GEORGE TOWN, April 13 — If you love prawns, this famous hawker fare is definitely a must-try when you visit Penang.
This is because its sweet, aromatic soup is made by boiling prawn shells and prawn heads together for hours. Imagine, slurping down a full-bodied soup stock with a strong aroma of prawns.
It is no wonder that the Penang Hokkien Mee is sometimes also called the Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee but it should never be called prawn mee because that refers to another prawn-based noodle. In Kuala Lumpur, migrants from Penang have also introduced their version to the city, but it is better known as mee yoke or har meen (prawn noodles) in Cantonese.
The strong prawn taste is further enhanced by pork ribs which is added to the soup stock after the shells have been boiled for a few hours to give it a rich, meaty flavour and this balances out the whole concoction.
With the prawns and pork ribs as the base, a chilli paste made of dried chillies, shallots, garlic and salt is then added to the soup for the spicy flavour that interestingly complements the prawny and meaty flavours instead of detracting from it.
A simple bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee must have a mix of yellow noodles and rice vermicelli. The blanched noodles are then topped with the compulsory ingredients; shelled prawns, kangkung (water convolvulus), bean sprouts, sliced pork, pig skin and hard boiled egg.
Since the soup stock and chilli paste are prepared and cooked separately, its noodles and toppings are also cooked separately where each is scalded first before the hot soup is ladled over the noodles and the toppings arranged around the bowl.
The steaming bowl of noodles is then garnished with some crispy fried shallots and sometimes, even some crunchy deep fried lard.
Some stalls would offer extra ingredients, at a price, such as tender pork ribs (usually those that were used to cook the soup stock) and roast pork slices.
Penang Hokkien Mee stalls are easy to find in many coffee shops and hawker centres in Penang, but here are the top five stalls that offer up really good satisfying bowls of spicy goodness that will have you begging for more. For the Klang Valley, we have also included five stalls to try this Penang specialty.
Be warned though, this is not for the faint hearted as no Penang Hokkien Mee hawker worth its salt would offer up plain soups that do not burn its way down your throat to your stomach.
1. Swee Kong Cafe, Burmah Road, George Town
Time: 7.30am to 10am
2. 58, Lorong Jelutong
Time: 8am to 10am
3. Kedai Kopi Classic, Jalan Perak opposite Padang Brown
Time: 8am to 10am
4. Super Hokkien Mee, One Corner Cafe, Jalan Bawasah
Time: 8am to 11am
5. Seahorse Cafeteria, Macalister Road
Time: 8am to 11:30am
6. Junction of Jalan Air Itam and Jalan Kampung Melayu (at the traffic light junction)
Time: 3pm to 5pm
7. Narrow alleyway off Magazine Road (the lane next to Kimnovak uniform shop)
Time: 3pm to 6pm
8. 888 Hokkien Mee, Jalan Presgrave
Time: 5pm to 11pm
9. Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (the stall next to Loh Han Kuo drinks stall)
Time: 4pm to 8pm
10. Bee Hooi Coffee Shop, Burmah Road
Time: 7pm to 10pm
And in the Klang Valley, you can try:
1. Choon Prawn Mee House
13, Jalan 20/14, Paramount Gardens, Petaling Jaya
Time: 7am to 4pm
2. Restaurant Yong Len
2, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 2, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL
Time: 7am to 2pm
3. Soon Lee Prawn Mee
Next to The Store, Jalan Batu Ambar, Off Jalan Ipoh, Taman Kok Lian, KL
Time: 6pm to late
4. Restoran Shin Hwa
2, Jalan Bunga Tanjung 8A, Taman Muda, Cheras, KL
Time: 6am to 2pm
5. Prawn Mee Stall
Jalan Rukun 4, Taman Continental, Off Jalan Kuchai Lama, KL
Time: 7am to 1pm