Lor Mee is a Fujianese/Hokkien noodle dish characterized by its unctuous, gooey, brown-hued gravy, scented with Chinese 5-spice and flavored with soy sauce, eggs and other condiments. The dish utilizes the Hokkien yellow wheat noodles, together with thin “bee hoon” rice noodles for that contrast in textures so well-loved by the Hokkiens.
There is a distinct difference between Singaporean “lor mee” and Penang “lor mee”, despite the somewhat similar appearance.
Singapore-style “lor mee” contains fish-meat and crisp-fried battered bits for an added crunch. Vinegar, minced garlic and chili paste are provided on the side, to be added to the noodle dish as per one’s taste preferences. The bowl of “lor mee” below is from Yuan Chun Lor Mee at Amoy Street Food Centre, my fave spot for this dish in Singapore for the past 30 years:
Penang-style “lor mee”, on the other hand, has a deeper, more savory flavor from the use of pork and chicken broth for its gravy. It’s served with braised chicken-feet, braised pig’s skin, pig’s liver and intestines, plus soy-braised egg. No fish-meat, and the crisp texture comes from golden-fried shallots. Minced garlic soaked in vinegar, and chili sauce were also provided on the side - but I personally found this unnecessary, as the Penang version was already so tasty on its own.
Hai Beng, located across Stewart Lane from the 220-year-old Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple), is my personal favourite spot for “lor mee” in Penang.
Hai Beng was founded in 1957 by Hainanese hawker-chef, Cheah Meng Kin, at Carnarvon Street (“Lam Chan Nah”). At the time, his was one of only two “lor mee” stalls in the whole of Penang. In 1968, Cheah Meng Kin bought the current shophouse, which he named Hai Beng, and which he ran with his wife. After he was widowed, his eldest son, Cheah It Ong, and his daughter-in-law, stepped in to assist him.
Currently, Hai Beng “lor mee” is managed by the 3rd-generation of the family: Cheah It Ong’s eldest daughter, Cheah Siew Li. The “lor mee” here, although it may not actually be as aromatic as during Cheah Meng Kin’s time due to the non-availability of certain herbs and ingredients used during the elder Cheah’s time, still remained, IMO, the tastiest in Penang by far.
The Cheahs also make an amazing rendition of the Penang-Nyonya otak-otak, a spiced fish mousse, wrapped in banana-leaf parcels and steamed, which I absolutely can not resist if I ever saw one offered anywhere. And the one here had all the right flavors - wild betel leaf, turmeric, coconut milk ,chilis, fish-meat.
The shop has a dated, retro feel - almost unchanged since the 1970s. I loved this spot to bits - familiarity breeds content.
Lor Mee (Hai Beng Coffee Shop)
32, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, corner with Lorong Stewart (Stewart Lane)
10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-490 5252
Opening hours: 8am to 4pm, daily