Text and images by CK Lam @ Makansutra
With its multiracial and variety of culture, Penang is a melting pot for lip-smacking cuisine. One great example would be the Mamak Mee Goreng, which some label as a “die-for” meal of its own. Mamak are Indians who embraced Muslim as a religion, hence they do not eat pork and they go to the mosque for prayers. The Muslim style fried noodles was adapted from the Chinese migrants to Malaysia in the early 20th century. Subsequently, the trend for Mamak Mee Goreng was born not long after. It is amazing that despite being a minority, the Mamaks have such a profound impact on Penang’s culinary palate.
Just a mention of Mee Goreng and most locals will point you to the heart of Pulau Tikus, Penang. The Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng is simply legendary and people from all walks of life have been patronising this place for decades. In general, Mee Goreng served in Penang is slightly different from the rest of the nation. Apart from the usual ingredients such as shrimp cake, egg and tofu, there is the use of cuttlefish and squid that makes Penang Mee Goreng stand out from the rest.
This stall, located in Seng Lee Café along Bangkok Lane, is operated by Mahboob Zakaria and his family. Amazingly, Mahboob’s family has been serving up fantastic Mee Goreng for approximately 80 years! The business has been passed down over several generations, and today Mahboob is the main cook behind the wok. Even though he dishes out excellent noodles, Mahboob is equally famous for his business acumen; he is a very friendly person and even speaks Hokkien dialect like a native Penangite!
Watching Mahboob working the wok is an art of its own. With one hand frantically tossing and stir-frying the noodles and ingredients, his other hand would be skillfully gripping the wok and rotating it constantly in a circular manner! This is the method Mahboob sticks to, and the result is a perfect plate of Mee Goreng. The noodle is relatively moist, bursting with aroma and a slight tinge of smokiness from the heated wok.
Taste wise, the noodles possess all the flavors to tinge the taste buds – sweet, sour and spicy. Made from prawn stock and mashed sweet potatoes, the gravy furnishes the noodles with sweetness while the chili tomato paste contributes to the hints of sourness and spiciness. On top of that, the Mee Goreng draws blossoming flavor from the dried cuttlefish. These two are the main contributors to the tastiness of the dish.
When served to the table, the Mee Goreng emits steam like a Puffing Billy. Just before eating, squeeze in some lime juice and mix it all up! It makes a whole world of a difference, especially for this particular Mee Goreng. According to Mahboob, the secret for serving up a fantastic plate of noodles is the method of preparation and frying. Besides Mee Goreng, Mahboob dishes out Mee Rebus too.
Seng Lee café is open from morning till late afternoon, and is closed on Mondays.
Seng Lee Café 270, Jalan Burma 10350 Georgetown Penang