[Penang, Malaysia] Tai Buan Porridge on Muntri Street

Tai Buan (Teochew) Porridge (大满清香粥) has been operating along Muntri Street since the post-WW II years. The current owner, Mr Ong Tai Buan, started off helping his father when he was a 15-year-old lad. He’s been running this spot for 55 years now.
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There are basically two types of Teochew porridge: one is where rice grains are steeped in a flavoursome fish-based stock and garnished with fish fillets, scallions and sometimes other types of seafood like scallops or shrimps.

The second type of Teochew porridge is basically plain rice porridge, served with a plethora of side-dishes that one chooses from the serving counter. Braised duck, pig’s parts, soy-braised tofu and pickled vegetables are popular options. One finds this type of Teochew porridge wherever the Teochew-Chinese settle: Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, even Sydney Chinatown.

This iconic Penang Teochew porridge institution, Tai Buan, is still tremendously popular, so come early (before 12 noon) to avoid the lunch-hour crowd. Mr Ong himself chops up your order: stewed pig’s trotters, Teochew-style braised duck, etc. with his trusty cleaver.

Balancing act.

Address
Tai Buan Porridge (大满清香粥)
173, Jalan Muntri
10200, Georgetown, Penang
Operating hours: 11:45am-5:00pm (Closed Sat/Sun)

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Thanks for the explanation and very nice photos. Are the braised duck and the pig’s blood in the same soy-braised sauce too?

Chok Kee in Kimberley Street seems very famous for the intestines porridge, I think they are doing the Cantonese style. What do you think about it?

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Yes, the same type of braising sauce, but in different compartments of the cooking pot (picture below). The recipe of the braising sauce is usually a family/trade secret, but will include the requisite ingredients like light and dark soysauce, fish sauce, star anise, cinnamon bark, peppercorns, nutmeg seeds or nutmeg flowers, shallots, vinegar, mustard, cloves, etc.

I mislabelled the duck’s blood dish as pig’s blood - I remembered the texture - duck’s blood is a bit more toothsome.

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naf - I missed your question about Chok Kee in Kimberley St - that’s quite a different dish altogether as the porridge is cooked in pork-bone stock, and would already be flavoursome by itself. Yes, it is Cantonese-style.

Tai Buan’s porridge is totally flavourless as it’s plain rice in water. The Teochews prefer this so the side-dishes stand out.

Love this breakfast (and most breakfasts around the world, actually). The only thing I can’t eat here is the intestines. My teeth must be dull, because I chew and chew but it goes nowhere. I also love congealed pig’s blood in soup and porridge.

On the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa we were served plain porridge with preserved turnips. We ate everything and wanted other tourists’ portions if we could. There were a handful of foreign tourists on the same flight, they didn’t touch the breakfast, not one of them. They probably thought it was wallpaper paste :yum:

Thanks for showing us the marvellous foods in your part of the world, Peter!

I plan on eating Turkish breakfast someday. It’s also a big and colourful one.

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Well, Presunto, try and make your way here one day - I’ll be glad to show you around and get you to try all the different kinds of food we get here in Malaysia/Singapore.

Wild Honey in Singapore (with a branch in KL) serves a concatenated version of the Turkish breakfast. Not as spectacular as the ones you’d get in the old country, but enough to satisfy us city-folks here with our lab-rat living environment :smiley:

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I visited Singapore for 5 days, a long time ago. Was struggling so much with the heat.

When I look at your meals I want to go to Singapore and Malaysia again and eat myself silly. Then I remember the heat and sweat dripping down my back the whole time there :joy:

Yeah well, never say never again.

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It takes about 5 days to get used to the heat, so you left just as your body was starting to acclimate! :wink: I have a hard time for the first few days when I go to S’pore/M’sia too, but after few days, it’s tolerable. And I’m one of those that gets hot very easily! Of course, I’m usually shopping in an aircon shopping center or at home with relatives with the aircon on full blast. We usually save our outdoor eating for mornings and late night suppers.

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Presunto, boogiebaby - I can imagine how you all feel about the heat/humidity here. Heck, even those of us who’re born here could never get used to the weather! Which is why most activities take place in air-conditioned comfort. For most Singaporeans/Malaysians, a weekend activity will most likely mean spending time in the malls, not outdoors where it can be stifling :smiley:

Living in KL, I always make a list of hawker foods & the old hawker food places I missed and wanted to re-visit when I go back to Singapore. Then, each time when I got there, the heat & humidity will make me throw my list out and I’ll either just stay at home in air-conditioned comfort, or go to a mall :smiley: :smiley:

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After sweating a good deal, feel lighter and get used to the tropical heat faster. A morning swim usually refreshes. Need to shower a few times a day. But I hate going in the hot exterior and entering in a freezing air con place, get sick easily like that.

Talking about heat, we did an afternoon hiking at the Penang National Park. It rained quite heavily just before we started, so we didn’t feel it was so hot, and we didn’t bring enough water. After 2 hours of hiking on the slippery muddy slopes, with our feet all wet, we reached the beach, but we had sweated a ton and desperately in need of water. No sight of shops! And we had another 2 hours to go back to the entrance and were very worried. Luckily there were the guards, and we asked them to sell us some water, and I drank 1L all at once! Never drank so much water in my life at 1 go!

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Many people tend to underestimate the effects of the heat & humidity. You do need to make sure you carry some water when you hike in Penang. The hills are beautiful - you should try that the next time.

Back to Tai Buan for Teochew porridge yesterday. Good to see that the crowds are still there but, with social distancing rules in place, the number of seats have been reduced by a third, and they were turning a lot of people away.

Owner-chef, Mr Ong Tai Buan, is his usual cheery self, albeit busy chopping up the customer orders:

There were 4 of us, so we had to spit ourselves to sit at two tables, as each of the eatery’s smallish tables can only accommodate 2 persons under the new COVID control regulations.

We had our usual options:

  1. "Chye por nui" (preserved radish omelette)

  2. Soy-braised pig’s intestines and pork belly

  1. Soy-braised tofu - Tai Buan serves the softest, smoothest tofu around - gently deep-fried before being cooked in its soy-sauce braising sauce.

  2. Soy-braised duck - this is a Teochew classic, and can be found anywhere where the Teochew people settle. Done very well here:

  3. "Boey chye" (preserved mustard leaves and stems) - this is the best-tasting dish here besides the radish omelette - which goes to show: the best-tasting dishes can be the simplest ones.

I asked Mr Ong what brand of soy sauce he used for his braising sauce and, to my surprise, the sprightly septuagenarian traipsed into the kitchen at the back and came back with two sample bottles of the Rose Brand premium soy sauce, which he gave us. So, being regulars has its “privileges”. :joy:

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Enjoy your sauces.

I love all things with preserved radishes or mustard greens. Must have been a Hakka in my past life. But when I’m in Germany or Austria they also ask if I was German or Austrian in my past life. They are delighted that I am fond of their cuisines.

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I’m pretty sure I could learn to love this!

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It’s slightly sweet, a touch salty and very savoury, Jim.

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

― Jonathan Gold