KEPONG, Jan 8 — When it comes to Penang street food, whatever that is replicated in Kuala Lumpur is often a pale shadow of the original. Aware of this fact and a little homesick for that taste of the North, Teh Choon Hooi, 46, decided to open Penang Corner in Kepong about three years ago.
He adds, “In Kuala Lumpur, we cannot get used to the taste of the noodles as it is different compared to Penang.”
Together with his wife, Leong Lai Peng, 35, he runs the place that serves up the real deal pork noodles, white curry mee, assam laksa and prawn mee, just like how they make it in Penang.
There are also an assortment of stalls that sell various things that Penang is famous for: char kway teow, fruit rojak, lorbak and chee cheong fun with a pungent prawn paste sauce. Also sharing the space is Fatty Loong ais kacang, a Kepong stalwart who has been around for 30 years.
Hailing from the neighbourhood of Air Itam, Teh previously was in the goldsmith line. A zest for a change of scene led him to Kuala Lumpur. As he likes to eat and experiment in the kitchen, he decided to start a food stall.
In the early days of his career, he had a pork noodles stall in Penang. That particular dish is also served here where the highlight is a flat largish piece of minced pork patty known as yok sui in Penang (KL-lites call it yok pang) that top each bowl of noodles.
The texture of the patty is perfect as it has just the right balance of pork fat and meat, all finely chopped together. It is a relatively simple dish but full of satisfaction especially when it’s accompanied with their comforting pork broth, pork balls, pork slices and a decadent sprinkle of lard fritters.
Teh explains that he uses a mix of pork bones — including the bigger ones — boiled over a low fire for one hour to extract all its goodness for the pork broth.
A signature of Penang Corner is their white curry mee. Teh introduced this when the whole country fell under the spell of the MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodles. The instant noodle sensation made a bowl of white curry mee incredibly sought after among KL-lites.
Each bowl of the white curry mee is topped with sliced cuttlefish, prawns and coagulated pig’s blood cut into cubes. Its pale white colour is because of a mix of coconut milk and evaporated milk.
The key to the delicious curry mee is their house-made chilli paste that is fragrant and spicy. Teh elaborates that the paste needs about six hours to be slowly cooked over a small fire for it to be fragrant. It also has a whopping 10 ingredients that includes items like garlic, shallots, dried shrimps, lemongrass, galangal and his special mixture of chilli boh with chilli powder.
The keen cook also took about three months to tweak the recipe before he got it right. Persistence on his part paid off, as the white curry mee is a must-order for their customers.
Teh also serves up bowls of piping hot assam laksa. Laden with chopped cili padi or bird’s eye chillies, each spoonful of that murky brown broth packs a spicy punch and a sourish taste. The taste resembles the Malay style laksa that will burn your tongue as you eat the slippery rice noodles, pieces of ikan kembung and an assortment of cucumbers, pineapple, onions, fresh mint leaves and shredded cabbage.
During the weekends, crowds trickle in for their special prawn mee or Hokkien mee as it is known to Penangites. Some of them, according to Teh, are homesick Penangites or even those from Northern states like Kedah.
Since it takes a lot of work to prepare the broth, Teh only reserves it for Saturday and Sunday. As it used to run out by 10am, nowadays Teh makes more portions of the prawn mee.
Prepared a day ahead, the broth uses a whopping 40 kilograms of prawn shells and heads. It is stir fried and boiled with pork bones for two hours to extract its rich umami flavours.
Teh also adds his own twist to the broth — fresh flower crabs that impart a sweet seafood taste to the broth. Unlike the curry mee, this recipe didn’t take long to perfect and the prawn mee together with his first creation, the pork noodles, are Teh’s personal favourite dishes.
Each bowl of prawn mee with kangkung is topped with a soy braised hard boiled egg, shucked prawns, fishcake slices, lean pork slices and fried shallot crisps.
If you are hankering for an excellent Penang style chee cheong fun, look for the stall run by Eric Looi that is open from 8am to 2pm. Previously attached to Shangri-La Rasa Sayang’s pastry kitchen, he relocated to Kuala Lumpur about four years ago.
On the side he is also a gym instructor and trades in chemicals. He joined Teh and his wife at the shop, finding common ground as fellow Penangites.
The thick pungent sauce is inspired by the famous Genting Coffee Shop in Island Glades. What makes the sauce exceptional is a touch of creamy peanut butter mingling with the thick fragrant prawn paste (heh ko) specially brought in from Penang.
Eric credits his son for the recipe since he is mad about chee cheong fun. Eric insists on only the best items from Penang; the chee cheong fun is accompanied with thim cheong or sweet sauce brought in from Pulau Tikus and topped with deep fried shallots crisps made from the fragrant Indian rose shallots. The true blue Penangite also bought his white melamine plates from Penang!
His stall also sells lorbak specially brought in from Penang island every five to six days. There is also chai kuih filled with various vegetables made by a person who hails from Bukit Mertajam who has since relocated to Kuala Lumpur. Unlike the versions served locally, this snack has a less sweet taste. You can also find steamed taro cake here.
Don’t forget to also order the char kway teow fried by Song Chin Lye, 53. The affable Song is a friend of Teh’s from Air Itam and he has been frying up the noodles for around eight years.
Previously he used to work in a eatery that served siu chow dishes. Prior to coming over to Kepong, he was frying his signature dish at Gardens Hotel in Mid Valley. You will find slices of Chinese waxed sausages, fishcake, prawns and cockles mingling with strands of the piping hot flat rice noodles and eggs. The cockles aren’t the ones that are pre-shucked as you can see Song shucking them when he is free.
Starting from 11am onwards up to 10pm, you can get a bowl of ais kacang from Fatty Loong’s stall. It’s run by Yip Yat Cheng, 60, who inherited the place about 30 years ago from his mother.
Previously located at the food court behind Jalan Imbi, the stall relocated to Kepong about 20 years ago. Each bowl of fluffy shaved ice is drizzled with their signature thick shiny brown syrup made from gula Melaka.
According to Yip, the thick syrup is made from palm sugar sourced from a regular supplier in Malacca. It is slowly cooked with pandan leaves to give it added fragrance. Dig deep into the bowl to discover cooked small red beans. You can also have cendol, grass jelly and creamed corn poured all over the refreshing dessert. Nowadays, Yip’s son and daughter help out at the place.
Another Kepong regular is the fruit rojak stall run by Sally Lok, 47. It’s open from 11am to 10pm. Previously a trader of children’s clothes and shoes in the pasar malam, she switched to peddling fruit rojak about seven years ago since it is easier.
The recipe was taught to her by a Penang relative and uses a sauce she brings in from the state as it tastes different from the ones available locally. Her stall also offers crunchy sotong kangkung or blanched cuttlefish and greens topped with a sauce that is made from thick shrimp paste (heh ko), sweet sauce and sambal.
Gerai 28B, Jalan Besar
Open: 8am to 4pm
Closed on alternate Mondays.
Take note that the various stalls have different operating times.