The Cantonese Ho family are specialists in 𝙙𝙞𝙢 𝙨𝙪𝙢-making in Penang for more than four decades, and are particularly renowned for their char-siew bao (Cantonese BBQ pork buns).
Back in the 1980s, they used to ply their trade at 𝗘𝗺𝗯𝗮𝘀𝘀𝘆 kopitiam on the intersection of Burmah Road and Transfer Road, but has decided to move to 𝗥𝗶𝗳𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗲𝘁 𝗛𝗮𝘄𝗸𝗲𝗿 𝗖𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗲 to be closer to home. Rifle Range is home to a mainly working-class, blue collar community, sort of George Town’s answer to Hell’s Kitchen in New York City.
Mrs Ho currently manages their busy stall here, with a steady stream of customers throughout the morning. They start early, at 6.30am, and the more popular items like the 𝙙𝙖𝙞 𝙗𝙖𝙤 (large chicken bun) usually sells out by late-morning.
Mrs Ho’s two sons make their 𝙙𝙞𝙢 𝙨𝙪𝙢 items and the different types of 𝙗𝙖𝙤 on the spot. Their minced pork-shrimp forcemeat used as a base for their selection of 𝙨𝙞𝙚𝙬 𝙢𝙖𝙞 with different types of toppings (crabmeat, peas, mushroom, etc.) were spot-on in textures and flavours.
Their 𝙗𝙖𝙤 dough was perfect: soft and fluffy, which they used to contain 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿-𝘀𝗶𝗲𝘄 (Cantonese BBQ pork), 𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗲-𝘆𝗼𝗸𝗲 (minced pork), 𝘁𝗮𝘂-𝘀𝗮𝗿 (red bean paste), 𝗳𝗮-𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗴 (peanut paste) and 𝗹𝗶𝗻-𝘆𝘂𝗻𝗴 (lotus seed paste).
Dai bao - with chicken, pork, hard-boiled egg, Chinese sausage and mushroom filling
Char-siew bao - with Cantonese-style caramelized BBQ pork filling
Tau-sar bao - with sweet red bean paste filling
We also tried their 𝙡𝙤𝙧 𝙢𝙖𝙞 𝙠𝙖𝙞 (steamed glutinous rice with chicken & mushrooms).
Their 𝙙𝙞𝙢 𝙨𝙪𝙢 items are large, golf-ball-sized, with a rustic & robust feel about them. None of the finesse of a HK-style teahouse, but more like a dim sum eating house catering to the working-class, blue collar workers, who drop by for their breakfast & cups of tea before they start a long hard day’s work.
Any place that’s been around for nearly half a century 𝗵𝗮𝘀 to be doing something right.
Stall #32/33 Kompleks Gerai Padang Tembak (Rifle Range Market Hawker Centre)
147, Taman Padang Tembak, Taman Ayer Itam, 11400 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Operating hours: 7am to 2pm, daily