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