[Penang] Teochew lunch at Yi Zhang Xi Zi, Hutton Lane

The Teochews are one of the most numerous Southern Chinese people to emigrate to South-east Asia, and are the predominant Chinese community in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Teochew homeland back in China is centered around the twin cities of Chaozhou and Shantou, known collectively as Chaoshan. Although the Teochews are part of Guangdong province, the Teochew language and Cantonese (the lingua franca of Guangdongโ€™s populace) are not mutually intelligible. Instead, the Teochew language bore closer resemblance to the Hokkien language of neighboring Fujian province.

In Penang and Singapore, where the Hokkiens constitute the majority of the Chinese populace, the Teochews are a close second.

Recently, a Teochew restaurateur friend, knowing my fondness for Teochew savoury rice cakes, asked if Iโ€™d been to Yi Zhang Xi Zi, now 10-months-old, in the busy dining district of Hutton Lane/Nagore Road. No, Iโ€™d not! I told her. It seemed to have slipped below my radar.

Anyhoo, we decided to lunch there last Saturday, after our weekly walk across George Town. True enough, there was a plethora of Teochew savory snack on their menu.

What we ordered:

  1. ๐˜ˆ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ฉ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฉ - steamed glutinous rice cakes with savoury taro-peanut filling.
    In Singapore, any peach-shaped, pink-colored rice cake like this would inadvertently be a pโ€™ng kueh, filled with glutinous rice, peanuts, black fungus and dried shrimps - my favorite snack in the whole wide world.
    Unfortunately, โ€œpโ€™ng kuehโ€ does not exist in Penang. Instead, the Teochews of Penang fill their with a mashed taro and crushed peanut filling. Not what I was yearning for, but we just had to make do.

  2. ๐˜’๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ - steamed rolls with savoury taro-jicama-peanut filling. This was quite food, with the requisite flavors.

  3. ๐˜Š๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ช ๐˜ฌ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฉ - steamed glutinous rice dumplings with jicama-dried shrimp filling. Very good version here.

  4. ๐˜•๐˜จ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฉ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ - Teochew 5-spiced meat roll.

  5. Teochew ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ noodles. This dish is a Teochew staple - briny, al dente noodles, stir-fried with pork, beansprouts and chives.
    The version here was not al dente, but way too soft - the way the Hokkiens like their noodles.

  6. Ter boh sโ€™ng - boiled baby octopus. Very good with the chili-vinegar dip.

  7. Soy-braised large intestines, egg, tofu and pickled mustard stems. The version here has a spike of heat from dried chilis slipped during the cooking process. The Teochews do not take any chili-heat on their food, so the cooking here has been adjusted to cater to the local Penang Chinese palate which has been attuned to Nyonya, Malay and Indian cooking, and must have their chilis on a dining table at all times.

  8. Soy-braised pork belly, tofu, eggs and preserved mustard greens (โ€œboey chaiโ€).

  9. Dried shrimps and shallot pickle. This is a Nyonya/Thai-influenced dish, rather than Teochew.

It was a tapas-like, small plates lunch, but turned out to be quite filling. The food here seemed tilted towards Hokkien style of flavoring and textures - perhaps the need for the Teochews to adjust their cooking to suit the Hokkien majority clientele in Penang.

Yi Zhang Xi Zi (ไธ€ๅผ ๅ›ๅญ—)
166 &168, Jalan Hutton (Hutton Lane), 10050 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6012-269 6939
Opening hours: 12 noon to 10pm Tue to Sun. Closed on Mondays.