Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hokkien Mee Me!

Back in the 80s, there was a TV commercial selling cornflakes that I thought was misleading. Well, to me, at least. It started off by comparing a young kid’s reaction to two types of breakfast. On the right (yes, I even remember the layout!), he had a bowl of cornflakes and looked really happy. On the left, he was served some dark, fried noodles that resembled very much like Hokkien Mee. And guess what, he looked terribly disappointed. Every time that commercial was aired, I’d say (to the TV screen), ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I’m not against those tiny golden crisps fortified with dozens of nutrients but if the marketer decides to force supremacy against Hokkien Mee (or any stir-fried noodle, for that matter), it gets personal.

My affection towards this calorific, deathly dish is obvious, if you’d read my previous Hokkien Mee posts. Time and again, I'd mentioned that in the last decade or so, I’d never been wholeheartedly satisfied, even with some of the more established stalls in KL/Selangor. I was told that perhaps my ideal Hokkien Mee had never existed, that it’s all in an idea of perfection that I’m indulging. Definitely not. I remember how it tasted back in the older days – a savoury stock and slightly sweet dark soy sauce reduction done to a sticky consistency, coating every strand of thick egg noodle, sprinkled with the quintessential dried, pounded flounder, glistened and aromatized with a layer of hot lard oil. Sometimes, there's the additional fried shallot oil too. Let’s not forget a sharp, pungent cili boh/belacan dip that cuts through the sweet/savoury reduction, adding a new dimension to already exciting taste. Jaded that I am, with my ceasing torch, I continue to find that taste, good taste, long lost.

On an accidental night after a light shower, a few of us old kids decided to finally visit the two infamous Hokkien Mee stalls, located at the opposing ends of a stretch along Jalan 222, Section 14 in Petaling Jaya. Both were equipped with fast-paced and knowledgeable, mostly foreign staff. Ahwa’s version had a matte finish – an emphasis on dark soy sauce that ensued a sweeter aftertaste. What lacked, I thought, was the compulsory aroma (wok hei) of hot lard oil. Hence the missing shine as well. Peng Yuan, on the other hand, was glossy and aromatic. The sauce was less reduced and leaned towards the savoury side. Despite the loose consistency of the sauce, as a fan of all things savoury, I’d personally liked Peng Yuan’s more.

Ahwa's Hokkien Mee

Ahwa's What-Darn-Whore

So far in this blog, I’ve rambled too much about Hokkien Mee but not so on the other definitive Chinese noodle dish, Cantonese-style. I must say that I’m a big fan of its more popular variant - the (90% phonetically correct) what-darn-whore or thick rice flour noodles (whore fun) topped with an egg-starch sauce. The browning of whore fun is important to provide wok hei and separate the stacked strands. Ahwa did a good job at that. Their assembly with a smooth, sufficiently gelatinous egg-starch topping sealed the deal for me. I would have been more enthusiastic about Peng Yuan’s version if not for finding a broken toothpick (let’s hope it was unused) in the sauce.

Peng Yuan's Hokkien Mee

Peng Yuan's What-Darn-Whore

On a different occasion, the old kids decided to explore Sunway Giza on a Saturday night. The main complex didn’t excite us much but the young and fashionable seem to enjoy thronging here on weekends. Nearby, at an extended shoplot, we found a branch of yet another infamous Hokkien Mee institution, Restoran Damansara. This one offers a menu and additional fried lard bits. Perhaps due to an overwhelming amount of oil insulating the sauce and noodles, it turned out rather bland. But the shine and colour did look sinfully appetizing though. The Cantonese version fared better with a crispy web of fried rice vermicelli (bee hoon) and whore fun soaked in a subtlely flavoured egg sauce.

Restoran Damansara's Hokkien Mee

Restoran Damansara's Cantonese Stir-Fried Ying Yang Noodles

There are a few Hokkien Mee stalls left on our list but to be honest, I’m not too optimistic looking at the names. One of which I had frequented some years ago, way before they decided to go big with mediocre and expensive Hokkien Mee. I’d never been back since. Although the long lost taste may not be found in the near future (not never, hopefully), every outing with the old kids was fun, as we reminisced the days of being wild, young and free. Now, I wonder if they remember the cornflake commercial.

Restoran Ahwa and Peng Yuan Hokkien Mee
off Jalan 222 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia

Restoran Damansara Hokkien Mee
35, Jalan PJU 5/9 Kota Damansara
Selangor, Malaysia


"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

i came back for the week hankering for some good old hokkien mee, on that one nite that bought us to uptown, we were so disappointed at the wet and tasteless noodles..what a pity.

J said...

"...What-Darn-Whore"?? "... whore fun"???


minchow said...

Pitting Hokkien Mee against wimpy corn flakes? What were these advertising folks smoking in the 80s?!

Sean said...

i share your feelings about wanting to find the perfect version of a dish that we once loved when we were younger! but it's not hokkien mee for me ... it's spaghetti carbonara! :D

Bangsar-bAbE said...

I love Ah Wa' hokkien mee. But not the What-Darn-Whore. :P

HairyBerry said...

joe, gosh, sorry to hear that you didn't get to taste good hokkien mee when you were in town. i think reunion's version is, although not the best, but the safest bet. check it out when you return the next round, ya! :)

j, hehehe. what was i thinking, right? haha.

minchow, totally! and that makes us consumers wiser, but not in a very appropriate way, i guess. we need good old mad men! :)

sean, and it's even harder to convince people that the perfect version exists, isn't it? haha. oooh, carbonara's a favourite of mine too! especially with poached egg and truffle sauce! :)

bangsar babe, cool! ahwa's version's not bad, me thinks, but i guess i'm more into the savoury instead of the sweet type. hehe.

UnkaLeong said...

I get my fix at Cheow Yang. My friend has taken over the reigns of running the stall from his dad, I get a huge serving of decent Hokkien Mee whenever I go there!

Precious Pea said...

*High 5* I am hooked on Hokkien Noodle since young too and it's my one and only choice whenever I visit a 'tai chow'. Not a fan of whore though...hahahaha~~~

choi yen said...

Me totally can't remember got that advertisement wor although we are in same age range :P

Oh, Hokkien mee, my favorite BUT I have to give up because it's really calorie laden lor *me on diet plan* *sob*sob*

boon said...

good reason to try out their hokkien mee.

HairyBerry said...

unkaleong, you have just reminded me that i've not been to cheow yang in YEARS! ok, am gonna get more hokkien mee details from ya when we meet...:)

precious pea, high 5 back at ya! :) like you, i try to have hokkien mee whenever i go to a dai chow. just trying to try my luck cos they might just have a very good version. i'm a hor fun fan too! not whore though..hehehe...

choi yen, i think a lot of people have forgotten that advert, mostly because we were so young back then. haha. i've been a couch potato for a very long time already..haha. hey, no worries on the diet plan. there are a few places that you can work it out, like the lake at selayang, frim or desa parkcity. i workout at these places! :)

boon, thanks for dropping by! :) i agree. these stalls might not be my most favourite hokkien stalls but they are worth a try. :)

CUMI & CIKI said...

whore-rifically tasty.. :P

choi yen said...

But I'm super lazy person >.<

HairyBerry said...

cumi & ciki, definitely! hehehe.

choi yen, don't give up. gambatte! :)

Life for Beginners said...

They pit cornflakes against Hokkien mee? What are they, mad?? :P

Now I wonder What-Darn-Whore would be more Whore-Fun....

yc said...

somehow i like ah hwa's hokkien mee better. it has better wok hei the last time i tried both. but i think the one at jalan imbi is still the best!

J2Kfm said...

But I still don't get Ahwa's Hokkien Mee. And the constant stream of supporters.

To me, the noodles lacked wok hei, being bland without the condiment.

HairyBerry said...

kenny, omg, now that has got to be the question of the century!!! as a fan, i'd all all kinda whore-fun! :)

yc, thanks for stopping by! :) thanks for sharing. it's good to know yet another hokkien me fan! :)

j2kfm, ooooh, so you've tried ahwa's as well, eh? now that you are in kl, i hope you'll go hunt for a good hokkien mee in town. looking forward to your hokkien mee posts! :)

Anonymous said...

I thought hokken are like asian gypsies, they are everywhere but not liked and how can it be a definitive chinese dish? The mins are not even han.

Agree, whores are fun lol.