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Photographs: David Straight

Little Penang has an awkward location – Dixon Street, just off Cuba Street’s quasi-bohemian main drag – and until it moved one door down, it wasn’t much to look at: these days, there are dark wooden chairs and wooden tables and the same bright welcome.

Because it’s the hospitality of chef and owner Tee and her husband Keith that really make it feel special – you get a distinct sense of the pride that goes into preparing and serving this food. There are vibrant colours and big, bold, bright flavours, at once hot, sweet, salty and sour.

Little Penang serves a bunch of Malaysian hawker-style staples and snacks: roti chenai, pork buns, lobak (sausage), vegetable fritters, mee goreng – plus a revolving selection of daily specials, including the quite phenomenal Claypot rice ($12.90) with chicken thighs, sausage, shiitake mushrooms, and gummy, sticky rice; a fishy, bold, sour Assam laksa with mullet, pineapple, mint and ginger flowers; and, possibly my favourite, there is a deeply flavoured Nasi Tok Ma beef curry, slow cooked and aromatic – you can get this on Fridays only. Or, for $20, you can just let the kitchen feed you – entrees, mains, dessert. Bring an empty stomach. JT

HOURS Monday to Thursday until 8.30pm; Fridays 10.30am to 9pm; Saturdays 10.30am to 8.30pm.

ADDRESS 40 Dixon Street, Wellington, ph (04) 382-9818.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Unlicensed, but a decent array of soft drinks, and iced water available on request. Also! Try the Otak Otak – fresh fish fillets marinated in herbs and spices, and wrapped in banana leaves, served with a salad of pineapple, cucumber, red onion and chili.

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