Hawker centre abuzz after dark


Locals and tourists enjoying a cultural performance while tucking into food at Red Garden Food Paradise. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

AMONG all the hawker centres in Penang, one stands out as a must-visit destination after dark.

Red Garden Food Paradise in Leith Street, George Town, offers local street food and international delights alongside nightly live entertainment.

The semi open-air eatery was established by businessman Albert Loh in 2007 and occupies a 38,000sq ft compound around an old bungalow.

Loh: The place can be rocking on some nights and customers often go up on stage to join in.Loh: The place can be rocking on some nights and customers often go up on stage to join in.Currently, there are over 30 stalls and 200 tables.

Enjoying affordably priced bottled beer and stout, many visitors park themselves for the night to enjoy live performances that start after 9pm and last until midnight.

There can be everything from dance and music to comedy, acrobatics and games. But for now, Mondays are designated as dancing nights while Fridays and Saturdays feature showgirls.

On other nights, live music by local performers keeps the place buzzing.

Once a month, there are special events run by brand partners.

Since this is Chinese New Year season, a recent event featured lion and cultural dances.

Loh said, “The place can be rocking on some nights and customers often go up on stage to join in. This excitement has contributed to our longevity.”

The other key factor is the vast selection of food. With most stalls offering dozens of dishes, it can be tough to make up your mind.

Popular Penang delights like char kuey teow, asam laksa, nasi lemak, hokkien mee, wan tan mee, satay, mee goreng, chicken rice, lok lok, fried oyster omelette and ban chang kuih are available.

There are ais kacang and chendol for those with a sweet tooth.

These are complemented by an eclectic mix of international offerings from Western and Japanese to Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and even mainland Chinese.

“We drew inspiration from Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Market, which has almost everything under one roof.

“We want ours to be a one-stop location for Penang food.

“An important consideration was keeping the street food true to its soul.

Sit back and relax with a chilled bottle of beer, char kuey teow (front) and ban chang kuih (back).Sit back and relax with a chilled bottle of beer, char kuey teow (front) and ban chang kuih (back).

“We bring in hawkers who are good at what they do. Some have won competitions.

“Our offerings have also evolved over the years, ensuring that customers always have something different to try,” said Loh who is also managing director.

Almost 70% of the customers are tourists, he said, as the place is near the busy Penang Road and Chulia Street which have numerous hotels and lodges.

Red Garden has a four-star rating on TripAdvisor and was featured on Malaysian and international TV shows.

Filepic of Bourdain (seated, facing camera) filming at Red Garden Food Paradise some years ago where he praised the fried oyster omelette (inset).Filepic of Bourdain (seated, facing camera) filming at Red Garden Food Paradise some years ago where he praised the fried oyster omelette (inset).

The late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain filmed a segment on Red Garden for his popular No Reservations series where he praised the fried oyster omelette.

Red Garden has a spacious carpark on-site accessible from Penang Road.

It also has a VIP gold membership programme which offers discounts on beer and food as well as birthday goodies, invitations to private parties and special deals from partners.

While the hawker centre opens seven days a week, note that individual stalls have their own rest days that vary.

RED GARDEN FOOD PARADISE, No.20, Leith Street, George Town, 10000 Penang. (Tel: 019-665 1318. Business hours: 5pm until midnight daily.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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