Teochew Fish Noodles

Wong Ah Leong cooking his famous Teochew fish soup
at Leong Kee
 
An enterprising spirit brought Perak born, Wong Ah Leong, 52, to Johor Baru in the 1970s where he and his wife, Chow Kuan Ying, opened a provision shop at Jalan Yahya Aldatar. Their shop served the needs of the neighbourhood until the early 2000s when regular customers started to prefer shopping at hypermarkets and this badly affected their business. To continue making a living and meeting the needs of their three school-going sons, he and his wife had to make some serious decisions.

It was a matter of survival so Wong and his wife started thinking about switching over to operating a food business.  Encouraged by his mother-in-law, who used to run a wantan noodles business, Wong learnt the basics in food service.  Being Cantonese who enjoy good food, Wong and his wife picked up the skills of cooking and serving noodles quite intuitively. 

Wong's wife, Chow Kuan Ying, helps him at Leong Kee
 
By 2008, Wong had gradually phased out the provision shop business to concentrate on serving his noodles.  Around this time, a regular customer who is Teochew and a connoisseur of good food asked him, “Do you want to learn something more?”  Wong did not hesitate to say, “Yes,” and this Teochew friend went on to instruct him in the Teochew way of cooking fish broth to serve authentic Teochew-style fish porridge.

Unlike Cantonese rice porridge where the rice is a fine blend when cooked, for Teochew rice porridge the rice remains as individual grains when it is cooked.  To prepare Yue Peen Chok or rice porridge with fish slices, the porridge is cooked separately before thick slices of fish are added and topped off with a robust fish broth.  Wong explained that the secret lies in the preparation of the Teochew fish broth which is tinged with the distinct tangy taste of salted vegetables, ginger and tomatoes.

Yue Peen Chok or rice porridge with fish slices
 
Wong said that his Teochew friend gave him the cooking instructions only once and he went on to improve it with his own ingredients.  When he had mastered the art of making authentic Teochew fish porridge, Wong, who is a member of the Serene Park Residents Committee, invited some 30 committee members for a food tasting.  Wong felt that this group of friends would give him their honest feedback and he was very encouraged when they commented that it was very good!

From then on, Wong and his wife worked hard at operating their food business and they have since earned a loyal clientele who appreciate the taste of his Teochew fish porridge.  This delicious fish broth is also used in a choice of soup noodles or served on the side with dry noodles.  For connoisseurs of fish head, Wong also serves Fish Head Soup Noodles, priced reasonably at only RM10 per bowl.

Fish and Prawn noodles at RM10 per bowl
 
Cooking every order individually will take time but regular customers know that each portion is freshly cooked and they are ready to wait patiently.  “I’m very grateful to good friends and customers who have helped me,” said Wong as he looked back to the early years of his food business.  “In fact, even the tables and chairs in the restaurant were a friend’s generous donation,” he added.

As the Eastern Dispersal Link was constructed and the area around Jalan Yahya Aldatar were developed, some well-meaning friends asked Wong to consider moving his business to a more densely populated area.  Wong’s reply is always the same – “No thanks” – because this is his neighbourhood and all his friends and regular customers are here. 
 
 
Façade of Leong Kee at Jalan Yahya Aldatar in Johor Baru
 
Kedai Makanan & Minuman Leong Kee is located at No. 28 Jalan Yahya Aldatar, Serene Park, 80300 Johor Baru.  Tel: 607 – 2236098.  Open daily from 8am to 4.30pm and closed on Sunday.  No pork products are used at Leong Kee.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 26 June 2013

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