[Penang, Malaysia] Dinner at Gou Lou Sar Hor Fun, Campbell Street

The Kou Lou (“Tall Guy”) Sar Hor Fun stall was one of the mainstays at the now-defunct Yi Garden coffeeshop on the junction of MacAlister Road and Lorong Selamat. Founded in the 1930s, “Kou Lou Sar Hor Fun” was one of the most famous proponents of this Cantonese dish in Penang, alongside Foo Heong on Cintra Street and Seng Kee on Dato’ Keramat Road.

The Thum family has been running the business from generation to generation since the 1930s. The current owner-chef is 60-something year-old Mr Thum Soon Choong, who’d been frying “sar hor fun” and “yee fu mee”, taking over from his uncle 40-over years ago at Lorong Selamat.

The menu at its new digs in Campbell Street contains all the staple dishes from the well-known fried noodle purveyor of yore: “sar hor fun”, “yee fu mee”, “oh mee” and “Hokkien char”.

Our dinner yesterday evening consisted of:

  1. Sar hor fun is a Cantonese dish named after its wide, thick noodles originating from the “Sar Hor” district in Guangdong. The noodle is called “tua pan koay teow” in Penang.
    Nowadays, Hokkien-speaking Penangites have bastardized the name of the dish, calling it “char hor fun”, a hybrid term - “char” meaning “fried” in the Hokkien dialect and “hor fun”, the Cantonese term for flat, rice noodles.

Sar hor fun consisted of a mixture of wide, flat rice noodles with fine “bee hoon” noodles, first wok-fried in lard, sesame oil, dark and light soy sauce till aromatic.
Then, a braising sauce with pork, pig’s liver, prawns, fish-meat and “choy sum” greens are prepared and poured over the noodles.

  1. "Oh mee - braised yellow Hokkien noodles with oysters, shrimps, pork & pig’s liver.

  2. Yee fu mee - a fried then braised noodle dish. The dish used a crisp-fried, rehydrated, then fried “yee fu” noodles which has an aromatic scent and spongey texture.
    The braised meat & seafood sauce slathered over the noodles is the same as the one for the “sar hor fun” dish.

  3. Fried Hokkien noodles - stir-fried yellow, wheat noodles with prawns, pork and pig’s liver, flavored with dark- and light-soy sauce, flavored with minced garlic and dried flounder.

  4. Belacan kay - deep-fried chicken wings marinated in Cantonese “har cheong” (fermented prawn sauce).

  5. Fried “choy sum” with oyster sauce, topped with pork lard and shallots

It calls itself a rather lengthy Gou Lou Hong Kee Chao Sar Hor Fun & Noodles nowadays. The neighboring Hong Kee Bamboo-pressed Wantan Noodles eatery a few doors down is actually owned/run by Mr Thum’s younger brother.

Address
Gou Lou Hong Kee Chao Sar Hor Fun & Noodles
高佬(鸿记)炭炒沙河粉面食
89, Campbell Street, 10100 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6016-548 1248
Operating hours: 10am to 9pm Mon to Sat. Closed on Sundays.

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Sounds a lovely meal, Peter. I know you have a healthy appetite - but how many of you were eating that feast?

By the by, I think I’m going to be soon dining out vicariously through your reviews. I’m expecting a local lockdown of restaurants, probably to be announced on Monday (although we’d already decided not to go out this week). Like most major urban areas in northwest England, we’re already subject to extra restrictions but they’re not containing the virus. Our borough has gone from an infection rate of under 9 per 100k population a month ago to nearly 200. And the neighbouring borough, Manchester, is over 500.

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Would eat every dish at this place.

I especially like this one, leaves Hong Kong’s overcooked kai lan with oyster sauce in the dust.

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There were four in our party - it was a pretty carb-heavy meal, so we were feeling quite sated afterwards!

Do keep safe, John. Precarious times still - as long as we don’t have the vaccine yet.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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