[Penang] Crab porridge at Perak Lane Fish Head Bee Hoon

Comfort food under a tin-roofed shack. Perak Lane Fish Head Bee Hoon is a 6-decade-old eatery in the working-class neighbourhood of Jelutong which proffers soups with rice or noodles, and a choice of meats - crab, prawns, fish, pig’s offal and pork - all cooked to order on charcoal braziers.

I’d heard of its crab porridge since three decades ago, but finally got to try it today. It’s a whole mud crab, very fresh, cooked a la minute in a light clear broth, which was then poured over cooked rice grains. A final garnish of crisp, golden garlic crumbs and chopped scallions completed the whole ensemble. Street-food cooking at its most basic.

We also placed orders for rice noodle soup and Teochew-style rice porridge with pork, pig’s brain, kidney, heard, liver and intestines. These were eye-popping soup bowls with practically every edible part of a pig included. It does take skill, though - some parts like the pig’s intestines had to be pre-cooked slowly, whilst some like the pig’s liver or kidney needed to be just-cooked, and required only a minute of par-boiling.

I love the brain: soft, tofu-like, and with a creamy flavour - but it’s a cholesterol bomb and I’m on statins, so I just took a small nibble and had to (regrettably) leave most of it behind.

We also ordered fried fish fillets with Maggi noodles. It’s a very popular dish there, but I thought deep-frying the fish before adding it to the soup seemed quite unnecessary. But I guess I’m the one missing the point here - it’s the contrast in textures: firm fried fish against soft noodles - which the customers here go for.

Everything came in clear soups, on which crisp-fried garlic crumbs in oil were spooned over. A dash of pepper and some light soya sauce completed the ensemble.

IMO, the soup was blander than I’d expected. I was given to understand that the older cooks have all retired, and cooking is now done by the second- and third-generation of the family that runs this eatery.

There was also an “oh chien” (oyster omelette) stall within the premises, for those who want a bit of variety in their meal. It was pretty good, and came with chili dip and calamansi lime to squeeze over the omelette. I don’t think the lime added anything to the dish. :joy:

Now, I’m wishing that I’d tried the food here three or four decades ago, when they were at the peak of their popularity.

Perak Lane Fish Head Bee Hoon
At the intersection of Lorong Perak (Perak Lane) and Jalan Jelutong (Jelutong Road), 11600 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-483 2228
Operating hours: 4pm to 10pm Tue to Sun. Closed on Mondays


I have eaten whole crab in Mumbai and on the Maryland shore, and they are approached very differently. How do you eat whole crab in Penang?

Multi-ethnic Penang has various preparations for crab: the Chinese have crab soup, hotpot and stir-fried crab. The Malays prepare curried crabs or chili crabs. The Indians have their own curried crabs, with a different taste profile and aroma from the Malay version.

I was asking about eating — like cracking, extracting the meat, and so on

Saregama is asking the same question I have, LOL!
How do you eat the crab? Do you crack him in half horizontally and throw the top half away? Is all the (non-claw and leg) meat on the body on the lower part of the carapace? Do you eat lungs? Is there “mustard” and if so do you eat it? On Marylands Eastern Shore some locals swear by the mustard, but I am NOT a fan. If I ate this crab like it was a MD Blue Crab I would leave a huge mess on the table.
This dish looks like Singapore Chili Crab in a way. It is a dish that I have always wanted to try but I know I would butcher the eating process in a messy disaster of a meal…

No set method here: most of the time, the chef/vendor would just crack the pincers before serving. Other than that, they’d leave it to the diner to his/her own devices. Most just resort to using their fingers to extract the meat. Finger bowls are sometimes provided at the table. Else, one needs to go to the wash basins to clean up afterwards. It can get messy here.


Yeah, it’s messy in Mumbai too. Higher end places will give crackers for the claws and marrow spoons to help extract the meat, but we learnt to eat crabs without any of those implements growing up.

On the Maryland shore, which is also crab country, they serve buckets of crabs with wooden mallets to crack what needs help. But no one seemed to care about extracting all the meat — Shen I went with my friends, they threw away whatever they couldn’t get at and moved on to the next one. Blasphemy!


Wow, not in my Family!
Mallets and Knives are standard, some even don Gloves.
We tend to oder larger Crabs that are “heavy”. Which makes picking them clean easier .


I remember ordering crab curry at Apollo Banana Leaf, a Sri Lankan place in Tooting, South London. Before the dish arrived the waiter placed an entire pack of paper napkins on the table. That’s odd I thought, why has he lef the whole pack.? Did he mean to leave one and forget the packet?
As soon as the food arrived, the penny dropped. No crackers, no finger bowl, just get in with your hands.

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