Koay teow soup

Koay teow (flat thin rice noodle) th’ng (soup) is the favourite food for Penang people we can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The noodles are usually blanched first, then garnished with parboiled pork or chicken meat, sliced fish cakes, fish balls and a sprinkling of chopped scallions and some golden crisp-fried chopped garlic in oil.

Grandma’s koay teow soup method is a combination of pork bones, chicken, chicken feet’s, ikan bilis (dried anchovy) and duck. Her protein garnishing’s are chicken meat, chicken innards, fish balls. The soup looks plain but it packs a full delicious sweet savoury umami punch. The specialty of all koay teow th’ng is not in the soup, it not in the koay teow but is the fish balls. The fish balls are specially made by the owners themselves and of course contain secret recipe that make the fish balls delicious.

I can’t find the authentic cooking here even though we do have them in restaurants. I am making it with chicken drumsticks soup base that my mother had taught me, remembering grandma added ikan bilis. I have added pork and balls, fish cakes and chicken meat, and must have golden crisp-fried chopped garlic in oil for garnishing. In addition, I have added bean shoots and Thai basil leaves. The soup is delicious, comforting with each mouthful bring me back to my memoirs of truly having authentic koay teow soup in Malaysia, Penang. Hopefully one day, I can go back and eat it every day. Let’s cook!!!


2 packets koay teow
1-2 packet fish cakes
2 packets fish balls
2 packets pork balls

Drumsticks stock

18 drumsticks
6 c water, just enough to cover the drumsticks slightly above 1”
6 garlic cloves
2 c extra water (OPT)
1 Tsp chicken powder stock (OPT)
2” fresh ginger
6-8 ikan bilis (dried anchovies)
1 Tsp oil
black peppercorns


40 g chopped garlic
1/8 c vegetables oil
bean shoots
Thai basil
12-14 small red chili, cut thinly
soy sauce


In a pot, add drumsticks, 6 c water and bring it to a simmer on low heat about 35 minutes. As it simmers, skim the foam (impurities) off the top with a fine-mesh skimmer or a spoon. Soak ikan bilis in water for about 5 minutes. Discard water and rinse a few times and dry in paper towel. Add oil and ikan bilis into a deep pot cook until ikan bilis turn brown. When time up 35 minutes simmering drumsticks stock, strain stock through sieve into the cooked ikan bilis pot (I usually line it with a muslin cloth).

Add remaining stock ingredients into pot with drumsticks and lower the heat to simmer very gently for 1-2.5 hours. The longer the stock, the more flavour it will have, but the drumsticks will lose flavour. Remove the drumsticks from the pot once it has cooked. Remove stems of bean shoots and wash Thai basil leaves and set aside.

Next soak koay teow in lukewarm water 10 minutes, drain; peel apart into individual strands. Put some koay teow into bowls set aside. Put oil and chopped garlic in a deep bowl with a saucer and microwaves it 30 seconds for 3-4 times, stir in between until garlic is golden crispy. Don’t burn it and be careful, oil will splutter, I use a plate to cover the bowl.

Let drumsticks cool and remove meat from bones. Add in 2 extra cup of water and powder stock into stock for more flavour. Bring it to boil for about 15 minutes and check seasoning. Add fish and pork balls and fish cakes into the soup and cook for about 2-4 minutes. I used ready-made fish and pork balls, which are usually pre-cooked, so this part is just to reheat them till pork and fish balls puff up in size and fish cakes slices floats to the surface of the soup. Remove and place them in the koay teow bowl to serve along with a few pieces of chicken meat.

Reheat in microwaves each bowl for about 1 minutes. Ladle 2 ladles or more soup into the ready filled bowls. Add bean shoots and Thai basil leaves. Spoon the golden crisp-fried chopped garlic in oil, for my bowl I added one basil stem with leaves in the middle for presentation. Serve immediately with a glass of white wine. Enjoy!!!!

Note: Keep chicken pieces extra in an airtight container in fridge for 2-4 days. To have more stock for next day or two add in 1-2 extra cup of water and 1 -2 Tsp powder stock into stock. Bring it to boil and check seasoning. Switch off hob. If you have leftover stock and when the stock had cool completely, spoon into sterilized jars with tight lids, label name and date make before you refrigerate them.

When you want the chicken pieces, use a clean dry spoon to scoop the amount you want. You can add the chicken pieces with anything. At least you have ready cook meat. Save you time. You can freeze them if you want to keep them for more than 4 weeks to 6 weeks. You can add more fish and pork balls and fish cakes and lettuce or buk choy. You can omit Thai basil.