Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bee Hon Sup Railway, Taiping

Make a beeline for this broth

Soupy goodness: One of Shahrin’s workers scooping out the steaming chicken broth to go with the tray of dishes for a customer.
Story and photo by RASLAN BAHAROM

Many are drawn to Bee Hon Sup Railway for its delicious soup made from the meat of ‘ayam pencen’.

THE wooden shop located in front of the railway station in Taiping is packed with people from all walks of life and creed. They are here just to enjoy a breakfast of bee hon or koay teow immersed in chicken broth.

But unlike the usual chicken broth, the one sold at Bee Hon Sup Railway (the name of the outlet for the past 20 years) is not made from the normal tender chicken meat.

The soup is actually made from the meat of ‘ayam pencen’, as Bee Hon Sup proprietor Shahrin Ahmad calls it.

“The normal chicken meat which we get from the market is too tender and will disintegrate when boiled for a long period,” Shahrin explains.

“Hence I have to use ‘ayam pencen’ as its hard meat can withstand prolonged boiling over the stove,” he says.

Shahrin sources his ‘ayam pencen’ from the various chicken farms which produce eggs in the district of Larut Matang and Selama.

“After a certain period such chickens no longer lay eggs, hence they are called ‘ayam pencen’,” he says.

Every day, Shahrin and his five workers check into the shop at about 5am where the broth is made – usually boiled for over two hours based on a recipe passed down from his late uncle Baharuddin Hashim or better known among his customers as Din Hong Kong.

Shahrin uses 10 spices, including bunga cengkeh, bunga lawang, jintan putih, jintan manis, lada putih, and lada hitam, for his chicken broth.

By 9am, his customers would have begun flocking to his shop but the day’s supply, enough for about 250 customers, usually goes off the shelf before noon.

“Since the business began about 20 years ago, we have never indulged in making broth from red meat as chickens are more universal and all races can enjoy my bee hon or koay teow,” Shahrin says.

His ketchup, laced with grounded chilli padi, is a must-have if one really wants to enjoy Shahrin’s ‘ayam pencen’ broth which costs only RM2.50 per bowl, with an additional 50 sen for an extra plate of boiled chicken meat.

Shahrin says he has no plans to increase the price as yet.

However like any other businesses, there are setbacks too, says Shahrin.

“A few years back when Bukit Merah near here had confirmed bird flu cases, my business took a dip.

“But now things are back on the right track,” says Shahrin, who plans to relocate his business to a proper restaurant some day.

Like any other aspiring businessman, Shahrin hopes to become a franchise owner so that his ‘ayam pencen’ broth can be savoured by more people.

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