of sauce on a red tablecloth
Appom with dipping sauce

China House

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These linked, rambling shophouses do a bit of everything: breakfast, coffee, burgers, veggie dishes, Malaysian-influenced dishes. But really, it’s all about dessert. Just try not to be tempted by the enormous table heaped with all variety of cakes, pies, and cookies. And you can’t say you’ve been to George Town if you haven’t tried the ice cream made with salted gula Melaka, Malaysian palm-sugar syrup. [$$ - $$$]

From above on a balcony perch, a server prepares a plate from a long wooden table of cakes and other desserts set against a wall decorated with a large mirror that reflects the offerings, as well as several obscured pieces of art.
The tempting dessert table

Hameediyah

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Perhaps the most Penang meal of all is nasi kandar, a spread of hearty, rich, often meaty, Muslim Indian-influenced curries served over rice. Said to be the city’s oldest purveyor of the dish, Hameediyah certainly is its most popular; if arriving at meal time, be prepared to queue. If rice isn’t your thing, try the excellent murtabak, a spiced, minced filling (egg plus beef or chicken) wrapped in a thin flatbread, griddled and served with a sweet/sour dip. [$ - $$]

A wooden sunlit table filled with various rich dishes including massive prawns, stuffed flatbread, curries, meaty mains, and a large vegetable salad bowl.
A spread of dishes at Hameediyah
Hameediyah / Facebook

Joo Hooi Cafe

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This miniscule, perpetually slammed hawker center is one-stop-shopping for two of George Town’s most famous dishes: asam laksa, udon-like rice noodles in a hearty, herbaceous, fishy-in-a-good way broth; and cendol, short, squiggly noodles in sweetened coconut milk and shaved ice. Lunch only. [$]

Kafe Kheng Pin

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Ditch your boring hotel breakfast and start your day in George Town with lor bak, a deliciously incongruous mix of deep-fried bits and bobs (firm tofu, minced pork rolled in tofu skin, crispy shrimp fritters, Chinese sausage, pig’s ear) served with slices of cucumber and a sticky, savory, five spice powder-tinged dip. The aged couple at this hawker center have been serving this Chinese-origin dish for decades. Breakfast only, closed Mondays. [$]

From above, a plate of fried items with a few cucumber slices beside two small dipping bowls of sauce and a mug of coffee or tea.
Lor bak

Lebuh Kimberley Char Kway Teow

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Char kway teow, flat rice noodles wok-fried with egg, shrimp, cockles, Chinese sausage, and a chile paste, is one of those dishes that just never tastes right when eaten away from its place of origin. As such, George Town is home to several famous vendors, but go for the smokey, spicy version served by this taciturn chef from a mobile stall. There’s no English-language sign here; look for the wok in front of Sin Guat Keong Cafe. Evenings only. [$]

From above, a plate of fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, greens and onions, with a pair of chopsticks balanced on the rim on a wooden tabletop
Char kway teow

Lebuh Presgrave Hawker Stalls

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There’s a variety of eats here, from a cart that does hard-to-find Baba-Nyonya (a mix of indigenous and Chinese cooking styles and ingredients) dishes to a decent oyster omelet vendor. But nearly everybody comes for the hokkien mee. A decadent bowl combines rice and wheat-and-egg noodles, a rich, red, pork bone- and prawn-based broth, crispy pork belly, and a generous garnish of crispy fried shallots. Evenings only. [$]

From above, a bowl of noodle-pork soup in a rich broth with a spoon and chopsticks sticking out, and a plate of omelet with dipping sauce and chop sticks, sit on a concrete backdrop
Hokkien mee and oh chien (oyster omelet)

Lorong Baru Hawker Stalls

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If you only have time to visit one hawker center while in George Town (note: you should make more time), make it Lorong Baru. Both in terms of its spread of dishes and its frenetic, open-air vibe, it’s the epitome of what’s fun and delicious about eating in this city. Standout dishes include otak-otak, fish curry steamed in banana leaf; smokey skewers of satay; char koay kak, rice cakes fried with egg, shrimp, bean sprouts, and chili paste; and chee cheong fun, rice noodle rolls drizzled with a savory shrimp paste-based dressing and sesame seeds.  Dinner only. [$ - $$]

A paper plate of shrimp, rice cakes, and bean sprouts with chopsticks resting on the rim, beside a banana leaf with a wedge of fish curry, and a tall drink on a plastic table with an illustrated menu with images of various fruits
Char koay kak

Nasi Padang Minang

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Buffets usually emphasize quantity over quality, but that isn’t the case with this self-serve Indonesian restaurant. Load your plate with beef rendang, soups, spicy dips, coconut milk curries, stir-frys, and vegetable dishes, and flash it at the staff who will calculate your bill. All the options are vibrant and fresh. Lunch only. [$]

A buffet table with rows of heavy pots of stews and soups, rows of smaller dishes, elevated trays of vegetables, rice and noodles dishes, and two customers filling plates from a line alongside
The self-serve Indonesian buffet

Pitt Street Koay Teow Th’ng

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Although not as touted as George Town’s other hawker dishes, koay teow th’ng, flat rice noodles in a clear duck-based broth studded with fish balls, is a dish deeply beloved by locals. The balls here are made from eel, and are tender and pleasantly fishy – not the tasteless, rubbery orbs you’ve likely encountered elsewhere – and a generous drizzle of pork fat and crispy garlic ties everything together. Breakfast and lunch only, closed Mondays. [$]

From above, a soup bowl with fish balls and greens in a light broth, with a small cup of sauce on the side on a bright tile backdrop
Koay teow th’ng

Pulau Tikus Hawker Center

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Located about two miles northwest of the city center is this busy junction of a market, food stalls, and restaurants. It’s an excellent place to grab breakfast, and highlights include a famous mee goreng, a hearty Indian Muslim-influenced dish of round wheat noodles fried with dried squid, potatoes, tofu, egg, and chili paste; and a delicious curry mee, wheat-and-egg and rice noodles in a broth made rich and spicy with a splash of coconut milk and a dollop of chili paste, and topped with cockles, shrimp, firm tofu, and steamed cubes of chicken blood. Breakfast and lunch only, many vendors here close on Mondays. [$]

From above, a bright plastic bowl of soup with a bright shrimp on top set against darker fried ingredients like tofu and cubes of steamed chicken blood, above the broth with a spoon sticking out and chopsticks resting on the rim
A bowl of curry mee

Seng Thor Hawker Centre

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Oh chien is often translated as “oyster omelet” but this is an insufficient description for this masterpiece of egg, tapioca flour batter, and barely-cooked oysters – a dish with Chinese roots that’s ubiquitous in George Town. The version served at this hawker centre is fried in lard, making it exceedingly rich, crispy, and almost bacon-like in flavor. Open afternoons only, closed Wednesdays. [$]

A close-up on a heap of chopped oyster omelet on a pink ceramic plate with a small cup of dipping sauce and four chopsticks lined up neatly along the rim
Oh chien (oyster omelet)

Sup Hameed

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Every evening, on the street in front of this otherwise unremarkable restaurant, a vendor sets up shop selling rich, meaty, Muslim/Malay-style soups. Beef, quail, oxtail, and bull’s penis are among the many proteins available, but we always opt for sup kambing, goat soup, in which the gamey goat meat is buoyed by fragrant dried spices and lots of crispy, deep-fried shallots. [$]

A bowl of soup on a saucer with a thick broth dotted by fried shallots and chopped greens, with a large plastic spoon sticking out
Sup kambing

Tek Sen

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In a city with very, very good food, Tek Sen just might hold the title of the best restaurant in town. Dating back to 1965, the menu is a virtual crash-course in Penang-style Chinese and Baba-Nyonya (a mix of indigenous and Chinese cooking styles and ingredients) dishes. You can’t really go wrong here, but favorites include the double-cooked roast pork with chili padi, stir-fried sweet potato leaves with sambal belecan (fermented shrimp paste) and shrimp, and assam pedas, a tart soup with stingray. Be sure to order a glass of the the house-made drink made from nutmeg syrup. Open for lunch and dinner, closed Tuesdays; be prepared to queue. [$$ - $$$]

A close-up on a bowl of soup with large hunks of fish and vegetables in a thick red broth, with kitchen jars and prep tools blurred in the background
Assam pedas (stingray soup)
Tek Sen / Facebook

Veloo Villas

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George Town has a visible south Asian community, many of whom have origins in south India. Food-wise, this means that the the city excels at thali, all-you-can-eat, meat-free banana leaf meals, and dosai, the crispy south Indian crepe. Located at the edge of George Town’s vibrant Little India, this scruffy hole-in-the-wall is one of the better places for both. [$ - $$]

From above, a partitioned banana leaf with small amounts of various dishes dolloped into the different areas and a mound of rice in the middle, with two steel canisters of sauces nearby
Thali on banana leaf

Wai Kei Cafe

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Even if you’re a casual fan of Chinese food, you’ve probably encountered char siew, fatty slices of just-sweet, oven-roasted pork. But we’re willing to posit that you’ve never really eaten char siew if you haven’t been to Wai Kei. Rich, caramelized, crispy, and smokey, the pork is served with rice, a side of greens and a  bowl of soup. Open for lunch and dinner (the latter only during weekdays), but supplies are limited, so show up early and be prepared to wait. [$ - $$]

Slice of roasted pork on top of rice with greens on a pink plate beside a small plastic dish of extra greens, and two small cups of dipping sauce, on a colorful, marble-like backdrop
Char siew

Rojak Ho Wei Jeng (101 Rojak)

From above, a paper plate on a green plastic tabletop, loaded with slices of vegetables and fruits beneath a thick dark dressing and dusting of crushed nuts
Rojak

One of Penang’s most distinctive — and tastiest – dishes is rojak, a salad-like dish of crunchy, tart and sweet fruits and vegetables topped with a thick dressing that unites sweet, savory, and spicy, garnished with crushed peanuts and raw sugar. One of the best places to get it is this stall at a seaside, semi-open-air hawker center. It’s supposed to be open evenings but don’t be surprised if you find it closed without explanation (a frequent occurrence). If you catch it on a good day, grab a tub of the dressing to take home. [$]

From above, a paper plate on a green plastic tabletop, loaded with slices of vegetables and fruits beneath a thick dark dressing and dusting of crushed nuts
Rojak

Lebuh Queen Appom

From above, a plate with a large, sponge-like, eggy crepe beside a small bowl of sauce on a red tablecloth
Appom with dipping sauce

Appom, sometimes known in English as “hopper,” is a crispy, bowl-like crepe of Sri Lankan origin. With a lightly tart flavor, teeming with crumpet-like holes, sporting a just-cooked egg, if you like, and served with a curry-like dip, it’s also one of the best breakfasts in George Town. This stall has no formal name nor sign; look for the blue canopy across from Express-Mart. [$]

From above, a plate with a large, sponge-like, eggy crepe beside a small bowl of sauce on a red tablecloth
Appom with dipping sauce

China House

From above on a balcony perch, a server prepares a plate from a long wooden table of cakes and other desserts set against a wall decorated with a large mirror that reflects the offerings, as well as several obscured pieces of art.
The tempting dessert table

These linked, rambling shophouses do a bit of everything: breakfast, coffee, burgers, veggie dishes, Malaysian-influenced dishes. But really, it’s all about dessert. Just try not to be tempted by the enormous table heaped with all variety of cakes, pies, and cookies. And you can’t say you’ve been to George Town if you haven’t tried the ice cream made with salted gula Melaka, Malaysian palm-sugar syrup. [$$ - $$$]

From above on a balcony perch, a server prepares a plate from a long wooden table of cakes and other desserts set against a wall decorated with a large mirror that reflects the offerings, as well as several obscured pieces of art.
The tempting dessert table

Hameediyah

A wooden sunlit table filled with various rich dishes including massive prawns, stuffed flatbread, curries, meaty mains, and a large vegetable salad bowl.
A spread of dishes at Hameediyah
Hameediyah / Facebook

Perhaps the most Penang meal of all is nasi kandar, a spread of hearty, rich, often meaty, Muslim Indian-influenced curries served over rice. Said to be the city’s oldest purveyor of the dish, Hameediyah certainly is its most popular; if arriving at meal time, be prepared to queue. If rice isn’t your thing, try the excellent murtabak, a spiced, minced filling (egg plus beef or chicken) wrapped in a thin flatbread, griddled and served with a sweet/sour dip. [$ - $$]

A wooden sunlit table filled with various rich dishes including massive prawns, stuffed flatbread, curries, meaty mains, and a large vegetable salad bowl.
A spread of dishes at Hameediyah
Hameediyah / Facebook

Joo Hooi Cafe

This miniscule, perpetually slammed hawker center is one-stop-shopping for two of George Town’s most famous dishes: asam laksa, udon-like rice noodles in a hearty, herbaceous, fishy-in-a-good way broth; and cendol, short, squiggly noodles in sweetened coconut milk and shaved ice. Lunch only. [$]

Kafe Kheng Pin

From above, a plate of fried items with a few cucumber slices beside two small dipping bowls of sauce and a mug of coffee or tea.
Lor bak

Ditch your boring hotel breakfast and start your day in George Town with lor bak, a deliciously incongruous mix of deep-fried bits and bobs (firm tofu, minced pork rolled in tofu skin, crispy shrimp fritters, Chinese sausage, pig’s ear) served with slices of cucumber and a sticky, savory, five spice powder-tinged dip. The aged couple at this hawker center have been serving this Chinese-origin dish for decades. Breakfast only, closed Mondays. [$]

From above, a plate of fried items with a few cucumber slices beside two small dipping bowls of sauce and a mug of coffee or tea.
Lor bak

Lebuh Kimberley Char Kway Teow

From above, a plate of fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, greens and onions, with a pair of chopsticks balanced on the rim on a wooden tabletop
Char kway teow

Char kway teow, flat rice noodles wok-fried with egg, shrimp, cockles, Chinese sausage, and a chile paste, is one of those dishes that just never tastes right when eaten away from its place of origin. As such, George Town is home to several famous vendors, but go for the smokey, spicy version served by this taciturn chef from a mobile stall. There’s no English-language sign here; look for the wok in front of Sin Guat Keong Cafe. Evenings only. [$]

From above, a plate of fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, greens and onions, with a pair of chopsticks balanced on the rim on a wooden tabletop
Char kway teow

Lebuh Presgrave Hawker Stalls

From above, a bowl of noodle-pork soup in a rich broth with a spoon and chopsticks sticking out, and a plate of omelet with dipping sauce and chop sticks, sit on a concrete backdrop
Hokkien mee and oh chien (oyster omelet)

There’s a variety of eats here, from a cart that does hard-to-find Baba-Nyonya (a mix of indigenous and Chinese cooking styles and ingredients) dishes to a decent oyster omelet vendor. But nearly everybody comes for the hokkien mee. A decadent bowl combines rice and wheat-and-egg noodles, a rich, red, pork bone- and prawn-based broth, crispy pork belly, and a generous garnish of crispy fried shallots. Evenings only. [$]

From above, a bowl of noodle-pork soup in a rich broth with a spoon and chopsticks sticking out, and a plate of omelet with dipping sauce and chop sticks, sit on a concrete backdrop
Hokkien mee and oh chien (oyster omelet)

Lorong Baru Hawker Stalls

A paper plate of shrimp, rice cakes, and bean sprouts with chopsticks resting on the rim, beside a banana leaf with a wedge of fish curry, and a tall drink on a plastic table with an illustrated menu with images of various fruits
Char koay kak

If you only have time to visit one hawker center while in George Town (note: you should make more time), make it Lorong Baru. Both in terms of its spread of dishes and its frenetic, open-air vibe, it’s the epitome of what’s fun and delicious about eating in this city. Standout dishes include otak-otak, fish curry steamed in banana leaf; smokey skewers of satay; char koay kak, rice cakes fried with egg, shrimp, bean sprouts, and chili paste; and chee cheong fun, rice noodle rolls drizzled with a savory shrimp paste-based dressing and sesame seeds.  Dinner only. [$ - $$]

A paper plate of shrimp, rice cakes, and bean sprouts with chopsticks resting on the rim, beside a banana leaf with a wedge of fish curry, and a tall drink on a plastic table with an illustrated menu with images of various fruits
Char koay kak

Nasi Padang Minang

A buffet table with rows of heavy pots of stews and soups, rows of smaller dishes, elevated trays of vegetables, rice and noodles dishes, and two customers filling plates from a line alongside
The self-serve Indonesian buffet

Buffets usually emphasize quantity over quality, but that isn’t the case with this self-serve Indonesian restaurant. Load your plate with beef rendang, soups, spicy dips, coconut milk curries, stir-frys, and vegetable dishes, and flash it at the staff who will calculate your bill. All the options are vibrant and fresh. Lunch only. [$]

A buffet table with rows of heavy pots of stews and soups, rows of smaller dishes, elevated trays of vegetables, rice and noodles dishes, and two customers filling plates from a line alongside
The self-serve Indonesian buffet

Pitt Street Koay Teow Th’ng

From above, a soup bowl with fish balls and greens in a light broth, with a small cup of sauce on the side on a bright tile backdrop
Koay teow th’ng

Although not as touted as George Town’s other hawker dishes, koay teow th’ng, flat rice noodles in a clear duck-based broth studded with fish balls, is a dish deeply beloved by locals. The balls here are made from eel, and are tender and pleasantly fishy – not the tasteless, rubbery orbs you’ve likely encountered elsewhere – and a generous drizzle of pork fat and crispy garlic ties everything together. Breakfast and lunch only, closed Mondays. [$]

From above, a soup bowl with fish balls and greens in a light broth, with a small cup of sauce on the side on a bright tile backdrop
Koay teow th’ng

Pulau Tikus Hawker Center

From above, a bright plastic bowl of soup with a bright shrimp on top set against darker fried ingredients like tofu and cubes of steamed chicken blood, above the broth with a spoon sticking out and chopsticks resting on the rim
A bowl of curry mee

Located about two miles northwest of the city center is this busy junction of a market, food stalls, and restaurants. It’s an excellent place to grab breakfast, and highlights include a famous mee goreng, a hearty Indian Muslim-influenced dish of round wheat noodles fried with dried squid, potatoes, tofu, egg, and chili paste; and a delicious curry mee, wheat-and-egg and rice noodles in a broth made rich and spicy with a splash of coconut milk and a dollop of chili paste, and topped with cockles, shrimp, firm tofu, and steamed cubes of chicken blood. Breakfast and lunch only, many vendors here close on Mondays. [$]

From above, a bright plastic bowl of soup with a bright shrimp on top set against darker fried ingredients like tofu and cubes of steamed chicken blood, above the broth with a spoon sticking out and chopsticks resting on the rim
A bowl of curry mee

Seng Thor Hawker Centre

A close-up on a heap of chopped oyster omelet on a pink ceramic plate with a small cup of dipping sauce and four chopsticks lined up neatly along the rim
Oh chien (oyster omelet)

Oh chien is often translated as “oyster omelet” but this is an insufficient description for this masterpiece of egg, tapioca flour batter, and barely-cooked oysters – a dish with Chinese roots that’s ubiquitous in George Town. The version served at this hawker centre is fried in lard, making it exceedingly rich, crispy, and almost bacon-like in flavor. Open afternoons only, closed Wednesdays. [$]

A close-up on a heap of chopped oyster omelet on a pink ceramic plate with a small cup of dipping sauce and four chopsticks lined up neatly along the rim
Oh chien (oyster omelet)

Sup Hameed

A bowl of soup on a saucer with a thick broth dotted by fried shallots and chopped greens, with a large plastic spoon sticking out
Sup kambing

Every evening, on the street in front of this otherwise unremarkable restaurant, a vendor sets up shop selling rich, meaty, Muslim/Malay-style soups. Beef, quail, oxtail, and bull’s penis are among the many proteins available, but we always opt for sup kambing, goat soup, in which the gamey goat meat is buoyed by fragrant dried spices and lots of crispy, deep-fried shallots. [$]

A bowl of soup on a saucer with a thick broth dotted by fried shallots and chopped greens, with a large plastic spoon sticking out
Sup kambing

Tek Sen