How a single dish sparked an intense debate among Malaysians. <small> Cover image via @wabisabi.gaka </small>
Hokkien mee is a favourite among foodies in Malaysia
<strong>This noodle dish is stir-fried with thick dark soy sauce, and it will never go wrong when a chef sticks to the old-fashioned cooking method of using charcoal fire.</strong>
Commonly found at Chinese hawker stalls and restaurants, hokkien mee is usually served with sliced pork, prawns, and cabbage.
Deep-fried pork lard is an integral ingredient to bring out the signature aroma of hokkien mee, though nowadays it’s not unusual to find hokkien mee that’s pork-free.
Undoubtedly, this dish has brought many Malaysians together. But locals are now divided because they’re arguing over what it is actually called.
While those based in KL and PJ call this dish ‘hokkien mee’, Penangites call this noodles as ‘prawn mee’
Traditionally, the noodles are stir-fried not just with the thick dark soy sauce but also with prawn stock, which is why the dish is sometimes referred to as 'prawn mee'.</p>
Did you know that Penangites have an entirely different version of hokkien mee?
<strong>They usually only recognise 'hokkien mee' as the popular soup-based prawn mee that is extremely famous in the Pearl of the Orient.</strong>
The prawn mee most of us know is also known as ‘har meen’ (Cantonese dialect), ‘xia mian’ (Mandarin dialect), ‘heh mee’ (Hokkien dialect), or ‘mee yoke’.
Yes, it can get a little confusing at first
Thankfully, it's quite easy to tell the difference between fried hokkien noodles and prawn mee despite the confusing names.
Prawn mee (or hokkien mee to Penangites), is made out of prawn broth and is usually served with kangkung (water spinach), pork slices, small prawns, eggs and a tablespoon of special chilli paste.
But why the difference in names? Basically, this is like the case with ‘football’ and ‘soccer’. What most parts of the world know as football is referred to as soccer by Americans.
However, it’s not just Penangites who call this noodle dish differently. This hawker-favourite is also known as ‘tai lok mee’ among Cantonese-speaking Malaysians.
<strong>Most people living in the Klang Valley area may also call this dish as tai lok mee, which literally means thick noodles in the Cantonese dialect.</strong>
Although the noodle is known as hokkien mee, the dish was popularised in Klang Valley, where the local Chinese are predominantly of Cantonese descent.
There have been claims that hokkien mee was created by Wong Kian Lee, a Chinese immigrant from the Fujian province of China, who came to the country in 1905 and lived in the area known as Kampung Baru today.
Although there are some doubts on who actually created this dish, most people believe and agree that the origins of hokkien mee can be traced back to the Fujian province, as ‘hokkien’ is a word indicating the Chinese province of Fujian.
What do you call this noodle dish as? Share with us in the comment section below! 🙂
No matter what you call it, I guess we can all agree that we love a good plate of fried Chinese noodles 🙂
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