Malay street food : Koay teow th’ng (Fishball noodle soup)


After grazing our way through some other areas of Malaysia we made our way up to Georgetown, Penang (or Pinang), lauded as the food capital of Asia, street food mecca, whatever. We had high hopes. 

Penang is world famous for having a cultural melting pot of Indian, Chinese and Malay population who all contributed to the culinary landscape.
Penang did not disappoint, in fact it was probably better than expected – One thing; if you’re planning on eating like it’s your last week alive don’t visit during the lunar new year festivities.

Koay teow soup is yet another example of chinese food history being eaten on a daily basis on the streets of Penang in hawker stalls and kopitiams.

Many hawker stalls open early and koay  teow soup is a popular breakfast in Penang, although it’s popularity is increasing and vendors sell it in the afternoons and evenings, too.

 Koay teow, or fishball noodle soup and a perfect way to start the day in Penang.

Clear fresh soup broth is added to blanched rice noodles, with fishballs, sliced pork meat, chopped spring onions (scallions, salad onions, whatever) coriander, crispy fried garlic and sometimes beansprouts.

The quality of the vendor will depend on the ingredients, often hawkers will also sell similar noodle soup dishes such as wantan mee which use the same core ingredients. There are several kopitiams and hawkers in Penang whose popularity is gauged on the quality of their home made fishballs – which should be full of flavour and soft to the touch and bite. Some of the more popular vendors make their fishballs by hand using eel, often a skill and recipe going back generations.

For backpackers staying around the Love Lane and Lebuh Chulia area I can recommend a nice husband and wife hawker team on the corner of Lebuh’s Carnavon & Chulia who knocks out Koay Teow th’ng & Wantan mee next to a another hawker who serves pork noodle delights such as char hor fun all for a handful of ringgits (less than one pound) per serve. Cheap and tasty breakfast options.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry


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