Penang, Malaysia - Search for the Best Koay Teow Soup
Koay teow soup (locally called "koay teow th'ng" by Penang's largely Hokkien-Chinese populace) is the quintessential noodle soup dish. Characteristics of the dish include; texture of the flat white, rice noodles used, subtlety/taste of the characteristically clear, porky consomme used, quality & of the ingredients/accompaniments (minced pork, various parts of pig/chicken/duck), and how the whole ensemble comes together to form a delightful, perfect meal-in-a-bowl.
Thus far, I'd had 2 very good koay teow soup at:
1. Kek Seng Coffeeshop, 382/384 Penang Road (Opening hours: 8am - 5pm). This 100+ year old coffeeshop still serves one of the best versions of koay teow soup I've tried anywhere in Penang. Its version includes a tasty slab of minced pork, slivers of pig's blood, chicken livers/kidney, fish balls, pork liver, pig's intestines, beansprouts, bits of Chinese lettuce, and very fine, thin, flat rice noodles. The noodle dish is finished off with a topping of crisp-fried garlic & pork lard. Beautiful!
2. Hai Oan Restaurant, 53/55 Burmah Road (Opening hours: 8am - 2pm. Closed Mondays). Their koay teow soup is simpler: good quality chopped pork (not minced), and fishballs made from eel-meat. Also topped off with golden crisp-fried garlic/lard oil. Great tasting soup, koay teow noodles are thicker than Kek Seng's - I preferred my noodles thinner. Still, it's extremely popular amongst Penang's foodies & food bloggers - to each, his/her own taste, I supposed.
Both koay teow soup stalls are run by 3rd-generation family members, and the cooks have had decades of experience in dishing out these delicious noodles. Yum!
The search goes on for the best koay teow soup in Penang ...
My search for Penang's best koay teow soup took me to Ping Hooi Cafe, at the corner of Carnarvon Street and Malay Street, this morning. That shop was insanely popular during weekdays & packed to the rafters during breakfast & lunch hours. The crowd seemed more manageable during my Sunday morning visit.
Ping Hooi's koay teow soup was blander than the other versions I'd tried, and so was the minced pork (I'd have preferred if they added garlic & salt to the minced pork), but the pork balls were delicious, and the pig's liver was perfect - barely cooked on the inside & very earthy in taste. Skip the fishballs though - too fishy :-( The cut red chillis & soysauce dip had finely-chopped garlic added, nice touch.
Yes, I'd been to Seng Thor's. The old man cooks his koay teow th'ng individually in a small pot, so one needs to wait very patiently. That said, his version has a tasty, earthy feel with the addition of perfectly-cooked pig's liver, still faintly pink, in addition to minced pork, springy pork balls, fishballs and golden-crisp lardons. But my fave remained Kek Seng's so far, with Pitt St's in second place.
Seng Thor Coffee Shop
160 Carnarvon St (corner with Kimberley St)
Hai Oan's koay teow tng is a branch of the famous Pitt Street shop and is definitely one of the most famous ones in Penang. Actually, the original Pitt Street one has moved to Carnarvon Street last year but it still maintain its name, with a large banner in front which says "Pitt Street Koay Teow T'ng" and photos of VIPs, including Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, dining in there.
My personal favourite koay teowt'ng is in the shophouse at Jalan Bawasah, near the corner with Penang Plaza and right behind Royal Hotel. Very nice minced pork.
Next time you're in Penang, drop me an email and we can have a Chowhound meet together with other Penang food bloggers. I'll be in Penang most of this year except July to Sep (in Japan to visit son's family).