Little Penang has been known to make expat Malaysians cry when they taste the dishes.
The Dixon Street Malaysian spot is now a Wellington institution, through and through — the best place to come if you want sublimely authentic Peranakan food from the streets and kitchens of Penang.
Owner Tee Phie worked in corporate banking for 25 years in Kuala Lumpur before deciding to come to New Zealand and open a restaurant in which her family's recipes would be shared with her new city. She and her husband Keith Cheah use only the best Malaysian ingredients, including fresh belachan (shrimp paste), banana leaf for her grandmother's steamed toffee cake, betel leaves and torch ginger bud — a rare and hard-to-procure ingredient even in Malaysia.
The menu is straightforward but features new flavours and combinations at every turn. The starters menu features dishes of Taukua Sumbat (pieces of deep fried tofu stuffed with Asian slaw and housemade peanut sauce, $6.90) and Kerabu Salad (mango features heavily, $8.90) alongside currypuffs and deep fried platters ($7.90 for two).
The rice dishes are always innovative; try the Claypot Rice ($15.90), braised chicken and shiitake mushrooms cooked in a claypot over fire and topped with Chinese pork sausages. In terms of noodles, of course Little Penang does the best Mee Goreng ($15.90) in the city — topped with vegetable fritters and lots of peanuts and chopped greens throughout the saucy noodles. To be honest, everything on this menu is awesome. Perhaps one of the biggest symbols of this is the way that Little Penang is always filled on Friday and Saturday nights, even though they have chosen not to pursue a liquor license. And everyone still has a great time with their food, it's just that good.