My first introduction to kuey chap was quite traumatising.
“What is that? What are you eating?” I asked my Dad.
He nonchalantly replied, “Pig’s blood.”
Euwww. Can someone of my ethnicity agree with me on how DISGUSTING that sounds to a KID? I can’t be the only Chinese who thinks that eating coagulated pig’s blood is utterly horrifying…!
So no kuey chap for me, until much later in my 20s. Having been re-introduced to it in Singapore, I had only this thought:
OMG WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING ALL THESE YEARS?!?
(I still skip the pig blood, but LET ME EAT EVERYTHING ELSE!!!)
Not to mention, it was so easy to get decent kuey chap in Batu Pahat!
What is now the famous Soon Lai kuey chap started out as a humble roadside stall. The founder, Mr Lim sold flat rice noodles served in a braising broth, accompanied by parts of the pig. Stewed of course, they are Teo Chew after all.
In the 50s, Mr Lim peddled his hawker food along Jalan Jenang, which is also home to the famous Ah See Wantan Mee). Later they moved to Jalan Fatimah; I remember them as a busy corner roadside stall next to an old clinic. Then in the 90s, they shifted their operations into the corner shop lot along the same row. It still houses their well-known restaurant today.
Kedai Makan Soon Lai is diagonally across the 103 year-old Thean Hou (Ma Zu aka Goddess of the Sea) temple, one of the oldest temples in Batu Pahat. You know a temple is famous when Singaporeans make day trips just to pray there.
They used to keep big tortoises in this temple. I wonder if they are still around.
But never mind temples and tortoises. Back to Mr Lim and his kuey chap…
It’s been nearly 60 years since the founder Mr Lim sold his first bowl of kuey chap. Today his grandchildren; the 3rd generation continues his work with gusto. Prep begins at 5am for these youngsters, working hard to open for business at 10.30am.
So, what is kuey chap?
Soft, smooth flat, broad rice noodles; in Soon Lai’s case, shaped triangularly. This is the ‘kuey’. It is served in a lipsmakingly delicious herbal broth topped with fragrant fried shallots, which is the ‘chap’ (gravy).
Now, this broth. It is tasty, not very oily and the exact recipe a guarded family secret. We do know that the broth’s base is soy sauce, and combined with a mixture of herbs, spices, pork meat and offal, it is cooked and simmered for at least 3 hours.
You eat the rice noodles with stewed parts of the pig. Choose your sinful platter: pork belly, lean pork meat, intestines, ear, skin, blood, kidney, tongue…
True to our frugal Chinese roots, no part of the pig goes to waste!
Other non-pig favourites include pressed beancurd (tau kua), beancurd skin, hard boiled egg, and chicken feet.
Sides include: pickled mustard green, Batu-Pahat style tauki, fish balls, fish cake, century egg…
Wash it all down with a refreshing bowl of lime jelly (ai yu) with crushed ice.
You’ll need it because it might be a while before you get to eat…
I highly recommend it. Soon Lai ‘kuey chap’ is the stuff of Batu Pahat (pork-eating) childhood dreams. BUT be warned: if you go at peak lunch hours, be prepared to wait a while for a seat. If it’s a weekend during a public holiday, worse.
Would the wait be shorter at their 2nd branch near Jalan Kluang?
No. If you insist on eating there between 12.30pm to 2pm, take a number and join the waiting game.
If you get there later in the afternoon, know that some of your favourites would have been sold out by then.
It’s like that.
Kedai Makan Soon Lai (main branch)
No. 6C, Jalan Fatimah,
83000 Batu Pahat, JOHOR.
Opens daily 10.30am – 5.30pm
Kedai Makan Soon Lai (Taman Ceria branch)
No. 7, Jalan Ceria 1, Taman Ceria,
83000 Batu Pahat, JOHOR.
Opens daily 10am – 6pm
Actually it’s not true, they are not open every day. I asked them which days they rest, to which they replied, “Oh, it’s uncertain…”
Hmmm… May the kuey chap luck be with you!