Retro Cantonese dishes from Sun Yoon Kee (Est. 1963) for dinner this evening. The restaurant was started by owner-chef, Gan Choon Chong, who’d worked in the kitchen of his restaurateur-parents since the age of 6!
Sun Yoon Kee is located on Cintra Street, which used to have at least 5 Cantonese restaurants back in the 1940s post-war years. Today, their only rival is Boey Chong Kee, a few hundred metres away.
The Gan family today continues to churn out their traditional family dishes to a faithful following. Our dinner spread:
Shrimp ball with salted duck’s egg-yolk stuffing (凤凰虾). This was truly one of the old-school Cantonese dishes where shrimp-meat were coarsely-chopped, gently-spiced, then moulded around salted duck’s egg-yolks.
Each morsel were then batter-fried till golden-brown on the outside. Cut open, it was like a crustacean version of a Scotch egg.
Pork-rib and old cucumber soup. You cannot go to a Cantonese restaurant and not order a soup. The Cantonese, of all Chinese ethnic groups, are renowned for their love of soups, and their myriad collection of various types of light consommes, mostly double-boiled or steam-cooked.
The pork-rib and old cucumber (“lou wong kua”) soup is a Cantonese classic, usually cooked at home, but just as popular in casual family-style restaurants. The version here was as good as any one could find anywhere.
Stir-fried beef with ginger and scallions - another deceptively-simply Cantonese classic, but which needed careful treatment to get the balance of flavours and textures just right.
Strips of beef would first be marinated in light and dark soy sauces, oyster sauce, sesame oil and other condiments. These would be flash-fried at high temperature to sear the meat. Fresh stalks of green scallions, and wafer-thin slices of ginger would be tossed in.
Perfect with steamed white rice.
Sweet-sour pork - one of my must-orders in a Cantonese restaurant: it’s so common that I used the dish as a yardstick to see “how good” a Cantonese restaurant really is.
And our verdict? This restaurant is good, and I do mean really good. The irony about sweet-and -sour pork is that the dish must not be too sweet, or too sour. Rather, you need to have subtle flavours that come from a carefully-calibrated mix of sweet and sour ingredients (tomato wedges, sugar, vinegar) , plus others like ginger, Shaoxing wine, onions, capsicums and cucumber. And the pork needed to be marinated, before being batter-fried, taking great care not to overcook the meat, before the golden morsels were tossed with the sauce and other garnishes.
Braised home-made “kum chin” (gold coin) tofu with shrimps, mushrooms, green peas and eggs - this was one of my favourite childhood dishes, but which I’d not had for decades!
The one produced here reminded me exactly of the one which I used to have from a hawker tze char stall at Hill Street Food Centre in Singapore back in the early 1990s. The food centre closed down in 2000, and I’d never been able to find this dish ever since, until this evening, in Penang!
Batter-fried prawns - very good version here, but not as good as the one we had from Boey Chong Kee.
Scrambled eggs with glass noodles, shrimps and mixed vegetables - very tasty dish, with good “wok hei” (that wok-seared aroma much-treasured by traditionalist Cantonese foodies). This was another dish which Boey Chong Kee does a much better version.
Service was quite slow here, but the terrific food more than made up for the long wait.
Sun Yoon Kee
35, Lebuh Cintra (Cintra Street), 10100 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-261 3987
Opening hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-9pm, Mon-Tue, Thu-Sun. Closed on Wednesdays.