Sar hor fun (Chinese: 沙河粉) is a thick, broad rice noodle which originates from the town of Sar Hor in Tianhe District, Guangzhou, China. In Penang, sar hor fun is traditionally a popular supper dish among the local populace. Nowadays, it’s available the whole day, from breakfast-time onwards. Considering how rich and heavy the noodle dish is, it reflects the Malaysian diners’ changing dietary habits. Sar hor fun noodles is often paired with the thinner rice vermicelli (beehoon) to form the complete dish.
Since Penang has a largely Hokkien population, the name for the noodles have also been bastardised in recent decades to become “char hor fun”, which is a hybrid term comprising the Hokkien word “char” (meaning “fried”) and “hor fun” (the Cantonese term for broad rice noodles). So, one will see the terms sar hor fun and char hor fun used interchangeably on the signboards of stalls offering this noodle dish nowadays.
Strictly speaking, sar hor fun noodles is not the same as the normal hor fun, as the latter is much thinner and not as broad. But in the past couple of decades or so, I noticed the more artisanal sar hor fun has moved closer to the often factory-produced, mass-manufactured hor fun. The Hokkiens have their own term for hor fun, i.e. “koay teow”, which they share with their linguistically close cousins, the Teochews.
But, even then, the Teochew/Hokkien koay teow is subtly different from the Cantonese hor fun, with a more supple texture which lent itself to the robust frying required of char koay teow, the famous stir-fried Penang noodle dish.
Yesterday was Day 60 of the Lockdown. Hawkers are back in business in Penang now, as the local authorities loosened the controls, allowing street-side food stalls to operate for the first time in two months. Bee Hooi Kopitiam on Kimberley Street still did not open its dining area for dining in yet, so only take-outs are available. I ordered the sar hor fun and yee fu mein .
Yee fu mein is a childhood favourite of mine: it utilises deep-fried and then rehydrated thick egg noodles. The noodles are stir-fried in lard, light- and dark-soy sauce and sesame oil, then blanketed with an eggy sauce containing pork, shrimps, pig liver, char-siu (Cantonese BBQ pork) and choy sum greens.
This noodle stall at Bee Hooi Café has been operating there for the past 40 years or so, and has its loyal following. Not the best rendition in town but, after two months of quarantining at home, anything like this tasted so good!
Bee Hooi Kopitiam
157-159, Lebuh Kimberley
10200 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6012-528 1618
Opening hours: 5.30pm to 10pm daily (stall may have unannounced days off).