[Penang, Malaysia] Old-school Cantonese meal at Hing Kee, China Street

China Street in Penang was known as “Tua Kay” (High Street) as it’s one of the oldest parts of George Town and where many “lao khek” (‘old pioneers’, referring to the early Chinese immigrants in Penang) settled, dating back to the 1790s.

One of the last remaining old eateries on China Street is Hing Kee at No. 60. It used to be an “old boys’ institution” where retired Hainanese waiters met up to eat, drink and reminisced about old times. Among the restaurant’s specialities were the “sambal kangkung” (water spinach, stir-fried with spicy chili-fermented Malay shrimp paste), “har mai chue yoke” (stir-fried pork belly with fermented Cantonese shrimp paste), plus “char-siew” (caramelised BBQ pork) and “siew yoke” (crackling-skinned roast pork).

Hing Kee Restaurant has been operating from this same location since 1907, and is currently still run by the same family, albeit the 5th-generation of the Hing clan, who hailed from Sun Hing district in Guangdong.

On weekends, it serves Cantonese congee with pigs’ intestines or “chee cheong choke” from 7am till 11am. At lunch-time, its kitchen turns over to serving Cantonese dishes which it does pretty well indeed.

Our dinner here this evening:

  1. “Hum har chue yoke” (pork with ginger & scallions in shrimp sauce) - this is one of Hing Kee’s signature dishes since time immemorial. I have friends in their 70s and they talked about having this dish when they were boys!

  2. Steam-braised herbal chicken with snowpeas, babycorn & carrots - my personal fave: melt-in-your-mouth, slow-braised chicken, with a subtle, fragrant herbal sauce. The sort of food I can have every day.

  3. “Gulai tumis” - spicy-sour cod-fish steak & okra - a Penang-Nyonya fish dish, done pretty well here. Only available on weekends - I know some Penangites who’d dine here on weekends just so they can order this.

  4. Braised soft tofu with fish fillets & scallions - a mildly-flavoured dish, using fermented soybeans. I absolutely adore this dish which cannot be found anywhere else in Penang, or Malaysia, for that matter.

  5. “Kangkung” & shrimps in “sambal belacan” (chili-fermented shrimp paste) sauce

My personal favourite place for Cantonese home-cooking flavours in Penang, bar none.

Hing Kee Restaurant (兴记饭店)
60, Lebuh China (China Street), 10200 George Town, Penang
Tel: +604 261 0010
Operating hours: 11am-2.30pm, 6pm-8.30pm, Tue-Fri
8.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-8.30pm, Sat & Sun
Closed on Mondays


Back to Hing Kee for dinner this evening. Besides the social distancing requirements which reduced the number of tables in their tiny restaurant, everything else was the same - still that great traditional Cantonese home-cooked flavours.

We won’t miss our ordering favourites here: the steam-braised herbal chicken legs:

And the braised tofu with fish and scallions in fermented bean sauce (“taucheo”)

Another must-order is their kangkung (water spinach) and shrimps in “sambal belacan”, and we figured that what made Hing Kee’s version so special is the addition of “asam” (tamarind) juice, which lent the dish a sourish tang.

We ordered another Cantonese home-cooking staple today: “mui choi kau yoke” - braised pork belly with dried pickled mustard leaves. This was absolutely delicious, with well-balanced flavours - the chef made sure the pickled mustard leaves were pre-soaked in water to remove any excessive saltiness which would render the dish inedible. On the other hand, one must also take care not over-soak the pickled mustard leaves, as the dish would be bland and tasteless then. Here, it was done perfectly.

We also had the stir-fried bitter gourd with shrimp and eggs - the bitter gourd had been properly drained of its bitterness. Very well-done.

Hing Kee never disappoints.


Back to trusty old Hing Kee on China Street for a quick dinner this evening, as we wanted to visit the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) statue in Ayer Itam during this Chinese New Year season.

We ordered our usual favourite dishes:

  • Herbal chicken drumsticks.
  • Tofu with fish fillets in taucheo.
  • Sauteed bittergourd with shrimps.
  • Sauteed potato leaves with sambal.

Just sharing some photos taken at the Goddess of Mercy temple complex after dinner:

Penang has some of the most fascinating temple complexes in Malaysia.


Now that is a beautiful temple.

And I suppose if you’re going to be a goddess then being the mercy one is a pretty rewarding job.


She’s a rather popular goddess in North Asia - also known as Kannon to the Japanese and Gwan-eum to the Koreans.

Interesting how different cultures came up with their gods & goddesses - the Chinese never did have a Goddess of Beauty, unlike the ancient Greeks’ Aphrodite, nor a Goddess of Death like the Hindu Kali.

1 Like

Ok, finally getting my act together and heading over tonight. Thoughts on where I should eat before in Air Itam?

The Ayer Itam Market Foodcourt has two stalls that are very popular: (1) a duck-rice stall that has been there for ages - I’d never ever did a write-up on it since the guy running it is so busy, I’d never gotten to speak to him; and (2) an economy rice stall which I’m told is “newer”, i.e. perhaps opened in the last couple of years, but has snatched some of the evening/dinner business from the duck-rice stall.

Or, if you want to have a good view of the Kek Lok Si Temple complex like I did, just go to DeView Hotel’s rooftop bar, order some beer. I heard they no longer have the hawker take-outs from the stalls on the ground level, but you can order food from the roof-top’s own hotel-run kitchen - I’m told by a friend who went there last night that its “char koay teow” is pretty decent.

DeView Hotel is about 10 minutes’ walk from the pagoda.

Thanks Peter, will give the economy rice a shot!!!

1 Like