Pak Hussin Tomyam @ Sungai Ara, Penang

I have been writing about many eateries in Penang so far, both old school and newly opened ones. But I recently realized that most of them have been very… Chinese in nature. I guess there is nothing weird about this. After all, I am a Chinese, so I would naturally go for Chinese cuisine most of the time.

Today, though… I am going to break away from the norm and introduce to you, to a Malay eatery. This is another of those where the locals really eat places which is not located near the main roads or tourist attractions, so if you are a tourist in Penang, you won’t be able to find it easily.

Today, I am going to introduce you to Pak Hussin Tomyam. This Malay restaurant is located in Sungai Ara. I guess if you are someone who is living in this part of the island, you will probably know this place and how to come. After all, they have been around for very long. If you are not from this area, I guess it is pointless for me to describe the location to you in detail.

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Pak is the short form of Pakcik, which is the Malay word for Uncle. Hussin is, well, a name for a Malay man. So, Pak Hussin Tomyam can be literally translated to Uncle Hussin’s Tomyam. As the name implies, this place specializes in Tomyam (or Tomyum, or even Tom Yum for some of you). But they do serve a lot of other food, all Malay style of cooking.

I have been a regular to this place since I came to Penang. Actually, all these years in Penang, I have been to quite a number of Malay eateries, to me personally, this is the best one so far. The thing is though, this is a place where you order and share dishes with rice, so it is not a place to dine alone. So ever since I moved to my new place and became a hermit, I hardly come here anymore… until a couple weeks ago when I decided to have dinner with another friend. We both missed this place.

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I don’t feel like going into grandmother stories today, so let’s jump straight into pictures of the food.

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Ulam – this is sort of like, Malay salad. Most Malay restaurants serve this as appetizer, for free. Like salad, the vegetables are served raw. Unlike salad though, there is no olive oil or mayo dressing. Ulam is always served with sambal belacan (spicy Malay chili paste) dipping.

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Tomyam campur

Tomyam campur (mixed tomyam) – they have a few different options for their tomyam soup. You can have tomyam ayam (chicken), tomyam sayur (vegetable), tomyam seafood (well, seafood), or if you cannot decide, like how we are most of the time, then you can have what we usually have here, tomyam campur. The soup is basically the same, the only difference is the main ingredient that they add when cooking the soup. And the tomyam soup here packs a punch. If you are into spicy soup, this is highly addictive and super delicious. They claim to specialize in tomyam, so they don’t mess this one around.

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Ayam masak pedas

Ayam masak pedas – ayam = chicken, masak = cook, pedas = spicy. So, ayam masak pedas basically means chicken cooked to be… you know. They do have different styles of chicken, it is basically chicken cut into cubes, and cooked in different ways. I have to say this spicy chicken is my second favorite type of chicken here. My favorite is ayam goreng kunyit (chicken fried with turmeric). Maybe I’ll show you that next time.

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Kailan ikan masin

Kailan ikan masin – Kailan = Chinese broccoli, ikan = fish, masin = salty. So, this is Chinese broccoli with salted fish. If you are going to comment on a Malay restaurant serving Chinese vegetables, don’t. The thing is, kailan is not a Chinese vegetable as far as Malaysia is concerned. This is a popular vegetable which you can find in almost any cuisine in Malaysia. I don’t know why white people call this vegetable Chinese broccoli. Anyway, this is a very nice dish too. When we come here, we always alternate between this and kangkung belacan (water spinach with chili paste) for our vegetable fix.

There are some other regular dishes that we would have here. If was just two of us this time. If it was a group of 5, you would probably also see sotong goreng (crispy fried squid) and telur bistik (Malay omelette) in this post. Maybe next time

How much did the food cost? Well… what you see in the pictures above, plus two fruit juices, fresh fruit juices, came to RM 25. I don’t remember the prices of the individual dishes. For the tourists, that’s US$ 6. Yes, six dollars for a decent meal for two. If you have the same food in those touristy spots in Gurney Drive or Batu Ferringhi, it would probably cost three of four times more.

I’ll share a map with you. I don’t know if it will make sense to you anyway. Oh right, as of now, Uber is still available in Penang, so you can always use that. Just remember: Pak Hussin Tomyam.



  1. I’m going out on a limp to say stir-fried kalian is not a common dish in a Malay eatery (I’ve never had it in the places that I patronise)…it’s not a Chinese vegetable per se (coz anyone or any race can still buy it) but it’s typically eaten by Chinese, so it’s a Chinese dish to me. By the way, that ulam is free? Coz they seem to have given the two of you a few miserable pieces only! Kekeke!

    • Strange. Maybe it is a Penang thing then? Every Malay eateries that I have been to will have kailan ikan masin on their menu. Hmm…

      Yes, the ulam is free hahaha! Actually most of the Malay warungs will serve free ulam here, only those high end, hotel level restaurants will charge for it.

  2. I like Malay food…sans spicy. So it’s always a horror when anyone is eating Malay with me. My relatives always say to me that without the spicy, it isn’t authentic and “no smell” if you know what I mean 😐 I am not a huge fan of the name Chinese broccoli. Much prefer the name kailan, and have always thought of the vegetable as just that.

    • I agree, kailan is the easier (and less racist) name for the vegetable. 😀

      Yeah, if you don’t take spicy, it is pretty pointless to have Malay food. Or Indian food. Or basically most Malaysian food to be honest, LOL!

      • Lol. Now you got me thinking of what other vegetable names are racist. Chinese cabbage? 😀 Or maybe that’s the only one.

        The Malay food I usually eat is nasi lemak – sambal pushed to the side. Satay straight from the grill. Indian food – roti canai sans curry. Sad life 😀

        • Goodness me! Nasi lemak with no sambal, roti canai with no curry. Don’t tell anyone you used to live in Malaysia! 😀 😀

          Okay, I’m exaggerating. I know a few who are like you. I wonder if it is some sort of allergy. There was this guy, ex-colleague of mine, he tried taking a spoonful of rice with sambal, and he ended up calling in sick for two days!

          • Lol. Everyone in Malaysia could barely believe I don’t eat spicy. Laksa was completely out of the question for me. I can’t even stomach Malay-style fried rice up until this day 😀 😀 😀

            • I exaggerated earlier. I think there are a lot of Malaysians who are “allergic” to spicy food like you. No worries! 😀

  3. I like Malay food a lot, especially the spicy dishes. I think it would not be wrong to say that the kailan fried with salted fish is a Chinese style dish? Somehow, not that I am being critical, when I go to a Malay restaurant I expect Malay dishes. I don’t want to eat Chinese dishes. I guess being a multiracial country, there will be some elements of one another ethnic groups cooking style on the menu. Perhaps catering to the Malay community’s love for halal Chinese dishes.

    • The thing is, if you order kailan ikan masin in Malay restaurants, they taste nothing like what you get from Chinese restaurants. That’s why I prefer to think this is Malay style. Maybe kailan itself is not a native veggie to Malaysia though… hmm…

  4. Too bad I cannot eat spicy food else I will ask my brother to bring me here when I visit him in Penang. The Tom Yum looks really spicy hot (hahaha, if by looks we can tell whether it is spicy or not). Looks like a very satisfying meal that does not break the piggy bank.

    • They have non spicy options too. Although… it is pretty pointless to have non-spicy Malay food LOL! 😀

  5. I think I know this place. My parents frequented this restaurant before they moved to KL. They lived at Regency Heights nearby.
    My late mother always praised their spicy Tom Yum. Bring me there! 🙂

    • Yes, yes. Regency Heights is nearby. People who live nearby will probably know and tried this place before. Best Tomyam in the area.

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