It doesn’t matter what you call it – Penang Hokkien mee or prawn mee – what everyone in Malaysia can agree on is that this bowl of prawn noodles is delicious and a staple in most traditional Chinese coffee shops. Sometimes though, it can be eclipsed by its richer siblings like curry noodles and the many different types of laksa available in the country. Other times, what you need is a bowl of clear, spicy broth with noodles, a heaping of sambal, and prawns to hit the spot – especially on a cold rainy day.
For those unfamiliar with prawn noodles (which are also called har mee in the local Cantonese dialect), it’s essentially a bowl of mildly spicy broth served with your noodle of choice: flat rice noodles (kuey teow), yellow noodles (mee), rice vermicelli (bihun), or a mix of two noodles. The bowl of prawn noodles is served with blanched prawns, fish cakes, bean sprouts, and the occasional slices of roast pork.
What makes this simple bowl of noodles so captivating lies in its flavourful broth made of a rich stock of prawn heads and pork bones. The pork bones lend the broth its base, while the prawn heads shape the depth and intense level of umami. Like most hawker stalls in Malaysia, each one will have its own tweaks and secret recipes to really make the bowl of prawn noodles their own.
Have we gotten you craving for a bowl of noodles already? Read on to find out where you can get some of the best bowls of prawn mee in KL and PJ.
Like any hawker stall in the city offering good food, its perpetual crowd is testament to that. Come prepared to wait, but know that you’ll be duly rewarded with a bowl of prawn noodles that is robust with flavour, made sweeter with the addition of fresh prawns. For RM6.50 per bowl, you get sliced shrimp, tau foo pok (deep-fried fluffy tofu puffs), pork slices, an egg, and topped off deep-fried shallots.
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Prawn Noodle King may have branched out across the Klang Valley, but its OUG outlet remains its most popular offshoot. Coming to this specialised shop gives you the comfort of air conditioning, but it doesn’t scrimp on the authenticity of the prawn noodles. With good reason too, as the recipe actually stems from the iconic Penang Seang Lim Hokkien Mee recipe dating back to 1981. The broth and sambal this store makes are one of the best out there, coupled with a good heaping of crispy pork lard, fried garlic, pork slices, and blanched prawns.
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While most hawker stalls operate only for breakfast and lunch, Soon Lee Prawn Mee opens from the evening till nighttime – perfect for those who have a dinner craving. This humble stall along Jalan Ipoh has Penangites living in KL flocking there, as they claim it’s as good as the one back home. Savour the bowl of noodles when you get them, and if you like your spice, add more of the store’s homemade sambal into the noodles.
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One might be surprised to find a good bowl of noodles in a hawker store in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, as the place is predominantly known for food trucks and hip cafes. Yet, nestled in this corner Chinese coffee shop is a stall selling some of the best prawn noodles in town. Each bowl is superb and packed with the rich flavour of shrimp stock.
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Yet another store that hails from Penang, Choon Prawn Mee House successfully recreates the authentic taste of prawn mee from the island down to the fresh and juicy prawns in the bowl. If you’re feeling fancy, we recommend getting some add ons in your noodles such as pig innards and larger prawns.
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Lucky Garden in Bangsar is another hotbed for good hawker food, so don’t be surprised to find prawn noodles amongst them. While Restoran Sun Huat Kee is more known for sam kan chong-style pork ball noodles, don’t dismiss the prawn noodles too. Its portions are generous and its taste divine, making it the perfect hearty lunch during your time there.
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Our final recommendation is perhaps also the most pared-back one – you literally get your bowl of prawn noodles from a food truck, and we’re not referring to the hipster kind. Its serving is smaller than most stores, but makes up for it with a spicy soup base that packs a punch and juicy prawns that will go well with your rice vermicelli noodles. Since its serving is small, we’re pretty sure you’ll have room to try out the food truck’s signature asam laksa noodles too.
(Image credit: Instagram/ @kyspeaks)