This unpretentious food stall along Transfer Road in Penang doesn’t even have a signage. But you’d know that whatever they are serving should be really good when you have to wait for a little while just to get the best roadside seats in the house.
Both locals and tourists patiently queue here for the roti canai, a popular breakfast fare in these parts. Now there are many streetfood vendors and hawker places that offer this Indian-inspired flatbread. But my fixer informed me the version at Transfer Road is one of, if not the best in the island. For one, the flatbread is freshly made, topped with the protein of your choice (beef or chicken) and beautifully slattered (or ‘banjir‘) with a hearty curry sauce.
We were then lucky because we waited for only a few minutes before we scored empty seats. It probably helped that someone in our small party wore cassocks. The holy garment not only got us a good spot but also opened a lot of doors for us later in the day. It was divine intervention in retrospect.
I remember that I had roti canai during the 2019 Penang International Food Festival. While my order came from the same guys, it however at that time looked more sanitized and Instagram-ready compared to the messy plates at Transfer Road.
But for some reason the #uglydelicious version tasted better. The whole chicken leg was fork-tender, the curry sauce was on point and the roti canai’s crisp edges provided texture.
I guess this usually happens when you take out the streetfood out of the streets. The food just won’t taste the same.
The curry however packed more spice than I expected. Proof of that were the little beads of sweat that kept trickling down my face with every slurp. My kopi ais (iced coffee) could only do so much.
I welcomed the spicy jolt though as it woke me up from my minor hangover. It also prepared me for the even spicier conversations that ensued. We discussed about the Philippine elections, third wave coffee and the best secondary school in Penang. All these over a sloppy yet very filling meal.
“I wouldn’t mind getting hit by a lorry while eating breakfast here,” someone in our table quipped. I smiled at the idea. I mean, enjoying good food in good company is definitely a good way to go.
It is a sobering thought but hey, everyone will have to kick the bucket at some point. But that Wednesday morning was not the day for me. And I’m just glad it was not the day indeed.
Roti Canai Transfer Road
56 Jalan Transfer
10050 Penang, Malaysia
Business hours: 7:00AM – 12:00PM
Dine-in restrictions and the eatery’s business hours may change based on the latest community quarantine status and rules.
Editor’s note: This entry was originally published in another blog back in 2019.