The Shark is currently George Town’s hottest spot for Penang street food at breakfast and lunch-times. Most the food stalls lining the periphery of the food-court open for business by 8am, and would close for the day at 3pm. In the evenings, a different set of stalls start operating - I’d not tried those ones yet.
The Shark used to be relatively quiet, as compared to the noisy, popular coffeeshops up the road near Pulau Tikus Market, especially Foodyard 77 and Swee Kong on Moulmein Close. But the recent closure of Hai Beng, a small but popular coffeeshop on the corner of Burmah Road and Jones Road, and the subsequent move by its hawkers into The Shark has suddenly transformed an erstwhile overlooked food-court into a perpetually packed and busy one…
We made a couple of trips there in the past week, to check out their offerings, and the street food there generally are above average, though none are excellent, or the best of its genre, in town. What we had:
Wantan noodles - very flavoursome dressing, and tasty poached wantan dumplings. The char siew (Cantonese BBQ pork) was “meh”, and they also did not have the crisp-fried wantans which Penangites like. Still, a very good rendition here.
Hokkien mee - very intensely-flavoured version here, though I’d heard quite a few complaints from my friends that it was overly-salty. It’s always going to be an uphill battle for this stall here anyway - Swee Kong up the road has Lean Huat, one of the most famous Hokkien mee stalls in Penang. I’d say, if you are already at The Shark, try this place. But if you are not here, it’s okay.
Penang-style curry mee - the classic curry noodle spot here, and is related to the famous Kuantan Road curry mee stall by Tan Teong Ban aka Ah Ban. The flavour profile here is the same, but the Kuantan Road original is better - perhaps because of the cooking technique and the timing: somehow, the texture of the noodles here, and the combination of flavours didn’t achieve the “spot-on” finesse of Kuantan Road’s.
Western breakfast set - this is the typical Penang/Malaysian/Singaporean local ised version of a Western breakfast platter: scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, hash brown, baked beans, toast, and some salad with Thousand Island dressing (perhaps the only type of salad dressing old-timers in Singapore/Malaysia would take). The version here is much better than those in similar set-ups elsewhere - so, one of the recommended orders if you are here.
Char koay teow - this fries noodle dish is one of the mainstay Penang street food dishes, and one would be hard-pressed to find a “bad” one here. This one acquitted itself admirably.
Koay teow th’ng - the soup version of utilising the Teochew “koay teow” flat rice noodle is also very well done here, replete with round discs of minced pork. The light pork broth was flavoursome, and the generous serving of fishballs and pork meatballs made it quite a substantial dish.
Char siew rice - curiousity got the better of me to order the Cantonese lunch-plate of rice topped with roast chicken and Cantonese-style BBQ pork (“char siew”). It was good.
8)Bubur cha cha and huan choo th’ng - the traditional Chinese dessert stall offered two types of sweet potato-taro-cassava desserts: bubur cha cha where the root vegetables were served in a coconut milk-palm sugar broth, and the huan choo th’ng where it came in a sweet-gingery broth. Both were above average, by commercial standards, and definitely worth trying.
The Shark still has the “novelty” factor at the moment, so it gets pretty crowded on weekends, and not recommended in view of the on-going COVID social distancing requirements, and lesser tables put on premises by the operators in order to ensure the requisite distance between tables.
On weekdays, come after 9am if one wants to avoid the office breakfast crowd.
192, Jalan Burmah, Kampung Syed
10350 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6012-429 8772
Opening hours: 8am to 11.45pm daily
I could eat noodles and soup all day there. (At home I can eat bread all day, too.)
Seems Cantonese roasted meats are often a hit or miss in Penang? Even the Cantonese Penangites can’t master it.
The Cantonese in Penang have been here so long, they seemed to have become “Hokkien-ised”.
But, seriously, I think the number/percentage of Cantonese in Penang is too low for us to be able to find really good Cantonese fare here. But just take a 2-hour drive to Ipoh, or a 3.5-hour drive to Kuala Lumpur, and you’ll found much, much better Cantonese fare in those two cities, where every Chinese person you see speaks Cantonese.
First meal in October: hawker options for breakfast this morning from 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗸 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁, Burmah Road:
Penang-style curry mee - Penang curry mee is lighter, with a soupier gravy compared to KL-style curry mee’s thick, spicy version, or Singapore’s chicken-and-potato curry one.
One of the distinct characteristics of Penang-style curry mee is the pig’s blood pudding garnish - a must-have and unmissable.
Penang-style Hokkien mee - Penang’s version is known as prawn mee in Singapore, KL and elsewhere. Only Penang-style Hokkien mee is soupy, whilst Hokkien mee in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are both wok-fried, drier renditions, with the latter given a dark-brown hue using dark soy sauce.
Koay teow th’ng - a Teochew classic, known as Hu Tieu Nam Vang in Vietnam and Keiv Teav Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
In Penang, koay teow th’ng vendors are divided into 3 genres: the ones using pork (e.g. One Corner Cafe), the ones specializing in duck-meat (e.g. Cecil Street Market), and the rarest ones which used chicken-meat.
What is unique about the vendor here at The Shark is that he offered all three types: pork, duck and chicken! We surmised that his very tasty broth was slow-brewed, most likely overnight, using pork bones, chicken and duck. The broth has deep, smoky flavors - perhaps from the pork bones being roasted, before simmering.
Penang wantan mee - I was never a fan of Penang-style wantan mee, but it has grown on me in the past 3 years that I was in Penang. Unlike HK-style wantan mee, with its emphasis on a subtly-flavored but very complex broth, or Singapore-style wantan mee, with its more supple Hakka-style noodles and fiery chili dressing, Penang wantan mee has a texture closer to its HK counterpart, but is usually served “dry-ish”, with a dark soy sauce dressing which also included lard, sesame oil, and shallot oil. Some stalls in Penang also added drippings from “char siew” (Cantonese BBQ pork).
Penang char koay teow - the rendition by the stall here at The Shark was surprisingly weak, compared to excellent renditions of hawker fare by the other stalls. I won’t be coming back for this one here.
But still, char koay teow one finds anywhere in Penang is still much better than what one can get in Singapore, KL or anywhere else in Malaysia. The Penangites never douse their fried noodles with heavy sauces or made the dish too greasy or gluggy (like what happens in Singapore or KL).
Orh kueh (steamed taro pudding) & chye kueh (jicama-filled steamed dumplings) - pretty average versions here - I won’t return for these.
Excellent: Koay teow th’ng
Above average: Penang curry mee, Penang wantan mee
Average: Penang char koay teow, orh kueh, chye kueh
Back at The Shark this morning, as some friends saw my previous day’s post and wanted to catch up for Saturday brunch.
Having exhausted all the noodle options there just the day before, I opted for the breakfast fry-up this morning:
Pork sausage, ham, bacon, hash brown & scrambled eggs, with toast
The dessert stall there is quite well-regarded and offers about 5 or 6 different local desserts soups each day. We tried two of those today:
Bubur cha cha - a selection of tubers: cassava, sweet potato, yam & taro, plus pink-tinted sago jelly, cooked in coconut milk, scented with pandan leaves and sweetened with palm sugar.
Bee koh moy - this dessert is called pulut hitam in Singapore and khao niew dam in Thailand. Essentially, a sweet gruel made from boiling black glutinous rice, sweetened with sugar and dried longans, and drizzled with fresh coconut milk before serving.