EatingAsia's first birthday passed quietly last month. We'd forgotten all about it, in part because neither of us are good with dates (family and friends, used to receiving birthday cards and Christmas gifts months late, if at all, will testify to this), but mostly because for us markers of our stay in Malaysia have less to do with measures of time than with measures of taste.
In our first months every Malaysian dish we sampled was wonderful, fantastic, spectacular. But over the past 14-plus months of enthusiastic eating we've honed our palates and, in the process, raised our standards. We can - and do, often - compare this version here with that version there and pass what I'd like to think is sound judgement. This, more than the passage of days and months, tells us we're not just visitors.
We haven't blogged pan mee ('board' noodles - named so, I presume, because they're rolled out flat as a board) since September 2005. We still love Kin Kin's pan mee and go-with, sandy-textured chili paste (it's one of the few spots in KL that we've visited more than once); it's in a class all its own, not useful for comparison purposes. But we think we've been introduced to a classic pan mee that beats, hands down, the the Bangsar version lauded in that year-old post.
What is it about this vendor's wide, taglietelle-ish pasta? It's thick and substantial, tender but a bit chewy, wheaty and flavorful. This woman could go head-to-head with a pasta-making Italian nonna and quite possibly come out the winner. What's more, this pan mee is cooked absolutely al dente, with just the right amount of bite left in the noodle.
You can have it in soup, of course, but for us this pan mee's born to be taken dry, tossed in dark soy and garnished with a jumble of stir-fried chopped pork and crispy minced garlic, a tangle of shredded fresh wood ear mushrooms (toothsome, and intriguingly bitter - a good balance for the sweetness of the soy), scallions, and yummy ikan bilis (dried anchovies), substantial in size and expertly fried to a non-greasy crunch. Reddish-brown dipping sauce is heavy on the belacan (shrimp paste) - much more so than your usual pan mee dip - and fiery. On the side, a meaty broth chock full of fish paste (ask for extra) hand-formed into uneven patties, fucuk (deep-fried tofu skin), and lots of spinach-like (in flavor) sweet potato leaves.
Since being guided to this pan mee heaven by our friend SL I've been back twice. That's a lot of pan mee from the same vendor in two weeks, especially for a gal who can count on one hand the KL eateries she's given repeat business to in the last year.
Pan mee vendor at Kedai Kopi Wah Cheong, Jalan 17/29, Section 17, Petaling Jaya. Early morning-230p (on a recent Saturday she was sold out by 1p), closed Thursday.