We ventured over to Butterworth last weekend for the annual Butterworth Fringe Festival. In the past years, Butterworth’s fringe festival, a spin-off of the larger George Town Arts Festival over on Penang island, had been regarded as an attempt to bring some art to the often overlooked mainland part of Penang state. But Butterworth’s own little arts fest has taking on its own persona nowadays, and street artists from all over the country, plus visiting ones from the Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Taiwan and Korea were performing last weekend.
The fest’s location at Butterworth’s municipal square was very convenient for us festival-goers to find good food. We skipped the fairground food kiosks and ventured just a bit further to Lorong Bagan Luar 3, a mere 5 minutes’ walk way, where a trio of old Hainanese eateries have been ruling the roost for more than half a century: Sin Bee Chew, Meng Chai and Luan Fong.
Only Sin Bee Chew opens for dinner (the other two only do breakfasts and lunches), so we ended up here. We ordered a few dishes to share, so we can get back to the festival quickly.
Hainanese chicken chop - this dish only exists in Singapore and Malaysia: batter-fried chicken quarter, with potato chips, peas, onions, tomatoes and baked beans, smothered in a thin, unctuous, brown sauce. Pretty good version here, with strong, crisp flavours.
Hainanese-style fried noodles - a rather spartan fried noodle dish which had never grown on me, despite its popularity among Malaysians in general. Basically two types of noodles: yellow wheat noodles and thin rice noodles mixed together, fried with chicken, mushrooms and “kai lan” greens, and flavoured with light- and dark-soy sauce.
Chicken curry - it wasn’t the typical pale-coloured, rich-creamy Hainanese curry as I’d expected, but a strange stir-fried version, curried slivers of chicken breast meat with Indian curry leaves thrown in. Aromatic, but didn’t have the complexity nor the depth of flavour that good curries have.
Hainanese-style mixed vegetable stir-fry - a rather bland hodge-podge of vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, baby corn, etc.) thrown together.
Prawn fritters - this was good: each of the golden-fried crisp-on-the-outside-moist-inside fritter contained 3 de-shelled prawns. The fritters could be a tad greasy, though. A sweet chili sauce dip was served on the side.
Shrimp omelette - on hindsight, maybe we should not have ordered this dish, which was close in taste to the prawn fritters. But then, foo yong hai (the American-Chinese culinary pantheon has a similar dish: egg foo yong) is a common dish which we used as a yardstick to judge how good a Chinese kitchen is. Over here, they did it pretty well, though a bit overly-greasy.
We might come back again for its Hainanese chicken chop .
Sin Bee Chew
11-A, Lorong Bagan Luar 3,
12000, Butterworth, Malaysia
Tel: +604 - 3332928
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-2.45pm, 5pm-8pm. Closed Sun & Bank Holidays.