“Koay teow” (Chinese: 粿條, guǒ tiáo) is what the Hokkiens and Teochews in Penang called the flat rice noodles otherwise known as “hor fun” in Cantonese. Among the Southern Chinese, “koay teow” is most identified with the Teochew/Chaozhou/Chiuchow people.
And one of the most popular hawker food item in Penang is “koay teow th’ng”, where the flat rice noodles are served in a savoury, clear broth, garnished with poached meats, fishballs and sliced fishcakes. A close cousin of Penang “koay teow th’ng” is the Vietnamese “Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang”, literally translated as “koay teow from Phnom Penh”, as the dish was introduced by itinerant Teochew noodle vendors from Phnom Penh (Cambodia) to the Vietnamese.
There are 3 main variations of the “koay teow th’ng” in Penang - the pork version, the duck-meat version and the chicken-meat version. As hawkers in Penang are highly-specialised, one needs to go to a different hawker to taste each of the variants. Among the best duck-meat “koay teow th’ng” spots are the stalls at Malay Street and Lorong Ngah Aboo.
But the best duck-meat “koay teow th’ng”, IMO, is the one from Lum Lai Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng at Cecil Street Market. Started by Mr Lau Lum Lai in the early-90s, the three-decade-old stall still pulls in the crowds each morning (it operates from 7.30am till 7pm daily, but close on alternate Weds).
Mr Lau’s duck-meat koay teow th’ng has all the requisite qualities to satisfy the most traditional and fussiest Teochew gourmet’s palate: a clear, savoury broth, fine & smooth-textured rice noodles, bouncy fishballs, well-poached duck-meat, good quality sliced fishcakes, and soft duck’s blood jelly. Pork-lard and crisp, golden-fried lardons and finely-chopped scallions complete the best bowl of rice noodles one can taste this side of the island.
The stall used up dozens of whole poached ducks daily.
Cecil Street Market on the 7-Road-Precinct is a veritable goldmine of good hawker eats in Penang. Other stalls to look out for there are the Mee Jawa stall by Mdm Loh Poh Kuan who’d been there for over 20 years, and the Lam Mee stall by Mdm See Ewe Nah, who’d been there for nearly 40 years.