GEORGE TOWN, Dec 29 — Like most Malaysians studying abroad, Thomas Tang had a craving for the food of his hometown. Penang’s white curry noodles, to be precise.
This dish is probably unique to Penang. The broth is seafood-based with local spices and chillies for added zing.
The whole thing is balanced out by creamy coconut milk so it has a smooth rich flavour. Thus, the name “white curry.”
But Tang’s craving was not for just any white curry noodles... it had to be his mother’s home-cooked version.
And that yearning for the taste of home is how the wildly successful MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodles came to be.
Tang, who co-founded Sky Thomas Food Industries Sdn Bhd, decided to do more research on packaging one of Penang’s most-loved hawker fare so that it could be brought overseas.
In 2011, Sky Thomas Food Industries was established under the Sky Resources Group of Companies with an initial investment of RM1 million as a manufacturer of MyKuali instant pastes for a variety of dishes from Hainan chicken rice to satay chicken paste.
It was only in May this year that the manufacturer introduced the MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodles before it became an almost overnight sensation with packets of the instant noodles being snapped up faster than they could be produced.
The packaged instant noodles have become so popular in Penang that people get excited when they spot a few packets for sale. Yes, this in the city where the real thing can be eaten anytime.
Each packet of the MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodle comes with a sachet of non-dairy creamer along with a packet of chilli paste and soup powder. The chilli paste is made from fish stock, shrimp paste, spices and chillies and is very similar to the “sambal” used by hawkers.
“When we launched it in May, our daily production was 250 cartons per day but after it was listed under the Top Ten Spiciest Instant Noodles of All Time 2013 by The Ramen Rater, demand increased tremendously,” Thomas said in an email interview.
The Ramen Rater is a popular American blog which reviews instant noodles of all kinds.
Now, the small-medium industry (SMI) has to produce 1,500 cartons per day, which is almost a 600 per cent increase in production.
The demand for the noodles is so high that the company, which previously operated from a small SMI lot, had to move its packing production line to larger premises under Sky Resources temporarily.
“We had initially projected a sales revenue of RM500,000 per month from the instant pastes and noodles but it surpassed our expectations as our sales revenue hit RM1.5 million per month,” he said.
He attributed this high demand for the white curry instant noodles to the quality ingredients used in the curry paste.
“It is all in the ingredients used as we use more than 30 different types of natural, traditional ingredients to make the paste so that we can give our consumers the original Penang white curry noodles taste,” he said.
The formula, in fact, is based on his mother’s recipe; she has cooked white curry noodles for the family for the past 20 years.
“I missed my mother’s curry noodles the most when I was overseas, that is why I wanted to package it so that it can be brought everywhere and using my mother’s recipe,” Tang said.
He added that it is also his way of sharing one of Penang’s most famous hawker foods with the world.
Due to the high demand, the MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodles will now be made available at more supermarkets and hypermarkets from January.
“Currently, the instant noodles are only available at selected local supermarkets, mini markets and wet markets but due to the high demand, the noodles will be available at Giant and Cold Storage throughout the country from next year onwards,” he said.
The instant noodles and pastes are now also being exported to Australia, UK, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Next year also marks the introduction of two more MyKuali instant noodle flavours, MyKuali Penang Hokkien Prawn Noodles and Penang Style Tom Yum Noodles.
“With these two new products, we are projecting a sales revenue of RM4 million per month,” Tang, who is also the Sky Thomas Food Industries’ marketing manager, said.
The manufacturer, with only 50 employees now, is also expanding in order to increase production so a new plant is now underway.
“Our new plant in Bukit Minyak will be ready in mid-2014,” he said.
It is learnt that the manufacturer is now developing a Penang Laksa Noodles flavour, which will be introduced in the near future.
They intend to produce more Penang flavours and turn the line of instant noodles and pastes into a “must-have” item for tourists to bring home a taste of Penang.