Porridge that’s best enjoyed perched on a bench

Customers are perched on short stools placed on benches around the table. — Pictures by K.E.Ooi
Customers are perched on short stools placed on benches around the table. — Pictures by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, March 25 — More than 70 years ago, sinkeh (new Chinese immigrants) in George Town would head to this small roadside stall for their afternoon meals.

The stall offered a simple home-cooked fare of porridge with side dishes placed on a table with benches around it.

The sinkeh were mostly labourers, trishawmen and workers living in the many shophouses around town.

They would gather around the stall during their break time in the afternoons, often perched — literally squatting — on the benches to get a better view of the food on the table.

The stall has about 10 basic dishes such as braised pork, bean paste fish, stir fried vegetables and fried fish to go with the plain porridge.
The stall has about 10 basic dishes such as braised pork, bean paste fish, stir fried vegetables and fried fish to go with the plain porridge.

They would tuck into plain white porridge and order sides such as tau eu bak (braised soy sauce pork), steamed minced pork, tau cheow hu (bean paste fish) and stir fried vegetables at the stall.

“It was a family business that my father started and I helped out at the stall from young,” said the current stall owner, Tan Gin Hock.

The 76-year-old said he has been manning the stall since he was a teenager and they never changed the recipes handed down from his father.

What makes his stall unique is that despite development around the whole area, it remains traditional with the dishes spread out on a table along with the arrangement of three wooden benches surrounding it.

Traditional style dishes such as tau cheow fish and stir fried beansprouts are placed on the table.
Traditional style dishes such as tau cheow fish and stir fried beansprouts are placed on the table.

On top of the benches, there are small short wooden stools so that patrons can still be perched in a half-squat — with the help of the stools — as they eat.

Many of the stall’s customers are regulars who have been eating there for decades, some for over 50 years.

“We made sure to maintain the flavours of our food from my grandfather’s time all these years,” said Tan’s son, Joo Chong, who helps out at the stall.

Though the stall has been around for more than 70 years, it still doesn’t have a name and it doesn’t have a signboard.

You can recognise it from the benches around the table or customers perched over the table, their backs to the busy Magazine Road.

Tan Gin Hock (right) and son, Joo Chong, serving up traditional porridge and dishes to customers at the stall.
Tan Gin Hock (right) and son, Joo Chong, serving up traditional porridge and dishes to customers at the stall.

The only name the stall is known by is its nickname, the lang chia pek moi which is translated to mean the trishawman’s porridge as it used to be the favourite haunt of trishawmen.

About 20 years ago, there were still a few other lang chia pek moi stalls around George Town where regulars still get to perch on a bench in a half-squat to enjoy their simple meal.

Today, this stall along the main thoroughfare of George Town, just across from Komtar, is believed to be the last of its kind.

The stall is only open four days a week and only for lunch.

Customers can also have them serve the porridge and dishes at the coffeeshop next to it.

Corner stall next to Kedai Kopi Bee Hong,
Magazine Road,
George Town.
Time: 11am-5pm (Thursday-Sunday)

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