The Noodle Memories, Chinatown: Authentic KL-style chilli pan mee by Malaysian hawkers with customisable chilli levels from S$5

·6-min read

It’s been close to three years since I’ve stepped into Malaysia, and I sorely miss a good ‘ol bowl of KL chilli pan mee. No-fuss noodles tossed in a dark sauce, topped with springy minced meat and ikan bilis, and of course, with a dollop of dried chilli granules on the side…total yums.

To my delight, I discovered that I could satisfy my pan mee fix right here in Singapore. The Noodle Memories, a quaint hawker stall located within Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, sells authentic KL-style pan mee from just S$4 per bowl.

Photo of storefront
Photo of storefront

The Noodle Memories was opened in April 2021 by 27-year-old Ewa Lim and her 30-year-old sister-in-law, Kong Su Teng. Both young ladies were born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, but permanently moved to Singapore in December 2020 to be with their husbands, who work in Singapore.

Despite this being their first foray into the local hawker business in Singapore, both Ewa and Su Teng bring plenty of experience to the table. 

Ewa’s mother has been running a handful of legit pan mee stalls in KL for close to 30 years, and Ewa and Su Teng spent close to a decade helping out at the stalls before tweaking the recipe and bringing it to Singapore. So if you’re looking for authentic KL-style pan mee, this is it.

What I tried

Photo of dry chilli ban mian
Photo of dry chilli ban mian

I went for a classic bowl of Speciality Dry Chilli Noodle (S$5). Upon ordering, I was asked for my preferred spice level in Mandarin. The Noodle Memories has three spice levels: Xiao La, Zhong La and Da La, just like mala xiang guo.

The first thing I asked was: “Oh, how spicy is your chilli?”

One of the ladies chuckled and replied, “Quite spicy.”

Deciding that I was here to have a good time and not a sweltering hot time, I went for Xiao La. If you’re a fan of all things spicy and up for a challenge, you can go for Zhong La or Da La instead.

The Noodle Memories’ Speciality Dry Chilli Noodle looked pretty decent, with a bed of you mian, a heap of minced meat, shredded black fungus, vegetables, a runny egg, a large piece of beancurd skin, a spoonful of crumbly chilli granules, and finished off with fried shallots.

Close up of egg yolk
Close up of egg yolk

Admittedly, the first thing that I did was eagerly whip out my phone for a shot of the oozy egg yolk. 

This was done to perfection— the slow-cooked yolk was soft and broke apart gently, while the egg whites were cooked just right so that it was mildly opaque without being too watery.

Photo of dry chilli ban mian
Photo of dry chilli ban mian

Trust me when I say that the noodles were so hefty that the plastic disposable spoon stood no chance. It was a struggle to toss everything together— the thick you mian, chunky pieces of minced meat, black fungus, vegetables, chilli and fried shallots.

Close up of noodles
Close up of noodles

However, the effort was well worth it. This was a fantastic bowl of noodles— aromatic with a savoury kick from the dark soy sauce, which combined with the oozy egg to create a velvety texture to the handmade you mian

I loved how generous The Noodle Memories was with the toppings and every spoonful had a good variety of ingredients. Plus, there was a good balance of textures from the springy minced meat, crunchy black fungus, and the smooth and slurp-worthy you mian.

The chilli only crawled in towards the end of each bite as a slow but sharp burn which built up over time, so don’t underestimate it!

Close up of tau kee
Close up of tau kee

I was impressed to learn that the tau kee was homemade! The hawkers stuff the beancurd skin with fresh batang fish, which is seasoned with salt and sugar, before deep frying it.

There was an audible crunch as I bit into the giant sheet of beancurd skin. It was delightfully thin and crisp, with a thin layer of fish meat in the middle. My only gripe would be that it was slightly oiler than I’d have liked, but I ended up alternating between slurping the noodles and biting the tau kee.

Photo of chicken cutlet noodles
Photo of chicken cutlet noodles

I was debating whether to order its cheapest item on The Noodle Memories’ menu— Signature Soup Noodle (S$4) or Signature Dry Noodle (S$4), but I spotted the Speciality Fried Cutlet Noodle (S$5.50), which was displayed on a separate makeshift poster beside the main menu, and decided to try that instead.

Close up of noodles
Close up of noodles

This bowl of noodles was equally hefty even though I noticed that it didn’t have minced meat or black fungus. Though it was coated in a similar dark sauce, my dining companion and I felt that this bowl of noodles leaned towards the sweeter end, as if more dark soy sauce and sugar had been used. 

Despite that, this was still a decent bowl of noodles. I’d reckon it might even do better being served in a claypot!

Close up of chicken cutlet
Close up of chicken cutlet

I was pleasantly blown away by how delicious the chicken cutlet was. The thick crust tastes exactly like what you’d get at KFC or similar fried chicken joints— extra crunchy and savoury, with a pinch of heat and underlying umami notes from other spices. 

This was so addictive that my dining companion and I ended up eating the chicken cutlet on its own. I’d give the chicken cutlet two thumbs up— it was that good.

Close up of soup
Close up of soup

Each bowl of noodles came with a bowl of clear soup. While it looked plain, the soup was light and soothing, and went really well with the strong savoury flavours from the noodles.

To some extent, this reminded me of yong tau foo soup, as I could taste the yellow beans and ikan bilis, which gave it a slightly alkaline sweetness.

Close up of chilli
Close up of chilli

If the noodles aren’t spicy enough for you, be sure to pair your meal with a dollop of The Noodle Memories’ handmade chilli padi.

The spice surprised me. It started out as a slow burn, with a tangy sourness that reminded me of chicken rice chilli. While my dining companion and I initially waved off the chilli as having no kick, we were proved wrong after a couple of minutes. The chilli’s heat grew exponentially and caught both of us off guard, travelling from the back of our mouths to the top of our tongues like a bright flame. 

Shiok, but painful. What an experience.

Final thoughts

Photo of The Noodle Memories' dishes
Photo of The Noodle Memories' dishes

This is the kind of pan mee that I wouldn’t hesitate to pay for because of how delicious it is. The handmade you mian is hefty and hearty, while the rest of the ingredients are piled on in generous amounts that will leave you reeling in a food coma afterwards. The fact that a bowl of pan mee costs S$5 is an added bonus in itself.

Both my dining companion and I were thoroughly impressed with The Noodle Memories’ offerings, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone who’s on the hunt for their next bowl of authentic KL-style chilli pan mee.

Expected damage: S$4 – S$5.50 per pax

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