There are always hidden culinary gems tucked away in the unlikeliest of places, and Tujuh Satu Tiga is a one of them. This is in Alor Setar. Nestled within the Mergong Barrage area, this kopitiam is a bit off the beaten path of the bustling Alor Setar City center. Mergong Barrage is an area better known for its medium-sized industries. During the day, the vicinity hums with activity of the working class heading for work at the factories, but as the sun sets, a serene ambiance envelops the area.
However, don’t be fooled by the unassuming facade of Tujuh Satu Tiga; behind its unpretentious exterior lies a treasure trove of food choices. This modest-looking eatery offers an astonishing array of dishes that goes far beyond your typical Vietnamese-Malaysian fusion or variations of Vietnamese cuisine. Do be prepared to be surprised by the diverse options that await you.
Tujuh Satu Tiga, Alor Setar
As we entered the unobtrusive shop, we were pleasantly surprised by the extensive menu posters that adorned the walls. Given the unassuming facade of the kedai, we had anticipated a dining experience reminiscent of the numerous Vietnamese food joints that have sprung up in Alor Setar recently. We took our seats and placed our orders, not expecting very much.
Our visit occurred in the early morning, around 8:15 a.m., and we noticed several tables were occupied. Initially, we tried to pick our choices from the wall-mounted menu, but it proved to be a bit challenging. It wasn’t until we approached the counter to place our orders that we discovered there were printed menus to aid diners in their selection.
To our amazement, the menu was comprehensive, comprising 7 pages dedicated to food offerings, each page offering 10 options. When you factor in the beverage choices, it’s safe to say there are approximately 100 options available for you to explore. Also, we couldn’t help but notice the evident affection the couple who run this charming place have for their son, as his endearing pictures adorned the menu.
Pork Noodles Pho – RM12
Our journey through Tujuh Satu Tiga’s menu started us off with Pork Noodles Pho, a delightful bowl of pork pho in a clear, unclouded soup. A clear broth should serve as a canvas, allowing the accompanying ingredients to shine through. This one checks all of those. This order came with generous portions of pork, prawn and vegetables.
The soup was surprisingly soothing in its own way. However, if you’re seeking an extra pizzazz, the array of accompanying sauces comes to the rescue. I took it with the green chilli sauce, and it transformed the dish into a delightful symphony of tangy, sour, and spicy flavours. I think this is a perfect choice for those days when you crave for something soupy that is not too hard on your palates.
But that’s not all! Tujuh Satu Tiga offers an impressive assortment of sauces, oils, and appetisers to customise your meal. Some are even served straight from their original bottles.
I particularly liked Tujuh Satu Tiga’s rendition of pickled radish. Grated fine, it was just right – a single bite floods your palate with tanginess and sourness, awakening your taste buds and whetting your appetite. If you’re a fan of pickled radish, you’re in for a treat, as this one stands out as one of the best I’ve had. There is even lard with pork cracklings or rinds which you can add to your noodles. For those who want the crispy, crunchy and umami taste, the rinds add another texture to the food of your choice.
Beef Noodles Pho – RM15
This is another order that we tried – beef noodles pho. You get a very generous helping of different beef cuts, lean and fatty with the serving. The beef itself was incredibly tender, and the soup had a rather rich beefy taste to it. Unlike the pork noodles, this was savoury.
It left us sniffing a lot because the soup was rather spicy. Despite that, when taken with one of the chilli sauces, I thought it enhanced the flavour even more. I think this is probably among the best beef soup noodles you can find in Alor Setar.
Vietnamese Rolls – RM10
Vietnamese Rolls, also known as gỏi cuốn, have always held a special place in my heart, and I couldn’t resist ordering them during our visit to Tujuh Satu Tiga. Even though I was already quite full from the noodles, these rolls were impossible to resist. You get a burst of flavours from the vegetables, meat, the sweet and sour flavour and crunchiness all in one bite.
There were generous portions of prawns and pork wedged tightly into the vegetables, rolled up in the translucent rice paper wrappers. I especially like the anise-like flavour, which I think is from the Thai basil leaves with its tinge of slight peppery taste.
While the rolls were accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce, Tujuh Satu Tiga’s wide array of sauces beckoned the adventurous eater in me. You can experiment with different sauces to enhance the flavours of the rolls. This is a dish I’d undoubtedly return for. The beauty of Vietnamese Rolls lies in their versatility, allowing you to craft your own flavour profiles through the diverse sauces available.
Dry Noodles with Pork Roast – RM8
During our second visit to Tujuh Satu Tiga, we decided to explore the simpler offerings on the menu, often a reliable indicator of an eatery’s popularity. My choice was the Dry Noodles with Pork Roast, a dish that seemed to be quite popular with other patrons. This dish, priced at an affordable RM8, presented a pleasant departure from the typical Chinese-style noodles with black sauce.
What stood out was the delightful fusion of flavours and textures that made it a reminiscence of a classic Italian spaghetti dish. The noodles were coated in a sauce that exuded a distinctly spaghetti-ish flavour. The secret was the incorporation of tomato paste, with a subtle infusion of herbs that brought about a delightful familiarity to Italian cuisine.
Accompanied by roast pork, though lacking the crispy skin, the dish offered a satisfying contrast of flavours and textures. I would certainly give a thumbs-up to this Dry Noodles with Pork Roast.
Sui Kaw – RM10
The sui kaw came in an extremely light broth. I’ve tasted better sui kaw, but the portion size here was substantial enough to constitute a meal on its own.
The secret that makes this dish stand out, I would say are the sauces. My visit to Tujuh Satu Tiga has deepened my appreciation for Vietnamese snacks, and it’s clear that the magic lies within the sauces. For this sui kaw, which comes with a light and delicate broth, you have a remarkable degree of control over the final flavour. It can transform into a sweet and sour delight, or perhaps even a fiery and spicy sensation. Adding a touch of lard opens up yet another dimension of taste. The options are virtually limitless, and it’s the sauces that truly make all the difference.
Vietnamese Happy Pancake / Bánh xèo – RM12
This was recommended by the proprietress. When it arrived, it bore a striking resemblance to an egg roll, but it revealed itself as a thin and utterly appetising pancake. This delectable creation is essentially a crepe, crafted from a blend of rice flour, turmeric (which lends its vivid yellow hue and delightful fragrance), and coconut cream.
The edges were crispy and you get this ever slight turmeric flavour when you bite into it. The rice flour, on the other hand, gave it a slightly chewy feel in the centre section of the dish. Embedded into the pancake were bacon slices and also prawns. Open it and an egg with bean sprouts lay in wait for you in the pancake.
Again the sauces play an important role here. On its own, the pancake is quite bland except for the natural tastes of the ingredients. So, based on the sauces you pick, you can make the pancake dance to your favourite flavours.
Lamb Noodles Pho – RM20
The highlight of our second visit undoubtedly was the Lamb Noodles Pho, a true gem on the Tujuh Satu Tiga menu. Priced at RM20, this dish showcased the culinary prowess of the kitchen. The mutton, prepared to perfection, was remarkably tender, providing a unique and delightful twist to my experience. While I’ve often enjoyed mutton in the form of lamb chops or within rich curries, this Lamb Noodles Pho offered a refreshing departure from the usual.
The pho itself boasted a richness that mirrored the beef variation. A well-crafted pho broth is simmered with a medley of aromatic herbs, such as aniseed, cloves, onions, and ginger, infusing each spoonful with hints of lime, fiery sparks of chili, and mint. The dish was served with a recommended sauce, a culinary companion that elevated the Lamb Noodles Pho to new heights.
For those who appreciate the unique aroma and flavor of mutton, this is an absolute must-try! What’s more, the portions of mutton provided were generously satisfying, making this order a clear addition to my list of favourites.
Vietnamese Coffee – RM6 / cup
This is their rather popular Vietnamese coffee, prepared slow drip. One is without the milk. Vietnamese coffee is known for their distinct taste and flavour. They are known for their strong and bold nutty taste because of the way the beans are prepared.
The black coffee that we had was earthy, savoury and even sweet. I checked and discovered that Vietnamese coffee is made from robusta coffee, known for its distinctive earthy flavour. Most of us are used to arabica coffee in Malaysia, which is smoother with a more nuanced flavour compared to the other coffee beans.
The proprietress told us that she had recently raised the price for her coffee from RM5 to RM6. Inflation bites into everything these days. Even though the raise is a 20 percent increase, it is still cheaper than many the same coffee at other eateries.
What truly left me amazed was the fact that Kedai Makanan Tujuh Satu Tiga is a cozy little eatery operated by a dedicated couple. Remarkably, this establishment has been serving patrons for more than a decade, which speaks volumes about the quality of their offerings. The wife is in charge of all food preparations, while her husband handles the beverage section. The heart and soul of the kitchen rest in her capable hands, and I was thoroughly impressed by her culinary skills.
During our visit on a weekend, we encountered their teenage son assisting with the operations. While it’s true that the service was a tad slow, it was completely acceptable considering the homemade feel of the dishes.
On our second visit, we observed the eatery bustling with activity. By 9 a.m., every table was occupied, and there were eager patrons patiently waited outside for their turn. Bear in mind too, eating out is expensive these days but the reasonable prices here has kept people returning. It’s a testament to the place’s popularity and the culinary offerings that have made it a must-visit dining destination.
Check out other food in Kedah:
- Hong Kong 8 AM @ Alor Setar, Kedah
- Laksa Ong @ Taman Ampang, Alor Setar, Kedah
- BananaBro @ Alor Setar, Kedah
85%: Price (value for money)
80%: Overall Rating
Open daily from 7 AM – 2 PM