Destroyed eatery a popular haunt

Fire damaged almost 70% of the structure of Mutiara Selera food court in Tanjung Bungah, Penang. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

AND just like that, many years of memories went up in flames when a fire nearly burned Mutiara Selera food court in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, to the ground.

The food court had been there for about four decades and when news of the fire spread, many Penangites were quick to become nostalgic about the place.

Tanjung Bungah resident J.Y. Shen, 50, said the food court used to be his hangout spot when he was young.

“I used to hang out here almost every night in the mid-90s.

“There was once a stall called Rudy’s Char Koay Teow.

“It served Malay-style char koay teow, which was saucier and more moist than the typical Penang char koay teow. It was unique and I loved it.

“I have many sweet memories of talking with my friends long into the night there before the era of the Internet, ” he said after hearing about Saturday’s fire.

Surgeon Datuk Dr Lim Seh Guan too has endearing memories of the place.

“I came to work in Penang in 1995 and Mutiara Selera was where I often went to tapao (take away) my dinner.

“I would park at the roadside and dash in to take away my food.

“I love the ais kacang there too. The ais kacang seller was so popular that he even wore shirts with his stall name printed on it, ” Dr Lim reminisced, referring to the stall called Tony Ais Kacang.

Landscape architect Teng Pe Yang, 40, said he grew up patronising the food court.

“At night, the food court was packed and vibrant. I frequented the place in my teenage years in the mid-90s at least twice a week.

“My routine after tuition on Wednesday night was having BBQ chicken from R.R. Western Food, Coke float from Tony Ais Kacang and waffles from Pizza Corner.

“After finishing high school, I went overseas to study in 1999.

“When I returned to Penang in 2012, the place seemed to have lost its vibrancy but it was still heartwarming for me to find a lot of the old stalls and people were still around, ” he said.

Pulau Tikus assemblyman Chris Lee, who rushed there with exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo when they heard about the fire, experienced a pang of nostalgia on seeing the fire and smoke.

He recalled hanging out with friends at the food court in his secondary school days.

“I spent long hours with friends here and even came on a few dates when I was still a student.

“I stayed in Pulau Tikus but always spent time here as my close friends lived in Tanjung Bungah.”

Beverage stall operator Yeoh Ah Lee, 72, said he had been operating there for over 30 years.

“There were 48 stalls here and most of us start operating only in the evening.

“My refrigerator, gas stoves and display cabinet worth around RM6,000 were destroyed in the fire.

“I hope that we will be given financial aid as we have lost our source of income.

“For the time being, I will take a short rest from work and decide what to do next.

“Luckily, there were only around five stalls operating in the morning and no one was injured in the fire, ” he said.

The fire that broke out at the food court at about 10am destroyed about 70% of the structure.

State infrastructure committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari, who is also Tanjung Bungah assemblyman, said one option was to rebuild the food court and this has to be discussed with Penang Island City Council and the state government first.

“We will assess the situation and see how we can help the affected hawkers, ” Zairil said.

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