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Penang lor mee: Thick and flavourful like no other

Picture by K.E.OoiGEORGE TOWN, Sept 13 — Thick and gooey with a strong five spice aroma, the Penang lor mee is one of the hawker fare in this food paradise that can only be found here.

Often confused with stir-fried noodles with cabbage and meat, also known as lor mee in other states, the Penang lor mee is prepared differently and a whole different bowl of goodness.

Lor mee, just like Hokkien mee, in Penang is a soupy dish and sometimes, it is also sold by Hokkien mee hawkers due to the similarities of some of the ingredients.

The origins of lor mee can be traced back to the Fujian province in China but due to the mix of cultures here, it has somehow evolved into a truly Penang cuisine with Hokkien and Hainanese influences.

The soup or thick gravy base for the lor mee is a pork bone and shrimp broth that has been given an extra flavour with the addition of five spice powder and then thickened into a sticky consistency with corn flour and eggs.

This results in a thick, brown, gooey soup base for the yellow noodles, slices of pork, bean sprouts, bean curd, innards and hard boiled egg. This is topped with crunchy fried shallots.

Some hawkers also offer additional ingredients such as pork skin, pig’s ears, pork knuckles and intestines.

Sometimes, this thick, dark brown concoction is also served with a spoonful of chilli sauce and vinegar garlic paste, adding a pungent aroma to the already flavourful dish.

The chilli gives the dish just the right spiciness to balance out the strong sticky flavours of the soup.

Many years ago, most Hokkien mee hawkers will also add a dollop of lor, the thick gooey gravy, to their Hokkien mee for a slightly sticky and rich texture to the dish upon request from customers who want the best of both worlds.

On its own, the lor mee can be rather cloyingly thick due to the corn starch and the eggs so the Hokkien cham lor (Hokkien mixed lor) used to be a dish on its own too.

Nowadays, most Hokkien mee stalls do not offer this any more. Shame really.

Here are five lor mee stalls to try out in Penang:

Hainan Lor Mee,  Bee Hooi Coffee Shop, Burmah Road
GPS: 5.432245, 100.310140
Time: 8am-10pm
This stall, located in an old-style coffee shop, is a well-known lor mee stall that has been in operation since 1957 and it only offers lor mee; extra ingredients available.

Lor mee stall, Seng Thor Coffee Shop, Junction of Kimberley Street and Carnavon Street
GPS: 5.354004,100.363002
Time: 6.30am-12pm
This coffee shop is particularly famous for lor mee and the coffee shop has been around since the 1950s. The lor mee stall has changed hands since then and is now run by the coffee shop owner. It serves only lor mee with fresh ingredients prepared daily.

Lean Thye Coffee Shop, Ah Quee Street
GPS: 5.415621, 100.338611
Time: 7am-10am
This is another coffee shop made famous by the lor mee stall  that has been in operation for decades. It is only open for breakfast so go early if you want to try it out as the noodles run out by 10am on busy days.

Kim Leng Lor Mee, Joo Huat cafe, Perak Road
GPS: 5.398167, 100.314692
Time: 7am-3pm
This stall not only sells lor mee with the additional ingredients but also chicken feet as a side dish or added into the lor mee.

Lor mee stall inside Pulau Tikus Market
GPS: 5.432245, 100.310140
Time: 6.30am-12pm
This stall is mostly frequented by those who shop at the wet market and it offers not only lor mee but also Hokkien cham lor noodles.