Tek Sen Restaurant – lunch & dinner chu char in Penang

Born and raised in Penang, I don’t think I’ve ever dined here at Tek Sen.
I know right? This restaurant is so famous to both locals and foreigners, so how come I haven’t tried it?

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Well, I have my favourites, and one of them is Hing Kee at Lebuh Cina for afternoon “chu char“.
Besides, in Penang or rather the area where I lived, Pulau Tikus, there is so much food, and at lunch hour I usually eat my “chap fun”, cheap, simple and good.

Anyhow, in June 2015 I was staying at 1881 Chong Tian Hotel at Jalan Pintal Tali. We checked out at 1 pm; thirsty, famished and withering under the island’s heat.

I did a quick foursquare check for food options nearby, and Tek Sen came up as an option 5 km away, and closing at 2.30pm.
Hence I thought; why not?
I haven’t tried the food here before and my partner would certainly appreciate am old style Chinese lunch.

Tek Sen Restaurant - famous lunch & dinner chu char in Penang

And thus I stepped in for the first time.

It was mad busy, but service is efficient. The menu is in English but the wait staff; take your pick from those in their teenage years to the septuagenarians are all able to rattle off some “lau chiu pai” aka signatures should you need recommendation.

A little history of their modest beginning is now transcribed on their simple but professionally written and printed menu.
The English isn’t bad too, and being the grammar nazi I am, I wondered who did the copywriting for them. It gave me a sudden jolt of astonishment too, for the modernization that it has gone through since its days of “Teik Seng Rice Stall”.

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Fortunately other than the menu and the billing system, its surroundings retained its old charm.
The round tables, aluminium chairs and dishes served on blue plastic plates plus the usual din of dining in a coffeeshop provided the old-school ambiance.
A quick glance around assured me that the diners are mostly locals. Fans swirled to mitigate the heat, and here and there snatches of the local dialect Hokkien were heard.
Ah, Penang.

I took the cue from many blogs/online write ups & zoomed in on the pork.
BELOW: Home Recipe Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi. RM16+, Small.

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And added more pork in the form of my favourite – the sweet and sour pork. (RM16+, small).

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The sweet and sour pork was good though the sauce was a tad too sweet for my taste. Then again I didn’t like the much raved about double roasted pork either, for it was so salty that I gave up after 3 pieces.
Granted, a lot had raved about the crispy top, the caramelize coat on the meat and the ratio of meat to fat in each piece. But no, it just didn’t cut it for me.

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BELOW: The sweet and sour pork is meaty (unlike those with more batter than meat) and the meat stayed soft to bite after the frying.
It was so satisfying to be able to sink my teeth into THICK, tender pieces of meat in a sweet and sour dish!
I get really frustrated with those that are 70% batter and 30 % meat.

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The steamed fish is a win.
Thank god the expensive and delicate promfret was cooked perfectly and the tang from the teo chew style sauce used to steam it was just perfect with the mild flavour of the fish.
This I picked clean, from the bones to the head and the fins.
Nothing left to waste, not for this fish! 🙂

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We tapau-ed the roast pork, since both of us couldn’t tolerate the salt levels but it ended up in the bin anyhow.

Other recommended dishes here are the assam stingray, 3 types steamed egg dish and the homemade tofu.

Our bill:

White coffee: RM2.65
Sweet Sour Pork: RM16.96
Roast Pork : RM16.96
Steamed fish teochew: RM37.10
Rice small : RM0.53
Rice big: RM1.06
Total (incl of GST): RM75.20

Address:
18-20 Lebuh Carnarvon, 10100 George Town
Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Monday
12.00pm – 2.30pm
6.00pm – 9.00pm
(Closed on Tuesday)
Contact: 012-981 5117

NOTE: “Chu Char” – a restaurant specializing in wok-fried dishes.