[Penang, Malaysia] Cantonese noodle dishes from ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ผ ๐—ฌ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ป Cantonese restaurant, Campbell Street

Back in the 1960s/70s, ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ผ ๐—ฌ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ป (ๆกƒๅœ’่Œถๆจ“้›ž้ฃฏ) on Campbell Street in Penang used to be famous for its Hainanese chicken rice, the best on the island. But the history of its Hainanese chicken rice goes further back - to the 1930s when Foo Say Chee, a true-blue Hainanese owner-chef, ran the place, and also cooked up the tastiest, most aromatic Hainanese chicken rice one has ever came across, anywhere. His Hainanese spot was actually called Chip Seng but, at one point, was taken over by Tho Yuen, sometime in the late-70s. After selling his restaurant, the elder Foo and his whole family emigrated to Australia.

The Leong family, who owns and runs Tho Yuen are Cantonese, and their specialties were the various types of Cantonese noodles and stir-fried dishes. But they did retain Hainanese chicken rice on their restaurant menu, but their rendition was a pale shadow of what the Foos came up with.

Two years ago, Tho Yuen stopped serving Hainanese chicken rice - and the dish which, for so long, was synonymous with Campbell Street finally disappeared from the street itself. Nowadays, those in the neighborhood are more likely to go to Chulia Street for their Hainanese chicken rice fix - from either Goh Thew Chik or Pak Hock.

Meanwhile, Tho Yuen busies itself with its popular early-morning dim sum breakfast offerings.

By mid-morning, Tho Yuen starts to prepare for the lunch crowd, and customers come here for its noodle dishes these days - and they come up with some very tasty options. We tried a couple today, and they were really some of the best weโ€™d tasted in town.

  1. Fried beehoon and hor fun, with โ€œchar siewโ€ (BBQ pork), chicken, fishballs and shrimps.

  2. โ€œSang meinโ€ with freshwater prawns.

Tho Yuen Restaurant (ๆกƒๅœ’่Œถๆจ“้›ž้ฃฏ)
92 Campbell Street, 10100 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604 261 4672
Operating hours: 6am to 3pm daily, except Tuesday (closed).


Day 534 since Malaysia started its Movement Control Order (MCO) back in 18 March 2020. Under current SOP and social distancing rules, only fully-vaccinated individuals are allowed to dine-in at the restaurants and eateries. Iโ€™m not considered fully-vaccinated yet, so I still needed to do take-outs.

Todayโ€™s lunch takeout was from ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ผ ๐—ฌ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ป. The restaurant is currently run by the Cantonese Leong family who bought the restaurant over from the Hainanese founder, Foo Say Chee, back in the 1970s. The Foo family, who started the restaurant back in the 1930s, have all emigrated to Australia.

Leong Chee Khong is the second-generation of his family who now manages the restaurant, which still offers a range of cooked Cantonese dishes and a variety of noodles.

Our lunch orders today were:

  1. Dry-fried "hor fun" - this was, by far, the best-tasting dish of the three we ordered in today. The hor fun (wide rice noodles), combined with mai fun (rice vermicelli) were pan-seared using lard in a hot wok, resulting in a deliciously aromatic โ€œwok heiโ€ plate of noodles, with slivers of pork, fresh shrimps, char siew (Cantonese BBQ pork), and โ€œchoy sumโ€ greens thrown in. Big, big flavors - an absolute knock-out.

  1. "Saang mein" crispy noodles with braised mixed meats - the Cantonese saang mein noodles were first deep-fried till light & crisp, before a tasty meat & seafood gravy were poured over it. Very tasty rendition as well.

  1. "Saang mein" crispy noodles with creamy seafood sauce - the meats (pork, chicken, crabstick), mushrooms and scallions were finely-chopped, and braised in a rather neutral-tasting sauce, made cloudy with a thickened roux and evaporated milk.
    The dish came with a small portion of dark vinegar - to be drizzled over the noodle dish to give it a sharp spike of sourness, so as to cut into the otherwise rich, dairy-enriched sauce.

Altogether, a satisfactory lunch, but all the dishes had somewhat โ€œdegradedโ€ slightly in quality, when delivered to the home.
When it comes to Chinese stir-fries, there is no beating a fresh, hot-from-the-wok dish. I am still looking forward to a time when I can dine out and have these dishes sizzling hot.