Wawasan Cafe on Sandilands Street is one of those places in George Town which offers what Penangites call in Hokkien dialect “chu char”, meaning “cook, fry”. This refers to large Chinese food stalls or open-air/semi-open-air casual eateries that churn out a variety of economically-priced, or simple, homecooking-style dishes. In Singapore, such eateries are called “tze char”, essentially the same word pronounced using Singapore’s Quanzhou-Hokkien dialect, whereas in Penang, it’s pronounced using Zhangzhou-Hokkien dialect.
In Cantonese-speaking Kuala Lumpur, these type of eateries are called “dai chow”( 大炒 ) meaning “big fry”, whereas in Hong Kong, they are called “dai pai dongs” (大排檔) meaning “big license stall”. But in all those cities, the function of this type of casual eatery remains the same, and provides the customers, oftentimes families or groups of friends, with economically-priced meals.
One of the latest “chu char” places we tried recently was here on Sandilands Street, a worknig-class neighbourhood near the popular Cecil Street Market. Our dinner there consisted of:
Claypot pork belly with salted fish or “ham yue fah lam pou” (咸鱼花腩煲), a typical Malaysian “chu char”/“dai chow” dish of thinly-sliced pork belly braised in a claypot with salted fish, dried chilis, onions, scallions, dark soysauce and other condiments. Tasty, aromatic rendition here.
Fish curry - Indian curry powder formed the base of this curry, with onions, coconut milk and tamarind water added. Lots of ladyfingers/okra added. Classic flavours recreated here - very good.
Steamed/braised herbal chicken - organic “village chicken” (with a more toothsome texture and stronger flavour) was used in this tasty dish. Very good, although I still much prefer the version over at Hing Kee, which had a lighter, less-starchy sauce.
Sweet potato leaves with pork lardons and dried shrimps was okay, with tender green shoots used.
Stir-fried lotus root was a tasty, crunchy vegetable dish. Slightly on the bland side.
We’d have to return for the eatery’s baked village chicken, which needed a half-day advance order.
1-G-5, Lebuh Sandilands (Sandilands Street)
10300 Georgetown, Penang
Tel: +6012 4091013
Opening hours: 10am- 2.30 pm, 5.30pm-10pm, daily except Wednesdays.