Old Penang: Church Street


A glimpse from the past, this time a coffee shop along Church Street.

The Eng Loh Kopitiam along Church Street in 1998 - Photograph: David Chew

tunglang who submitted this photo describes the scene as “Tham Chiak Kuis from Scandinavia salivating without ‘Good Morning’ mini China towel at my favorite Eng Loh Kopitiam” in 1998.

Church Street is one of the earliest streets in George Town. It is close to where the first church on the island was built soon after 1786. This Catholic church was known as the “Portuguese Church” or “The Church of the Assumption”. The founders of this church also built a small Malay-medium school in the church premises – the roots of present-day St Xavier’s Institution.

The church was later relocated in 1857 to Farquhar Street, next to St Xavier’s, which was also relocated around the same time.

Church Street was also the site of the Ghee Hin secret society headquarters and later, its rival, the Hai San.

Gee Siewfoong adds on Facebook: “The British Council used to be opposite this. And USIS down the road. Now, no more.”

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Syiok Syiok

Bruce Lee’s big poster at Pragin Mall Main Atrium now !
This poster is put up in conjunction with the coming book launch by Dr Hew on 16 Sep 2011 (this Friday) at 2.30pm.

For those who cherish old times Bruce Lee, do not miss this event. Dr Hew claims to show how to use Bruce Lee’s techniques in bringing now the Barang Naik syndrome.

tunglang, don’t miss this event.


Work a plenty, still up to my ears.
Would have loved to attend in Pagoda T-shirt armed a pair of nunchaku.
And to see if Dr. Hew has the 1-inch Punch to go with his book launch!
See, Bruce Lee, the sifu of Jeet Kune Do of multiple martial arts is definitely a great role model in many ways!
BTW, where’s operatic, sweaty Jacky Chan or one-type wushu Jet Li?

Pak Fakri

I remember those good old days when I could sit on same table with my Chinese friends in kopitiam. My Chinese friend can eat his bak kut teh while I enjoy my nasi lemak bungkus At dinner time I can take my teh susu while he drank his Anchor beer, and we sembang til midnight. That is 1Malaysia to me.

Today such scenario is no longer possible with those JAIS fellows watching on evey muslim’s gerak geri. These muslim agency is breaking up harmony among races by segregating them from meal/drinking time. How sad!

James Tee

That’s why najib’s 1malaysia vision has failed as it does not cover aspect of real inter-racial interaction as mentioned above.


Your description of good old days kopitiams strikes me with a longing for old times camaraderie among friends of different races. We always had our rendezvous at kopitiams during lunch time for gang’s sake or for catch up on latest news (no mobile phones, so word of mouth was necessary). During the 80’s, we would walk 1 kilometre rain or shine to a particular Church Street kopitiam with zest and great anticipation of office girls at lunch time. My Malay friend was so fixated on a demure Malay lass he nicknamed her Cik Puteh. Mine was called Leopard Girl. My… Read more »


On a recent episode of ‘Poh’s Kitchen in Penang’ on Asia Food Channel, Chef Ismail shared the same table with Poh who was eating the lard-laden char kuey teow. Chef Ismail even said char kuey teow is one Penang dish not to-be-missed. Thumbs up for Chef Ismail!


Slow death of the traditional ‘kopitiam’


Traditional kopitiams are going to have little choice but to move with the times and modernise like their popular rivals now.


Today, I am very busy. I will get into the helpless story of hawkers who are no financially strong position to dictate their vulnerable future. Let the shop house owners (of previously kopitiams) renovate to their fancies, thinking that interior design will draw the profitable TCKs. What fallible Moonlight Dracula dream of designer food business at super expensive sucker price to howl. Without the sifus and differential food concept, it is doomed to fail, no matter how designer it looks. Without the heavenly hawker cuisine, no discernible Penangites will visit the spanky new and designer outlet more than once. Please… Read more »


refer to the latest posting about the “death” of traditional kopitiams in Kalng vally/Penang in the posting under Penang Street museum (today’s Biz Times articles), i truly feel sorry for the traditionalists.
It’s time for the sons & daughters (or grandchilds) of traditional kopitiams to be innovative/creative or surely be forced into oblivion in less than 5 years. Sad but true.


Already, I am seeing a lot of these kopitiam iconic chairs and marble top tables ‘gone’ or vanished David Copperfield Act in many inner city kopitiams. Some, I was told were sold off to rich collectors of antiquated heritage objects for their private in-home mini museums. Even old cigarette calendars and beer posters of the 60s and 70s are hot items. And of course the iconic authentic Kopi-O cups and extra wide saucers (for pour into and blow to cool) are rarely seen nowadays. Did the towkays or coffee boys break them constantly? I don’t mind new trendy coffee houses… Read more »


Let’s hope such old shop houses in Penang do no suffer the fate of ‘forced acquisition’ like those in KL’s Jln Sultan by the profit-minded Prasarana in the the name of transformasi while heritage diabaikan.


This timeless photography was created for the Visit Penang Year ’99 Campaign. It was specifically art directed to capture the old world charm of Penang’s Eng Loh Kopitiam at Bishop Street where local street hawker cuisine were so heavenly irresistible that even adventurous tourists would want to try it hot, spicy, sour or all of them in one kopitiam sitting. It was painstakingly shot with minimal rearrangement and added with only 2 singing-bird cages to enhance the timeless impression – so it was authentic without being overtly slippery cleanliness obsessed. The kopitiam towkay is 70% quite close to Bruce Lee… Read more »


tunglang is best remembered as someone who talks about food in Penang and not being swayed by sentiments to go against every fresh developments which may not be 100% harmful to Penang’s progress in the new millenium.