Curry Udon @ Menya Ichiyutei, Lot 10 Kuala Lumpur

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, ramen is a staunch favourite among Klang Valley-ites – think famous chains like Ippudo and Ramen Seirock-Ya, or Japanese-owned-and-run places like the ever popular Menya Shishido.

Udon, however, gets a lot less love. Almost all of my favourite spots for udon (Miyatake Sanuki, Marufuku, Hanamaru) have closed, and these days, I struggle to find a spot that can satisfy my cravings.

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J’s Gate Dining at Lot 10 Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur, has an entire floor dedicated to Japanese restaurants and eateries – so it seemed a good place as any to look for udon. True enough, we found Menya Ichiyutei, which specialises in curry udon. Their signatures are the Creamy Curry Udon and the Pumpkin Curry Udon – but they looked a little too heavy for our early lunch, so we ended up ordering other items instead. Aside from curry udon, they also carry a selection of dashi udon and rice bowls.

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My Beef and Egg Curry Udon (RM21.70 – regular, RM24.60 – large) featured a generous portion of noodles, a runny egg, and tender, thinly sliced beef. It was decent, but not spectacular. The curry was well balanced, with a hint of spice cutting through the sweetness. I wished the noodles were cooked al dente, though, as they were soft and did not have much bite. One thing I liked is that the shop provides free flow of tenkasu (deep fried tempura flour batter) so you can pair it with your noodles for some crunch.

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Hubs ordered the Fish Cake Tempura Curry Udon (regular – RM15.80, large – RM18.70).

Overall, what we tried at Menya Ichiyutei was enjoyable, but lacks that oomph factor. Still, service is fast and efficient, and the setting is comfortable – so it can be a choice for those craving curry udon while in the area.

In the meantime, my quest for the best udon joint continues…

MENYA ICHIYUTEI

P1-03, J’s Gate Dining, Level 4, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, 50250, Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 11AM – 8PM (daily)

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Super Kitchen Chilli Pan Mee, Damen Mall USJ

You’ve probably heard of pan mee (or ban mian, literally ‘board noodles’), the popular Chinese noodle dish served in soup, with various condiments such as minced pork and anchovies. But did you know that chilli pan mee is a wholly Malaysian invention?

Chilli pan mee traces its roots to Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur in 1985—the brainchild of one Tan Kok Hong, proprietor of the now legendary Kin Kin Pan Mee restaurant. Tan initially sold regular soup pan mee, but noticed his patrons adding chillies to their dishes. After a lot of experimentation, the chilli pan mee that we know today was born. I think it’s an excellent example of how the Malaysian-Chinese diaspora have taken elements of local culture and blended it into their cuisine, birthing something unique altogether.

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It has been ages since I last had a solid bowl of chilli pan mee. The cravings led the Hubs and I to DaMen Mall in USJ, where Super Kitchen Chilli Pan Mee has a small branch within the mall’s non-halal food court. I have tried the chain’s SS2 outlet and it is consistently good, so I was expecting the same from this outlet. Thankfully, it did not disappoint!

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The Hubs and I both ordered the signature chilli pan mee, which came in a generous serving topped with fried anchovies, minced pork, fried shallots, lard, and a runny egg. The chilli flakes are served separately, so you can adjust your level of spiciness. The noodles were cooked al dente, and the runny egg yolk created that smooth, silky texture which bound all of the elements well together.

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The Hubs loved their fried dumplings, which were fried fresh to order. The meat was moist and juicy, while the outside was crisp and fried to perfection.

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Cold longan drinks to quench our thirst!

Damen is kind of a dead mall on weekdays, so when we got to the food court, it literally looked semi-abandoned lol. The stall was the only one open, there was no one else sitting in the section, and some of the lights were not even turned on. But I was satisfied with the food quality and freshness (something that restos with low traffic may struggle with)—and me being anti-social, a quiet environment to dine in was just perfect!

Prices are reasonable for the setting. I would even say they’re one of the more affordable options when you’re at DaMen.

SUPER KITCHEN CHILLI PAN MEE (DAMEN USJ)
L3, Damen Mall, No. 1, Persiaran Kewajipan, USJ 1, 47600 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.

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Flavourful Mee Pok @ SRK Borneo Noodle House, Desa Setapak

As a college student, I frequented the shops at Desa Setapak, as I often had lunch there in between classes, or before I hopped onto the LRT back home. One of my favourite eateries there was Fancy Mee Corner, which served pan mee. I have fond memories of the place, not only for its excellent food, but also the company: many an afternoon was spent there with my friends, either having a meal, chilling out, or doing assignments while we munched on fried snacks.

But times change – and a lot can happen within a decade, which is also how long I haven’t been back to this neighbourhood. I was nearby after dropping off a Christmas gift for a friend, and decided to make a stop for old times’ sake.

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The main thoroughfare (Jalan Genting Klang) was almost unrecognisable. You know how a place feels familiar yet strange, because it has changed so much? The LRT station is still there, but there are now two massive flyovers, and there are multiple new high-rise projects within the area.

I walked over to where Fancy Mee Corner used to be. Unfortunately, it’s gone – but there is another restaurant in its place, called SRK Borneo Noodle House. Apparently it is not the same as the popular SRK Noodle House, even though the names are very similar, and the dishes are almost identical: they specialise in Sarawak-style kolo (dry) mee.

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The decor, however, is familiar, as it has the same layout as how Fancy Mee Corner used to look like. Nothing fancy (pardon the pun), with wooden stools and simple tables. Not a place to ‘chill’, but to have a quick meal.

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They have a lunch option going for RM6.50.

You can choose from a variety of noodles, including kolo mee, which has a thinner texture, wantan (egg noodles), as well as mee pok, which is what I prefer – the noodles are flat and thick, so it gives a good bite. They come with different accompaniments: the basic version has minced pork and slices of fishcake, and there is also a version with fishball. I opted for the one with charsiew (roast pork) sauce, which has a sweet and savoury flavour.

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Iced milk tea

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The char siew mee pok has a distinctive orange hue. The dish was pretty good: noodles were cooked al dente, the char siew sauce was sweet but not overwhelming, and the portions were generous. The bits of fried pork lard added extra oomph.

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For sides, I got a bowl of bursting pork balls, which were filled with minced pork and broth. They were bouncy with plenty of bite.

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Another side of fried wantans. Again, decent – they were freshly fried, sizable, crunchy and flavourful.

The food was pretty good, and the flavour is similar to SRK Noodle House. I wonder if they’re a ‘branch’ of sorts – it’s common here to have two ‘rival’ restaurants selling the same items, one opened by the original proprietor and another by a disciple/family member who had a disgareement or something.

The service, however, leaves much to be desired, especially from the main wait staff who also manned the cashier. The difference in service provided to me and another group of customers was too blatant for me to pass it off as me being paranoid, lol.

When I entered the shop and asked if there was a table for one, the staff (let’s call him A) didn’t even bother to reply : he simply looked at me as if I was annoying him by asking the obvious, and nodded to an empty table. After sitting down, I was given the menu, all without a word of hello, or any sort of acknowledgment. Well, at first I was like whatever – I’m here to eat, not to make chitchat. But then another group of diners – consisting of young college students, with what society would call ‘pretty’ girls – came in.

The difference in service was astounding. A came to their table, laid out menus for them, gave them recommendations, made jokes, laughed, and was generally the perfect picture of a friendly waiter. When he carried their meals to them, it was with a ‘enjoy your meal’, “oh this is your bowl, you didn’t want the pork intestines, right?”

Meanwhile, my meal was served and A was practically throwing the box of cutlery on my table.

Well, I know I’m not a pretty young thang … but dude. Same thing went I went to pay at the counter. Unsmiling, not so much a thank you for coming. If Malaysia had a tipping system, you’d get a 0 from me, my friend.

And guess what? It was the foreign wait staff who was professional and courteous to me when I had to place my order. Kudos to you, foreign wait staff.

So yeah. Probably not going to come back here. Not coz the food is bad, mind you. At first I thought it was just me being sensitive, but I was looking up Google reviews while writing this, and apparently I’m not the only one to think so. 😛

Or, you know. If you have faith in your ‘looks’, (I think I look okay, but apparently I don’t qualify, lol), by all means, give it a shot.

SRK BORNEO NOODLE HOUSE

Lot 15, 1/27B Desa Setapak 53300 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 9AM – 9PM

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PS2: Opinions here are entirely my own, and are not presented as fact. So if you’re thinking of suing me for a negative review, note that I’ve read up the relevant laws on libel. And hey – I did say your food is good, didn’t I?

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Last Hurrah: Miyatake Sanuki Udon, Isetan 1Utama

Japanese department store ISETAN recently announced that they will be closing their 1Utama outlet in April 2022 – much to my dismay, as one of my favourite udon places, Miyatake Sanuki Udon, is located within the store. The closure is still months away, but I still took the chance to have one last hurrah (just in case I’m busy and don’t manage to go in the coming months).

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There are a few Japanese restaurants within Isetan, including a ramen place and a Tonkatsu by Ma Maison (which serves one of the best tonkatsus in Malaysia, in my opinion). Miyatake Sanuki Udon is sandwiched in between, and comprises of a no-frills dining area with minimal decor, and a counter where you can make orders for takeaway. Aside from udon, which is their specialty, you can also get rice bowls (tendon) and set lunches. Prices are very reasonable, considering the location.

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Choose from chicken, pork, or beef udon, or get cold udon for a refreshing change. Rice bowl options include shrimp, pork and beef.

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For my mains, I went for the Kamatama Udon (RM11.80 – Regular). This is a simple udon dish where the noodles are boiled, and instead of running them through cold water, are immediately served together with a dash of spring onions, soy sauce and dashi broth, as well as a raw egg (the word ‘tama’ is short for tamago, meaning egg). The egg coats each strand of noodle, making them rich and silky smooth.

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Of course, we can’t miss the sides! Miyatake Sanuki Udon offers a respectable variety of fried snacks and appetisers. I recommend getting the beef bowl (RM5), which features tender slices of beef in a sweet broth, and the fried enoki mushroom (the tempura batter is crispy but not greasy). For me, a must order is the fried chicken karaage. They’re sizable, but cooked thoroughly, the outside is well seasoned, while the meat is moist and juicy.

So if you’re craving for good, relatively affordable udon, consider dropping by Miyatake Sanuki Udon – before they close in April. I’m definitely going to miss the food!

MIYATAKE SANUKI UDON

1 Utama Shopping Centre, Food Paradise [2F, Central Park Avenue, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM

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This Might Just Be The Best Halal Ramen in Malaysia: Ramen Seirock-Ya, IOI Mall Puchong

Tonkotsu has always been my favourite type of ramen. I mean, what can compare to a bowl of chewy, al-dente noodles, swimming in a rich, savoury pork broth?

The answer: Tori-Paitan, aka Chicken ramen.

Up until recently, I had not heard of this type of ramen – but apparently it’s quite popular in many parts of Japan, especially Osaka, where it is said to originate from. Just like tonkotsu, the broth is simmered for hours with chicken bones and meat, until it’s bursting with umami flavour.

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Now, Malaysians can also indulge in this scrumptious fare at Ramen Seirock-Ya, a ramen restaurant specialising in Tori-Paitan. Founded in Tsukuba City in 2009, the brand has been expanding to parts of Southeast Asia with a large Muslim demographic, including Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s excellent news for our Muslim friends out there who love ramen (which is normally made with pork), since the brand is halal-certified by JAKIM.

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The outlet at IOI Mall Puchong is spacious and comfortable. You check off the items you want on a chit, make payment at the counter, and they’ll send the food to your table.
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The signature is, of course, their Tori-Paitan ramen, which comes in several variants including Extreme (the must-try), Shoyu (soy-sauce based), Shio (salt-based) and Miso. You can also decide if you want the basic, or with additional egg or chicken slices. The noodles come with a slice of lemon – the servers recommend savouring the original flavour of the broth first, before adding the lemon, which gives it a slightly different taste.

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The noodles are good – well cooked, al dente and springy – but the broth is the real star here. After being boiled for hours, the flavour of the meat is condensed into the lip-smacking broth, and the taste is further accentuated by fried shallots and spring onions. Despite the amount of oil swimming on the surface, it does not taste greasy at all.

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On another visit, I ordered a plate of pan-fried chicken gyoza. They were crispy and slightly brown on the outside, and juicy and moist on the inside with lots of vegetables – no complaints here.

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Order a side of fried chicken karaage – expertly marinated and deep fried to golden perfection – before washing down your meal with a cold (or warm) glass of green tea.

If you’re not keen on the signature, also on the menu are items like Tan-Tan Men (a Japanese take on Chinese Sichuan dan dan mian), Tsukemen (cold noodles dipped in hot soup), Japanese curry rice, katsu don and chahan (fried rice) among others. Prices are actually more affordable than my favourite ramen place (which, sadly, has become so popular now that it’s impossible to dine-in without at least a 45-minute wait), ranging around RM18 – RM30 for most mains.

RAMEN SEIROCK-YA (IOI MALL PUCHONG)

1F Food Street, IOI Mall Puchong, Bandar Puchong Jaya, Puchong, Selangor
Tel: +603 5882 1262
Business Hours: 10AM – 10PM (last order 9.30PM)

HALAL

seirock-ya.com.my

*Opinions here are my own. Feel free to agree/disagree with mtaste buds.

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Signature Pork Noodles @ Harbour Steamboat, Bandar Puteri Puchong

Harbour Steamboat in Bandar Puteri Puchong is known for its hearty, belly warming hotpot dishes, which are available for dinner. It’s not common to eat hotpot during the day though, so the restaurant has affordable rice and noodle dishes for the lunch crowd – and they serve some pretty darn good pork noodles.

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The restaurant is cosy and air conditioned, and has Japanese touches, with rows of Japanese sake bottles lining the walls. This is because the owners of Harbour Steamboat also run a Japanese yakitori place upstairs, called Minato Yakitori. (Also one of the best places in Puchong to get Japanese-style skewers!)

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Iced plum and calamansi juice; a refreshing thirst quencher
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The star for me is the signature pork noodles (RM14.90), which is what I order every time without fail. The portion is large and will easily satisfy big eaters. If you’re a small eater, you can even share the bowl between two people. Choose from a choice of different noodles such as kuey teow, mee, beehoon and meesua (my preferred choice).

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The noodles are soft and silky, but the winner is the soup. Chock full of ingredients, you get generous portions of pork belly slices, pork mushroom balls, offal (intestines, kidney, liver), tender minced pork, squid and shrimp, all swimming in a cloudy broth that is bursting with flavour. To top it all off: a smattering of deep fried pork lard, which really adds extra flavour to the soup.

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Not in the mood for noodles? You can always get the pork soup with rice.

HARBOUR STEAMBOAT 

G, 49, Jalan Puteri 2/3, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: (daily) 11AM – 2PM, 5.30PM-10.30PM. Pork noodles available for lunch only.

Phone: +603 8063 5776

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Ginger Wine Noodles: Imbi Pasar Mee Halia @ ICC Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

Here in Malaysia, wet markets are more than just places to get fresh ingredients and household essentials – they’re social hubs where people gather to shop or meet friends and neighbours (well, pre-pandemic, at least). This is why you will often find kopitiams and food courts close to or located within a wet market facility.

Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang (also known as Imbi Market) was one of these places. The market was an icon of Kuala Lumpur for over 60 years, and the food stalls there were equally legendary: you could get noodles, classic kaya butter toast with coffee, Nyonya Kuih and more.

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A couple of years ago, the market had to be relocated to make way for a building project, so they moved to new premises at ICC Pudu. The new building is much cleaner, has a better layout than Imbi and has proper facilities. While it lacks the chaotic charm of the old market, the hawkers are still the same – so you can still get that authentic taste.

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One of the stalls here sells a rather unique dish: mee halia, or ginger wine noodles. You don’t often find this dish sold commercially, as it is usually served at home to new mothers, especially during confinement (for my non-Malaysian readers, confinement is a traditional practice following childbirth whereby the mother stays at home to rest, and have to adhere to things like avoiding water, eating certain types of food to boost recovery, etc.). In traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is thought to have beneficial properties and it is often recommended to expel ‘wind’ from the body, improve digestion and reduce bloating. 

The owner-chef is 70-year-old Wong Mei Lan, who has been selling the noodles for over four decades. “There was a young mother in my neighbourhood who had just given birth. She asked if I could make her a dish, as she didn’t have money to eat the proper foods for nourishment,” she explains. “More women started coming to me after that, and then even men because they said it was tasty. That’s how I started my business,” she shares.

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Each bowl costs RM9 and comes with a large portion of rice noodles, swimming in a cloudy broth topped with egg that has been fried with minced ginger, as well as tender pork slices and fresh prawns. The broth is definitely the star – after simmering for hours, the ginger, rice wine and pork bone create a deep and complex flavour, and a warmth blossoms in your belly with each sip. Comforting is the best word I can think of to describe the taste. The proportion of the wine has to be done right in order to achieve this effect, and although Madam Wong doesn’t make it in-house, she gets it from old folks from Perak who mix it at home. Basically everything that you’re eating is homemade, rather than commercially produced.

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One of the things I love about Malaysian hawkers is that they often last generations: you can find century-old establishments that are now into their fourth or fifth generation in the business. And even though age has caught up to Madam Wong and she can’t move as fast as she used to, she’s glad that there’s someone to take up the mantle: her youngest son Lee Chee Wai. Now, just as Madam Wong used to cook for her customers and their kids, so will Chee Wai cook for a new generation – and keep his mother’s cooking traditions alive.

IMBI PASAR MEE HALIA 

G20, ICC Pudu, Jalan 1/77C, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur 

Opening hours: 6AM – 2PM 

Note: I interviewed Madam Wong and Chee Wai for the October issue of Fireflyz, the inflight magazine for Firefly Airlines. This article features a few tweaks and some additional info I wasn’t able to fit in to the story.

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Trying Out Kuala Lumpur’s OG Hokkien Mee: Kim Lian Kee @ Petaling Street / Chinatown KL

Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown has a storied history. Like many Malaysian cities with a rich tin mining heritage, it started off as a pioneer town, with a large Chinese migrant population. Although Malaya was then under British rule, the colonists often appointed overseers from within the respective communities – and in KL, a “Kapitan Cina” administered over the Chinese.

One of these Kapitans, Yap Ah Loy, is attributed to the founding of KL’s Chinatown. After devastating fires, floods and civil war between the Chinese (from the Hakka and Cantonese clans) for control of the tin mining trade, many of the miners and coolies were keen on skipping town. Yap  persuaded them to remain in KL and ply another trade: growing rice and crops. He opened a tapioca mill in Petaling Street, which allowed trade to recover. In Cantonese, Petaling Street is called ‘Chee Cheong Kai’ (starch factory street), a tribute to its beginnings.

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Over the years, Chinatown’s flavour changed (I wrote about this in a previous post, which you can check out here). It became less of a hub for Chinese culture and more of a cheap market for counterfeit goods, managed by foreign workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and India. This loss of authenticity is the reason why I have not returned to Chinatown for many years – until recently. Times are hard, and the pandemic means that many foreign workers, whether legal or illegal, have been sent home. The street is much quieter now, and most of the stalls are manned by local Chinese again.

Thankfully, one thing that has remained unchanged through the years is food – and Petaling Street is home to many well-established, decades-old institutions, such as a 40-year-old muachi stall, a 2nd generation roast duck kiosk, wantan mee, and of course, Kim Lian Kee. 

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Widely touted as the ‘birthplace’ of Hokkien Mee in Kuala Lumpur, Kim Lian Kee was founded by a Fujianese migrant, Wong Kim Lian in 1927. That makes it close to a 100 years old! The brand has since expanded all over Malaysia, with proper restaurants in malls and commercial areas. At Petaling Street, the ‘original’ hawker stall, which has outdoor seating, sits just across the road from a slightly more upscale-looking resto with air-conditioning. 

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The style of cooking and noodles may have Hokkien roots, but Hokkien Mee was created by the Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora – and as such, you will not find it in China. Three places are known for their Hokkien Mee, and they are all slightly different: Penang’s version features thick noodles in a spicy broth made from prawn shells, prawn heads, prawn and pork ribs, served with pork slices, hard boiled eggs, kangkung, bean sprouts, fried shallots, sambal and lard. Singapore’s Hokkien Mee is stir-fried, lighter in colour and comes in a fragrant sauce made from stewing prawn heads, meat, clams and dried fish.

KL’s version, which is what Kim Lian Kee serves, is known as Hokkien char by Penangite Hokkiens, to differentiate it from the soupy one. It is stir-fried in a dark soy sauce together with ingredients such as pork, squid, fish cake, cabbage and lard. A good Hokkien Mee should be cooked over a charcoal fire, and the intense heat (wok hei) helps to seal in all of the flavours.

I had high hopes for KLK’s Hokkien Mee. Unfortunately, while it was decent, I would not say it is the BEST that I’ve ever tasted.  The noodles were nice and had bite, but they also had a strong bitter taste, likely from kan sui (lye, used in making yellow noodles). The yuet kong hor (moonlight kueyteow – raw egg on stir fried kuey teow noodles) was also just… okay. A tad disappointed, as I was expecting more from a place touting itself as the ‘birthplace’ of Hokkien Noodles. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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Aside from noodles, Kim Lian Kee has an extensive menu offering dai chow dishes like fried rice, fish and meat items, vegetables, tofu, etc. We got a fried rice with shrimp. Again, not bad but nothing wow either. The rice was a little hard. Uncle Roger would have a couple of things to say,

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The best item that we ordered (the bro agrees) was the fried chicken wings. They came in a set of three pieces, freshly fried and still piping hot. The chicken was marinated well and had great flavour, the insides were juicy, and the skin was crispy.

Our meal along with drinks came up to RM68, Considering that we were in a tourist area, I think it is still a fairly reasonable price.

Video below:

KIM LIAN KEE (PETALING STREET) 

92, Jalan Hang Lekir, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur.

Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (closed Wednesdays)

*The original hawker stall is at No.42, across the road, and is only open at night from 5PM. 

**If you’re looking for awesome Hokkien Mee, I have two other suggestions. One is the Kim Lian Kee branch at Aeon Cheras Selatan, although I haven’t been back in 5 years so the quality may be different now), the other is Aik Yuen Hokkien Mee in Setapak, behind the Tawakal Hospital. The latter is literally a shack and looks dodgy af, but you know those are the kind of places that serve the best food lol.

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