[Butterworth, Malaysia] Hainanese lunch at Tokyo Restaurant

Tokyo Restaurant on Jalan Kampung Benggali has been serving Hainanese dishes with tasty home-cooked flavours since 1975. It’s still run by Hainanese owner-chef, Hwang Khee Keat, assisted by his son, Henry Hwang, who takes the orders and gives food recommendations.

The name Tokyo was actually given by the previous owner of the premises , Teh Sin Chiang, whose two sisters married Japanese businessmen after World War II, and who professed an admiration for all things Japanese. Strangely, he never served Japanese food in his restaurant. Neither does the current owner, Hwang, after he took over the business in 1975, but never changed the name.
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Today, he’s famous for his local Penang-Hainanese cuisine, and especially for the stewed herbal chicken, the salt fish curry and his special scrambled eggs with soy-dressing.

Our lunch today consisted of:

  1. Salt-fish curry, with long beans and aubergines. Penang salt-fish is much sought after in both Malaysia and Singapore for its taste and aroma. In this curry dish, it imparted a salty tang which gave the dish its depth of flavour.

  2. Scrambled eggs with minced garlic and soy dressing. A pretty simple yet unusual dish - the first I’d ever experienced. The light, aromatic soy dressing actually transformed the texture of the scrambled eggs (which had been cooked over very high heat) into an almost tofu-like softness. The finely-chopped garlic, fried to a golden-crispness, gave the dish an added taste dimension.

  3. Soy sauce-flavoured, caramelised king prawns
    For us, this dish was the piece de resistance of our meal: super-fresh prawns simply stir-fried with good quality soysauce and sweetened with sugar. The chef probably added other condiments but his recipe remained a secret. The sauce went well with the steamed white rice.

  1. The signature dish: herbal chicken in a claypot was more soupy than stew-like as I’d expected. The flavours were not as strong as those over in George Town, across the Penang Straits.
    Strangely, I do find almost every type of Chinese food I tasted over in Butterworth to be blander than the ones in George Town - perhaps because Butterworth has a higher percentage of Teochew Chinese, whose cuisine tend to be much lighter than the predominant Hokkien one.

Address
Tokyo Restaurant
4217, Jalan Kampung Benggali,
12000 Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016 473 8954
Opening hours: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-9pm, daily.

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Back to Tokyo Restaurant this afternoon for lunch. Perhaps one of the last meals outside which I can have for the rest of this month, before Malaysia goes into a nationwide lockdown again to arrest the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

Our lunch today consisted of :

  1. Soy-caramel prawns - this dish is a must-order here: fresh, crunchy prawns coated in a savory-sweet dressing. Perfect to go with steamed white rice.

  2. Braised pig’s trotters - like everything else in Butterworth, the dish tasted rather watered-down and blander than in George Town across the Straits of Penang.

  3. Bitter-gourd with carrots, shrimps and eggs - a rather light, gravy-laden rendition of the dish (it’s more like a scambled egg dish on the island, but not here, where it’s done in a vegetable casserole form).

A less than satisfactory meal this time: everything tasted a bit too bland today, whilst our palate was hankering for something “spicier”, or at least more assertive.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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