A trip to Spencer’s

Last Sunday I caught the train to Thornlie and to have lunch at my favourite food hall, Spencer Village (Spencer Road Shopping Centre, Thornlie) . As I walked across the bridge from the railway station, I could hear talking behind me. I turned around and saw two old Chinese women, two poh pohs, walking together. One of them was talking non-stop. The other, wearing a cotton fishing hat, was nodding. They moved slowly, shuffling their feet, scraping the ground with their slippers as they walked with their hands behind their backs. They reminded me of my late grandma.

Spencer’s was really busy- I haven’t seen it so busy in a long time. You had to just squeeze in at any available spot at a table. I ordered char kway teow from Penang Cuisine. As I sat waiting for my food to arrive, the two old ladies appeared and sat opposite me. “Oh dear,” I thought, “They’re going to ask me what I’m doing when I start taking photos.” Normally I don’t care if people see me taking photos of my food, but we were all strangers squashed close together, sitting close enough to talk to one another because we desperately wanted to eat delicious food on a Sunday afternoon, and I really wasn’t in the mood to have any awkward conversations.

The talkative old lady kept on talking, in Cantonese, and I understood everything she said. It was hard not to listen as they were sitting so close and she was talking quite loudly. “They’ve run out of loh mai kai (glutinous chicken rice),” she complained. “And they’re run out of siew mai (steamed pork dumplings). I can’t believe they ran out! But don’t worry,” she told her friend, “I’ve ordered us lots of nice things to eat.” If you’re interested, I’ve posted about loh mai kai and siew mai before.

My char kway teow arrived. I quickly whipped out my camera and took my photos. The people sitting on either side of me (a couple eating a shared nasi briyani with beef curry to my left, two guys devouring char kway teow to my right) looked at me curiously, but didn’t say anything. The two old ladies didn’t notice. I was glad. I put the camera away and dug in eagerly. The kway teow had a fantastic wok hei flavour, with chicken, beef, fried egg, beansprouts, two prawns and the little bits of delicious pork fat that you find in real char kway teow. The prawns hadn’t been cleaned properly – you can probably see the little black vein in the prawn in the photo (what is it, prawn poo, prawn guts? I just like eating prawns, I know nothing about their anatomy!) – a shame, really, because the prawns themselves were perfectly bursty.

Char kway teow

The two old poh pohs had ordered quite a spread between them. It was hard not to look at their dishes as they arrived – popiah, tow foo goreng, yong tau foo and char kway teow – here’s a link to a previous post featuring tow foo goreng, popiah and siew mai. “Eat the stuffed eggplant,” the talkative old woman urged her friend. “Mmm, it’s good,” her friend said, munching.

When I finished my kway teow, I walked over to Fook Kee to buy a couple of items to take away. They were indeed out of loh mai kai. A shame, as I’d have loved some for dinner. The talkative poh poh was still talking to her friend as they ate. They looked like they were enjoying themselves. I wonder if they got through all that food. :)

Here’s my takeaway yong tow foo, which I ate for dinner later that evening using my favourite chopsticks. My favourite yong tow foo items are the foo chok (fried beancurd skin) and the stuffed eggplant. As I ate, I smiled as I thought about the two old Chinese ladies eating their lunch, one talking non-stop, one wearing a cotton fishing hat.

Yong tow foo

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