These two men are tucking into what is, if not the finest lor mee in George Town, probably the most appreciated. It's dished up six days a week at a somewhat obscure kopitiam called Lean Thye. Catch it if you can; the stall opens at 7am and is usually sold out by 9:30 or 10.
This was another happy accidental find, spotted one morning as, dog on leash, we rounded the corner onto Lebuh Ah Quee from Beach Street. Seven thirty and every table spilling out the front of the shop and onto the sidewalk next door was filled, the young dudes working the stall moving fast as lightening to fill orders (the above photo was taken just as they sold out, around 9:45a).
Dave and I nodded to each other, each thinking the same thing: 'We've got to check this place out before we leave town.'
Return we did, yesterday morning after feeding the dog and tending to the puppies (still homeless, by the way). We shared a table with two gentlemen who've been eating the dish for eons and from this particular stall for 'forty-five years or more', they said. How nice to learn from them that although the original seller recently retired, his sons have stepped in to carry on the business.
Lor mee is most simply described as yellow noodles in corn starch-thickened dark gravy, but of course there's more to the dish than that.
The gravy poured over this bowl of pasta is so thick it might almost be described as 'gloppy' -- but when it hits the noodles it thins to a perfect consistency, not too heavy but thick enough to really coat and cling to the pasta. Some lor mee gravies have a slight but appealing fishiness about them, but not this one, which is robustly meaty with an intriguing hint of star anise and cinammon. The barest flecks of egg are visible on its shiny surface.
Consider noodles (these guys mix mostly yellow mee with a few strands of rice vermicelli) and gravy the taste and texture 'base' of the dish.There's the dusting of crispy browned shallots that goes on top, then optional additions, which are listed on the white board above the prep station: sliced pork, soy-cooked duck eggs, and three-layer pork (lean meat, fat, and crispy skin).
Diners add further flavor table side in the form of fresh garlic paste and ground chili sauce. In KL and environs black vinegar often also graces the table, while at this stall tartness and heat come in one package -- the chili sauce has a sour vinegared edge.
We love that this stall offers a choice of not only 'small' and 'large' portions, but 'double XL' as well. With the specialties of other stalls to sample before we headed back to KL, we opted to share a small. It went down fast and easy, and saw us fighting for the last bits from the bottom of the bowl This is comfort food of the highest order: full-bodied in flavor, texturally easy to love (and a bit indulgent if you opt for duck egg and three-layer pork, as we did). A 'real shoveler', as Dave would say.
No wonder this lor mee stall is still going strong after almost half a century. May its new operators enjoy as much success as their father did. Long live lor mee at Lean Thye!
Lor mee stall, Lean Thye, Lebuh Ah Quee about half a block from Beach Street, Georgetown, Penang. 7am till it's sold out, usually by 9:30 or 10am. Closed Sundays and the occasional odd day (noted on the white board above the prep station). RM 2.50 small / 3.00 large / 4.00 double XL. Pork and duck egg RM 1.00 each.