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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Penang hawker fare at 25 years

Some of the Penang hawkers at the York Hotel buffet and their Singapore customers span three generations
The Straits Times - December 10, 2011
By: Eunice Quek
| More
Penang hawker fare at 25 years Recipes for the food at the buffet have not changed since the stalls were opened. -- PHOTO: YORK HOTEL

Started in 1986, York Hotel's popular Penang Hawker Fare has fed three generations of at least one family.

Housewife Veronica Tong, 51, still remembers her mother-in-law taking their family to the food feast - which is on thrice a year, in March, September and December - for the first time more than two decades ago.

She says: 'Since York Hotel brought the Penang hawkers over, there has been no need to go to Penang food streets such as Gurney Drive or MacAlister Road. We can enjoy the entire spread in air-conditioned comfort and go for more rounds.

'Our favourite items are the ban chang kueh, with the generous amount of crushed peanuts and brown sugar filling; prawn noodles for the fragrant stock; and lor bak (meat rolls) served with two dips.' She adds that her two children, aged 15 and 24, grew up eating those dishes.

Like many other Penang food fans, Ms Tong and her family will be back at the Penang Hawker Fare when it returns to the hotel's White Rose Cafe from Friday to Jan 2 for its 25th anniversary.

Keeping to tradition, a team of Penang hawkers will be flown in to cook a buffet spread of classics.

Ten stalls will serve dishes such as char kway teow, assam laksa, prawn mee, rojak and oyster omelette. Desserts include ban chang kueh (peanut pancake), ice kacang and chendol.

For hawkers such as Mr Lee Eng Huat, 55, returning for this event is meaningful because of the regular customers. 'Over the years, we have forged a relationship with some of the regular customers and they are so comfortable with us that they will chat with us as they collect their food. We consider it an honour to be invited to go overseas to promote ourselves and our stalls in Singapore. Some of the customers also ask for our location in Penang so that they can visit us.'

His stall sells chendol, ice kacang and Penang rojak at the New World Park Food Court in Burma Road in Penang. It has been around since 1950. The food served will be made from traditional recipes that have not changed since the stalls were opened. Many are run by second- or third-generation hawkers.

No reservations will be taken for the buffet and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In other words, be late and your stomach loses. Group bookings of at least 20 people, however, can be made in advance with full payment made.

A York Hotel spokesman says the hotel 'on many occasions' during the promotion has had to open up extra function rooms to cater to long queues of patrons. 'We do two to three sittings during lunch and dinner on many days.'

Diners can also look forward to a lucky draw and other contests to mark the event's silver jubilee. Prizes include return air tickets to Penang, as well as books on Penang cuisine.

Other long-term customers such as retiree Hilary Peralta, 69, make it a point to go to the buffet at least once every year.

She says: 'My friends and I will make a beeline for the buffet at least two to three times during each promotion. My favourite dish is the Penang char kway teow, which I will eat at least twice per sitting.'

Ms Monique Heah, 45, director of a landscaping business, has also been dining on the hawker fare at the event for more than 20 years. Come next week, she will indulge in her favourite dishes such as char kway teow, lor bak, Penang laksa and ban chang kueh.

'My father's family is from Penang and he has eaten at some of the hawker stalls there. So it's as authentic as you can get. I like that the Penang laksa has a balanced mix of the three essential tastes - hot, sour and sweet - with a generous garnish of lettuce, cucumber and onions.'

If you miss this promotion, either wait for the next one in March or head over to Copthorne King's Hotel in Havelock Road, which runs its Penang hawker buffet the whole year round.


Where: York Hotel, White Rose Cafe, 21 Mount Elizabeth

When: Friday to Jan 2, noon to 2.30pm (lunch), 6.30 to 10pm (dinner) daily

Price: Weekdays: $25.80++ (adult), $18.80++ (child), weekends and public holidays: $28.80++ (adult), $20.80++ (child)

Info: Call 6737-0511 or go to



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