Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


Penang – Air Itam’s Nostalgic Eats: Lim Sister’s Curry Mee & Pasar Air Itam Laksa

Air-Itam-Penang-Eats-02What’s capturing Darren’s undivided attention underneath a makeshift tent? Don’t let your thoughts run wild… :)


On our way to Kek Lok Si temple, we passed by the little town of Air Itam located at the foot of the hill.


We took the opportunity to search for a gastronomic legend which has been bubbling under the same tree for the past 60 years.


Air Itam’s famous Lim Sisters Curry Mee (Noodles)


The Lim sisters, Lim Kooi Heang & Lim Kooi Lai (both in their eighties), have been selling their signature Penang style curry mee for over 60 years under the same tree. The broth is simmered over a charcoal stove, and the stall is basically set out on the ground with pots of noodles and ingredients placed around them. It would be my first time eating from such an interesting makeshift stall. And I simply can’t imagine spending my life sitting on a stool cooking curry noodles. I admire the sisters for the pride in their craft, and determination to cook a bowl of curry noodles for anyone who is interested to try their 1950s version of the famous Penang dish…for as long as they can.


Eat a bowl of 1950s Penang


Basically no-frills, you order the noodles and eat it on one of the tiny stools littered around the stall, or bring it to the coffee stall opposite for a proper table (do order something from the coffee stall, and there’s only coffee & tea, no carbonated drinks).


Darren looks pretty happy with his curry noodles (RM4)


Digging the retro porcelain bowl and wooden black chopsticks… I seem to have stepped back in time
A mixture of thick yellow Hokkien noodles with vermicelli topped with beansprouts, beancurd puffs and coagulated pig’s blood pudding (we opted not to add this), the star ingredient for me would be the saltish dried brown squid strips which blended so well with the light curry base. Don’t forget to mix in a spoonful of the sisters’ homemade chilli paste for that extra oomph.


The elder Lim sister (in red) taking a break. Years of sitting huddled over their stall has resulted in a hunchback.
Despite the physical conditions, I am touched by the 2 sisters’ cheerful demeanour, never loosing their cool despite the flurry of customers and sitting for hours in front of a burning curry cauldron. They are chatty and patient with curious tourists armed with cameras – like me. I am humbled by their attitude in life, and I promised myself never to complain about not having air-con ever again, nor  recklessly lose my temper. I never knew a bowl of curry noodles could bring out so much emotion in me.


Do have a bowl of curry noodles and say hello to the affable Lim sisters the next time you are in Penang. They are just located under the big tree along a row of wooden shacks lining the small side road.
The elder Lim complains the big tree has recently being trimmed, hence having to put up numerous blankets and towels in front of the stall to block out the scorching sunlight. I hope the tree would have sprouted new leaves to shelter the jolly sisters when I next visit.


Opposite the road from the Lim Sisters curry noodles is the Air Itam market housing more street eats waiting to be discovered


We took the opportunity to try the famous Pasar Air Itam Laksa


This was one of the better Penang eats (RM4) we had
You can order your laksa and have it delivered to the soya bean shop opposite the road for a comfortable eat. Talk about a win-win partnership – offer your shop’s seating to the town’s most popular stall, and customers will order your drinks in return. Clever indeed.


I liked the spongy texture of the thick rice noodles – which was melt-in-your-mouth, and the thick mackerel (ikan kembung) broth was well complemented with the sourness of the assam (tamarind) and Penang’s prawn paste.


You can take Rapid Penang Bus 201, 202, 203, 204 and 206 to go to Ayer Itam Market. Which I will the next time I visit Penang :)

Lim Sisters Curry Mee
Address: Jalan Air Hitam, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Pulau Pinang
Right after the Ayer Itam Bridge (side road leading up to Chinese Methodist Church)
GPS Coordinates: N5 24.020  E100 16.695
Business Hours: Mon – Sun 8:00AM to 1:00PM (except during Chinese festive holidays)
Facebook (yes they are on social media!): https://www.facebook.com/currymeesister

Pasar Air Itam Laksa
Address: Air Itam Market (Jalan Pasar), Air Itam, Penang 11500
Opening Hours: Mon- Sun 11:15AM – 7:30PM