GEORGE TOWN, Nov 23 — As soon as we walked into Ang Hoay Lor, this half a century old restaurant situated along Jalan Gurdwara in George Town, we were hit by this overwhelming sense of nostalgia.
Although we had never been there before, it felt like we were revisiting an old friend after an extended hiatus.
The ambience was an unmistakably retro one; not manufactured like the many retro-fitted boutique cafes in town but the real deal.
In this laid-back setting, you will find dining tables in different shapes and sizes, somewhat dim fluorescent lighting and a whole lot of warmth.
The restaurant is now run by the third generation of the Ang family, and there is another branch on Jalan Perak that opens only for lunch.
Thankfully, this outlet on Jalan Gurdwara is equipped with air-conditioning and opens for lunch and dinner.
As is typical of traditional eateries like Ang Hoay Lor, there is no menu or specials of the day/week/month.
Instead, every table will be served with almost similar dishes; their signature spread, so to speak.
Ang Hoay Lor serves authentic Hokkien dishes like bak kee soup or meat paste soup, an on-the-brink-of-extinction Hokkien classic made up of lean yet tender pork seasoned and coated in starch, and then dropped into a cauldron of boiling water with lots of cabbage and dash of white pepper.
The starch-coated pieces of pork are tender and smooth, while the cloudy, brownish soup is sweet from the cabbage and seasonings. The whole thing is garnished with chopped scallions and fried garlic.
Several dishes at Ang Hoay Lor include oysters with the most prominent being one of Penang’s signature hawker favourite — Or Chien or oyster omelette.
While you can find Or Chien across the island, there are not many Or Chien stalls that have successfully commanded a strong following. And even then, most of the hawker stalwarts are closed for dinner and the good ones specialize only in whipping up delectable Or Chien ie. you would need to pair the Or Chien with other (usually inferior) hawker fare from neighbouring stalls within the kopitiam.
Ang Hoay Lor on the other hand managed to surpass all expectations with their version of the “rich man’s omelette.” They use tapioca starch sparingly so the batter is not overly sticky like glue. The oysters come in small-medium sizes and are very fresh while the egg batter with chopped scallions, pepper and a dash of sesame oil is really tasty. The accompanying sweet chili sauce completed the dish.
Aside from the omelette, Ang Hoay Lor uses the succulent oysters in two noodle dishes; one being the Hokkien specialty of oyster noodles (Or Mee) which is a braised fresh yellow noodle dish with oysters, pork, shrimps and vegetables.
The other signature noodle dish is the incredible fried glass noodles (tang hoon). Yes, I used “incredible” to describe this immensely flavourful dish which was brimming with a smoky aroma imparted from the well-heated wok.
The noodles are stir-fried to a dry yet not clumpy consistency, beautifully accompanied by plump and juicy oysters, lean pork, shrimps and stalks of crunchy sawi.
For our vegetable fix, the Tau Kwa with leeks and shrimps did the trick; the beancurd was soft, supple and with hints of five spice powder infused within. This, according to Mum, is a very traditional Hokkien method of serving the Tau Kwa, and nowadays you can rarely find such dishes anymore.
And last but not least, we also shared a small platter of battered prawn fritters; the kind of food that borders between a snack (imagine Loh Bak) and a main dish. The firm, springy crustaceans were coated in a really crispy batter, then deep fried but thankfully not swimming or coated in a layer of oil.
Served with the same sweet chili sauce eaten with the Or Chien, we had no trouble polishing off every single piece in a flash. Now this is a dish that instantly brought back memories of my childhood, when Mum would cook this every now and then, with the siblings fighting for the last piece.
The feast for three came to slightly below RM70, a small price to pay for fresh, quality cooking with a strong emphasis on authenticity. They could have added various dishes (salted egg xxx, sweet and sour xxx, butter cream xxx, etc) to their repertoire and attracted a younger crowd, but that would defeat the purpose of continuing their grandfather’s legacy.
As I mentioned earlier, there is another branch on Jalan Perak (also named Ang Hoay Lor) run by the second brother that is housed under a shack and only operates during lunch hours. Closely related to Ang Hoay Lor’s legacy would be Hock Chuan Heong at Macallum flats, operated by the cousins and serving similar fare.
Ang Hoay Lor is located at 260, Jalan Gurdwara, Jelutong, Penang. They are open for lunch (12–3pm) and dinner (6–9 pm) daily except Wednesdays.