Popular instant noodles from Penang which have recently become available here have been creating quite a buzz among shoppers.
MyKuali's Penang White Curry Noodle, Penang-style instant noodles, is now available at supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Cold Storage, Giant and Sheng Siong, as well as neighbourhood mini-marts and provision shops. FairPrice does not stock this brand of noodles and would not say if it has plans to begin offering it.
MyKuali's curry noodles are one of the newest instant noodle offerings in the market here. It was introduced at Cold Storage supermarkets in February, while Sheng Siong started stocking the product just two weeks ago.
Its spicy and robust chilli paste, fragrant aroma and authentic flavour prompted Singapore shoppers in the know to snap up packets of the noodles on their trips to Malaysia.
A pack of four retails for between $3.80 and $4.60, depending on the supermarket or mini-mart. With an average price of 95 cents to $1.15 a packet, it is more expensive than a number of other noodle options from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, which can be priced as low as $2 for five packets.
Diners, however, are unfazed and say it is the broth's intensity of flavour which draws them.
Singaporean housewife Lee Geok Eng, who is in her 60s, says she usually buys eight to 16 packets of the noodles from Giant in Johor Baru whenever she goes across the border to shop and eat, which is about once every three months.
She says: "A friend had told me about it, and I find that for an instant noodle, the broth is rich because its accompanying sambal chilli paste is quite potent. My family and neighbours enjoy it too."
Administrative executive Cheng Li Lyn, 45, a Malaysian from Klang who is a permanent resident here, says she likes these instant noodles because the flavour of the broth is the closest she can get to her home country's version of curry noodles.
She says: "I know, people always wonder how can instant noodles measure up to the real thing, but this is really quite good. I eat it whenever I feel like having curry noodles or miss the flavours of Malaysia."
Indeed, the noodles were partly created for Malaysians living abroad, says the founder of MyKuali.
Mr Thomas Tang, 33, started Sky Thomas Food Industries, which produces MyKuali products such as the noodles as well as instant spice mixes and curry pastes, 21/2 years ago with another investor.
He says he often missed the flavours from his hometown of Penang during his secondary school and polytechnic days in Singapore. He is an alumnus of Nan Chiau High School and Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where he studied quality management engineering.
In a telephone interview with SundayLife! from Penang, he says: "I studied in Singapore for seven years and I used to miss food I was familiar with. Similarly, other people from Malaysia or Singapore who live overseas will miss their favourite food too."
Cooking local Malaysian dishes from scratch involves a lot of preparation so he wanted to provide an easier alternative, which led him to the idea of instant noodles.
"I saw a lot of potential and our aim has always been to take our product overseas. A lot of people want to cook but don't know how to, which is where we come in," he says.
It took him about five years to develop the chilli paste for the curry noodles, which includes more than 10 spices, including cumin and turmeric powder. The paste alone contains about 30 ingredients, which range from shrimp paste to garlic to onions, and each batch takes about five hours to cook, he says.
The recipe, which he has since tweaked, is based on his mother's recipe for Penang-style curry noodles.
The noodles were launched in Malaysia last May. Each packet comes with three sachets - seasoning powder, chilli paste and palm oil-based non-dairy creamer.
He says his whole family is involved in the business - his housewife mother, 55, heads the research and development division for new products, while his father, 56, who used to run a trading company, oversees quality control. His younger sister, 31, handles administrative matters.
The company started exporting the noodles to Singapore in January, after getting the appropriate licences and food certifications approved. The noodles are also available in cities around the world, including Melbourne, Sydney, London, Vancouver and Hong Kong.
Diners here can expect more instant noodle flavours from MyKuali in the coming months.
These include Hokkien Prawn Noodle and a tom yum version. These are likely to be available here in July or August.
Supermarkets here say response to the Penang White Curry Noodle has been "encouraging".
At Sheng Siong, for example, it is now one of the supermarket chain's top five best-selling instant noodle products since its launch two weeks ago. Sheng Siong sells a pack of four for $3.80.
A spokesman for the supermarket chain, which has 33 stores islandwide, says: "We have customers buying four to five packs at one go, and even whole cartons, which contain 12 packs of four individual packets."
Diners say they are looking forward to the new offerings.
Madam Lee says: "If the curry noodles are this good, I can only imagine how good the other flavours will be. Penang-style prawn noodles are not easy to find here, so I hope MyKuali's version will live up to my expectations."
This article was published on May 4 in The Straits Times.
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