Chu Char (in Hokkien) or Tai Chow (in Cantonese) are the regular terms used to describe modest Chinese eateries whipping up those regular habitual dishes from the home kitchen, and is popular among families on weekends or those days when mothers are not in that usual cooking mood.
Typically run by families as well, these simple concept restaurants aspire to serve and satisfy those home-cooked food cravings with the basic dishes while occasionally highlighting their specialty dishes handcrafted by their own resident chefs.
They may be miniscule compared to the star-studded restaurants and hotels out there, but their allure lies in the simplicity and that close-to-home comfort feeling they bring to connect to the families looking for a moderate and fuss free meal with an ordinary price tag.
Siang Pin Restaurant is one of such place, having been in their location for years; serving the local neighborhoods along the coastal drive of Tanjung Bungah area in Penang.
I have previously blogged about this place twice (here and here), and that is proof enough of our sentiments towards this old-time favorite on the island.
This humble eatery offers a rather extensive menu; covering almost every basic category and styles of cooking one's mind could conjure of and occasionally introducing a dish or two concocted from their resident chefs.
One of their most loved and recommended is this star; Curry Fish Head (Market price)
One can opt to enjoy either the fish head or just purely the fish fillets; which are both equally satisfying as the main attraction lies in the aromatic and exotic flavors of the curry broth.
Spiced with rich Kerala-style curry ingredients, teamed with cubed tomatoes, thickly sliced onions and okra with the final touch of cumin leaves garnishing the top makes this a clear winner as it makes it way to almost every single table in the restaurant.
It is impossible not to fall for the relishing tastes of this bowl of curry; even for a non-spicy food person like me, and the very sight of its bright orangey-red colors accompanied by the seductive aroma of the curry spices are sure signs to entrap one's attention and stirring that appetite almost instantaneously.
The fish used here is the garoupa, which is one of their recommended fish and could be slightly higher in price; based on their market price although one can expect a range of MYR25-50 for their fish head curry over here.
Garoupa are naturally smooth in texture, and was a perfect complement to balance the piquant tastes emitted from the combinations in the curry with its silky and tender flesh.
The first taste of the broth will get you hooked, and before you know it, you will probably be scooping spoonfuls of the gravy onto your white rice to enjoy its taste which will never seem enough.
Yes, it is addictive and it leaves little to wonder why this dish is so favored among the regulars to the restaurant who are mostly drawn to this dish as their main reason of visit.
Kung Pow Mantis Prawns is my personal favorite, as evidently seen in most of my posts.
The dried red chilies and slices of onions paired with the thick viscid Lea Perrins sauce gave the mild flavored (or even flavorless) wobbly texture of the mantis prawns that boost of enriching tastes.
This is one of my personal favorites to order when I dine at Chinese or seafood restaurants, and to date, this is still one of the places which made it to my favorite with their light crispy texture (not overly crispy) on the outer and maintaining that fresh fleshy taste of the prawns on the inside.
Stir-fry Kangkung with belacan (Stir-fry water spinach/water convulses leaves with dried shrimp paste) is another local favorite as the simplicity of the dish brings the tastes so close to home.
Slightly spicy, the crunchy and definitely juicy vegetable is a great ally to the pungent flavors of the belacan, and throw in a couple of luscious prawns and you have yourself a mesmerizing dish right before you.
Fondly known as Kangkung Belacan, this is clearly a Malaysian favorite and one of the most memorable dishes which is almost always on every restaurant's menu.
Moving away from the hot and spicy dishes, there are also other delicious offerings which go lighter on both the taste buds and of course, the tummies.
Braised Fish Fillets and Tofu with Mixed Vegetables served in a clay pot is a dish which immediately puts one in that comfort zone with its simple presentation and unpretentious appearance.
Well-seasoned fish fillets coated with a thin layer of flour braised with lush amounts of vegetables in the form of leeks, carrots, napa cabbage, onions, spring onions, garlic and button mushrooms are harmonized with the soft neutral tastes of the silky bean curd, finished with the light starchy texture of the broth. It was the idea of a comfort food, and the clay pot brought that well-intended meaning of the warmth of the dish; in both temperature and tastes savored from every serving.
Kids would enjoy the appetizing tastes of this Sweet and Sour Fish Fillets
Fish fillets are seasonal items, depending on the market, and I am a fan of the flavorsome tastes resulting from the intermarrying of the simple ketchup with the brood of vegetables; namely cubed tomatoes, capsicum, onions, cucumber and pineapple.
It just reminds me of my childhood with the delightful tastes; which I am pretty sure every child would enjoy. It would be like turning down sweets or any child's favorite food for one to resist this yummy dish packed with enticing flavors.
Champagne Pork Ribs is one of their highlighted dish for Father's Day yesterday, and it was highly recommended by the owner, being an occasional/seasonal dish.
While the name sounded like it was upgraded with the glamorous festive bubbly, the tastes was merely and creatively emulated with the fizzy tastes of a sparkly to give it that same sensation from the celebrated wine.
This place is located along the row of shophouses facing the Tanjung Bungah market and the bus station, and right before the post office.
Keep to your left after the Paradise Hotel stretch (on your right) as you head towards Tanjung Bungah , and turn to your left after the second traffic light after this hotel area. It is along the row with Maxim's Bakery and a pharmacy.
It can get crowded especially on weekends, so do be there earlier to enjoy your meal without being harassed by the large crowds or the incessant noise surrounding you as the place fills up with people.
Prices are on the average range; though some may be according to the market price trends so do check with them when you place your order.
Generally a pleasant place to dine in, and is definitely one of those homey close to comfort abodes for many craving that sensuous tastes of home cooking.
Siang Pin truly delivers the comforts of home in their very own way~