Koey Teow Th’ng is a type of noodle soup using a flat rice noodle, and is one of my favourite breakfast meals in Malaysia. Usually sold as a simple dish of broth and noodles with varying amounts of garnishings, it is nevertheless packed with flavour and a great way to start the day. I first ate it at Pulau Tikus market on an especially hot morning. At the time, the market had very little in the way of air conditioning, and so I wasn’t really looking forward to a piping hot bowl of soup on top of the temperature, but as soon as I tried my first spoonful all cares about the heat left my mind. So much flavour was loaded into the broth that my taste buds were instantly roused from their slumber, and were eager to try more. Unfortunately, I was sweating so much that my chopstick were slick, and I found it difficult to get ahold of the noodles!
When looking up recipes for Koey Teow Th’ng I was amazed at how simple it seemed to make. Surely it must take a lot of effort to crowbar so much flavour into a soup? But no, remarkably it really is easy to make this tasty dish. For my version I’m using both pork ribs and chicken thighs, however the recipe is adaptable, so if you want to go pork-free you can just use more chicken. Likewise if you think the pork will be enough you can omit the thighs. I’ve noticed that amongst the hawkers that sell this dish they all have their own different additions to the dish, such as vegetables and fish balls. I’m going for the full-liao experience in my recipe.
Ang Moh’s Koey Teow Th’ng Recipe
Serves 6, or 4 Malaysians
1kg pork ribs
2-4 chicken thighs, skinless, and preferably with the bone still in
2 cloves of garlic, smashed in a pestle and mortar
3 litres of water
1 tsp ground white pepper
3 tsp salt (to taste) please note that I prefer using sea salt when cooking, it tends to have a more complex taste and has less sodium than rock salt
150-200g fish balls, cooked as per instructions
A few stalks of choi sum or similar green vegetable
100g koey teow noodles per person, prepared as per instructions if needed
First off, make sure you have a large pot that can contain around 4 litres of liquid. If not, off to the shop you go!
Add a splash of oil to your pot, bring it up to heat on medium-high, and brown off your pork ribs for a couple of minutes. Don’t worry if you get some brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. After a couple of minutes of browning, add a small amount of water (about 100ml) to the pot, and stir around to deglaze. This ensures the flavour from the residue on the bottom of the pot gets incorporated into the broth. Add the rest of the water and bring the lot to the boil.
Next, add in the smashed garlic, ground white pepper and about half of the salt. Put the lid on the pot and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Then, add in the chicken thighs, bring back up to the boil, then cover and leave to simmer for another 30 minutes. Now give it a taste, and add the rest of the salt if you feel it needs it. At this point I will now cover the pot and leave it overnight for the flavour to develop. I encourage you to do the same, but if you’re in a hurry or very hungry the broth can be eaten now.
Whether you’ve left it overnight or are rushing things, you should now take out the pork ribs and chicken thighs and put them aside on a plate. If you wish, you can now sieve the broth. It’s not necessary, but I think it looks better, and the first bite of any dish is taken with the eyes! Strip the meat from the pork ribs and cut into bite sized portions, and then do the same with the chicken thighs, and put the meat aside. Bring the stock back up to the boil, and if you’re adding some veggies to your dish then use the stock to cook them.
Now it’s time to dish up! Place your portion of noodles in a serving bowl and top with some pork, chicken, fish balls and veggies, and then ladle some of your stock over it all until you have the desired amount. For extra flavour, I get a packet of pork scratchings and break them up in a pestle and mortar, and then sprinkle some on top of the bowl.