How a pandemic taught an old school ‘dim sum’ restaurant in Penang some new tricks

Chen preparing take away food for the food delivery service to pick up. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
Chen preparing take away food for the food delivery service to pick up. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

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GEORGE TOWN, March 13 ― Yong Pin Dim Sum Restaurant hardly stands out on the row of pre-war shophouses where it is situated in the heart of George Town.

It is simply furnished and with tables spaced out at one metre apart, the whole place looks quite bare.

Fried dim-sum for those craving for the deep-fried stuff. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
Fried dim-sum for those craving for the deep-fried stuff. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

Yet, this old-style dim sum restaurant which has been around since 1981 learned some new ways of doing business in order to survive the past year. 

“We were already considering Grab food and Foodpanda so when the MCO was imposed, we decided to go for it we could not close during that period,” said Chen Seck Yin, 40, who is running the restaurant with his mother, Choong Siew Mei. (He was referring to the movement control order which was first imposed last March.)

Chen is the main chef who prepares all the dim sum on the menu as he has been helping at the restaurant since he was 18 years old.

“I learnt all of the recipes from my father and now I prepare everything every day,” he said.

Yong Pin Restaurant has been around since 1981 and is intent on staying around for many more years to come as it embraces the new norm of doing business. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
Yong Pin Restaurant has been around since 1981 and is intent on staying around for many more years to come as it embraces the new norm of doing business. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

The restaurant received more orders than expected during the first MCO as many other shops were closed so customers ordered their dim sum for breakfast and brunch and fried noodles for dinner.

“We were doing quite well during the first MCO actually because customers came to us when other restaurants and coffee shops were closed,” Choong said.

She said they had staff salaries and overheads so they remained open in hopes of continuing to get some business, even if ― as expected ― it was less than usual.

They said the decision to offer delivery and takeaway service was a good one as it kept their business afloat in 2020.

Various choices of traditional Cantonse-style dim-sum made fresh every day. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
Various choices of traditional Cantonse-style dim-sum made fresh every day. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

Yong Pin offers traditional Cantonese-style menu of dim sum items for breakfast and brunch from 7am to 1pm.

In the evenings, they open from 5pm till 10pm to offer traditional noodles such as char hor fun, yee foo mee, Hokkien char, sang mee and fried rice.

Dim sum items including pau, braised chicken feet, fish balls and deep-fried dim sum are also available during dinner so diners can enjoy their plate of noodles with some dim sum.

In the evenings, they serve traditional noodles such as 'sang mee', 'char hor fun' and 'yee mee'. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
In the evenings, they serve traditional noodles such as 'sang mee', 'char hor fun' and 'yee mee'. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

Some days Choong said they make sak kei ma, a traditional pastry made of fried dough crisps. “We will have customers calling to place their orders because our sak kei ma sells fast, we make it fresh once a week,” she said.

Occasionally, the restaurant prepares Nyonya acar as well; this is another item customers will need to call to pre-order.

The restaurant is open every day but closes on Sunday evenings.

They deliver their dim sum and fried noodles through Grabfood and Foodpanda.  

Customers may also call +60 16-793 0113 /+604-2611355 to place orders for takeaways.

This old-style cafe serves traditional Cantonese-style dim sum. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
This old-style cafe serves traditional Cantonese-style dim sum. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

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