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Between Duck and Chicken Rice, Hawker Fare, Malaysia

Hawker fare is common in the streets of Chinatown throughout Penang. Even though I live on the mainland, the Chinese cuisine of Duck Rice and Chicken Rice is more or less standard. The main item is either duck or chicken. The side dish is more interesting. What I found surprising is the different versions of “Chai Boey” or “Cai Bui” (in Hokkien) or stew, in English.

For duck, my mom still favours Ju Bao Lu Cafe. Even though it is the only hawker stall in that coffee shop, the duck rice operator is careful to observe the different sauces that accompany the duck. I took a photo this time when I visited the stall again. There are three types of sauces; sweet sauce, sweet chili sauce (in one sauce tray), and fermented bean sauce. The roasted duck meat is usually dry. The sauces provide a secondary taste to the meat. I would say it complements the main dish. Please take note of the Chai Boey with the salted vegetables (just next to the cup of black coffee).


Based on a Chinese daily clipping of where to eat, my mom said that she wanted to try Chicken Rice and she took me to Batu Lanchang Hawker Centre, Penang. Next to the food outlet is a wet market which only opens at 2.00pm in the afternoon. This market is popular with the after-office crowd. Working people can still purchase fresh veggies, meat, and seafood here. But the food stalls operate at an earlier time to cater to the lunch crowd. There are ample parking lots in this venue. Just make sure that you pay your ticket to the car park attendant and keep your receipt. I think it was MYR 0.80 for an hour. I don’t keep my receipts but I do make it a point to make sure I get a receipt. These car park attendants can submit unpaid car park bills to the City Council and based on your car number plate, the Council can issue you a summons at a much later date.

We went to try Hainan Chicken Rice. You can see the Chinese newspaper clipping posted on the window of this stall.


It is quite common to have hawker stalls displaying the newspaper articles!

I took a photo of what they serve. The chicken is placed on top of the rice with a generous topping of sauce. This sauce is a mixture of light and dark soya sauces. Of course the recipe is top secret! They serve a bowl of light soup with cabbage and a bowl of chili sauce to complement the meat. The Chai Boey and roasted pork are separate orders.

The chicken is nicely roasted. I enjoyed the flavor and aroma. I can also see quite a number of customers frequent this chicken rice stall.


If you compare the two pictures of duck and chicken, you will notice immediately that the sauces are different and of course the Chai Boey or stew. For this chicken rice stall, the operator serves the stew with a darker green salted vegetable plus some bits of chicken bone pieces. There are different types of Chinese salted vegetables. It is up to the food stall operator which type they like. One look at the stew and my mom already knows which one is better!

I will tell you what she told me. My mom said, “You must look for the vegetables, especially the salted vegetable. This one looks too soft and overcooked!”


We both tried the stew and I have to say that it is different than the one we had with duck rice. For Chai Boey, I like it sour, salty, and spicy. This dish makes the whole meal complete! As you know by now, Chinese cuisine with rice is pretty bland. We have sauces but there is very little “oomph.” For this reason, a Malaysian Chinese, like me, will go for something sour and spicy.

The Chai Boey side dish can really determine a repeat customer. In this case, my mom! And for me, I will come back to the stall but only for the roasted chicken!

/// Written by Irene Tan, Malaysia