While most people only know about the famous Papar Belacan (shrimp paste) and Papar Kuih Cincin (local delicacy), the district has many other attractions to offer.
The town’s building structures has historical value perhaps only environmentalists or history buffs would be able to appreciate.
While the city centre continues to erect new shopping and office buildings, Papar would remain as it is. In fact, there are efforts from the creative industry to turn the town into something like Penang’s vibrant past merged with its modern values.
This writer’s journey started with a hefty breakfast at one of the longest standing coffee shops in Papar town – Liang Yung Hua – located at the corner of an old building.
Jeremiah Leong Boon Hou, being the fourth generation in the family to run the business, said he knew all the “secret recipes”. When he was very young, he saw his father prepare the sought-after food and learned by-heart how to make them.
“I can make Lapchong (local sausages), Sau Ya (roasted duck), Char Sau (sweet meat) and Sau Nyuk (roasted pork), Khiu Nyuk (yam pork) – everything at my fingertips,” said the 19-year-old
After completing his Form Five, he attempted to learn bakery as he thought it was his interest. However, he was thinking of his family and three older sisters who have their own responsibilities, so he decided to stay put and continue helping his father to run the restaurant till today.
The restaurant was started by Jeremiah’s great-grandfather in 1941, handed down to his grandfather, then his father and today, since he is the only son in the family, it looks like he will take over the helm soon enough.
His father, Leong Kong Luh, is a Papar native while his mother is from Labuan. The family had always focussed on their restaurant and served nothing short of fresh meat with noodle everyday. Needless for introduction, the whole district knows where to get the popular Papar noodle.
Jeremiah’s sister opened a new branch with the same name, in Papar also, as they want more people to have a taste of their family recipe.
Evelyn Charlie, the “tour guide” for this writer, explained that a team of artists and creative industry enthusiasts are in the process of working out an approach and paper work to transform Papar town into an exciting and vibrant setting but at the same time also maintaining its heritage.
Jeremiah’s restaurant would be one of the icons, among other shops, in the township as it has historical values and authentic appearance.
“To reach to fourth generation is not easy. But this family is indeed admirable as they have the perseverance and able to sustain till today,” said Evelyn.
Asked how he prepared his freshly-made meat for his noodle everyday, Jeremiah said he and his father would wake up at three in the morning to do all the tedious work, right from A to Z tasks, he said.
“All are handmade, no machines. We tried to use machine before but, somehow, the meat turned out different. The texture wasn’t the same, even the taste was different.
“So we gave up using it, and back to square one. We’d rather use the original way – our hands – although it can be quite tiring but the satisfaction is there. You get to taste the original Char Sau, Sau Nyuk and so on.
“I watched my father make all that when I was young. I need not refer the book to get the recipe, it is all in my head, as I learned from observing and doing it (practising),” he said.
Evelyn advised him not to change too much of the interior of his coffee shop and maintain the recipe of the family as it is one of the sought-after noodle shops in Papar.
Evelyn shared that in her younger days, she remembered her father used to “tapao” the noodle from the shop whenev=er anyone was warded in hospital or bedridden at home.
“The next thing we knew, we recovered from our bed (not sick anymore) after having the hot fried noodle that was being ‘tapao’ for us,” she said, laughing.
A few blocks away from Jeremiah’s restaurant, another Papar native, is believed to be the only few who can still produce “Siung”, a type of hat worn during special occasion.
Carry on reading about Papar Native "Siung" maker and more in Part 2 of this story!