Mee Jawa, meaning “Noodles from Java”, is actually a very Penang dish utilizing yellow Hokkien wheat-and-egg noodles in a tomato-based sauce that’s been thickened using pureed sweet potatoes, and topped with boiled shrimps, fried tofu, egg, shallots and cut chilis. Calamansi lime will be provided on the side, to be squeezed over the noodles before eating. There is also a popular variant called Mee Jawa Goreng. These noodle dishes are adapted from the Indian-Muslims (“mamaks”) but Sinicized, making the dishes milder in chili heat.
81-year-old Mdm Ong Siew Kee has been churning out one of the best-tasting Mee Jawa Goreng in town for the past 38 years. She plies her trade in Perak Road Market, a busy morning market in the working-class neighborhood flanking busy Jelutong to the south.
Mdm Ong still opted to cook over a charcoal & firewood brazier which, she insisted, gave her fried noodles a smoky aroma which could not be achieved through a gas cooker.
I found her Mee Jawa Goreng simple, straightforward, and absolutely addictive - you keep wanting more! The sweet-sour-savory flavors came together like an umami bomb, and the gentle, pleasant soft texture of the Hokkien noodles complemented the sauce perfectly, absorbing some of the flavors of the sauce coating them.
Mdm Ong patiently stir-fries her noodles till they are about to break apart, before she ladles the steaming strands full of “wok hei” onto her serving plates.
Sometimes, there is simply no substitute for experience. Absolute deliciousness.
Perak Road Market
Taman Desa Green, 11600 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: 6am to 11am daily.