Hokkien Mee from Hotel. Photo by Doris Lim
I laughed reading this hoax in an email aloud to my crustacean loving friend.
“Do you know that eating shrimp and taking Vitamin C can cause death by Arsenic poisoning?” I teased.
My friend nearly choked on her noodles, her chopstick lifted in the air, other hand holding her spoonful of wonderful aromatic soup steady. She grinned, like a Cheshire cat and put her “weapons” down. She reached over and lifted her drink and took a long sip. Fresh Orange double.
“Aiyah! How can you believe such rubbish? I do this all the time, see still alive and kicking”.
The prawns stare back, their beady eyes, shell and antenna fried to a crisp, all arranged on her bowl like red flowers. The antenna was disturbing; these overhang from the bowl like threads. My friend continued to eat, slurping the soups and using her chopsticks; she lifted several strand of yellow noddle and curled that onto her spoon and pushes the contents into her mouth.
“Needs more chilli. Actually a little “lor” be good to thicken the soup” I said, tucking in. Hotel food’s just pretty but the real stuff is found in a coffee shop that needs to be renovated badly.
The morning sun’s hot in that coffee shop. All the patrons wait like steam rising.
When I get that craving in the mornings, first thing I’ll do is wash my hair and got there early with still wet hair. It was that hot and stuffy, the heat just air dries my hair. The wet hair bit was good to keep cool whilst waiting.
Forty minutes of watching steaming bowl of chilli red Hokkien Mee pass by to neighbouring tables. Wait.
Watching other folks eat the lard crackling from little plastic saucers like peanuts. Wait.
Finish my Nescafe ice. Wait.
Finally that all powerful Aunty (she’s the one who remembers your order even if you go MIA for a year or two!) brings me my large bowl, only yellow noodle and just prawns. Without chilli, please.
The soup is frightfully spicy, enough to squeeze tears from eyes.
The smell of the prawns is unmistakable. The thinly sliced sea prawn flesh is juicy and firm with a nice bite. I drink in the soup, salivating at the same time. Other newbies waiting are transfixed, alternating between staring at the guy manning the stall, as if stares can make him blanch the noodles faster! Or just eating with their eyes, lusting after someone’s bowl of noodles.
The Penang Hokkien Mee is a popular spicy soup based noodle, hawker fare. The rich soup is made from a stock of prawn shells, pork ribs and chicken stock. The yellow noodles or bee hoon (dried rice noodles) are garnished with sliced boiled eggs, prawns, kankung (water convolvulus) fried onions with lard crackling and a dollop of chilli paste. Outside Penang this dish is called Prawn Mee.
Doris Lim is a popular freelance writer who blogs as Little Fish on travel and food stories here. Be sure to check out her other inspiring stories and follow her Instagram @SmartDoryID & Facebook to check out more places to eat delicious street foods or dine in the best restaurants!