Ah Chye Chicken Porridge started its life in as a stall inside New Cathay kopitiam (traditional Chinese coffeeshop) on the intersection of Burmah Road and Tavoy Road more than 30 years ago. The stallholder-chef, Chee Thean Chye, prepared the tastiest Cantonese-style chicken porridge by cooking good quality rice grains patiently in a delicate chicken stock which he’d made from simmering whole chickens, scallions, ginger and garlic.
Chee Thean Chye, known by his nickname “Ah Chye” to his customers, would chop poached chicken into fine shreds and place them at the bottom Chinese soup bowls, into which he’d ladle his steaming hot chicken porridge, by now boiled down to a smooth, glossy ivory-white gruel of sheer deliciousness. He’d then top up the bowls with finely-julienned ginger and chopped green scallions, add some cut-up crisp-fried Chinese crullers (which would give an added textural crunch to the dish) before serving.
I’ve had Penang friends who attested that they had Ah Chye’s chicken porridge for supper almost on a daily basis (!), such was the pull that his dish had on them.
Ah Chye also offered poached chicken as a side-dish, together with chicken livers and gizzards, and blanched Chinese lettuce or other leafy greens, to accompany his chicken porridge.
Ah Chye’s daughter, the personable Joanne Chee, has taken over the mantle from her father in recent years, after serving as an apprentice under him for nearly a decade. She now operates the stall at Sheng Yi Food Court at Cecil Street Ghaut, as the owner of New Cathay kopitiam has decided not to open for dinner anymore (main kopitiam business in Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand are largely breakfast and lunch).
Bowls of chicken porridge, drizzled with sesame oil and given a shake of white pepper, then garnished with crisp-fried Chinese crullers/“youtiao”, before being served
Poached chicken, when properly prepared, has silken-smooth skin and a fine, juicy texture to the meat. It’ll be drizzled with light soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic-scented oil.
Chicken livers and gizzards - must-orders, as we find their earthy flavors irresistible, and complements the chicken and porridge perfectly.
Little saucers of freshly-made chili sauce, spiked with vinegar, were provided as dips on the side.
Joanne Chee, who now runs Ah Chye Chicken Porridge, taking over from her father who’s retired and stays at home.
Ah Chye Chicken Porridge, Sheng Yi Food Court
360, Gat Lebuh Cecil, Pengkalan Weld, 10300 George Town, Penang
Opening hours: 4pm to 10pm daily, except Tue.