The Hainanese Influence in Penang’s Cuisine

loading Dinner at the old Hollywood Restaurant, with chicken pie on the table. The author’s father is seated on the right with his old friends from the Chinese Swimming Club.

Here are some tips on how to capture the taste of yesteryear.

When I began writing the chapter on Hainanese influences for my first book, Penang Heritage Food, which was published in 2010, I wondered why the Hainanese were cooking Nyonya food in their restaurants. I soon worked it out – I remember my mother telling me that her father, Khoo Beng Chiang,1 had a full-time Hainanese cham phor (chef) in their house; he cooked both Nyonya and Western food.

Many well-to-do Nyonyas had full-time Hainanese cooks in their households – that was where they learned to cook Nyonya food. I understand that the two Hainanese brothers who started Loke Thye Kee restaurant used to work for Khoo Sian Ewe, a well-known land owner, civic leader, philanthropist and a prominent member of the Straits Chinese community in Penang.


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