Tuck into delicious seafood noodles in front of a century-old temple

Ong Chin Lee and his mother Tan Lay See at the stall. — Pictures by K.E.Ooi
Ong Chin Lee and his mother Tan Lay See at the stall. — Pictures by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 12 — More than 37 years ago, Tan Lay See wanted to start her own business so she became an apprentice at a popular noodle soup stall in Penang.

Tan took a few months to learn the basics of boiling pork bone and fish bone broth for the soup.

“After learning from him, I started selling seafood bihun soup and porridge from a small push cart by the roadside,” she said.

Pork bihun soup (left) and fish bihun soup.
Pork bihun soup (left) and fish bihun soup.

Her “master” who taught her the recipe eventually relocated to Johor but Tan’s stall, which she set up in 1981, became more popular.

Though Tan is the one to set up the stall, it is named after her late husband... or to be more precise, his nickname. Hor Chiu Hai means “bearded Hai” in Hokkien.

“My husband had a thick beard so everyone called him Hor Chiu Hai and we used his name for the stall because everyone knows him,” she said. Her late husband was the one who sourced for fresh seafood supplies for the stall.

Tan Lay See taking orders at the stall.
Tan Lay See taking orders at the stall.

Her stall offers a variety of seafood; customers can choose what to add to their clear soup with bihun, noodles or porridge.

Tan’s stall relocated from the roadside location about 25 years ago and they took up a space in front of an ancient Taoist temple — the Fu Su Kong Temple. The pushcart was also upgraded to a larger newer stall inside the temple compound.

Today, the 72-year-old’s son, Ong Chin Lee, has taken over the cooking while she continues to help out. Ong has been helping his mother at the stall since he was 10 and took over the cooking in 1997.

Tan said preparing the soup is not easy work as they have to boil pork bones and fish bones for several hours to produce a flavourful broth for the soup base.

Seafood tomyam noodles at the stall.
Seafood tomyam noodles at the stall.

After her husband died, Tan said they have to go to several markets to source for their ingredients especially the seafood.

“My husband passed away about seven years ago so since then, we go to a few different markets for different ingredients, the fish from one place, the prawns from another stall,” she said.

The ingredients available at the stall.
The ingredients available at the stall.

In recent years, it has become harder to get some of the seafood ingredients so they have stopped offering crabs and frogs. There is the standard fish fillet, prawns, squid and oysters.

Even the local oysters are harder to come by so they are relying on a variety of imported as well as some from other states.

Tan’s stall is known for its seafood porridge, bihun soup and now, a tomyam variation for those who prefer something with a spicier kick.

Hor Chiu Hai Assorted Seafood Bihun Soup and Porridge
228A, Burma Road
George Town
Time: 5pm-10pm
Closed on Sundays

The stall is located within an ancient temple’s grounds.
The stall is located within an ancient temple’s grounds.

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