Malaysian Food Favourites – Penang Hokkien Mee [MFF2]

September 6, 2010 at 12:28 am

“Now, here is a man who really respects food”, my brother says one morning as he, my mother and I were having brunch at Kafe Khoon Hian, opposite the former Federal Cinema on Jalan Dato’ Keramat, Penang.

The object of his appreciation is the Hokkien Mee he has in front of him. I look up rather nonchalantly and wonder why this Hokkien Mee was so different from others to merit this comment. Well, I wonder no more when I take my first bite of the pork with the noodles.

The pork is soft and tender, but I know this was not the main reason for my brother’s comment. It is because the pork and the shrimp are extremely tasty. The man who sells the Hokkien Mee had taken the trouble to pre-cook the pork, shrimp and egg separately, and those condiments had been infused with the soya sauce and chilli they were cooked in.

The finished product - Penang Hokkien Mee

The finished product - Penang Hokkien Mee

Not only are they tasty, they look very good, too, unlike many other Hokkien Mee stalls which had pork and shrimp that were just boiled. The pork is often dry and slightly chewy, and off-white in colour. I don’t think the colour is a big problem, but I think the brownish pre-cooked pork looks – and tastes – lots better.

Hokkien Mee, as it is known in Penang, is yellow noodles and mee hoon, thin white rice noodles, served in a bowl of prawn and spice broth with pieces of pork, shrimp, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, kangkung (water convolvulus) and garnished with some crunchy deep fried onions that adds a subtle flavour to the dish.

A simple stall selling hokkien mee

A simple stall selling hokkien mee

Hokkien Mee should not be confused with Hokkien Char, which uses both the yellow mee and mee hoon, but it is stir-fried with pork and prawns in a soya sauce gravy. Hokkien Char is not at all similar to Hokkien Mee, which is a soup-based dish. Things may get a little confusing here because in Kuala Lumpur, Hokkien Char is known as Hokkien Mee, whereas the Hokkien Mee, I believe, is called Penang Har Mee, or Prawn Noodles.

After finishing my yummy Hokkien Mee, I go over to ask the proprietor if I could take pictures. The humble man laughs and says “Okay, as long as you don’t post it on the ‘net!” That is not good, as my main reason IS to post his Hokkien Mee on this blog. But he is just joking and asks me why I wanted to post his stall on he blog when his Hokkien Mee was “not tasty”.

I say it IS tasty and right on cue, a lady in her 60-s comes to the stall to order a packet of Hokkien Mee to take home. She is a regular who buys the noodles for her grandchild who had just recently left home to go to university, but today the noodles were for her. I think she must have missed her grandchild. She talks to the proprietor and his wife and she tells them that her grandchild will be coming for his favourite Hokkien Mee as soon as he comes home. She says that he gets to eat Hokkien Mee where he is studying now, but the Hokkien Mee there just can’t hold a candle to this stall.

I hang around to take pictures and I talk to the friendly and polite proprietor and his wife. The man tells me that the soup is what makes a Hokkien Mee great, and he is right. His clear, caramel-coloured soup really tasted flavourful and sweet, the way that seafood broth should. He makes his soup by boiling prawns and spices, and I am sure he nust use quite a lot of prawns for the soup to take on the sweet flavour.

The ingredients are all painstakingly prepared

The ingredients are all painstakingly prepared

He does not stint on ingredients and makes sure it is steaming hot before he serves it. Not only that, at RM3 a bowl, he does not overcharge. These are the reasons why I think his Hokkien Mee is above par, much, much, very much better than the many Hokkien Mee stalls today.

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