The black gooey lardy fat Hokkien mee known as tai lok meen in Cantonese (which is still the lingua franca of KL Chinese) is one of Kuala Lumpur's signature dishes. Every neighbourhood in KL and Petaling Jaya has at least one or two famous Hokkien mee stalls.
One of the things that excite me about KL Hokkien mee is the spectacular fireworks leaping from the turbocharged charcoal stoves (yes you read correct, it's charcoal stove with an industrial blower blasting air over the hot embers). Sparks and leaping flames are so routine in KL and PJ that hardly anyone bats an eyelid to the daily artistry (which is uncommon elsewhere).
I also like the heady aroma of caramelised dark soy sauce and the taste of crunchy lard cracklings which are essential elements of any good KL Hokkien mee. The unique thick, fat, spongy tai lok meen noodles infused with savoury sweet flavour by simmering in pork bone stock have a lot to do with its popularity too. A major weapon of the best Hokkien mee shops is grounded dried sole fish (powder) which gives an added layer of robust savouriness to the dish.
We noticed two variations of KL Hokkien mee - at one end is the drier type, heavy on tacky lardy grease complemented by a savoury soy sauce blend. This was the tai lok meen of my memory and seemed harder to find nowadays. The more common variety these days is covered in a drippy wet blanket of dark savoury sweet sauce. Only a sprinkling of lard cracklings here and there reminds us of the presence of lard in the dish.
KL Hokkien mee is a dinner and supper thing - almost all tai lok meen shops open in the evening and close around midnight. I have been eating KL Hokkien mee for decades - these are just the seven I've tasted since I started blogging in 2012.
👍 I start with Tong Lian Kee 东莲记 because this is the KL Hokkien mee that is today the closest to the old tai lok meen of my memory. Just a slight moistness, bold with the lard, dark soy sauce with layers of savouriness seared into the thick fat tai lok meen (which literally means fat noodles). I like the dingy corridor nostalgic dining ambiance at Tong Lian Kee in the gritty old heart of KL. My favourite old school, no holds barred lardy KL Hokkien mee.
Restaurant name: Tong Lian Kee 东莲记福建面
Address: Intersection of Jalan Sarawak and Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
GPS: 3°08'16.3"N 101°42'35.9"E 🌐 3.137858, 101.709980
Waze: Tong Lian Kee Hokkien Mee
Hours: 8:00pm - 2:00am (Sunday off)
Kim Lian Kee is the grand daddy of KL Hokkien mee - the dish was created by Ong Kim Lian in 1927. Kim Lian Kee have a large restaurant in KL Chinatown now but I prefer the quaint ambience of their dingy grimy little parent stall where Mr. Ong laboured and gave birth to KL Hokkien mee. It's just a stone's throw from the KLK restaurant, smack in the middle of KL's Chinatown at Petaling Street.
I consider Kim Lian Kee the dry lardy type of Hokkien mee but they seemed to have toned down on the grease and increased the dark sauce. The soy sauce blend had layers of savoury flavours. Kim Lian Kee is generous with their pork slices, crunchy baby squid, chicken liver, cabbage and lard cracklings.
We bumped into Ah Lee, one of Ong Kim Lian's third generation. I kept being drawn to this gritty old stall where the dimly lit kitchen sits below street level because it is the historic birthplace of one of KL's heritage food.
Restaurant name: Kim Lian Kee (Original) 金莲记
Address: 42, Jalan Hang Lekir, City Centre, Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.144305, 101.697717 🌐 3°08'39.5"N 101°41'51.8"E
Waze: Restoran Kim Lian Kee
Hours: 6:00pm - 12:00 midnight
👍 I feel Mun Wah was the best among the wet ones we tasted during this trip. The mound of noodles were wet but not drippy. The syrupy texture caramelised dark sauce had robust savoury flavours in layers with a mild underlying sweetness. The tender noodles
Restaurant name: Mun Wah Hokkien Mee 文华福建面家
Address: 155, Jalan Maharajalela, Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3°08'11.7"N 101°42'10.6"E 🌐 3.136580, 101.702947
Waze: Kedai Makanan Mun Wah Hokkien Mee
Tel: 03 2144 7404
Hours: 5:00pm - 12:00 midnight (Weds off)
Ah Wah Hokkien Mee is in the second generation now (Ah Wah has retired). It's the wet type with more sauce and relatively sparing on lard. The dark soy sauce blend was relatively mild tasting with savoury flavour dominant and underlying sweetness. The pork slices, cabbage and lard cracklings embedded in the mound of wet noodles added flavour and texture to the mild tasting dish.
Restaurant name: Ah Wah Hokkien Mee in Restoran Millennium Eighty Six 亚华福建炒面 千禧百乐茶餐室
Address: Junction of Jalan 20/16a and Jalan 20/22, Taman Paramount, Sea Park, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
GPS: 3.108126, 101.624079 🌐 3°06'29.2"N 101°37'26.7"E
Waze: Ah Wah Hokkien Mee
Tel: +6016 2512591
Hours: 6:00pm till 12:00 midnight
Peng Yuan's Hokkien mee is also the wet type. The dark soy sauce blend flavour was relatively mild. Peng Yuen serves the best lard cracklings in this list - they toss and crisp them in the hot wok just before laying it on top of the smoking noodles before serving.
Restaurant name: Peng Yuan Hokkien Mee 邴元炭炒福建面
Address: 42, Jalan 14/48, Seksyen 14, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
GPS: 3°05'51.1"N 101°37'45.4"E 🌐 3.097515, 101.62927
Waze: Peng Yuan Hokkien Mee
Tel: +6010 281 3382
Hours: 5:00pm - 12:00 midnight (Monday off)
Ah Wa Hokkien Mee is at the opposite end of the same row of shop lots as Peng Yuan. Going by the crowd size at the large corner coffee shop, Ah Wa is
Restaurant name: Ahwa Hokkien Mee 新青山亚华福建面
Address: No. 66, Jalan 14/48, Seksyen 14, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
GPS: 3°05'47.7"N 101°37'46.3"E 🌐 3.096578, 101.629539
Waze: Restoran Ahwa Section 14
Tel: +6012 212 0623
Hours: 5:00pm - 1:00am
Tiong's Hokkien mee is served steaming hot with nice porky aroma rising up to our noses. The tongue scathing, piping hot noodles were enveloped in a black syrupy texture sauce with savoury porky flavours. The dark sauce was all on the surface, greasing the bouncy fat noodles making them slurpy wet. Lard was well represented but not in the death wish amount like at Tong Lian Kee. A handful of crispy lard cracklings were embedded here and there in the noodles. There were also pork slices, small prawns and pieces of cabbage in the noodles. (This was from a separate, earlier trip.)
Restaurant name: Tiong Hokkien Mee 新青山福建面
Address: 101, Jalan 21/37, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
GPS: 3°08'04.8"N 101°37'25.7"E 🌐 3.134654, 101.623794
Tel: 013-334 5550 ☎ +6016-305 0444
Hours: 6:00pm to 12:00 midnight