Century-old secret to tasty broth

Darren (right) got full support from his father, Kenny (left) when he decided to start selling kuey teow thng six years ago.

PENANG kuey teow soup, better known as kuey teow thng, is a staple comfort food and breakfast option on the island. However, in the Klang Valley, it faces stiff competition from the likes of pork noodles and pan mee.

Key ingredients for kuey teow thng include boiled sliced meat (usually chicken, duck or pork), vegetables, kuey teow, fried garlic and of course, the soup — this is why the broth plays an important role.

One of the two men behind the heart-warming bowls of kuey teow thng served at Restoran Hock Seng Kopitiam at Ara Damansara is Penang-born Kenny Tung Keow Ping.

His family, the Tungs, founded one of the oldest Chinese coffeeshops on the island; the 114-year-old Penang Road Kek Seng coffeeshop. Kenny, 62, came out of retirement six years ago to make the soup when his son Darren Tung Sheng Fuh decided to start selling kuey teow thng.

“The key to a bowl of kuey teow thng is the soup. You cannot make good kuey teow thng if you do not invest long hours to make the broth tasty.

“Our broth is boiled for six hours, from 10pm to 4am. Throughout the night, I check on it at least four times to ensure the temperature is right.

“The recipe that I use is my grandfather’s and my father taught me how to make the soup. Also, we only use aluminium pots.

“Some people think you can just put it on high heat to make the process faster, but that way, you will not get a good broth, ” said Kenny who worked as a sales and marketing manager prior to his retirement.

The kuey teow thng at Restoran Hock Seng Kopitiam comes with a generous portion of sliced chicken, duck and pork as well as fish balls and fish cakes. The dish was simple yet flavourful.The Penang-style kuey teow thng is served with a generous portion of sliced chicken, duck and pork as well as fish balls and fish cakes. — Photos: SAMUEL ONG/The StarThe Penang-style kuey teow thng is served with a generous portion of sliced chicken, duck and pork as well as fish balls and fish cakes. — Photos: SAMUEL ONG/The Star

A bowl is priced at RM6.50. Those with a bigger appetite can opt for a larger bowl at RM7.50 each.

Six years ago, Darren decided to make a career change from selling imported furniture to making kuey teow thng. It seemed rather drastic but it was a decision which Kenny supported.

Now Darren runs the coffeeshop with a partner while Kenny mans the kuey teow thng stall.

“I told Darren that it is vital to have skills such as cooking and business management.

“These days, everybody has a master’s degree or PhD. We need relevant experience to stand out, ” said Kenny.

Darren explained that he got into the food business because his family members were good cooks.

“My father is good at cooking the broth and my mother used to run a hawker stall.

“Since we have good recipes, I decided to continue the family legacy, ” said 35-year-old Darren.

Darren also shared the struggles he faced during the first six months of doing business.

The family used to live in a high-rise building. This meant having to carry a big pot of broth through narrow pathways and staircases before it could be loaded into a car to be transported to the stall.

He joked about feeling like entertainer Jay Chou having to balance a cup of water in his car while drifting in Hong Kong drama Initial D.

“It was like a scene in Initial D. Instead of a cup of water, I had to ensure the broth did not spill out of the big pot!

“Once, I hit the emergency brake of my car and the broth spilled all over my carpet.

“My car smelled like kuey teow thng for a week after that, ” he laughed.

The family has since moved to a landed property which makes transporting the broth less of a hassle. Another challenge was the fact that kuey teow thng was not a popular dish among Klang Valley folk initially.

“It was only after nine months that people started to appreciate our kuey teow thng.

“I also experimented with yee mee and instant noodles as suggested by customers but ultimately, I decided that kuey teow was the most suitable.

“There was a lot of trial and error, ” said Darren.

They now sell about 100 bowls of kuey teow thng a day on weekdays. On weekends, it can reach 130 bowls.

Those who prefer slurping kuey teow separately from the soup can opt for the dry version.

Personally, I prefer kuey teow thng as I enjoyed eating it when growing up in Penang.

The father and son’s kuey teow thng reminds me of home.

When asked what was his secret to running a successful coffeeshop, Darren attributed it to having a heart to serve good food.

“In this business, we have to stand most of the time. There is barely any time to sit down and rest.

“But I really don’t mind. I love the idea of being able to serve food that can put a smile on customers’ faces. It makes me happy.

“If you want to succeed, you really need to have a heart to cook and serve good food, ” said Darren.

Restoran Hock Seng Kopitiam opens from 6am to 4pm daily, except for the first two days of the second week of each month.

It is located at C-G-1 Block C, Jalan PJU 1a/20b,

Dataran Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

For details, call 013-3935810 or 011-11343212.

Note that in light of the Covid-19 movement control until March 31, the eatery will only accept takeaway orders.

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