Old Chow Thye

Special thanks to Old Chow Thye for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Old Chow Thye is a home-style Nyonya restaurant on Jalan Chow Thye, at the former premises of Japanese-Thai restaurant Shinjuku or Bravo Cafe.
The dining section of Old Chow Thye gives a warm sense of welcome. The arrangement of tables is catered for small families or office employees.
The wall paintings were commissioned by Gabriel Marques, who is also responsible for several street art around downtown George Town. The exposed bricks are not part of the painting; wall plaster is deliberated knocked off to give an elegant sense of nostalgia.
A section of the wall serves as menu for the daily special. As the daily special literally changes from day to day, so is the chalk writing on the wall.

Our hostess today is Ms. Eileen, who explained the concept behind this family-operated restaurant. Apart from a list of side dishes and beverages, the food items are made available in rotating basis. Instead of replacing the entire menu every day, there is a section in the menu where the placard is replaced every morning.
A subset of entrées are made each day, which is typically planned one week in advance. These entrées are arranged in sets which may include a number of side dishes. There are usually more choices on Sundays.

Our meal commences with the Nyonya Chicken Curry (娘惹咖哩鸡, RM12.90) which includes sides of Chap Chai, Steam Egg and rice. Nyonya curry is not nearly as spicy as Malay cuisine. Instead, the former relies on rich coconut milk to produce a concoction of savory gravy.
Alternatively, one can also opt for Chai Boey (菜尾, RM12.90) which includes the same side dishes. Chai boey is originally conceived as a convenient way to reuse leftover vegetable from previous meals. Stewed with meat and Chinese mustard, the broth gives the distinctively sour-savory taste which is truly appetizing.
Chap Chai (杂菜, RM4.00) is a salad mixture of several types of vegetables, including cabbage, jicama and carrots. This is a staple Nyonya dish considering the diverse availability of vegetables in the region.
I find the Steam Egg (蒸蛋, RM4.00) to be quite appealing too. The texture is soft and yolky like bean curd, basically the way steam egg is supposed to be prepared. But what really impresses me is the use of salted egg (咸蛋) and century egg (皮蛋) on top, which surprisingly complements but does not overwhelm the steam egg.
Inchi Kabin (腌炸鸡片, RM18.00) is the Nyonya interpretation of fried chicken, one which cuts no corners in marination. The four pairs of drumsticks and wings serve as delectable finger food after the main course.
The dipping sauce is made from mustard, onions, lime and chili. While dipping sauce adds a new level of flavor to the fried chicken, I still prefer to enjoy the chicken in unaltered form.

Next up, Acar Fish (阿扎鱼, RM5.00) is essentially fried fish in traditional Nyonya style. Mullet fish is typically the ideal candidate for this style of cooking. Its name refers to use of various spices which serve as pickle, such as turmeric, ginger and chili pepper. In fact, turmeric is responsible for giving the dish an appealing yellowish appearance.
The previous dishes have generally strong flavors; not that I am complaining. A bowl of Tu Thor Thng (猪肚汤, RM8.00) serves as an interlude to between competing flavors. Thanks to lovely pieces of pork meat and stomach linings, sipping the soup is very gratifying indeed.
I personally would have preferred to have black pepper seeds in the soup, making the stew very sharp-flavored and spicy. This is just my personal preference, though.

Moving on, Nasi Ulam (香草饭, RM9.90) is an amalgam of rice with shredded vegetables. The vegetables contribute lovely aroma especially when the dish is still hot.
The Loh Bak (卤肉, RM2.00 each) is one of my highlights for tonight. Minced pork is wrapped in bean curd skin, then deep-fried to give a layer of crisp. Old Chow Thye's version of Loh Bak reminds me of the ones that my late grandfather used to make in the village. I have not encountered this feeling until today.
Next is the crowd favorite Bak Zhang (肉粽, RM8.90), a dumpling of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaf in triangular shape, then steamed until be rice is cooked.
The dumpling may also contain other ingredients. In this case, fatty pork cuts and mushrooms are included.
The Otak Otak (鲤鱼包, RM5.00) is made from seasoned fish paste, wrapped in banana leaf in the shape of a vessel.
The Otak-Otak is then steamed until the fish paste becomes jelly-soft. Unlike many otak-otak which I had tasted before, Old Chow Thye's version is not as spicy as it should be. I usually prefer more spiciness when enjoying this dish.
Moving on to something sweet, the Bubur Cha Cha (摩摩喳喳, RM3.50) is a traditional Nyonya dessert made from coconut milk (椰浆).
This warm dessert also contains starchy ingredients such as sweet potatoes (番薯), taro (芋头) and jelly made from tapioca flour (薯粉). I think there is room for improvement in terms of ingredients; the best bubur chacha which I have tasted so far is Sweet-i (甜在心糖水屋) at Taman Lip Sin.
Unlike neighboring restaurants, Old Chow Thye is open throughout the day without any breaks between lunch and dinner. This eatery remains open during tea time to serve customers who just want a place to enjoy desserts and a cup of coffee.

The Oreo Cheese (RM9.90) is one such dessert. Made from Oreo crumbs and cream cheese, this dessert treat is presented in a nice plastic container.
Crispy Oreo crumb is a delightful companion to the cream cheese below. It is similar in texture to an Oreo-blended shake, except that this one delightful crisp in it.
Similarly, the Green Tea Cheese (RM9.90) is made from ground green tea leaves mixed with crackers. As always, I welcome the refreshing scent of green tea. This dessert is highly recommended if your stomach still has room for desserts.
Despite styling itself as a traditional Nyonya restaurant, Old Chow Thye also has full-time baristas to fulfill your craving for coffee. A warm glass of Butterscotch Latte (RM9.90) looks like a good choice.
As for the 3 Layer Ice Coffee (RM11.90), it is made from espresso, fresh milk and chocolate. Essentially, this beverage is similar to mocha, although the composition of milk is more pronounced.
Overall, the Nyonya dishes at Old Chow Thye appears quite authentic. The cooking style is very family-oriented, focusing on traditional recipes and quality ingredients. I would recommend this place whenever anyone is interested in enjoy authentic Nyonya cuisine.

Name: Old Chow Thye
Address: 36A, Jalan Chow Thye, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-227-6477
Business hours: 11:00am-6:00pm (Monday), 11:00am-10:00pm (Tuesday-Sunday), closed on Saturdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/oldchowthye
Coordinates: 5.42547 N, 100.32091 E
Directions: From Jalan Burma (Burmah Road), turn right to Jalan Servis (Service Road), then right again at Jalan Irrawadi (Irrawaddy Road). At the next crossroad, turn right again to Jalan Chow Thye. Old Chow Thye is one of the nearest shops on the right. There is room for 2-3 cars in front of the restaurant. Apart from that, there is street parking along Jalan Chow Thye and a private car park at Service Road.

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