For decades since my first visit to KL in the 1970s, whenever I am in Kuala Lumpur, I will look for an opportunity to taste KL style Hokkien mee. So far, my favourite is still Kim Lian Kee at Petaling Street, KL's Chinatown.
Petaling Street is now a tourist trap overrun by rows upon rows of identical stalls peddling counterfeit goods.
金莲记 Kim Lian Kee's time weathered signboard still hangs at the original dingy stall founded in the 1920s. Nowadays (since a decade ago), the owners are seldom seen cooking - it's mostly in the hands of a team of hardworking, efficient foreign workers.
The superheated iron wok and plenty of pork lard, the essential elements of KL style Hokkien noodles are still there. The orange hued flying bits of charcoal cinders still make a firework display that captivates me.
The heap of charcoal, the source of that high heat needed for frying KL style Hokkien mee, strewn unceremoniously at the feet of the chef on vintage blue and white kopitiam mosaic.
At Kim Lian Kee or any good KL Hokkien mee stall, you will hear the incessant non-stop clanging of the iron wok and spatula. Because, skipping a beat would burn the noodles on that superheated wok.
Whenever I am here, I always order the smallest serving (RM9) and we would share it. The foreign staff would always serve us gladly. There were 3 of us, and we were given 3 sets of sambal chili and utensils. The noodles were served within 10-15 minutes, as usual.
I am always impressed with Kim Lian Kee's Hokkien mee. The fat black noodles with a shimmering glint from the heavy grease set on a banana leaf landed on our table piping hot and puffing steam. The coils of fat yellow noodles were tacky and sticky with caramelised sauces. Please be careful with that first mouthful of noodles to avoid scathing your tongue.
I love the slightly smokey taste of the savoury black soy sauce blend enveloping the fat spongy yellow noodles. It had just the right balance of mild savoury sweetness, leaning on savoury. The lard added another savoury sweet porky layer of flavour to the noodles. In the noodles, there were small squid heads, prawn, lean pork slices, bits of chicken liver and cabbage, and of course, crispy oil saturated aromatic lard crackles. Fried garlic and powdered ti poh (dried sole fish) gave Kim Lian Kee's Hokkien mee another dimension in savoury flavour. This simple looking fried noodle dish is much more than meets the eye!
It's an artery destroying treat worth dying a little for. I usually get a few friends along to spread out the cholesterol load :-D
The sambal chili has a slight crustacean savouriness and a mild spicy sting.
Once again, Kim Lian Kee satisfies my craving for KL Hokkien mee.
Kim Lian Kee has a well appointed, air conditioned restaurant branch just across the junction, 20 paces away. It also has several branches across KL. I didn't bother to find out where they are because I prefer this weather beaten original stall, rain or shine.
I am a silly old sentimental
I am not sure for how long more this historic old Kim Lian Kee stall will still be around.
Traffic and parking are challenging in central KL, so light rail transport is the best way to get here. The nearest LRT station to Petaling Street is Maharajalela station (MR3) along the green line. From the station, it is about 500 metres to Petaling Street.
The story of KL Hokkien noodles as shared by it's creator Wong Kim Lian's nephews (third generation owners of Kim Lian Kee).
->> KL Hokkien mee is a must try food icon of Kuala Lumpur - no where does this dish better.