Aza Aza Starvil @ Bayan Bay, Penang

One of my ex-teammate went to work in a smaller scale local company. As a result, she can no longer enjoy flexible lunch hours. Since her office is basically right across the road from Queensbay Mall, whenever we want to meet up for lunch, it was always the mall.

Except that last Friday, we really didn’t feel like going into the mall. So we decided to go to this place instead. It was even better logistically, the restaurant is located in the same cluster of shops where the ex-teammate’s new office is located.

Aza Aza Starvil is a Korean BBQ restaurant located in the cluster of shops/offices collectively known as Bayan Bay, directly opposite Queensbay Mall. This restaurant used to be new when I was new to Penang, but as I am no longer new to Penang, this restaurant is also not considered to be new.

I have been here before for a few times, every time for lunch. I don’t think this is a particularly great Korean restaurant, but it does has a few things going for me.

1. It is very near Queensbay Mall/Bayan Lepas area

I work in one of the MNC factories in Bayan Lepas, so the location is convenient. If we want Korean food close to office, it is either here or Dao Rae. If you are Malaysian and into Korean food, I’m sure you know Dao Rae means Rich People in Malaysian Korean Cuisine language. Contrary to popular belief, us engineers are really not rich.

2. No-headache menu

They don’t have a wide selection of items on their menu. In fact, there’s only four pages of food selection. And they have English/Chinese explanation of the dishes. So it is relatively easy to decide on what to eat.

aza aza starvil menu
Two pages of BBQ Meats
aza aza starvil
And two pages of other dishes

In fact, we only come here for lunch, so we avoid the BBQ meats. It is hardly ideal to do BBQ then go back to work with wonderful smelling shirt, is it? So it is just two pages for us.

The time we saved on procrastinating on the menu and exploding our heads can instead be spent watching Running Man on the in-house TV.

DSC_0037 (1280x720)

3. (Used to be) Delicious Banchan

One thing we loved about Aza Aza was their banchan (unlimited refill side dishes). Unlike most higher end Korean restaurants that serve 8 or 12 varieties, they only had 5. But all 5 were done properly and delicious.

But last week we went, the sausages (our favorite) were no more. There’s only 4 side dishes now.

DSC_0038 (1280x720)
Banchan: Kimchi, Vege in Sesame Oil, Potato Mayo Salad, Some fermented fish oil or something

The potato salad was our second favorite, but it was not as tasty as before. I think they became stingy with the mayonnaise.

4. Portions

Their portions are huge. Like, seriously HUGE!

Kimchi Bokkeumbap
Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice (RM 13.90)
Dolsot Bibimbap
Dolsot Bibimbap – Hot Stone Bowl Rice (RM 16.90)

I think both the rice dishes were made with two bowls of rice each..

Jeyuk Bokkeum
Jeyuk Bokkeum – Spicy stir fried pork (RM 29.00)

The pork dish was mine, I ordered it to go with a bowl of rice. I counted 25 slices of pork, and the colleagues sampled a few pieces, so I would say, about 30 slices?

I have a Korean co-worker in the office. Of course he is much more senior than me. He has been working in Malaysia for 15 or 20 years now, and has no intentions to return to Korea even for retirement. At least that’s what he said.

I once asked him which Korean restaurant is the most authentic in Penang. This was his response (approximately):

Nooo, every one is same here. Korean food is easy to make, so many Korean markets here now, you can buy all the imported things to cook. But eating Korean food here is no same as eating in Korea. Even you cook the same food, exactly the same method, the taste is no exactly the same. Why? Because the temperature here is different. Korean food is spicy and warm, suitable for the colder Korean whether. If you eat them here, you will feel different. That’s why I no eat Korean food in Malaysia, I eat other things..

He did say that he particularly likes a Korean restaurant in Koreatown KL (the Ampang one) for their jajangmyeon (Fried sauce noodles). I think I know which restaurant, but I don’t remember the name of that restaurant..

I’m not sure if he is fibbing on me or not, but that’s what he said. If you noticed some broken English, yeah.. I am typing while imagining him saying these to me..

But what he said correlates with what my friends who have been to Korea told me. You can sample all the Korean restaurants in Malaysia, but they will never be as delicious as the meals you will have in Korea.




  1. I recently tried Korean food for the first time and it was delicious! Perhaps the colder weather here in the UK makes it feel more like in Korea? Still probably nothing like it is in the country though, would love to get to Korea and eat all the Korean food there!

  2. I think what your Korean co-worker said is true. I’ve never been to Korea, but eating Malaysian food in Australia never tastes the same like the dishes in Malaysia. Sure, some Malaysian dishes here are more Westernised (think Maggi goreng with lots and lots and lots of tomatoes) but some are not and still taste bland (think Hainanese chicken rice).

    I love the humour in this post. Great pictures of the food too, the mains do look sizable and about right for a Malaysian meal over RM10.

    • Actually, the Hainanese chicken rice in Malaysia is not even authentic! My mom is ethnic Hainanese, she went back to visit in China once and she said the chicken there does not taste the same as our Malaysian/Singaporean version LOL!

      I wonder how long has it been since you last set foot in Malaysia. Most meals here cost more than RM10 now. Even if you eat hawker food, it will be close to that with drinks.

      • I last set food in Malaysia 2 years ago for a two week holiday with the parents. My relatives were happy to see me but they kept complaining how the food and drinks and pretty much everything is expensive in KL now. I remember going into Petaling Street and ordering a chicken rice there – $6 or something along that price. No drink for me 🙂

        • They were just stating the fact. Even now the prices are climbing faster and faster. Normal salarymen can hardly keep up with the real inflation rate.

  3. From the name of the restaurant I would not have guessed that it is Korean. I have been to one in Ampang (I also can’t remember the name) which is quite good. It is run by a Korean husband and wife team. So far of 4 Korean restaurants I have been to, the one in Ampang is still the best.

    • Aza aza is a typical Korean encouragement saying leh. Aza aza, fighting! 😀

      The Little Korea (or Koreatown) in Ampang used to be most packed with Korean expats, I think now most of them moved to Bandar Utama area, wonder if there are any great Korean eats there now..

  4. Yes, Ampang is like our Little Korea. It’s funny that all those who have been to the country of origin will say the food here cannot compare…they say that of Hong Kong food, Taiwan, US, etc., etc. Does that mean it’s always second best here?

    • I just feel most of the non local food we can get here have been localized to a certain degree. They have to, people would visit 100% authentic non local outlets once and then go back to their preferred food. If you don’t localize, you will be out of business once the novelty wears off. Malaysians (or people from anywhere around the world actually) are just to stubborn to embrace something that doesn’t taste like home for long term.
      And because of the localization, it is always not as good eating Korean/Taiwanese/HK food here as compared to in their origin countries..

  5. Personally, I can see some logic to your co-workers explanation. Korea is cold in winter and the type of food of Korean food we had while visiting there in February a couple of years ago definitely packed a punch.

    The food looks delicious, especially the pork. However, correct me if I am wrong, but potato salad doesn’t really sound Korean.

    • I suppose so. Koreans are part Chinese anyway, there is always a meaningful explanation on why they eat what they eat. Us Southeast Asian Chinese, not so much thinking, I think our ancestors just adapted the food from home with locally available ingredients.

      I’m not sure about the potato salad, but it is delicious, so.. who cares if it is authentically Korean or not? 😀

  6. one thing i like about going to Korean restaurant is the banchan they are serving, i think sometimes i eat more banchan than all other main dishes, hahaha, of course not something like just 4 small plates given in your case.. i’ve been to one in Taman Desa and they would bring 10 over different types and will automatically ask if you want to refill more.. usually will just order two main dish and with all the banchan, it ends up a great “luxury” meal already~~

    • I think there are meanings or rules to how many dishes they serve you, and generally banchan is supposed to be unlimited refill. In fact, in Aza Aza, they won’t even ask, they will just take the empty dish and refill. You need to tell them not to before they go, if you don’t want it. 😀

    • Well, they’re considered a healthier alternative compared to local cuisine if you choose to dine out. 🙂

  7. Sausages as one of the sides? That, I’ve never seen before.. Usually eggs, tofu, seaweed, kimchi, pickled something and other nonsense.. If got sausage I think people will keep asking for that refill.. I usually go for kimchi soup and bibimbap, and maybe a beef something..

    • Haha, we were one of those people. That’s what we thought too, maybe too many people refill their banchan, so they make it less tasty. If keep giving free banchan, hard to earn money leh, especially when the customers here lack any civility towards shop owners 😀

  8. My inlaws went to Korea and said their food not nice because ginseng chicken soup so bland unlike Cantonese chicken soup full flavoured from the many herbs used. Their kimchi only sour spicy only, where can fight sambal belacan with the spiciness and different layers of taste, yadda, yadda, yadda until I say ok ok I get it, you both don’t like Korean food.

    Speaking of which, wah, you eat a lot for lunch, hor, the rice dish so huge and the pork dish also so huge. Your mother read this post, will she call you to scold you or not?

    • Yeah, that’s probably the case. My dad doesn’t appreciate Korean food too. Actually I think most older people would not accept anything other than Malaysian Chinese food.

      LOL, not me alone eating all those lah, 3 of us! 😀

  9. ah, Korean food!! yummmzzz! I don’t think there is much different (in taste) for those Korean food served in those restaurant here in Klang Valley as compared to Korea. But talking about banchan, those restaurant in Korea doesn’t serve much variety as compared to here.

    • Hmm, you are the first person who said this to me. All my friends who went and came back said “No comparison, no fight at all!”

      • Well, this really depends on which restaurant they go and what sort of food they took. In most cases when i dined in Korean restaurant here, the food was cooked by Korean. I tried bulgogi in Korea sometime ago and the taste is pretty much similar to those i hav here. Kimchi, bibimbap and other common mains doesn’t taste much different from theirs…But i would say our banchan here are much more ‘luxurious’ than over there besides it has been ‘localized’ to suit Malaysian taste.

        • How nice! Here, the food is cooked by Nepalese/Burmese. Even in Dao Rae..
          I was told by the same colleague that in Korea, if you have not enough money for some reason one day, you can just go in to a restaurant, order a white rice and have a cheap meal since the banchans are free. People do that all the time. But you are expected to go back to the same restaurant to have a full meal tomorrow or next week. It is not an enforced law, but more like common sense.

Comments are closed.