Nasi Kandar Penang: Insanely Good Curry at Tajuddin Hussain

By Mark Wiens 35 Comments
best nasi kandar in Penang
Nasi kandar in Penang

Every now and then you have a meal that’s almost too good to be true.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

One of those meals that’s so delicious, it literally blows your mind, and even after you finish eating, you have a smile on your face for the rest of the day without even knowing it, and you might even dream about the meal you ate as you sleep that night.

Eating at nasi kandar at Restoran Tajuddin Hussain in Penang was one of those meals.

nasi kandar
Nasi Kandar – Indian syle curry and rice

What is nasi kandar?

While Chinese food in Penang is extremely common, another one of the most common and most beloved meals to eat in Penang, and throughout Malaysian, is nasi kandar.

In Malay nasi means rice, and kandar is the name for a traditional bamboo carrying pole basket – a type of carrying method commonly used throughout East Asia.

Together the combination makes rice carried in a carrying basket.

In Malaysia, specifically Penang, when Indians migrated to the Malay peninsula, they would sell or deliver rice and curry from these carrying basket.

Eventually the name came to be associated with not just rice and carrying baskets, but with the Indian curries served from them.

best nasi kandar in Penang
Eating nasi kandar in Penang, Malaysia

Nowadays, it’s not so common to find real kandar portable street food baskets, but instead there are bigger open air restaurants that serve what is still called nasi kandar.

Nasi kandar has come to refer to rice and an assortment of Indian curries and side dishes.

Since my first visit to Kuala Lumpur back years ago, nasi kandar has been among my favorite things to eat in Malaysia, one of the meals I crave as soon as I land in the country.

But while nasi kandar is available throughout Malaysia, the original source is Penang, and that’s where most people still say you can eat the best version. Why is it still the best in Malaysia? Some say it’s because of the sweet water in Penang.

Now that we have a little history, let’s proceed on to this nasi kandar meal that blew my mind.

If you do any online research for nasi kandar in Penang, you’ll come up with a host of famous restaurants like Nasi Kandar Line Clear and Nasi Kandar Beratur (unfortunately I ran out of time before I could try these two restaurants).

But I decided to go to a restaurant that I walked past while exploring Penang one day.

I didn’t eat there immediately, but went back to our hotel, looked it up, and because of its raving reviews, Ying and I went directly there the next day for lunch.

The name of the restaurant: Restoran Tajuddin Hussain.

Restoran Tajuddin Hussain
Restoran Tajuddin Hussain – Penang, Malaysia

Restoran Tajuddin Hussain

Located on the edge of George Town’s Little India, and just off a 2 minute walk from Kapitan Keling Mosque, the restaurant is easy to get to.

If you go right at a peak meal time it’s just about always packed out and can be challenging to find a table.

Ying and I arrived early, right at 11 am on a weekday, ready to devour some nasi kandar at its freshest state, and beat the major lunch traffic.

Restoran Tajuddin Hussain nasi kandar
The delicious food to choose from at Restoran Tajuddin Hussain

At the back of the restaurant you’ll see the cabinet display of some majestic piles of curry, which reminded me of Bhape Da Hotel in Delhi.

I saw some people heading up to the food display cabinet to order, but I think the majority of people who ate at the restaurant, just sat down, and then eventually a waiter will come around and take your order.

That’s what we did.

nasi kandar
It all looks impressively delicious

I had written down a couple dishes to try, and so I ordered a few of the dishes I knew the names of to get started.

Sometimes for ordering, if I have no clue what the names are, I just say a meat followed by curry. For instance “mutton curry,” which they might have a few versions of, but I just let the waiter handle it from there.

The dishes all arrived on small little green plates, the portions not huge, so we could try a variety of different curries.

biryani
The biryani came with a side of coconut chutney

Biryani

Rather than getting white rice, I chose to go for the biryani rice.

The biryani was nicely fragrant, seasoned with lots of shallots, turmeric, and there was a garnish of cucumbers and some coconut chutney on the side.

Since the flavors of the curry were so distinguished already, the biryani was probably unnecessary as it was drowned out by the the stronger flavors of the curry, but I’m still not complaining about that.

The biryani made a beautiful foundation.

Mutton curry
Mutton curry

Mutton curry

Mutton curry is one of the world’s greatest dishes. I’ve eaten it in India, Thailand, Malaysia, and it just never seems to fail me.

Something about the flavor of the meat paired with spices, it’s just a combination that works incredibly well.

nasi kandar
Look at the gravy in that mutton curry!

The mutton curry we got at Tajuddin Hussain nasi kandar included a small piece of mutton in a sauce that literally looked like red melted butter. And the richness of it, wasn’t far off.

It was a little spicy, and had that satisfying blend of dry spices all wrapped up in an insanely rich and greasy gravy.

One of the things I noticed is that there were pandan leaves in the curry as well, something I hadn’t seen before in a curry (in Thailand they are mostly used in desserts).

Ayam rose
Ayam rose

Ayam rose

Equally as good as the mutton curry was the ayam rose, chicken rose curry, and I believe this was my first time to try it.

ayam rose nasi kandar
Another delicious dish: ayam rose

It almost tasted like barbecue sauce chicken, except not sweet, but spicy and full of spices instead. It had a hint of sourness, and a pleasant amount of chili.

The sauce in the ayam rose was indeed dripping in oil, but it was so worth it.

Tajuddin Hussain nasi kandar
Squid curry at Tajuddin Hussain nasi kandar

Squid curry

We saw the squid on display in the glass cabinet, and wanting to get some seafood, we ordered the squid curry as well.

It was very similar to the mutton curry, except it had a little sour tinge to it, and included tender squid.

I was thinking the squid would be a little on chew side, but it was incredibly tender, almost like chicken breast.

vegetables in nasi kandar
Not sure what type of vegetable this was, but it was excellent

Vegetable

For most meals I eat, I like to eat a range of different dishes, and balance out the different dishes I choose.

So lastly, I ordered a plate of green vegetables, which I just let our waiter choose for us.

I’m not sure what vegetable it was, but it included both big stalks and leaves. The vegetable was fall apart tender, probably cooked to death, and served just before the point of disintegrating.

It was plain compared to the other curries, but went extremely well with the biryani rice and was a great accompaniment to the rest of the dishes.

While I should have been extremely satisfied after that amount of nasi kandar and the incredible rich and flavorful curries, the problem is that, as we were eating, more and more people started filing into Restoran Tajuddin Hussain and ordering different foods.

I saw one table had ordered a plate of a white colored dish, and my curiosity could not handle it – I had no choice but to order it.

And I’m not the only one, Ying loved the ayam rose so much, she wanted to eat another plate of that too.

Mutton korma
Mutton korma

Mutton korma

I’ve had mutton korma before, but this was the palest version I’ve ever seen. And when compared to the other dishes I ordered, the mutton korma was much less flavorful.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, it was still good, but after mouthfuls of over the top flavors that excited my taste buds, the mutton korma just wasn’t as good as it probably would have been had I eaten it at the beginning of the meal.

The sauce was buttery and creamy, and the mutton was nice and tender just like the mutton curry.

Penang nasi kandar
Restoran Tajuddin Hussain serves incredible nasi kandar in Penang

If you have a few minutes, be sure to watch the video below of this intensely good meal.

(Of you can watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raZ53GYag98)

Conclusion

One of the ultimate meals to eat in Malaysia is nasi kandar, which has come to refer to rice and an assortment of Indian curries.

When in Penang, the birthplace of Malaysian nasi kandar, there are plenty of restaurants to try it at.

My wife and I went to a restaurant called Restoran Tajuddin Hussain, right on the edge of Little Indian in George Town, Penang.

The curries we ordered were outstanding, packed with flavors and spices, rich and heavy, and it seemed like each bite got even better and better.

One of the best things to do when you’re in Penang is eat nasi kandar!

Restoran Tajuddin Hussain

Address: 45 Lebuh Queen, 10200 George Town, Penang Island, Malaysia
Open hours: Monday – Saturday from 11:00 – 3:30 pm for lunch and 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm for dinner (closed on Sunday)
Prices: Our total price came to 34.50 MYR ($9.18), if I can read read our receipt correctly, looks like each plate of meat curry is 4.50 MYR ($1.20)
How to get there: Restoran Tajuddin Hussain is located in Little India in George Town, on Lebuh Queen, inbetween Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Chulia.

Here’s the map for more directions:

35 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • khairul nisak

    3 years ago

    Hi there.. I’m one of die hard fans of Tajuddin Hussin’s food.. I started being their patron since it was only a small shop.. opposite the recent location. If you go there and stand in front of current shop you can see the old shop.. small door and people is selling fresh mutton and vegetables. Those days, you have to que in front of the door till outside and make sure you peek into the shop every now and then to find a place to sit. No chance to sit with your family or friend because of the way they arrange the table. Just imagine, a small room(even our master bed room is even bigger) so they just placed long and slim table like what we can see in the school canteen and also small rounded chair. 1 table on the left side, 1 on the right and 1 at the centre. So we will end up eating our food and our back facing someone’s back. No space to really move. A space about 5 feet used to prepare and display the food while the food stock being lowered down from upper side using small lift. So.. just imagine how delicious the food there that many people are willing to wait patiently until they would be able to squeeze in and have their lunch there… same goes to me.. But .. I would say you have missed out 1 of the best dishes served in tajudin.. that is tomato chutney.. normally I will eat that with tomato or briyani rice and rose chicken. Besides that you can also ask for rose duck and even the brain (lamb). Heaven… Even the egg dish is awesome.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Khairul, great to hear from you and thank you for sharing your experience eating at Tajuddin Hussain. Amazing what you have described, and luckily the food is still fantastic. Next time I’m in Penang I’m going straight for the tomato chutney. Thanks!

  • Kurniawan

    3 years ago

    the soundtrack at the end this video??? please mark i need the name the soundtrack just not audio network but the name of soundtrack

  • Zazbo

    3 years ago

    Just ate here for lunch today and enjoyed it thoroughly; thanks for the tip!

  • MHG

    3 years ago

    Top tip, Mark — thanks for the advice.

    Have been dining our way around Indian restaurants throughout SEA, and this was a stand-out.

    My only additional bit of advice to visitors is “don’t be rushed”. The restaurant crew (fairly enough) want to get an order and may push a few options your way, but take time to consider the menu on the wall rather than settling for the obvious favourites.

    Cheers

  • Alex

    4 years ago

    Just had a meal there last week.. Absolutely horrible!! I’m a local Malaysian and had much better nasi kandar at Pelita a few days later.

    Btw I had the rose chicken too.. Wonder how can people dine in such dirty places? Yucky!!

  • Saifudin

    4 years ago

    Went here recently. Priced okay. Looong queue at lunch time. The food is way overrated. Had mutton curry and ros chicken. Both were bland tasting. Well, it was hot, spicy, and salty… but that was it; Nothing special. Definitely not balanced in terms of taste in my opinion. Had better nasi kandar elsewhere. Even if there is no queue, I won’t be coming back here again. Penang has much better choices to offer. Had nasi kandar at an unknown small road-side stall; and the curries there were much better than Tajuddin Hussain.

  • Hana Nur

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    The green vegetables are spinach and it is specially overcooked nasi kandar style.

    Source: Local Malaysian.

  • qusyairi

    4 years ago

    I am a regular customer for this restaurant and i am also living in penang. That green vege actually is spinach. My favorite dishes is chicken rose and chicken onion. U must try it if u got the chance

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Good to hear that, and thank you for the suggestions. I can’t wait to eat here again next time I’m in Penang!

  • AyuMETAL

    4 years ago

    Some has been overated because alot of tourist have not try those nasi kandar out from the tourist hotspot. When you search online for nasi kandar, this nasi kandar vendor will appear such as Line Clear, nasi beratur, nasi kandar Kayu, Kassim Mustafa & etc.

    This was my favourite that i hope you will give it a try on your next trip to Penang.

    – Nasi Kandar Deen Jelutong / Deen Maju
    -Nasi Kandar Kampung Melayu
    -Nasi Kandar Immigresen

  • mark

    4 years ago

    Been to Restoran Hussain on my last trip to Penang. I had the mutton and the ayam rose chicken as well as the biryani rice. Sorry I missed the squid and the vegetables. The tea and the little show they do preparing it is interesting too. I haven’t been able to immerse myself completely by eating with my hands like they do. You are a lucky man to travel and eat and do what you love.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Mark, so glad you made it to Restoran Hussain, and enjoyed it. That’s making me hungry just thinking about it.

  • gautam

    4 years ago

    Mark,

    Did you manage to beg their Ayam rose and Mutton curry recipes by any chance? Not likely, seeing how busy they were, BUT given how much you have done publicity-wise for Penang and Langkawi, it is the least their folks can do for you, no? Teach us please, if you do get the secrets?

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Gautam, thank you very much. No, unfortunately wasn’t able to get the recipe, but that would be really amazing to have. If I can find a recipe, I’ll let you know. Thank you for your support.

  • Justin

    4 years ago

    Hey Mark, glad you did checked out this fine nasi kandar establishment! This is my favorite joint for nasi kandar while other famous nasi kandar (such as Line Clear, Beratur) tends to be overrated. Should have order the curry goose, they are famous with that too!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi Justin, great to hear from you, glad you love this nasi kandar restaurant. Oh man that curry goose sounds so good. I’ll have to wait for next trip to Penang. Are you from Penang?

      • Justin

        4 years ago

        Hi Mark. Hope you get to try it during your next visit. I’m not originated from Penang, however I’d been working in Penang for many years. I’m actually staying in another nearby town called Sungai Petani which we have a lot of interesting food here as well.

  • Drumles Den Haag

    4 years ago

    I truly love your blog!!Nice pictures and awesome writings. I’m going to India this august. Any tips for South India?

  • Gia Mukherjee

    4 years ago

    I am starving now… That looks amazing

  • lyn barden

    4 years ago

    I’m really starving now. Those dishes are unbelievably mouthwatering.I so lenjoyed the Indian food in India. Wish I could go back there.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi Lyn, thank you very much for reading, glad you love this type of food too.

  • Suvro

    4 years ago

    Since you liked the Indian curries so much, you should go back to India.
    The Indian restaurant scene has evolved considerably since you were last there, and some of the lunch buffets will blow your mind.

    I will be in Kolkata in December. I can show you around a bit, if you are able to make it.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi Suvro, thank you very much, yes I absolutely loved it. I hope to go back again and try some of the new restaurants, I know they would blow my mind. Not sure when I’ll be able to come back, but I’d really like to.

  • mun

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark. Glad that you are coming back to Malaysia. I am really hating you right now because you got to taste the original nasi kandar which I really aiming for. (a sad fact that I never get to try nasi kandar in Penang) But thanks for showing one of the best restaurants that served excellent nasi kandar, I will definitely going to go to this restaurant when I have a chance to come to Penang ! *sad malaysian that never taste Penang nasi kandar T_T *

    p/s: I think you are a lot more Asian than me after browsing your latest video to Langkawi and Penang. Haha! Keep up the good work and send my regards to Ying ^^

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi Mun, great to hear from you, thank you for reading. Glad that you love nasi kandar as well. What part of Malaysia are you from?

      • mun

        4 years ago

        I’m from Kuala Lumpur

  • Sulasno

    4 years ago

    The veggies looked like chopped kem chai, i.e. Boiled salted mustards