Koay Teow Theng (阿海粿條汤) Kedai Makanan Kim Lee – Macalister Lane
In George Town, Penang, the locals love a soupy Koay Teow Theng (阿海粿條汤) as much as they love Char Koay Teow (炒粿條).
The street food culture is protected by a bastion of invincible hawkers like Khaw Khar Hai, fondly known as Uncle Ah Hai.
He is 84 and has been dishing up steaming bowls of soupy Koay Teow Theng since I was a child.
Old-timers like Uncle Ah Hai take pride in keeping with traditional recipes, cooking and preparing food as it should be.
Uncle Ah Hai’s Indomitable Spirit
His indomitable spirit is the reminiscence of American author Ernest Hemingway’s novel,
The Old Man and the Sea.
He struggles not with a giant marlin but with old age as he prepares and plies his trade daily alone since 1970.
The Koay Teow Th’ng Original Stall
His original stall was at Siew Fong Lye Coffee shop on Burma Road for 16 years before Hong Leong Bank bought over the pre-war houses and built a new 4-Storey Office Block.
I remember Uncle Ah Hai as a child from the old Hainanese Kopitiam, Hai Onn, on Jalan Burma.
He was there for 20 years before shifting to Kim Lee Coffee Shop, a pre-war building at Lorong MacAlister, where he has been operating for the past decade.
His Koay Teow Th’ng stall has been in this vicinity since the Japanese Occupation from his father’s time.
The Koay Teow Th’ng Soup Stock is made from scratch.
Slowly but surely, he starts his morning by making a sweet soup broth from simmering old hens, duck, the pork bone, and white turnips.
The result is a traditionally deep, full-bodied soup that is delicious and cannot be replicated from a stock cube.
This soup is the base for George Town’s old-time perennial favorite, the bland, pale-looking noodle dish Koay Teow Th’ng.
Uncle Ah Hai is perpetually almost bent over with old age.
He still toils to set up his stall. He prepares the ingredients, cooks, cleans, and washes up by himself.
The Ingredients for Koay Teow Th’ng
The simple Koay Teow Theng is served with shredded meats, organ meats, and fish balls. It is garnished with chopped scallions, a bit of garlic-infused lard oil.
Other condiments are light soy sauce, sliced green chili padi, and a dash of white pepper.
A must-try simple soft comfort food that’s delicious and light.
Give this a try before Uncle Ah Hai retires one day.
Penang would have lost yet another excellent heritage noodle dish.
Update: Uncle Ah Hai has passed on. A couple runs the stall now, and the taste is not quite the same anymore.
I’m glad I had my bowl of Koay Teow Th’ng about a year before he passed on.
May he rest in peace.
Ah Hai Koay Teow Theng | Kedai Makanan Kim Lee, 100, Lorong Macalister, Penang (behind Hong Leong Bank Jalan Burma) | Business Hours: 7.30 am to 1.30 pm (Mon-Sun)