Friday, 3 October 2014

Hokkien mee in Bukit Mertajam

It is not often that I write something about hawker food in my blog but I simply must say something today. It regards my continuing search for the elusive best hokkien mee stall in Penang.

Despite what I've written in my Penang hawker food update posting which can be read elsewhere on this blog. I am still searching for the definitive hawker mee stall, one that can make me go back and try again. But you know, the search is both hard and difficult. Personal tastes do change and what is nice to me on one day may turn out to be only palatable on another day.

Just a few days ago, I received a message from an old friend asking me to join him at what a mutual friend of ours had described as the "best hokkien mee in Penang."

Naturally, I was intrigued. I wanted to join them but circumstances that day did not allow me to. So I messaged this mutual friend to find out more about his claim and I got back this reply. He had been disappointed too because his favourite hawker wasn't selling that day. Anyway, we agreed that should I go try searching for this hawker later, he would give me further pointers on finding him.

But you know what? I am not the only person looking for the best hokkien mee stall in Penang. Others are looking too. And I so happened to come across this item in the PG Food Hunter A Team 槟城美食探索A队 group on facebook.

Like all other facebook groups, this one started out small to satisfy food enthusiasts who were in search for good or new food establishments in Penang. Who would know that today, the number of foodies who had joined up has now surpassed 64,000 members. This is a no mean feat.

Anyway, just a few days ago too, someone posted in this facebook group that he had found his best hokkien mee stall. But his posting was rather short on details. All that could be ascertained was that the stall operated from a food corner behind a Tua Pek Kong temple in Bukit Mertajam.

The mere mention of Bukit Mertajam pricked up my ears. Well, if this was indeed his "best hokkien mee stall", I woouldn't mind having a go at it myself. The bonus was, of course, I won't have to travel far too. Not to the island, to be exact. This stall would be within a 15-minute reach from my home at the most. But the problem was that the story was short on details, especially the stall's location.

Nevertheless, there were some visual clues in the various pictures that this chap had posted up. I recognised the building and the extension on top of the building. why, I've been to this food corner several times already but each time, however, it was only to order the koay teow soup. Today, I must go there again and order the hokkien mee. Find out for myself whether its quality was worthy of the description that I can read on the facepage group.

So here it is, my bowl of hokkien mee.

The presentation is different from my previous experiences elsewhere. I had three pieces of deep fried chicken claws thrown into my bowl but of course, they had been soaked through until the skin was quite softened. There was also a big fresh prawn in my bowl. I didn't ask for it, but the big prawn arrived together with the usual condiments: slices of prawns, lean pork meat, egg and a spoonful of chilli paste. I understand that there are also pork ribs but unfortunately, they had finished when I arrived past 8.30a.m. today.

For all these ingredients in my bowl, the damage to my pocket was RM4. Still, this is a pretty cheap breakfast for all comparisons. For instance, at one of my more regular hokkien mee stalls near the Kampong Baharu market, also in Bukit Mertajam, I would have to pay RM3.50 and there weren't any chicken claws or big prawns.

But all these additions to the hawker fare are relative only. The real difference is in the soup, and each hawker jealously guards his own list of food ingredients. However, everyone knows that the hokkien mee soup comes from the prawn head and prawn shells that are boiled for hours on end. Here at this stall, the soup was delicate yet delicious. The prawn stock was fantastic as I slurped up the spoonfuls of goodness. I commended the hawker for the quality of his soup and he felt ecstatic. Could tell from the big smile that he gave me at the end of the meal.

All things said, I am still searching for the ultimate hokkien mee. Will I find it at Taman Tun Sardon if I were to go search for this stall in the weeks to come, or is this already it?

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