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:
“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!
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.
“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.
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.
“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