Maybe it's the excess calories burnt while grooving to David Guetta's recent string of hits in the club or the rubbers in the earlier badminton session or simply, the euphoric anticipation of the weekend, but Saturday nights or technically, Sunday mornings, seem like the hungriest time of the week for many. Unless one is working on graveyard shift, this feeling of weekend liberation often leads to a celebration that is usually food, good food, before slumbering with a comfortably full stomach and vegetate the Sunday away.
It does sound great but seriously, good food at night? Especially during the wee, club-closing hours? Of course, if one's other half (or mother) is Nigella Lawson, who keeps her refrigerator full of delicious leftovers, this is not an issue at all. Well, 99.5% of us are just not that lucky and we resort to food at stalls.
There are countless nocturnal or semi-nocturnal food stalls around and some have achieved superstardom with their apparently excellent food. Indeed, in the city that never sleeps, there exists some really good nasi lemak and wanton mee and fishball soup noodles. So, I want to believe. However, the skeptical side of me thinks that in the inebriated state, everything tastes good. I'm not saying this without basis, of course. In sobriety, I've tried some of these prominent fried noodles and chicken rice stalls in town and the only conclusion that I can draw is that oil (whether it's the animal or cooking type) and MSG come with a huge discount after 12. Anyway, it's a choice and at 3 am, there aren't many choices around.
The point is, I don't like spending on substandard dim sum or fried noodles or overpriced bak kut teh but yet, I want a good grub when I'm done with the clubs. Or my dreadful homework.
At 3 am on a particular Sunday, I pushed my luck and sped to Aik Yuen from Bukit Bintang, in hope of being able to try one of the most discussed Hokkien mee stalls in town. I was, of course, still within the speed limit and this was clear as I felt static when being overtaken by a group of Mat Rempits. Good choice of location for their much despised art, I feel, for there were 2 hospitals around - the General Hospital and Tawakal.
The main restaurant was already filled with stacked tables and chairs, which meant that I was too late, yet again. Niamah.
Like many dominating Chinese restaurants out there, the tables overflowed to the pavement, stretching to the next few shophouses on both sides. The helpers were clearing the sides as well when we spotted 2 occupied tables of dyed shades of brown hair with very trendy outfits. I ran over and asked the helper if it was still open for business.
Oddly enough, the kitchen was located somewhat opposite the restaurant. I presume that it must be the intense smoke from the oil that caused the move. From a Hokkien mee fan point of view, it means that we can anticipate some good amount of wok hei.
I tend to generalize the black Hokkien mee into 2 types - the dry (good) and the soupy (a curse). Following the dry type, they are sub-categorized further into - the sweet and salty. This can go on for hours but let me just conclude that it's the sweet type here. I prefer the salty kind but the Hokkien mee I had that morning was still very good.
Though sweet, it was not sourced solely from the dark soy sauce, hence the lack of bitterness. A plus. It was served dry. Another plus. On the other hand, it disappointingly lacked the empowering wok hei that I was looking for and the amount of oil used would keep liposuckers at the nearby Tawakal (if any) in good business. I'm one who loves a good dose of lard but when it's too much, it kills the appetite by insulating the taste of the sauce. In other words, it dilutes the flavours with fat. There was nothing much to say about the chilli as the typical runny chilli boh paste was used.
Aik Yuen might not be the greatest Hokkien mee that I've been searching for since its disappearance some 20 years ago but relatively speaking, it was better than two other popular Hokkien mee brands that I've tried recently.
Oh, and really, I was sober the whole time at Aik Yuen.
Restoran Aik Yuen
Behind Tawakal Hospital
Jalan Sarikei, Off Jalan Pahang Barat
53000 Kuala Lumpur