Sister Curry Mee, Air Itam Penang – A Heritage Recipe Since 1946

Food is more than just sustenance. Its a part of our culture and identity, and connects us to the past – which is why grandma’s or mum’s cooking always tastes better, and why you always think of that akka outside your school and the simple yet delicious nasi lemak she used to sell for RM1 per pack, years after she’s retired. If you have a favourite restaurant, I’m sure you’d take your children to eat there, and they in turn would take their children, and so on.

Such is the case with Sister Curry Mee, an iconic stall in Penang located within the Air Itam neighbourhood, just a stone’s throw away from the market. Founded by the Lim sisters as a way to support their family in the tough years post WWII, generations of Penang-ites have dined on their signature Penang-style curry mee since 1946 – with tourists making up a significant portion of the clientele in recent years, since the stall went viral on social media. The sisters are now retired, being close to 90 years old, but the legacy is continued by relatives and their grand niece.

N and I went to check out the place and grab some breakfast on our way to Kek Lok Si. It was a weekday, so thankfully there wasn’t much of a crowd.

The shop is a humble establishment; a simple shed hidden within a small alleyway just off the main road. In the early days, the sisters used to cook the noodles over a charcoal fire while seated on stools. As there were no tables and proper chairs, customers also had to sit on these wooden stools and cradle the bowls in their hands as they slurped up the noodles.

These days, there is seating across the road, underneath another simple structure with corrugated metal roofing. Remember to order a drink from the operator! I recommend an ice-cold glass of Ho Kar Sai, originally a Perak drink but now ubiquitous in Penang. It’s a rich and thick mix of brewed coffee with chocolate malt. The name translates to “Tiger Bites Lion”, the reason apparently being that it gives you such an energy boost, you’ll feel like a tiger capable of biting into a lion!

Sister’s Curry Mee differs from other versions of curry noodles, as the soup is light and sweet instead of thick and creamy like the ones you find in KL. It also comes with a large dollop of chilli paste, slices of cuttlefish, tofu pok, and coagulated pig’s blood. It may look humble, but I can see why people keep coming back for more!

The soup, being cooked over a charcoal fire, has a deep, umami taste to it, as all the flavours from the ingredients have been drawn out and condensed into the soup. It was flavourful but not overwhelmingly rich. The chilli paste added extra kick, the noodles were cooked well, and I enjoyed the varied textures of the cuttlefish and pig’s blood. And each bowl only cost RM5 to boot! Although the portion is decent, I think big eaters will need at least two bowls to be satisfied lol.

It’s a pity that we probably won’t meet the sisters since they are already retired, but the grandniece is doing a great job at keeping this legacy alive. Put this on your travel itinerary if you’re every visiting Penang island!


612-T, Jalan Air Itam, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang

Opening hours: 7.30AM – 1PM (closed Tuesdays)

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PS2: All food reviews are paid out of my own pocket unless otherwise stated. Views here are my own and are based on my personal experience. They are not meant to endorse or disparage businesses in any way.


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