Pan Mee (Hakka Flat Noodle Soup)
Pan Mee – Malaysian dish with hand-torn noodles in a rich anchovy broth and topped with ground pork, veggie and crispy anchovies
1 cup dried anchovies, heads removed
Oil, for frying
A bunch of mani cai
1 cup dried anchovies, heads removed
1 lb pork bones
10 cups water
3 stalks scallions, white part only
Salt to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup water + 2 tablespoons water
Extra flour, for dusting
Ground Pork and Mushroom Topping:
1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
4 oz ground pork
4 dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water and stems removed, cut into strips
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 heavy dashes white pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon water
Prepare the dough by combining all the ingredients together in a big mixing bowl, stirring and mixing with a spoon first, then knead the dough with your hand until the dough is no longer sticky. You might add a little bit water or flour to get to the desired consistency. Cover with a damp cloth and rest for an hour.
In the meantime, prepare the Ground Pork and Mushroom Topping by firing up a wok. Add the oil and when the oil is heated, add the garlic and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the ground pork and continue to stir-fry and use the spatula to break up the lumps into smaller pieces. Add the mushrooms and stir to combine well. Season with all the seasonings and add the water. Turn the heat to low and braise for about 5 minutes or so. Add the cornstarch and water mixture to thicken up the sauce. Dish out and set aside.
Prepare the remaining anchovies by frying with some oil. Make sure the anchovies are perfectly fried until golden brown in color and crispy. Set aside the fried anchovies.
Bring a pot of water to boil while you prepare the dough. There are two ways to prepare the dough, with hand or a pasta machine. If you don’t have a pasta machine, divide the dough into a few portions and flatten the dough with a rolling pin on a flat surface dusted with some flour. At this point, you can cut the dough into thicker strands of noodles using a knife to make them into broad noodles, or you can just tear the dough into pieces. The shapes will be irregular but they are perfectly fine, like the photo below. (If the dough is hand torn, this dish is called mee hoon kuih.) If you have a pasta machine, you can roll out the dough with the machine and cut to fettuccine shape. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until they float to the surface or completely cooked. Dish out using a colander.
To assemble a bowl of Pan Mee, bring some soup to boil in another sauce pan and add some mani cai into the soup. Add a dash or two of white pepper. In a serving bowl, add a portion of the noodles and then pour the soup and mani cai into the bowl. Add the ground pork and mushroom topping and the fried anchovies. Serve immediately with cut red chilies and soy sauce.
Pan Mee (板面) is a popular Hakka noodle dish in Malaysia, especially in central and southern part of Malaysia where most Hakka people reside. Hakka Pan Mee is made with a simple flour-based dough, with anchovy broth, and topped with crispy fried anchovies, ground pork, shiitake mushrooms, and some vegetables. Pan Mee is also known as Mee Hoon Kuih (面粉糕), which is commonly prepared at home.
I will be honest, before I develop this Pan Mee recipe here, I have had Pan Mee once. Yes, once, some twenty years ago while I was visiting Kuala Lumpur. While I was growing up in Penang, Pan Mee was never sold in the hawker centers or street food stalls, so it has never been in my culinary dictionary.
Anyway, what prompted me to develop a recipe for Pan Mee? Well, it all started with a HUGE bunch of mani cai (马尼菜), or cekur manis/sayur manis in Malay. Mani cai, my favorite vegetable and a key ingredient of Pan Mee, is not available in the United States. The vegetable is not grown here and thus it’s one of those things that I could never get in the US. My friend Eddie grows his own plant, and gave me a big batch of his harvest. I promised him I would make Pan Mee.
I reached out to my friend Anna and she taught me how to make pan mee. It was a success and Anna, who used to live in Pan Mee paradise of KL, gave me her thumbs up. I invited a couple friends over to my house to taste my Pan Mee and they all gave me their rave reviews. I, for one, who have never been a fan of Pan Mee, is now a converted fan. I finally understand why so many people love Pan Mee. It is a Hakka comfort food in a bowl—nothing flashy or glamorous about this dish, but it is tasty and very satisfying.
If you are of Hakka descent and far away from Malaysia, I hope my Pan Mee recipe could bring the tastes of home to wherever you are. Happy cooking!