Chilli pan mee

22 Feb

Restoran Super Kitchen's famous chilli pan mee

Last weekend, we decided to check out FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia), a huge park/research area about 30 minutes northwest of our condo. One of the perks of living in this country is that you can drive a few kilometers and find yourself hiking around huge, Jurassic Park-like trees and watching baby monkeys frolicking in the canopy overhead (not to mention crazy mountain bikers trying to negotiate the steep, rocky trails). Of course, our hike was just an excuse to check out the real highlight of the neighborhood: the chilli pan mee at Restoran Super Kitchen.

Pan mee is the name for hand-kneaded flour noodles (the name means “flat noodle” in Chinese). Despite the Chinese name, it’s Malaysian in origin, according to Wikipedia (although with plenty of Chinese precedents). In noodle cosmology, it occupies the same space as home-style noodles in chicken soup: firm, a little rough, and on the thick side. Pan mee is always served in at least three styles: soup, dry (with the soup on the side), and, because this is Malaysia, chilli. The last type is probably the most popular, and Restoran Super Kitchen is famous for it. Upon ordering, you get a heap of linguine-width noodles (really, just like chicken noodle soup), topped with cooked ground pork, dried anchovies (fried so they’re extra crispy), something else tasty, and a poached egg, plus a small bowl of soup with mysterious green leaves. (The leaves are called sayur manis, or sweet leaves, which isn’t very helpful. Suffice to say they taste a little like baby spinach.) Then you add dried chili condiment to taste, and mix the whole thing together. Results are delicious: the chewy noodles are coated with the creamy egg yolk and savory pork bits, with the crunchy anchovies and the spicy chili balancing out the richness of the egg and the pork.

Since the noodles and the chili condiment are handmade (or housemade, in restaurant-speak), there’s a lot of room for variation. Here’s the chilli pan mee I had at a stall closer to home, which is now sadly closed:

The pan mee I will never taste again

It’s a bit difficult to tell from the grainy and dark cell phone photo, but the noodles are much wider. Plus there’s the obvious differences in garnish: the pork and the leafy bits are already mixed into the noodles, the poached egg is on the side, and — most significantly — the chili condiment is a sauce, not dry. I don’t even know if this would be considered a true chilli pan mee. Of course, all of this is a moot point, since the last time I went to the stall, they were serving toast.

Luckily, judging by the crowd at the Super Kitchen, it’s not going anywhere — and I like their chilli pan mee better. It’s enough to motivate me to take up jungle trekking on a regular basis.

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