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Old Ways of Life: Handmade Mee Koo at Hoe Peng

Posted by Jason Wong On July - 7 - 200914 COMMENTS

We all talk about preserving the historical building, endangered animals, etc. But why don’t we also put in more effort to promote and support our locally unique heritage hand-made products and traditional trades. In this competitive world many trades have turn to mass production through new technology, but through this change we have loss the rich character of hand-made products that was once the pride of our country and culture.

Hand made “Mee Koo” (in Hokkien) or “Steamed Turtle Buns”  are one of the example of these dying trades in Malaysia. The Mee Koo are linked and used in Chinese festive celebrations and cultural ceremonies. Now a day, many have turn the age old manufacturing process by hand to mechanised manufacturing lines. But then who am I to say they are wrong to change, they still need to put rice on the table at this competitive times. As a marketing consultant, I advocate change to create a competitive edge to overcome obstacles and competition. But sometimes a total change would have created more harm than good. Therefore, we would need to consider the many angles that affect our change. Sometimes, partial change or improvements can do more good and than full conversions.


Hoe Peng & Co. is one of the examples of partial change that help them survive through the test of time. In the old days when one thinks of Mee Koo in Penang, Hoe Peng’s buns would be the first to come to mine. They not only churn out their famous Mee Koo but also “Siew Thou” (in Hokkien) or “Longevity Buns”, “Thou Sar Pheah” or “Green Bean Biscuits” and some Chinese folk lore prayer items that are used in Taoist ceremonies.


“Siew Thou” or Longevity Buns


“Tho Sar Pheah” or Green Bean Biscuit


Assorted Taoist Ceremonies Prayers Items




As our society, is ever influenced by the western culture and its dining practice, many have forgotten about the versatile Mee Koo. We have forgotten one could the Mee Koo as it is, with butter and kaya, dunk in a cup of hot Kopi ‘O’, made into French toast, or even used as a coating for fish n’ chips (that is my own recipe). Thus, it is due time to give our traditionally unique Mee Koo recognition and respect.

Some weeks ago we were honoured to be given the opportunity to visit and have a peek into the Mee Koo making process at Hoe Peng & Co.’s kitchen. Hoe Peng & Co. was previously located in a corner shop lot just beside “Ong Kongsi” and opposite the once tallest building in Malaysia, Komtar. Currently they have moved to a new location on Lorong Selamat where just opposite the famous “Lorong Selamat Char Koay Teow”. It is now under the umbrella of Cheong Kim Chuan, who has been a household name in Penang and also Malaysia since 1937. They are one of the producers and retailers of our famous and much sort after nutmeg products, “belacan”, “Rojak” sauce, Tambun Biscuit (Tau Sar Pneah) and other traditional Malaysian food and non-food products.


Our visit started with a tour of their Mee Koo making kitchen where we were introduced to its production executive and food tech, and then we were briefed on the Mee Koo making process. The process from flour to Mee Koo has in all 5 stages, fermenting, kneading, and moulding, proofing and finally steaming. All of these were used to be done by hand, but as technology touch down our shore of Malaysia many years ago, they have converted the mixing and kneading to a mechanical process by introducing mixing, kneading and press machines.

The initial stage of flour mixing and fermenting is a business secret which we did not cover. We begun on the the kneading process, the objective is to churn out dough that has a consistent and equal composition.


After the dough has reached the right consistency, it is then transferred to another machine where the dough is repeatedly passed through rollers to press the dough. This machine compresses the dough so that they reach a specific elasticity before it is sent to the human hands for moulding.



The common Mee Koo has two layers, the inner one is the main white bun and the outer pink or yellow layer is the skin that encases the white fluffy bun. At Hoe Peng & Co. the outer coloured layer is edible due to the food grade colouring used to churn out the dough.


At Hoe Peng, the tradition of hand moulding of the dough to the specific weight and shape are kept like when it was done many years ago. The dough is hand cut down to size and weighed, wrapped, moulded, and placed on the base paper which also serves as the branding of the Mee Koo.







After the Mee Koo dough is all prepped up, it is placed on a bamboo tray and left to proof or set before they are sent for steaming.  The proofing stage is a important stage where it also determines the texture of the end product. There is set time for proofing, but it mainly relies on the experience nad touch of the food tech to determine the duration required. The uncooked doughs are touch and squeezed to determine the ripeness because due to the ever floating temperature and humidity of our Malaysian climate, the Mee Koo proofing time would fluctuate.



After the Mee Koo is steamed and cooked, it is place on sale at the counter out side the retail outlet. As you are wondering how do they write the Chinese characters on the Mee Koo for the festive and cultural ceremonies? They are all hand ‘written’ upon request or order. This part of the mee koo is not edible because the dough used in writing the Chinese characters have not been cooked or steamed. They are actually raw dough with added colouring. The process of preparing the coloured dough is also hand-worked to the right texture and elasticity.


All the characters on every Mee Koo are hand ‘written’ using the traditional method that has been used since Hoe Peng & Co. opened it is doors for business years ago. The writing process is very laboured intensive and tedious. Imagine during the festive seasons and hundreds or thousands of orders that require specified Chinese characters to suit the occasion, I pity the person who has to ‘write’ all those characters. But I also admire the person for keeping the tradition alive for our future generations to experience and see.







Thus, as a Penangite I would like ask my fellow Malaysians regardless of the race and religion to put in support for our heritage products, trades, etc in the form of consuming and patronising them. Give the support in terms business so that they can get to survive the test of time and leave a piece of history, culture and character for our future generation that they will be proud of. Heritage is not only in the form of buildings and artefacts, but also the way of life, cuisines that were savoured by our forefathers, etc.


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Rainforest Bakery, That is What I Call a Bakery.

Posted by Jason Wong On June - 1 - 200915 COMMENTS

It was a sunny morning somewhere in March this year that we were invited to interview the owners of an unique bakery located on the busy Chulia Street in the Georgetown area, Rainforest Bakery. The bakery has been in operations since year 2000/2001 which at those days were only supplying their breads wholesale to eateries, etc. But as time goes by and from the request of their ‘door-knocking’ customers, Rainforest began to plan for a retail outlet which was finally materialised at its current location on Chulia Street in year 2008. At Rainforest, one could see that customers from all walks of life and nationality wondering and choosing their pick of the day from the selection of continental breads that are baked daily.

At current the bakery is being managed by a pair of identical twins, Jerry and Jesse Tan(short spiky hair do). Jesse whom entertained our question and answer session was actually MIA from Rainforest Bakery for approximately 3 years not for fun, but to work in London and travel around Europe to acquire the skills and knowledge that they require to differentiate their breads from the localised bakeries and to provide better and healthier loafs of wholesome organic breads to its patrons. The daily fresh baked loafs uses the traditional or organic methods of preparing the dough for each individual type of bread that they offer today. Organic does not only mean that the ingredients are organic, even the preparation and baking process must be organic in every way that is what sets them apart from the rest. What they are selling at the bakery is not only bread, but also the concept of healthy organic traditionally baked and non-localised bread.

The daily fresh baked loafs uses the traditional or organic methods of preparing the dough for each individual type of bread that they offer today. Organic does not only mean that the ingredients are organic, even the preparation and baking process must be organic in every way and that is what sets them apart from the rest. Enjoy with assurance that no preservative, no MSG or enhancers and no essence are use in their bread. Even the yeast they used is self-cultured!

Not only the ingredients and baking take on the traditional concept, the packing or wrapping of certain breads also takes on the original ways that were used to pack them for customers which are still practiced in certain parts of the baking world.

Other than bread, one would also be enticed by their cakes, muffins and cookies that are on display at the bakery.

And if you need to add some savoury or sweetness to the bread that was just picked from the rack, you could also try out their homemade Kaya and Garlic Butter spread.

Their current business caters to the retail walk-in customers, wholesale deliveries to restaurant and hotels, and also residential home if it is located on the delivery routes. Other than the current retail outlet, there are also plans to expand their business by setting up their own branch. They are not looking into franchise because they want their Rainforest Bakery breads to be made fresh  and to keep the quality in check so as not disappoint their customers.

Average rating for this place:

  • 3.8/5 for value ( it would be a bit on the high side but the quality is what you are looking for, it is place to try out)
  • 4.0/5 for taste & texture (certain individuals may not be receptive to the kind of bread taste & texture.)
  • 4.0/5 for service (friendly and accommodating)
  • 4.2/5 for cleanliness ( everything is kept closed and clean)
  • 3.9/5 for atmosphere (what bakeries should smell of and feel like)

Address : 300 Lebuh Chulia, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact :+ 60 (4) 261 4641
Opening Hours : 10.00am-10.00pm (Closed Sunday)

enclosed with their in-house brochures



Wholemeal Tortilla with Wild Mushroom Cooked Ham

Posted by Jason Wong On November - 13 - 20085 COMMENTS

One fine morning, I had itching hands thus I decided to make Wild Mushrooms and Ham. The ingredients that are needed are Wild Fresh Mushrooms, ham or bacon, rock salt, freshly grind black pepper, pink peppercorns, marjoram, tarragon, oregano and vodka.

First, place the pink peppercorns in hot olive oil and cook until fragrant.

Add in the ham or bacon that was cut to size.
After the ham is caramelised, add in the mushrooms and stir fry until the mushrooms are caramelised too. Remember, use a big pan with high heat when you have lots of mushrooms. If not it will not caramelised and become soggy.
Add in the herbs according to your taste and season as you pleased and stir properly.

Then pour some vodka and flame bay it to get rid of the alcohol and leave the tangy taste in.

It is done when the juices are all soaked up and dry.

Heat up some tortillas on the pan.

Get ready some greens, preferably something that has some moisture like lettuce. Then wrap the mushrooms and greens and wallah breakfast is served.


Bulgarian Meal at Jalan Sungai Kelian, Penang.

Posted by Jason Wong On October - 16 - 20085 COMMENTS
The next day, 7th Oct., will be Gill’s birthday, but we will be preoccupied with preparations for the forth coming discussion at the end of the week, thus we decided to celebrate a day earlier and at place near to home. With much deliberation, at the end we decided to try out a place which CK & Lingzie have tried and blogged about, Vintage Bulgaria (VB).

Vintage Bulgaria is located on Jalan Sungai Kelian, just next to Ingolf Knipes. The proprietors has made some modification to the shop unit there, which was previously two storeys, to make it now two and half storeys. The lower ground floor would be the non-smoking dining area with a low lit ambient environment, which is a good place to go for romantic couples. The upper ground floor has bar and dining area too, thus it would be a bit ‘happening’ area for the energetic person. Then there is the 1st floor, which is still under works, that will will be their function room. Silviya, one of the owners of the place, informed me that the function room/floor may fit up to 60 pax. Therefore, a small party could be held there.

Lower ground dining area(top pix). Ground dining area and entrance(bottom pix).

The first dish that was served was the Shepperd’ Salad, with eggs, black olive, mushroom, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, capsicums and feta cheese. The salad was light and refreshing because it did not come with all the common dressings like Thousand Island, Mayo or other heavy, creamy dressings. Gill and I actually like to have our salads lightly dressed with just olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar and season with pepper and salt. Thus, we will be able to taste the freshness and sweetness and feel the texture of the vegetables and its condiments in our mouth. Going back to the Shepperd’s Salad, it was filled with the above, and thus we enjoyed the dish until the very last piece. But the salad is only good if you were forked all the ingredients of salad and eat it in a mouth full. In this way, then the explosion of freshness from the vege, sourness from the tomatoes, creaminess from the cheese, richness from the hard boil egg+yokes and saltiness from the black olives will hit the sense on your tongue and mouth. straight forward but complex experience.

The second dish to come was their Crepe Rila. A very good combination of flavours, salty cheese, earthy mushroom, sweet chicken and rich mayo. But the crepe skin was a bit of a disappointment, not enough egg and slightly on the the thick side. Overall it was a good dish.

For the main course, we had their Plovdiv Ribs and Platter Bulgaria. The Plovdiv Ribs if compared to the ribs from Tony Roma’s, it will a bit of a put off not on taste but on portion. Taste wise it is a total different style from Tony Roma’s, as the ribs (VB) is usually dry without glazing. But it was fragrant, with just enough seasoning meat dish. The meat patties, sausages and pork chop in the Platter Bulgaria should be home made, but they were not juicy nor moist and slightly salty taken on its own. The meat patties brought back memories of the house made pork burger patties my parents used to buy from the old Cold Storage in Penang Plaza, which has disappeared with their initial shut down many many years ago when I was still in Primary. In fact the two meat dishes would be better savoured with more potato, vegetables and pickled baby onions/shallots.

After trying out their signature meat dishes, we decided to try their signature desert the Baklava. It is made of mixed nut caramelised in sugar wrap in ‘Poh Piah‘ skin and drenched in honey. The sweet and nutty taste was just what we needed to cleanse our taste buds of the salty and oily taste and feeling. They have actually taken the effort to improve this desert, but still it needs more work on the texture of the skin and the presentation. The skin was a bit tough and hard to handle. For presentation, it could be decorated with some mint leaves. And for serving, it could be served hot and crispy and accompanied with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make it crispy, and thus easier to handle yet cool enough when taken with the ice cream. But that is only my opinion, which have not been tested.

Although some of the set backs, I would definitely find the effort to revisit the place due to service rendered by their staffs. We like the style of waiting provided by this F&B outlet. The waiter/waitress are allocated to an area and are to wait the table until its guests leave. This enables the waiter/waitress to fully serve the guests and create the relationship with the guests and also get to know their likes and dislikes. I still remember the waitress who waited on us is Queenie who was friendly, informative and helpful, but somewhat shy at the beginning of the service.

On average, I would give this place:

  • 3.3/5 for value (although the total bill was only RM 101.00)
  • 3.5/5 for taste (because of the reduced portion of side vege with the main course and dry meat)
  • 4.3/5 for service
  • 4.5/5 for cleanliness
  • 4.5/5 for atmosphere

Cheese Fondue at Home

Posted by Jason Wong On October - 8 - 200810 COMMENTS

Cheese Fondue needs a lot patients when preparing, if not there goes the whole pot!

We like to enjoy our cheese fondue with various side dishes, like roast pork, plain grilled sausages, toated and untoasted bread.

After all the preparation, we can sit down and enjoy the pot of cheese on a cool whether ad star lit night. The company is also very important. Chit chat the whole night through. What a Wonderful World!

Caution is needed when savouring fondue with freind, unless you have intentions do not let the cheese drip to the table or floor, if it does drip you would have to kiss the person next to you. So remember do not sit beside person of the same sex!

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