A long, long time ago girls were not allowed to get out of their homes. Dating was unheard of. Then, in the 70s, the Americans came to Penang to set up factories like Litronix, Intel, Atlas, Hewlett Packard (ya, before they are known as HP), Motorola and etc. Paddy fields and villages gave way to the factories. Roads were built for factory buses. Girls living in the villages like my two older sisters suddenly became career women. (I was only 10 years old then)
Young men from other states came to Penang to work. My two brother-in-laws are from the Perak state. That’s when dating began. And how is this related to foods in Penang? Well, a lot. Before there was dating or the industrial area or development in Penang, people didn’t go out to eat.
I was eating at Yong Pin Restaurant a few days ago and I recalled the number of times when my two elder sisters brought back char hor fun and yee foo mee after they had gone out with their then-boyfriends, now husbands. It was like the law where decent, young man must deliver the fair maiden home with packets of hot, fresh char hor fun.
There is this quote until now. If someone sees another person with daughters, they will quip, ‘Ciak beh liao, oo than jiak char hor fun.’ It means that you are going to eat a lot of supper in the form of char hor fun.
I guess one doesn’t need to bribe the girlfriend’s parents with supper anymore, right? Well, at least I haven’t heard of anyone talking about eating char hor fun anymore. Nowadays, the boy will probably take the girl home and never bring her back until the next day!
I think one should count one self lucky if the daughter doesn’t ask money to feed the boyfriend. All these rituals of dating and pleasing the girl’s parent probably no longer exist. But Yong Pin, Kek Seng, Seng Kee, Tai Tong, Foo Heong and other old coffee shops selling the famous char hor fun still exist until today.
The other things little sister like me get to eat when the sisters went dating were eggs tarts and this sesame and lotus paste balls.
Those were the days…