Writing about kway teow th'ng (KTT) last week has caused it to haunt me relentlessly since, and considering I'm incarcerated in Sydney for the foreseeable future, it's an execrable state in which to find one's greedy self. The deliriously pleasurable flavours the silken, almost translucent, noodles yield when they are coated with a voluptuous broth that's conversely so light and lilting it's almost ephemeral cannot be overstated. And so, as I perspire (yes, I know ladies are meant to glow, but then again, ladies weren't meant to suffer the Australian summer without the dignified crutch of air-conditioning) in this heat wave and dream in futility of KTT, the least I can do to assuage the pain of my culinary deprivation is to share some of my favourite KTT haunts with you, in the hope that you too shall find comfort, sustenance, and gustatory pleasure in this dish that's so near and dear to my heart.
The deliriously pleasurable flavours the silken, almost translucent, noodles yield when they are coated with a voluptuous broth that's conversely so light and lilting it's almost ephemeral cannot be overstated
Unquestionably perched at the top of the podium with no fear of being usurped anytime soon has to be the KTT at Soon Yuen (25, Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Penang). Here, the broth fiercely rivals the homemade fish balls for centre stage, and while I'd be inclined to call it a draw, there is much to be said for a show-stopping broth which doesn't depend on the usual crutch of MSG for its supreme umami properties. Instead, it's the duck, pork, and chicken bones that have been patiently boiled for hours that are instrumental in producing a soup that's concurrently discreet but utterly memorable. Still, I'd be loath to dismiss the fish balls because they too yield an acquiescent, but never mealy, bite that's truly heavenly. Made with wolf herring flesh and light years away from the springy commercially produced fish balls that unfailingly remind me of machine dispensed RM1 toy rubber balls, these are little pillows of heaven, the kind angels would unhesitatingly lay their heads upon after a weary day of throwing fairy dust down on humanity.
Because stocks run out quick—I've arrived at 9am only to be bitterly disappointed before—the wait can be prohibitive. All I can say is fortune favours the patient, and fortuitously, the exceedingly good chee cheong fun stall there is more than adequate as a pre-KTT distraction. When you place your order for KTT however, do remember not to err on the side of caution. It's always prudent to order more—the portions are, after all, rather modest—and don't let anyone tell you that you won't need the extra bowl of fish balls and soup, because, trust me, you will.
It's the duck, pork, and chicken bones that have been patiently boiled for hours that are instrumental in producing a soup that's concurrently discreet but utterly memorable at soon yuen.
If you're now fully hooked, then you should, in the interests of research, also try the other legendary KTT stall in Carnavon Street. Still called Pitt Street KTT (183 Carnavon Street, 9am-4.30pm closed Sun/Mon) after their previous address, the KTT here is comparable with Soon Yuen because the fish balls, which used to be handmade by the son but have since been outsourced thanks to their business going gangbusters and the resulting gargantuan volume of meat that had to be skinned and grounded, are exemplary but made with eel meat. Tender, with not a vestige of bounce, they're worthy rivals for Soon Yuen's version.
The second superlative factor in Pitt Street's KTT are the pork fillets that are made by hand by the proprietress. Rather more distinctive than the usual bak chor or minced pork balls that are served at other establishments, the fillets here are fine and very limited so get there early if you like your KTT with this porcine accoutrement.
Topped with lashings of duck meat and a chilli condiment that includes their secret ingredients, one bowl of pitt street's ktt is more than likely not enough to scratch the itch.
As with everything else at this temple to KTT, the soup is painstakingly made from scratch with a whole duck and mammoth pork bones in the wee small hours of the morning and then simmered for hours to yield the unmistakeable voluptuous flavour that fans have come to know and love. Topped with lashings of duck meat and a chilli condiment that includes their secret ingredients, one bowl is more than likely not enough to scratch the itch. And in case you've got room in your belly, or want to tapau, do also include their homemade biscuits—the walnut cookies or hap tou sou is yummy—in your bounty. Just remember to keep your clothes baggy on these KTT forays, because it will ensure you stay comfortable even as your tummy threatens to explode.