Thursday, January 14, 2010

Feasting in Penang: Toh Soon Cafe

with family

Located in a side street along Lebuh Campbell, this small cafe is almost perpetually full...the actual cafe is no more than a hole in the wall of a corner terrace shop, and a tentage is set up to cover the side road...with tables and stools setup for customers.



This shop has been around for ages. The attraction is the coffee, and the various offers of bread...toasted, steamed, with kaya, with butter...huge list of offerings.

We started the morning breakfast with black coffee...kopi-o.



Black, totally opaque, the coffee is probably brewed from coarsely ground robusta beans. Typical of the kopitiam coffee, this is usually roasted with maize, and often with margerine. The grounds are brewed using the sock method...where the grounds are placed in a muslin bag, and brewed in a pot with hot water. Toh Guan's coffee is thick, flavourful...a robust, full body flavour, and a distinct fragrance. The nose is not like those we get from the more aromatic arabica, but a thick, dense, smokey fragrance which is also very addictive.

But on to the breads. We start off with steamed local bread:



Two slices of local bread...commonly known as bengali bread...this is different from the factory made bread like those offered by Gardenia, in that I think it contains less gluten, and often free of preservatives. Just flour, yeast, often allowed to rise fully...making the bread very airy, and baked till the outer crust develops into a deep brown. The crust is typically cut off and not served.

Steaming causes the bread to become a bit more elastic than it would have been. It also softens and moistens the bread. Very nice. I wonder why steamed bread is seldom offered.

Also lightly toasted butter kaya bread.



The same bengali bread is lightly buttered and spread with kaya. And toasted in a truly old charcoal oven, shown below:



I am not sure why the oven is situated in the lower part of the stove...toasting bread becomes a back breaking exercise of having to stoop low to insert and remove the bread.

But the bread is excellent. Toasted lightly, it maintains a crisp exterior, while the interior is nice and soft. The butter is fairly generous, but the kaya is a bit lacking. It did not have the fragrance, nor the intensity as that found in Killiney, or my mom's home made stuff. On top of that, the amount of kaya spread was not generous.

We also ordered just plain buttered toast, to be eaten with half boiled eggs:



This was quite brilliant. Nicely toasted, with melted butter. And torn into small bite sized portions and dunked in the liquid half boiled eggs. Very nice.


Toh Soon Cafe
Lebuh Campbell (Penang Road side)



View Toh Soon Cafe in a larger map
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