DIY Penang hawker fare
Story and photos by CHRISTINA CHIN ; Sunday September 19, 2010

Craving for Penang Hokkien Mee or Assam Laksa? You can now prepare tasty hawker fare in just 15 minutes

ASK any true-blue Penangite and he or she will tell you there’s no place like home, especially when it comes to food.

Now, thanks to sisters Eeleen and Aileen Tan, everyone (even those who can’t prepare a decent meal to save their lives) can enjoy authentic fare from the northern state in 15 minutes.

The Penangites have come up with the island’s famous Assam Laksa, Hokkien Mee and Curry Mee pastes which are free from preservatives, artificial colourings or flavours.

The Assam Laksa range comes in two variations for dry (Lak Special) and soupy (Lak Soup) dishes.

With the fresh paste, consumers only need to add their meat of choice, vegetables, noodles and garnishing as all the spices and herbs have been conveniently blended together in a hygienic pack.

In Penang, the pastes marketed under the brand TalentCook are available at several hypermarkets and wet markets including those in Batu Lanchang, Bayan Baru, Pulau Tikus, Jelutong and Fettes Park while those living abroad get their fix by making online orders.

“We have distributors in New Zealand and Singapore but for those living elsewhere, we send their online orders over by post,” says Eeleen.

Their Facebook page at already has over 500 fans, many of whom live abroad and want to know how they can get their supply.

Customers overseas don’t seem to mind paying for the postage. Orders have come in from as far as America, Hong Kong, Ireland and Canada. There was even a Canadian who ordered 40 packets of the laksa paste and willingly paid some RM200 for postage!

“In Peninsular Malaysia, delivery is free for orders of 12 packets and above and you can get it within three days. Hopefully, we can find local distributors especially for Sabah and Sarawak,” says Eeleen.

The sisters are currently looking for distributors, importers and exporters but insist on a company that “really knows about the products”.

Eeleen was “very surprised” with the responses from foreign companies.

“In Malaysia, everyone knows about our famous hawker food but the foreigners we spoke to didn’t even know where Penang was!

Assam laksa
“I was so shocked. With Talencook, we hope to make Penang synonymous with Laksa and Hokkien Mee – just like how Thailand has successfully marketed its Tom Yam paste globally.

“Twenty years ago, Tom Yam steamboat wasn’t common – now it’s everywhere, so I think there’s potential for Assam Laksa steamboat to make it big too.

“It’s very important to us that the people we collaborate with understand the uniqueness of Penang cuisine because only then, will they be able to do a good job promoting our products,” she says.

Future plans include the pastes for all-time favourite Penang Char Kway Teow and Jawa Mee, Aileen shares.

“The fresh paste market is very competitive, so we need to create a niche for ourselves.

“Coming up with the paste is really a science and the kitchen is my research and development lab. It can be quite tricky because not only must the pastes taste good, you have to consider the technical stuff like preservation – some ingredients may taste good but are not suitable because they could cause the product to spoil faster.

Hokkien Mee
“I must have made my family try more than 100 batches of Hokkien Mee soup before getting it right,” she laughs.

The enterprising duo are especially proud of the Lak Special as they claim that it is the only such paste available in the market.

“It’s specifically made for dry dishes. You can use it to marinate your fish or for making spaghetti sauce, fried noodles and even bun filling,” she says, adding that the Assam Laksa range is great for the health conscious.

“All our products do not contain any added preservatives, artificial colouring and flavouring. The Assam Laksa paste doesn’t contain MSG and is extra special because it has a lot of fiber due to the fresh herbs used,” she explains, adding that the company produces fresh paste instead of a powder mix because the former is more fragrant.

TalentCook pastes, produced in a factory in Jelutong, last up to a year. “Hurdle technology” is used to prevent microorganisms from spoiling the food.

The company hopes to work towards the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certifications soon. The products have already obtained the Halal certification.

Also available are 1kg paste packets for those in the food industry.

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Sisters producing hawker food paste

Source: The Star 19 Sept 2010 DIY Penang Hawker fare



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