Golden Phoenix

Special thanks to Golden Phoenix for extending this food review invitation.

Located next to USM's Sungai Dua entrance, Golden Phoenix Restaurant (金凤凰美食中心) is a popular eatery among students and local residents alike. The name of this food court is not explicitly displayed. Instead, a golden phoenix logo appears at the front of the building.
Similar to Kedai Makan Chang Senr (昌胜咖啡室) at Pulau Tikus, all hawker stalls at Golden Phoenix are handpicked based on merit. Although many candidates are vying for a spot at this popular eatery, the proprietors are very selective on which ones make the cut. Many of these 30-plus stalls are popular brands around Penang. There is even one stall with Ipoh origin.

One of the busiest stalls here is Gou Lou Wan Than Mee (高佬竹升云吞面). Hailing from Kampong Malabar's Kedai Kopi Gou Lou (高佬茶餐室), this stall is its third outlet in Penang. In fact, the founder is currently operating here; his disciples now run the Kampong Malabar stall. In addition to his signature dishes, the owner also introduced some exotic ingredients such as venison (鹿肉).
Besides Wan Than Mee (云吞面), Zhajiang Noodles (炸酱面, RM6.00) is one of his signature dishes. Lovely chunks of pork are served on top Jook-sing noodles (竹升面). The pork is seasoned with savory gravy made from fermented soybean paste (炸酱). In addition, crispy pork lard (猪油渣) is used to provide better mouthfeel.
The Wan Than Soup (云吞汤, RM5.50) and Dumpling Soup (水饺汤, RM1.50 per piece) are also crowd favorites.
Served in clear soup, the pieces contain generous amount of minced pork filling. Shrimps are also added to pork to enhance its addictive appeal.
Another famous stall is Mao San Wang Char Koay Teow (猫山王炒粿条), which I cannot recommend highly enough. This stall is open during daytime only; a different operator takes charge at night.
Although fried rice is also available, this stall is renowned for its tasty yet affordable Char Koay Teow (炒粿条, RM5.00). This dish is a great showcase of fiery aroma (镬气) which permeates the flat noodles thoroughly. Mastering the right techniques to prepare this dish requires years of practice.
In addition, the shrimps used are respectably large in size. Juicy and succulent, shrimps of this size are usually unheard of which a budget of RM5.00. In addition, there is also sliced Chinese sausage (腊肠) to provide some meaty sweetness. Chicken eggs are used, but I think duck eggs can help to bring this dish to a new level.

Gertak Sanggul Ah Lee Fish Head Bee Hoon (美湖亚利鱼头米粉) also brings its fine wares nearer to populated areas. This stall from Gertak Sanggul at the southwest edge of Penang Island is notable for its delicious soup bases, such as clear soup (清汤), tomyam (东炎), and sour & spicy (酸辣汤). Porridge is also available here.
As for soup ingredients, most customers find the fried fish (炸鱼) very addictive, something I concur after trying some by myself. Made from yellowtail (油甘鱼), crispy flour batter coats succulent chunks of fish. Alternatively, fried fish head is also available for customers who prefer stronger fish flavor.
In addition, there is also fresh fish (鲜鱼) should customers prefer so. The choice of fish is grouper (石斑鱼). I think fresh fish works better with porridge, so I am inclined to pick fried fish for noodles. Alternatively, customers can also opt for pork in lieu of fish.
The reddish appearance of Tomyam Meehoon (东炎米粉, RM6.00) hints the fiery appeal of tomyam soup. The tomyam resembles local Penang style, not the clear version from Thailand. This appetizing soup can be consumed directly without feeling surfeiting even in the slightest bit.
For lighter meals like breakfast, the San Shi Moi Toast (三师妹烤面包) is a popular choice. Formerly known as Yi Shi Heng Toast (二师兄烤面包), this stall is similar to Joo Leong Café (裕隆茶室) at Sungai Tiram. The current proprietor is the fellow apprentice of her senior who has since retired.
Like the Sungai Tiram parent shop, this stall is popular for its Toasted Bread (面包, RM2.20). Each serving consists of two slices of specially-ordered bread, toasted to light crisp and sweetened with signature butter spread. The butter has the right consistency which accentuates the fresh sensation of toasted bread.
Half boil egg (半生熟蛋) is also popular for breakfast. In addition, American-style breakfast items such as hot dog (香肠) and ham (火腿) are also available.
Rice is the staple diet for most Malaysians. This is why there is also an Economy Rice (经济饭) stall at Golden Phoenix.
Operated by a jovial elderly lady, Penang Road Kochabi Economy Rice (槟榔路古早味经济饭) is inherited from her late parents who have been operating near Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul (槟榔律驰名潮州煎蕊) several decades ago.
With help from only one temporary assistant, the energetic lady is able to prepare over 40 different dishes every day. The actual dishes may vary from day to day. There is a wide variety covering various types of meat, vegetables and other Chinese-style delicacies.
Unfortunately, this stall is only open for lunch. How nice it would be if it were open for dinner too! This part of Penang can really use a nice economy rice stall in the evening. So far, most nearby stalls have been nothing but disappointing.

As for drinks, Kopi O (RM1.00) is served in a traditional porcelain cup, which has been heated beforehand so that the coffee stays warm as long as possible. This particular blend of coffee is a secret recipe exclusive to Golden Phoenix. The drink is neither sour nor excessively bitter - right in the middle of my comfort zone.
If you prefer some condensed milk too, Kopi Susu (RM1.20) provides a different sensation of sweetness. The milky texture makes the drink quite smooth, but I still prefer the bold taste of good old Kopi O. Perhaps Kopi C (using evaporated milk) is a good compromise between flavor and smoothness.
Once exclusive to mamak stalls, Teh Tarik (RM1.00) is now enjoyed by Malaysians of all walks of life. The bubbly layer on top is the result of "pulling" action during preparation of milk tea. Like Kopi Susu, I feel that the level sweetness can be reduced by using less condensed milk.
Overall, the dishes that I tried at Golden Phoenix appeal to my palate. The pricing is surprisingly affordable by even by food court standards, making this eatery very attractive for students and local residents alike. On weekends, it is not uncommon for all tables to be occupied during peak hours.
Another notable aspect of Golden Phoenix is the absence of houseflies which many hawker centers suffer from. I believe this is due to the fact that the premises is well-ventilated and the operators maintain high levels of hygiene. For example, the floor is mopped three times a day, while used dishware is immediately collected. Why can't other food courts emulate this example?

Name: Golden Phoenix Restaurant (金凤凰美食中心)
Address: 2-G-2, Jalan Sungai Dua, 11700 Gelugor, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-420-6888
Business hours: 7:00am-1:00am
Website: Click here
Coordinates: 5.35284 N, 100.30031 E
Directions: From Tesco Extra, drive along Jalan Sungai Dua towards the USM entrance. Golden Phoenix is located after McDonald's. There are parking spaces along the service road or across the street at Vanda Business Park.

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