Friday, 8 April 2016

Best Penang Hokkien Prawn Noodles in Johor Bahru JK1459


I noticed that Johoreans have a liking for Penang prawn noodles (known simply as Hokkien mee in Penang). Most coffee shops in Johor Bahru have one Penang prawn noodle stall. These stalls are often operated by Penangites drawn to JB by the opportunities here.


According to the urban legend related to me by my Penang friends, Penang prawn noodles have a very humble birth story and the original dish is indeed very simple. As the legend goes, the dish was created during the Japanese Occupation of British Malaya (1942 to 1945). The ingredients consist mainly of discards.


Starting with prawn heads, which are a big part of Penang Hokkien mee. During the Japanese Occupation, the large prawns naturally went to the Japanese who would enjoy the meaty flesh and discard the heads and shells as trash. The resourceful Penangites put the "rubbish" to good use, frying the prawn heads in chili and spices before boiling them to make the signature broth.


Boiling the prawn heads and pork socket bones produces this broth at the heart of Penang Hokkien mee. Don't be deceived by it's clear, watery looks - good Penang Hokkien mee broth packs a robust crustacean savoury punch (umami in pretentious epicurean speak) layered with porcine savoury sweetness from the pork bones.


The Japanese don't eat red chili peppers, so there was plenty of these available to blend together with dried shrimps to make sambal chili. A good sambal chili is a key element of good Penang Hokkien mee.


Back to the subject of prawns, the large prawns ended up on the tables of Japanese officers as ebi sashimi. All that was left, were these little tiny sea shrimps. Stir fried with chili and spices, the little prawns pack a lovely savoury sweet flavour second to none.


And, there are these almost "pathetic" stingy slivers of lean pork. You see, in those days, the fishermen bartered their catch with their equally deprived pig farming compatriots. So, every little bit of pork was precious and it was a luxury used very sparingly.


The original recipe uses kangkong (water spinach) which is an abundant weed in the longkangs (canals and drains) of wartime Penang. It turned out that these humble green weeds are quite tasty, crunchy and rich in vitamins :-D


Viola! A humble yet delicious dish born out of desperate times and the ingenuity and fighting spirit of Penangites. The war was long over (sixty years ago) and Penang Hokkien mee proudly remains as one of the island's representative dishes. Hokkien mee is the comfort food of Penangites, more so than Penang asam laksa, char kway teow or white curry mee.

There are still stalls in Johor Bahru serving Penang Hokkien mee according to or very close to the original recipe.


Restaurant name:  大路後檳城蝦麵.卤面 Penang Prawn Noodle <- click
Address: Stall in You Xiang coffee shop 友香, Jalan Permas 4/4, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, Johor Bahru, Malaysia 
GPS: 1.505670, 103.820883 /  1°30'20.4"N 103°49'15.2"E
Hours: 7:30am - 1:00pm (closed on alternate Monday)

Restaurant name: Ah Lau Penang prawn mee stall 啊佬檳城福建面 (in Restoran Kang Wei) <- click
Address: Jalan Harmonium 10 (near junction with Jalan Harmonium 13), Taman Desa Tebrau, Johor Bahru, Malaysia 
GPS: 1.564848, 103.795741 / 1°33'53.5"N 103°47'44.7"E
Hours: 7:00am to 10:00am (Closed on Weds)


Restaurant name: Noodle stall in New Star kopitiam <- click
Address: Jalan Sutera, Taman Sentosa (Opposite Plaza Sentosa, formerly Lien Ho Complex) 
GPS: 1.493268,103.769677 / 1°29'35.8"N 103°46'10.8"E
Hour: 8:00am to 2:00pm (closed on Thursday)


But, times have changed. I noticed that the most popular Penang Hokkien mee stalls are not the ones serving the original version. The most famous Penang prawn mee stalls are the ones serving "upgraded" versions of the dish. This is inevitable as quality of life improved and should be welcome.


This is the same in Johor Bahru or in Penang. 三條路888福建面 is one the flag bearers of Penang Hokkien mee stall in Penang. Penangites often bring their guests here, to impress them about the iconic dish with 三條路888福建面's highly souped up version of the classic dish.


At 三條路888福建面, on top of their excellent basic Hokkien mee, there're options for sio bak (roast pork), braised pork trotters, golf ball size fried fish balls, pork intestines, and other interesting add ons.

Restaurant name: Lebuh Presgrave 888 Hokkien Mee  三條路888福建面  <- click
Address: Off Lebuh McNair, corner lot 67-A Lebuh Presgrave, Georgetown, Penang 
GPS: 5.411001,100.330694 / 5°24'39.6"N 100°19'50.5"E
Hours:  4:30pm to 12:00 midnight (Closed on Thurs) 


Also in Penang, there is a popular Halal Penang Hokkien mee stall. Cifu Omar uses only chicken and shrimps, and his die hard fans include many non Muslims who couldn't resist his prawn broth and power packed sambal chili.

Restaurant name: Cifu Omar Hokkien Mee <- click
Address: Stall at Kafe Goodall 万和饮食中心 - Opposite Fettes Residences (condo) along Jalan Tanjung Tokong in Penang, Malaysia 
GPS:  5.451666, 100.305850  /  5°27'06.0"N 100°18'21.1"E 
Hours: 11:00am to 2:00pm (Closed on Sat and Sun)

In Johor Bahru, the more well known Penang noodle stalls are winning over customers with gentrified versions of the humble dish. The most common "upgrade" is larger fresh prawns. Some stalls have fried fish cake, others have pig tails, skin and pork ribs.


Restaurant name: 北海仔虾面 stall inside 家亲茶餐室 Jia Qin coffee shop  <- click
Address: 159, Jalan Rawa, Taman Perling, Johor Bahru 
GPS: 1.472722, 103.669511 / 1°28'21.8"N 103°40'10.2"E 
Hours: 7:00am to 1:00pm (Closed on Weds)


Restaurant name: 大蝦面 stall in Anak JB 好运来 coffee shop <- click
Address: Jalan Tanjong, Taman Desa Cemerlang, Johor Bahru  
GPS: 1.560098, 103.808911 / 1°33'36.4"N 103°48'32.1"E
Hours: 7:00am to 1:00pm 


Restaurant name: Mary Penang Food stall in Ah Huat coffee shop  <- click
Address: Jalan Setia 3/7, Taman Setia Indah, Johor Bahru 
GPS: 1.574143, 103.758238 / 1°34'26.9"N 103°45'29.7"E 
Hours: 7:00am to 2:00pm (Closed on Thurs)


Restaurant name: 168 Penang Prawn Noodles Stall in Tai Soon kopitiam  <- click
Address: Junction of Jalan Badik 1 and Jalan Badik, Taman Sri Tebrau, Johor Bahru 
GPS: 1.486233,103.768782 / 1°29'10.4"N 103°46'07.6"E
Hours: 7:30am to sold out (usually 1:00pm) daily


Restaurant name: San Ming 三民 Penang Prawn Mee (stall inside Hengs Hengs kopitiam) <- click
Address: Near the junction of Jalan Perang and Jalan Kuning, Taman Pelangi, Johor Bahru 
GPS: 1.481739,103.775044 / JK14591°28'54.3"N 103°46'30.2"E
Hours: 7:00am to 2:00pm daily (no off day)


Restaurant name: 喜记 Penang prawn mee in Koon Chong 群众 kopitiam  <- click
Address: Junction of Jalan Kris and Jalan Kelewang (Opposite Wisman Tionghua) 
GPS: 1.486968,103.769259 / 1°29'13.1"N 103°46'09.3"E
Hours: 5:30am to 2:00pm (closed on Friday)


Restaurant name: Lim Hong Yong Stall 林记 <- click
Address: Jalan Biru (stall in Taman Serene hawker centre opposite San Low seafood restaurant), Taman Serene, Johor Bahru  
GPS: 1.471995,103.774527 / 1°28'19.2"N 103°46'28.3"E
Hours: Daily 7:00am to 5:00pm (closed on Thursdays)


I love the "improved" Penang prawn mee but also support the good old original, much leaner dish which is sometimes unjustly maligned for it's "too small" prawns and lack of add ons.

The original Penang Hokkien mee is a memorial of the Japanese Occupation, not so different from commemorative stones and historic buildings.

Please share with me your favourite Penang style Hokkien prawn mee stall in Malaysia, Singapore and beyond.

Date: 8 Apr 2016

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  1. Another good hock kean mee is at restaurant leong seng huat at Taman Perling JB

    1. Yes Thank you CK. Shall visit it again soon :-D

  2. tony, heng heng kopitiam is no more. the prawn mee shifted to a kopitiam further up from the pelangi moonlight bakery

  3. your penangite friends are full of BS. prawn noodles originated from fujian.

  4. Penangites are very creative and better educated as they have good schools like Penang Free School, St Xavier Institution & Brothers' schools etc. They also good at selling their food and thus Penang Prawn Mee was born!


I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is the same as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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