If to survive the test of time is an indicator of success, then Hameediyah Restaurant has been accorded the highest accolade of all. They have been in operation since 1907, making them the oldest restaurant in Penang.
There are a few things it has managed to preserve: for one, their famed nasi briyani has diminished neither in taste nor popularity and the same can be said for their other signature dishes such as chicken kapitan, beef rendang, mutton kurma and murtabak.
Unlike the more luxurious briyani offered in most places of long grain rice and butter-yellow in colour, Hameediyah’s briyani is bright tangerine to the eyes, starchy and of fat, short rice grains. There’s also a more old-fashioned flavour to it, as if reflecting a bygone time when flavours are more straightforward and simple.
Surprisingly, their curries are generally mild and pleasant on the palate, the result of a good harmony of various spices rather than exploiting the power of chilli. For instance, their chicken kapitan and mutton curries are thick in texture and despite their vivid colours, are elegant in flavour with meats that are firm in texture instead of melt in your mouth. The kurma with its khaki hue is a choice for those who prefer a lighter curry to go with the rice or murtabak.
As for their murtabak, 10 out of 10 Penangites will tell you, it’s one of the favourites here in George Town. And they’re quite right to think so. A murtabak here is thickly layered with the protein of your choice – ours is beef – mixed into a couple of beaten eggs and flour pancakes while seared and cooked in ghee on a hot, large flat plan. The result is a meaty omelette in-between soft, comforting floury layers.
Basically, this restaurant is a curry institution and a good representative of Indian Muslim flavours of long ago. Also, we’d be surprised if you’re not impressed with their behemoth legs of turkey floating around in appetising curry or their crispy but tender deep-fried free-range chicken marinated in spices. A decadent meal where you can indulge in two or three types of curries, plain briyani and a murtabak may cost you between RM15 and RM25 here, less for a moderate-sized meal or order.
Another thing is, don’t let their narrow ground floor space put you off. There’s an air-conditioned dining area on the second floor or you’re always welcome to take away your order. Their service is efficient, friendly and their curries are fresh from the kitchen, on display in huge aluminium pots to entice you.
There's a Hameediyah Tandoori House a couple of doors away from this original one and they provide catering service for parties, weddings and other large-scale events of the sort too. Su Aziz
As featured in Time Out Penang's 50 things to do in Penang.