Nearly four decades old, Ah Leng Char Koay Teow is one of the top purveyors of char koay teow (fried flat rice noodles) in Penang. The very popular Penang-style char koay teow is much sought after across Malaysia and Singapore, and is lighter and packed with fresh prawns and cockles compared to stodgier versions elsewhere.
Ah Leng Char Koay Teow is located in the large, mainly Chinese township of Ayer Itam, about 5 miles away from George Town. In the old days, Ayer Itam in the foothills of the island’s main mountain range was a war-time refuge during the Japanese invasion in World War II. These days, the rapid urbanisation of metropolitan George Town has caused the city to blend right into Ayer Itam township. But Ayer Itam still maintains much of its small-town feel.
Ah Leng’s stall on Lorong Zoo 6, off Zoo Road, is located in a quiet corner of the otherwise densely-populated town:
77-year-old Teoh Koon Leng aka “Ah Leng” is the same age as his great rival, Siam Road’s Tan Chooi Hong ([Penang] Siam Road Char Koay Teow at No. 82 Siam Road, off Anson Road). Both are Teochews and experts in their respective art of frying koay teow. But their methods differ: Ah Leng’s char koay teow is wetter, and he doesn’t sear or char his noodles.
Ah Leng is usually assisted by his daughter, Chye Hong, who takes the orders from the customers and serves out the plates of char koay teow.
Ah Leng is a consummate perfectionist - he fries each portion of koay teow (flat rice noodles) individually in lard, throwing in eggs, prawns, cockles, beansprouts, and chives, then adds in two types of pre-mixed seasoning sauce blends (family secret recipe) and chili paste.
Ah Leng’s char koay teow is one of the tastiest I’d had in Penang - his milder, moister version differs markedly from those produced by Penang’s other top char koay teow spots. He barely cooks his very fresh, de-shelled prawns, serving them just-seared on the outside and still bouncy.
Ah Leng operates only in the evenings, 5pm to 11pm Mon, Thu to Sun. He’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Ah Leng Char Koay Teow
Lorong Zoo 6, 11500 Ayer Itam, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6012498 3962
Opening hours: 5pm-10pm daily, except Tue & Wed. Call ahead to reconfirm as Ah Leng sometimes takes unannounced off-days.