[Penang, Malaysia] ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฏ ๐— ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜† ๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐˜ Koay Teow Th'ng and Koay Chiap

The Malay Street Koay Teow Thโ€™ng is one of the most popular in Penang. Its Chinese signage says โ€œBehind the Cow 113โ€, a reference to its address at No 113 Malay Street, which is known in Hokkien as โ€œTai Gu Auโ€, i.e. โ€œBehind the Cattle Slaughterhouse Laneโ€.

โ€œKoay teow thโ€™ngโ€ is one of Penangโ€™s most popular street food - a flat noodle in soup dish of Teochew/Chaozhou origins. Itโ€™s a popular breakfast dish, but can actually be eaten throughout the day. The noodles are usually blanched first, then garnished with parboiled pork or duck-meat, sliced fishcakes, fishballs and a sprinkling of chopped scallions and some golden crisp-fried chopped garlic in oil.

Ong Choon Chuan is a second-generation hawker at this stall started by his father, Ong Tooi Hong, over 50 years ago. They moved to this current location on 113 Malay Street just a decade ago.

The version at Malay Street also allows the diner to order side-dishes of braised duckmeat, or duck organs. We ordered a platter of duck livers, duck intestines and other organs, in light duck fat, soy-sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil dressing.

Come early here, as the place is usually packed to the gills by mid-morning. Place your orders with the chef, Ong Choon Chuan, directly - heโ€™s perpetually busy but will remember your order with his amazing memory.

Address
113 Duck-meat Koay Teow Thโ€™ng (ๅฐ็‰›ๅŽ) @ Lebuh Melayu,
113, Lebuh Melayu (Malay Street), 10100 Penang, Malaysia
Operating hours: 6.30am to 11am for โ€œkoay teow thngโ€, 11am to 3pm for โ€œkoay chiapโ€, Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

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Looks really good. I need to connect with you when I ever visit Malaysia!!!

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Any time - always happy to show fellow foodies around.

Local paper, The Malay Mail, has shone the spotlight on 72-year-old Ong Tooi Hongโ€™s koay teow thโ€™ng stall finally:

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Nice soup. I am fond of noodle soup with (fish) balls. I remember eating meat filled fish balls in Fujian and places with a high concentration of Hakkas in Taiwan.

It must be so hot already in April. The cook is drenched in sweat. Itโ€™s only open until noon, I guess the rest of the day he has to make the broth?

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Oh yes, among the Fujianese-Chinese, we recognise meat-filled fishballs as being a Foochow/Hockchiew dish. Historically, Fuzhou, despite it being the capital of Fujian province, is rather isolated geographically from other parts of Fujian, and its local Foochow dialect (็ฆๅทž่ฉฑ) which is Eastern Min, is very different and unintelligible to us Hokkien/Minnan/Southern Min speakers.

The Foochowsโ€™ cuisine is also pretty distinct: their oven-baked meat-filled pastries, their use of red rice wine in cooking, and, of course, their fishballs filled with minced pork.

In Malaysia, there are 3 towns which have majority Foochow populace: Sitiawan in Perak state, Yong Peng in Johore state, and Sibu in Sarawak, Borneo. Malaysians foodies actually go all the way to these cities to seek out Foochow specialties, like the โ€œgong pianโ€ (ๅ…‰้ค…), called โ€œkompiahโ€ in the Foochow dialect, which cannot be found outside those towns.

I have Foochow friends in Penang, and relish being invited to their homes for home-cooked Foochow meals!

As per the Malay Mail article, it seems like they simmer their broth overnight:

โ€œPreparing the broth is the most important partโ€ฆ we have to start cooking at 6pm every evening and leave it to simmer over the embers of a charcoal stove overnight to get the rich, flavourful soup,โ€ he said.

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Thanks, Klyeoh. I always learn something new from you. I was in Fuzhou but only overnight.

I looked up โ€œkompiahโ€. Thought it was popiah, but itโ€™s not.

Any idea what this pastry I ate in Taiwan is called?

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Itโ€™s called hรบjiฤo bวng (่ƒกๆค’้ค…) and is similar to โ€œkompiahโ€. Itโ€™s cooked in a clay oven similar to Indian/Pakistani โ€œtandoorโ€ or Central Asian โ€œtandirโ€ where itโ€™s commonly used in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc. I surmise that this clay oven was first introduced to the Chinese by the Central Asian Uighurs or Mongols.

The โ€œhujiao bingโ€ I had in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a few years ago:

Conversely, the tandoor/tandir could have been introduced by Indian merchants/traders to Quanzhou during its golden era from the 11th- to 14th-century, whence it was a cosmopolitan trading port under the Mongol Empire, with Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists living side-by-side.

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At 11am each day, Ong Choon Chuan packs up his koay teow thng business and turns his stall over to his father, 72-year-old Ong Tooi Hong, to start his koay chiap operations.

Koay chiap, like koay teow, is of Teochew/Chiuchow/Chaozhou origins. Basically flat, white rice noodles but, where koay teow is thin and narrow in dimensions, koay chiap is at least twice thicker, and much broader. Koay chiap is also served in a rich, deep broth, tinged dark-brown from the addition of light/dark soysauce and Chinese herbs.

The koay chiap here is served similar to the style in Singapore, with bowls of noodles in soup accompanied by large platters of duck-meat, braised pigโ€™s intestines, pigโ€™s ear, pigโ€™s blood, hard-boiled eggs and tofu.

Pigโ€™s ear:

Overall, a very rich meal, with deeper flavours compared to the light, blander Singapore variety.

Come early - preferably before noon. The elder Ong operates till 3pm Monday to Saturday, but he usually sells out way before then.

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Day 543 since Malaysia started its Movement Control Order (MCO) back in 18 March 2020.
Ong Choon Chuan, the second-generation hawker at this stall started by his father, Ong Tooi Hong, over 50 years ago, is still going strong with take-outs by his many regular customers. The cafรฉ is still not allowing dining-in because the daily new COVID cases in Penang still averaged around 2,000.

We were back there this morning to order some take-outs for lunch:

  1. Duck-meat koay teow thโ€™ng, with minced pork balls, duck gizzards & fish-balls

  1. Duck intestines, duck-meat and beansprouts in a light soy-duck fat-garlic oil dressing

  2. Soya sauce-braised pigโ€™s intestines

Still, IMO, one of the very best duck-meat koay teow thโ€™ng in Penang. Only the one at Cecil Street Market comes close in terms of flavors and quality of duck-meat produced.

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โ€œFood is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.โ€

โ€• Jonathan Gold