Penang’s Mamaks (Tamil-Muslims) are renowned for their culinary skills, and their spicy, aromatic cuisine dominates the Muslim dining landscape in Penang, where they tend to overshadow Malay cuisine. The Mamaks’ Nasi Kandar (rice served with a plethora of curried meats & vegetables) is one of Penang’s most famous culinary exports. Other famous Mamak eats are the murtabak, roti canai/prata, Indian rojak/pasembur, sop kambing, and mee rebus/mee goreng.
Mee Goreng, or Indian-Muslim-style fried noodles, is one of my comfort foods, and one place which always come to my mind when I’m hankering for a plate of good, spicy Mee Goreng has to be Hameed Mee Sotong. Mee goreng consists of yellow Chinese-Hokkien noodles stir-fried with a sweet-spicy chili paste with beansprouts, eggs, cucur (Indian fritters), taukwa (hard tofu) scallions and crisp shallots. Each Mamak vendor has his own secret blend of spices and condiments which go into the stir-fry: bits of chicken or mutton for some, tomato ketchup or some complex blend of spices for others. But a good plate of Mee Goreng must have strong assertive flavours, and pack an umami punch which will leave the diner hankering for more. And Hameed does this best!
Shahul Hameed runs this 40-year-old stall at the Kota Selera foodcourt next to Fort Cornwallis. His addition of sweet-spicy chillied cuttlefish gives his mee goreng a spicy kick which even the famous Bangkok Lane mee goreng (by Mahboob Zakaria) cannot match. Absolutely BEST I’d tasted in Malaysia, let alone Penang.
Come early (around 11.45am on weekdays) to avoid the crowds and a subsequent long wait. The food centre, Kota Selera, is located next to Penang’s famous British-built 230-year-old Fort Cornwallis.
Hameed’s Mee Sotong comes topped with a tangle of super-spicy cuttlefish which has been stewed in a blood-red chili sauce - super-delicious and the stuff of dreams. A tiny wedge of lime is provided on the side, to be squeezed onto the noodles and give it an extra taste dimension - so subtle that you’d think the ghost of a lime had glided through that plate of deliciousness in front of you. Each mouthful was pure culinary ecstasy - sweet, sour, spicy - all at the same time.
The perfect accompaniment for a fiery plate of Mee Goreng, and something to douse the chili heat, is a glass of iced lemon-honey drink. I also ordered iced “umbra”, a sourish green juice typical to Penang.
Hameed Mee Sotong
6 Kota Selera
Padang Kota Lama (Esplanade), next to Fort Cornwallis
Tel: +6013-431 9384
Opening hours: 12 noon - 8.30pm, Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.