BY CK Lam
Soup is an indulgence I enjoyed since I was young as the dining table is always laid with a pot of nourishing soup besides other dishes.
When dining out just for soup, I normally would get my fix at the stall in Hwa Lam Coffeeshop on Carnarvon Street, Penang. The stall of the Leong family selling Cantonese-style herbal soups has been around for quite a while now.
Stall owner Leong Wei Gian (3rd generation) and his father is a force to be reckon with in the region’s herbal soup business. The senior Leong takes much time in preparing the soups from scratch while junior does the ordering and cooking for the customers.
Savor a short menu of piping hot black chicken, frog and turtle soup which comes with a bowl of white rice. There’s nothing fancy about the good old-fashioned soups but they are nourishing with good health formula and you don’t have to pay a fortune for it.
You can hardly go wrong with the black chicken herbal soup. The colour of the black chicken might not look appealing but it is much nutritious and healthier compared to the normal chicken.
Boiled with a combination of Chinese herbs, the nourishing soup bursts with sweetness of chicken and beta carotene from the kei chee (Chinese wolf berries) is suitable for children and adults alike.
You can tuck into a bowl of frog soup (tin kai 田鸡). This paddy field frog soup arrives on the table with a bowl of white rice and an extra small bowl of soup.
Boiled for hours, the light soup has a pleasant mild sweet taste and not as medicinal as the black chicken soup. The frog meat remained silky tender and the best part is the meaty hind legs.
The turtle soup 水鱼 is a Chinese classic, excellent for warming the body. “The soup has freshwater soft-shelled farm-raised turtles boiled with a combination of Chinese herbs such as huai shan, kei chee, ginger and kum choe,” said Leong. To enhance the sweetness and taste of the long boiling soup, dried longan is added too.
All the ingredients play well with each other. The soup comes with a refined salty sweet taste, and generous chunks of turtle flesh, liver and cartilage with gelatinous texture. Its warming flavors make it ideal for a cool day.
A visit to this stall couldn’t be complete without ordering the braised game meat dishes. You will find gamey choices like braised wild boar trotters and braised venison, served once weekly on Thursday. As both the game meat are leaner, the owner focus on low and slow braising, using plenty of spices and herbs to give the gravy better flavor.
Among the two dishes, my favourite is the signature braised wild boar trotter which comes with large pieces of meat. One can easily detect the hint of orange peel in the gravy with big boost of flavor.
The warm turtle soup alone has already got the approval from customers, with many returning for the soup over the years. And together with the frog and black chicken soup, the place is well worth a visit for a midday meal or for takeaway to consume at home.
If you wish to broaden your palette, hop over to this soup stall located in the fairly old single storey corner coffee shop.
Hwa Lam Coffee Shop
266 Carnavon Street
Close on Tuesday