One of Penang’s favourite street hawkers is hanging up his wok for good.
According to a Kwong Wah Yit Poh article on Thursday (May 31), the man behind George Town’s famous Siam Road Char Koay Teow will be retiring soon.
Tan Chooi Hong made up his mind four months ago when his health started deteriorating and his regulars felt something was amiss when they started seeing less and less of his pushcart which he operates out of and parks near the Anson Road junction.
The 77-year-old had to take a ten-day break last June after he made it to #14 on the 2017 World Street Food Congress list because the queues grew too long for him to handle.
His customers come from as far as Singapore and they line up for hours on weekends and public holidays for a plate of his smoky-sweet char koay teow which he fries with one hand while fanning the charcoal with the other.
Tan’s operation is unique as his pushcart stall is located directly opposite a coffee shop which welcomes his customers to consume their orders there. Nobody knows why the veteran hawker doesn’t run his stall indoors instead of under the sun.
According to a local, his license to operate by the kerbside is unique because it was probably granted to him long ago before the junction got busy but the city council renews it anyway because it chooses not to disrupt existing arrangements.
Tan’s 53-year-old son, Kean Huat, helps out but is keeping mum about whether he will be taking over his father’s business. There was a time the younger Tan took over the frying of the dish but public reception was lukewarm so his father resumed his position.
Tan also has a brother who runs a less-popular char koey teow stall in a housing estate.
Locals love Tan’s version of the dish because it has all the right ingredients – Chinese sausage, chives and cripsy fried lard – that make it a classic Penang char koay teow. It is also neither too wet or dry, which can sometimes divide taste buds.
Just looking at these photos on Instagram makes us want to head to the stall right away which operates Tuesday to Sunday from 3pm to 11pm. Don’t wait too long.