Precious Old China is a cosy nook of a restaurant that lies almost hidden on the first floor of the bustling Central Market. Decorated with antique furniture, big, bright paintings and sculptures, the restaurant oozes a charm synonymous with the Baba Nyonya or Peranakan, culture. The kitchen turns out a mouthwatering selection of food prepared using traditional recipes from this colourful culture.
To get a true taste of what the eatery is all about, Ju Hu Char is a dish unique to Penang consisting of shredded cuttlefish, turnip, carrot, onion, mushroom, and minced chicken cooked in a brown bean sauce. Served alongside a shrimp chili paste, the dish is typically eaten by wrapping the condiments into a lettuce leaf which adds a nice crunch to the rich mixture.
A quintessentially Malaysian dish, the beef rendang is a must try here. Fragrant and mildly spiced, the meat is cooked low and slow with coconut floss and an array of Malay herbs. It comes served with traditional blue rice, as does the assam fish in its spicy and tangy tamarind sauce.
A highlight here is the lemak nenas sotong, consisting of squid and pineapples prepared in a thick yellow curry which gives the tongue just the right amount of spicy, awash with bold flavours from the chilies and coconut milk. Pair it with lady’s finger kerabu – blanched okra tossed in an aromatic mix of chili, shallots, lime leaf, ginger flower, dried shrimp, and lime juice – and you’ve got a winning combination.
Round out the meal with an intoxicating dessert made from the country’s finest durians – the D24 and Musang King. The former comes with a strong bitterness, while the latter is a sweeter affair, more subtle in flavour. The two are mashed together with a dash of coconut milk, bringing forth a euphoria of divine flavours.
If you’d rather steer clear of the king of fruits, try the sago gula melaka. More mellow in taste, but big on flavour, the dessert is a sago pearl pudding, bathed in coconut cream and gula melaka, or palm sugar.
Sago Gula Melaka
Before leaving, make sure to explore some of the art and furniture which lend so much character to the interior. From dining tables and medicine cabinets, to antique vases and beyond, some of the items on display here transport you to another time and place.
A visit to the bustling Central Market is made all the more special by trying out the heady Peranakan dishes of Precious Old China.