Tai Tong Restaurant is one of Penang’s earliest dim sum spots and has been around since the 1950s. Although ownership of the restaurant may have changed hands a couple of times, the food has remained pretty much the same.
It’s a very traditional Cantonese eatery, staffed by mainly middle-aged Cantonese ladies, offering a popular array of dim sum at breakfast, and cooked Cantonese dishes at lunch and dinner. Dim sum is still the traditional way from various dim sum carts.
“Siew mai” (steamed pork-shrimp dumplings, topped with shrimp-roe).
'Har kow" (steamed shrimp dumplings).
- “Cheong fun” (steamed rice flour rolls - choice of shrimp or “char-siew”/BBQ pork filling)
- “Har mai” (steamed dried shrimp-pork and fresh shrimp dumplings).
- 'Tarn tat" (baked egg tarts).
- Cantonese pork and century egg congee.
- Stewed pork trotters in black vinegar.
- “Lor mai kai” (steamed glutinous rice, with “char-siew”- BBQ pork, chicken and shitake mushroom).
- “Dai pau” (large bun, with chicken, pork, egg, jicama, Chinese waxed sausage and scallion filling).
- Tai Tong’s famous lotus paste bun, with the lotus paste encasing a salted duck’s egg-yolk.
- Pork bun (left) and “char-siew bao” (right).
- Tai Tong’s waitresses are exclusively middle-aged Cantonese women, manning to dim sum trolley-carts:
Tai Tong Restaurant (大東酒楼)
45, Lebuh Cintra
George Town, Penang
Tel: +604 263 6625
Open daily 6am - 11pm (closed on alternate Mondays)
Chee Chong Fun is one of my must eats whenever I’m in Malaysia. The versions we get here in So. CA don’t come with the fried onion and chilli, and the saucing is different as well. There’s something special about the Malaysian version!
Indeed. Each Chinese community that settles in a separate country will inevitably adapt their cuisine to suit the palate of the indigenised Chinese clientele. For example, when I am in Bangkok, I always detect fish sauce (‘nam pla’) in Thai-Chinese dim sum, either mixed into soysauce blends for their “cheung fun” dressing or mixed into the marinades for the meats. Thai-Chinese dim sum will also be sweeter to suit the local palate.
Back to Tai Tong for breakfast this morning. Quality of the dim sum seems to have improved - the “dai bao” (large meat bun) had a subtle Shaoxing wine aroma that wasn’t there the last time we were here.
In terms of ambiance, the holiday crowds (Malaysia & Singapore are having their mid-year school break) were there - lots of jostling for the “dim sum cart ladies”’ attention.
And there were at least a thousand colourful lanterns of various shapes and sizes hanging from the ceiling - for sale, as the Chinese Lantern Festival is less than a month away.
Sumptuous photos, yet again!
Thanks, I always believe a picture paints a thousand words.
It’s “Raise the Red Lanterns” time again at Tai Tong as we enter the Chinese Eighth Lunar Month (first day of the Chinese 8th month was Aug 29). The main festival which the Chinese will celebrate this month is the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sep 13. Traditionally, mooncakes will be served and children in the neighbourhood will carry little lanterns (like these ones put up for sale at Tai Tong).
We were here for a light lunch, and ordered some dim sum items (e.g. “siew mai” pork-prawn dumplings and “lor mai kai” glutinous rice with chicken), besides some cooked dishes to share.
Steamed hen’s egg-century egg-salted duck’s egg. The steamed custard-like egg pudding is topped with finely-chopped scallions and drizzled with soysauce.
Braised chicken with mixed vegetables:
Back to Tai Tong this morning for breakfast, with a couple of visiting cousins from KL. Surprisingly, the traditional lanterns, usually put up on the 1st Day of the Chinese Lunar Eighth Month (Sep 17 on the Gregorian calendar), are already up!
Today, Aug 22, is actually just the 4th Day of the Chinese Lunar Seventh Month, aka The Hungry Ghosts Month.
I guess the dim sum house is trying to bring some cheer amidst the current COVID situation, which sees less people dining out. The dim sum trolleys also did not make their rounds - instead, diners would select the dim sum from 2 stationery food counters.
We selected the usual suspects:
Siew mai (steamed shrimp and pork dumplings).
Har kao (steamed shrimp dumplings).
Sui kao (steamed pork-shrimp-crabmeat dumplings)
Pei tan choke (pork-and-century egg congee)
Lor mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken)
Sang yoke pao (steamed pork bun) - which was interesting: the steamed bun was beehive -shaped. Inside, there were two types of filling - the chicken part stewed in Chinese wine, ginger juice and oyster sauce, and the dark-red (char siew) BBQ pork part. At the bottom of the filling inside the bun was a layer of glutinous rice.
It’s a Saturday morning, and the start of the school holiday period. The crowd started building up after 9am.
Rich and juicy, the giant steamed bun.
Miss dim sum.
Goodness – that is one formidable-looking and appealing pao. What were its dimensions?
Not that big, really - maybe 4 inches in diameter and 5 inches in height.
. . . that beehive presentation. We’ll take two.
Day 11 of the current lockdown in Penang which started on Jan 13 2021 when COVID cases spiked in Malaysia. Penang has been reporting 100 to 200 new cases daily in the past couple of weeks, so there’s no end in sight for this lockdown. No dining-in is allowed for all F&B outlets in Malaysia.
Lunch today for me were takeout steamed “char siew bao” (Cantonese BBQ pork buns) from Tai Tong.
The Chinese bao reputedly dates back 1,800 years to the 3rd century AD, and its invention was attributed to the wily military strategist, Zhuge Liang aka “Crouching Dragon”, whose exploits were chronicled in the Chinese literary classic, “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.
He purportedly invented the “bao” steamed wheat buns to feed his troops during the famous Southern Campaign when he led the Han troops to suppress the Southern tribal clans in what is present-day Sichuan. In the following centuries, each region in China subsequently has its own version of fillings to go with the bun. Steamed meat-filled buns is known to have been one of the ubiquitous food items for travelers on the legendary Silk Road for more than a thousand years.
“Char siew” originates from Guangdong, Southern China - honey-glazed, flame-grilled Cantonese barbecued pork with a sweet-savory flavor. Today, the “char siew bao” is one of the key items of the Cantonese dim sum spread.
Various incarnations of the “char siew pao” can be found throughout the world: from the Filipino siopao to the Hawaiian manapua (from the Polynesian mea ʻono puaʻa, meaning “delicious pork thing”).