A Sip, A Slurp & A Bite @ Toh Soon Cafe, Campbell Street, PenangJuly 25, 2010 | 16,073 views
Campbell Street – The most beautiful street of Georgetown, personally. Take a stroll, and immerse yourself in the unbeatable heritage quality and charm.
Why Penang food all of a sudden?! No reason in particular. But this Sunday brought back memories from last year, when I intended to have my breakfast at Toh Soon Cafe on a beautiful Sunday morning, but the place was closed, ironically.
Toh Soon Cafe looks more like a rundown shack; pardon the lack of a proper description, as the eatery looks more like a stall sandwiched between the colonial structures of Campbell Street.
Not the most savoury of sight, to be eating your breakfast at a congested backlane next to the drain? You’re so wrong. Just look at the crowd ……
A famous breakfast haunt amongst the locals, tourists and shutterbugs alike; Toh Soon prides on their charcoal-toasted bread with own-produced kaya (creamy egg jam with a whiff of coconut milk), half-boiled eggs served in a transparent plastic cup, and a cup of coffee or tea to complete the experience. What sets them apart from the other toast-and-eggs coffee shop is how they literally “get down to business” and painstakingly watch over the bread over charcoal fire ……
And no, don’t get the misconception that only the older folks visit this place. We saw a sizeable young crowd slurping up their eggs, as well as some foreigners (maybe expats?) happily seizing the day with a caffeine kick!
I could not help but wonder – with the amount of people thronging the back alley on a daily basis, and the prospects of growing to another successful chain (think Old Town White Coffee), why oh why is Toh Soon Cafe STILL chooses to operate from this same (sore) spot, that can barely handle a busload of visitors?
Look at how they toast/grill the bread over charcoal fire, and boil the water on top of the contraption. The Nasi Lemak in packets will satisfy those seeking a heavier breakfast. And you can buy their homemade kaya, so you can push your luck in replicating the same taste at home?
Possibly to retain the authenticity and taste of the yesteryear’s. Nothing beats biting into a piece of fluffy charcoal-toasted thick bread, lightly slathered with their aromatic kaya. And watching them in action while bracing yourself for the wait. We had to endure a good 15 minutes of people-watching as they do not compromise on the method of toasting their bread.
A large green drum had been modified to accommodate a brazing charcoal fire fueling the boiling water in the kettle above, and the nicely-laid pieces of bread on a steel mesh directly over the fire. At any one time, only four pieces of bread can be toasted, hence you can imagine the wait if say, a table of four order a set each!
Highly recommended to order more than one set per person. The fluffy bread was almost without a toothsome texture albeit being roasted over the fire. Soft, and slightly chewy but not crispy nor hardened.
Don’t ask for a menu, for that will make you stand out among the crowd.
But instead, go with the flow. Order a set of toast with eggs (MUST), and a cup of coffee or tea. Wonder if they have ‘cham’, a mix of coffee and tea with predominantly coffee kick.
A dash of pepper and drizzles of soy sauce, then drink up the whole concoction. Or dip the toasts into the velvety eggs.
While counting sheeps people, we saw paper cuttings of various media coverage prior to our visit. Even the current Chief Minister was here. If you’re thinking, hmm … to be eating at some back lane, for sure there would be putrid stench, or rats scurrying along your legs.
But hygiene was maintained well, and the breakfast was even comparable to eating at any random coffee shops in Penang.
Coffee with milk, in its most robust form. Not as strong as you might have feared, but still complemented the toast and eggs very well.
This place reminded me of Ah Weng Koh Hainan tea and toasts at Bukit Bintang market in Kuala Lumpur. To be seated on plastic and steel stools, circling an already battered (rusted?) steel table, and jostling with the crowd for a seat. And even to the extent of sharing with random strangers, who might just be as addicted to the breakfast fares served here.
The irresistibly charming streets of Penang
TOH SOON CAFE – Coffee & Toast
At a small alley off Cambell Street (Lebuh Chulia)
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.
Business hours – 8am – 6.30pm
Closed on Sundays.
(Enter from Penang Road’s side to find this cafe on your LEFT)
Here’s a GOOGLE MAP to Toh Soon Cafe to assist you.