Pan mee is a Hakka-style noodle originating from Malaysia. Its Chinese name literally translates to ‘flat flour noodle’. Ewe Paik Leong checks out several restaurants serving this dish in the Klang Valley
1 Restoran Kin Kin, Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman, Kuala Lumpur (Non-halal)
Chilli pan mee is this restaurant’s signature dish.
The noodles lie under a layer of chilli flakes, a glob of minced meat, a handful of anchovies, a sprinkling of diced scallions and a poached egg.
The bowl of noodles comes with another bowl of soup containing sweet potato leaves.
When I poke the poached egg with a fork, it releases gooey yolk which I then mix to form the ensemble. The alchemy of wheaty flavour from the noodles, the fishy smokiness from the anchovies and the heat from the chilli flakes evoke a lovely taste. The yolk delivers excellent lubrication.
2 Noodle Shack, Avenue K, Jalan Ampang, KL (Halal)
Standouts in its menu include Hakka pounded-tea pan mee, coriander pan mee and Hakka salted-fish pan mee.
My coriander pan mee comes with deepfried anchovies, mushrooms, fungus, bean curd sheets and, of course, a forest of coriander leaves.
The earthy and soya-like flavours of the mushroom and the bean curd sheets respectively combine to catapult the mild citrusy flavour from the coriander leaves into prominence. There are also the occasional hits of smokiness and crunch from the anchovies.
3 Face to Face Noodle House, Jalan Ipoh, KL (Non-halal)
An ambitious picture-led menu features interesting variations of pan mee such as sizzling black pepper, hot plate chicken mushroom, dry curry chicken and even Sichuan style.
My dry curry chicken is a simple combination of broad noodles, chicken pieces and potatoes. The curry bursts in layers of flavours with an edge of fire, slapping my cheeks with umami.
The textures of the firm potatoes and chewy noodles grapple with each other in a captivating manner.
4 Little Jojo Kitchen, Jalan 1/27B, Desa Setapak, KL (Non-halal)
The menu is littered with a few inventive versions of pan mee such as chicken herbal, lobster ball and century egg dumpling.
My curry laksa pan mee is a tangle of broad noodles and other ingredients drowning in a reddish broth.
There are a lot of textures in this bowl: chewy broad noodles, spongy tofu puffs, hard crunchy long beans, soft crunchy bean sprouts and springy cockles. The ensemble is big on bite and even bigger on lively spicy slurp.
5 Restoran Chilly Pan Mee, Jalan Metro Perdana 8, Taman Usahawan, KL (Non-halal)
The items listed on the menu are not aimed at the adventurous. I order its curry pan mee and choose thin noodles. The dish looks like regular curry mee and even contains barbecued pork.
However, the thin pan-mee noodles taste like the yellow noodles used in a regular curry mee dish.
The curry dish lacks something to make it special and only passes muster. The play of textures with other ingredients is therefore not exploited.
6 Restoran Kimkia, Jalan A, Taman Lawa, KL (Non-halal)
The restaurant’s menu flirts with a few surprises such as assam pan mee and tomyam pan mee.
I’m not flirtatious so I just order a regular soup pan mee.
The ribbons of thin noodles are submerged in clear soup that is a tad weak in its flavour. There are mushrooms, sweet potato leaves and anchovies.
The noodles have a balanced mix of silkiness and bite, while the sweet potato leaves taste as green as they look. But they manage to save this dish from being mundane.
7 Kafe Meet Mee, Jalan 1/27B, Desa Setapak, KL (Non-halal)
All regular types of pan mee are available, including curry and vegetarian. Uncommon toppings such as fish cake and ginger dumpling add to the variations.
I go for the traditional soup pan mee. When I get home, my cat leaps up at me and I cradle it in my arms. Suddenly, it tries to kiss me! Wow, the fishy flavour of the anchovy-based soup still lingers on my mouth and its marine sweetness has left stickiness on my lips.
But I’ve to deduct a brownie point because earlier, the menu was rudely taken away from the table as I was taking photos of it.
8 Haha Siu Pan Mee, Jalan Kenari 19/A, Puchong Jaya (Non-halal)
Among the unusual versions available here are lor pan mee, bittergourd pan mee, Sabah-style pan mee, seaweed soup pan mee and prawn soup pan mee. You can choose noodles of different flavours such as spinach, pumpkin, coriander, purple cabbage and purple beetroot.
Haha Siu Pan Mee means “laughing pan mee” in Cantonese but after eating its lor pan mee, I fail to see the humour. The thick sourish-sweetish gravy overwhelms the vegetal flavour of the noodles, making the dish tastes just like regular lor mee.
9 Shi Fu Wantan Mee, Jalan Manis 4, Taman Segar, KL (Non-halal)
Though it specialises in wanton mee, this restaurant also offers the world’s spiciest pan mee. A placard on every table reads: “Consumption of the world’s spiciest pan mee may cause tearing, runny nose, paralysis and loss of consciousness. Proceed to consume at your own risk!”
This dry dish contains all the standard ingredients and looks harmless. The first mouthful delivers a spicy-sweetness but only for a split second. The next instant, my tongue whimpers for mercy at being assaulted by intense chilli-heat. After another mouthful, I give up and my hand reaches for my cold drink.
10 Mummy’s Noodle House, Jalan Perubatan 4, Pandan Indah, KL (Non-halal)
This is a neighbourhood restaurant with a rather unambitious menu as only the regular versions of pan mee are offered. Its beverages section is dominated by different riffs on jasmine tea.
My dry chicken curry pan mee contains the standard ingredients and is bolstered with a poached egg. The first mouthful is disappointing. The flavours of the curry go limp on my taste buds which prompt me to add copious amounts of sambal.
Luckily, the silky-and-chewy broad noodles spring a textural ace card to earn the restaurant a spot on this list. Rating: 3/5
Pictures by EWE PAIK LEONG