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Penang Hokkien Mee
Penang Hokkien Mee pictures (1 of 5)

Originally posted on April 2, 2007. Updated with new photos.

This divine bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle) took me months of hard work and patience. I mean months, not days, and certainly not hours.

To concoct a pot of pure shrimpy stock that is signature to this Penang hawker food dish, one has to have heaps of shrimp heads. Yes, I am talking about a ziploc bag (a BIG one!) full of shrimp heads. While I eat shrimp all the time, it’s a completely different matter when it comes to saving up their heads.

Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle Soup) / 福建虾面

It’s impossible to get good Hokkien Mee here in the US, so for the past few months, I bought only head-on shrimps. Patiently and religiously I saved up their heads so I could make this at home…

This past weekend, the ziploc bag was finally so full that I could no longer zip it up. I quickly rushed out to the nearest Asian supermarket and got myself all the other ingredients–pork ribs, bean sprouts, noodles, etc.–and started cooking this famous hawker delicacy. The end result was a pot full of real prawny stock that was as close as what you get in Penang. It was really satisfying slurping up the soup and had unlimited topping of pork ribs that fell off the bones! Mmmm…

Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle Soup) / 福建虾面

While Hokkien Mee is made famous by Penang hawkers, it originated from the Fujian province in China, and hence the name “Hokkien” (which means Fujian in its dialect) and “Mee” (meaning noodle). When I was in Xiamen in early 2006, I did validate this fact. I found Hokkien Mee (福建虾面) in coffee shops there. While the taste is almost the same, the one I had in Xiamen paled in comparison. The Malaysian version is considerably enhanced with better flavors, ingredients, and toppings.

Penang Hokkien Mee, the only hawker food dish that I seriously can’t do without. Do you want to have a bowl? ;)

PS: Elsewhere in Malaysia, Penang Hokkien Mee is called Har Meen (Cantonese dialect for Prawn Mee), Heh Mee (Hokkien dialect) or Mee Yoke. In KL, Hokkien Mee is a stir-fried noodle dish steeped in dark soy sauce with pork and serve with chili lime paste. Click here for Eating Asia‘s KL Hokkien Mee.

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Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle Soup) / 福建虾面

Recipe: Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle / Har Meen / Mee Yoke / 福建虾面)

Stock ingredients:

1 ziploc bag of shrimp heads and shells (I used Ziplock Easy Zipper Bag)
15 cups of water (reduced to about 12-13 cups of water after hours of boiling and simmering)
2-3 pieces of rock sugar (about the size of a small ping pong ball) or to taste
1.5 lbs of pork ribs (cut into pieces)
Salt to taste

Chili Paste:

30 dried chilies (deseeded and soaked to soften)
10 shallots (peeled)
5 cloves garlic (peeled)
2 tablespoons of water
6 tablespoons of cooking oil

1 pound of yellow noodles (scalded)
1 pack of rice vermicelli (scalded)
Some kangkong or water convolvulus (scalded)
Some bean sprouts (scalded)


1/2 pound of lean pork meat (boiled and sliced thinly)
1/2 pound shrimp (shelled and deveined)
6 hard-boiled eggs (shelled and quartered)
Some fried shallot crisps (store-bought)

Blend the chili paste ingredients with a mini food processor until finely ground and well blended. Heat up the wok and add cooking oil. Stir fry the chili paste for 5 minutes. Dish up and set aside. On the same wok (unwashed), add in a little oil and cook the shrimp topping. Add in a little chili paste, sugar, and salt. Pan-fried the shrimp until they are slightly burned. Dish up, let cool and sliced them into halves.


  1. Add 15 cups of water into a pot and bring it to bowl. Add in all the shrimp heads and shell and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours or longer until the stock becomes cloudy and tastes really prawny.
  2. Strain the stock through sieve and transfer the stock into another pot. Discard the prawn heads and shells. Scoop up and discard the orange “foam” forming at the top of the stock.
  3. Bring the stock to boil again and add in half of the chili paste. You can add more chili paste if you like it spicier.
  4. Add in the pork ribs and continue to boil in low heat for another 1-1.5 hour until the pork ribs are thoroughly cooked.
  5. Add rock sugar and salt/fish sauce to taste.
  6. To serve, place a portion of yellow noodles, rice vermicelli, water convolvulus and bean sprouts in a bowl. Ladle hot stock over. If desired, add a few pieces of pork ribs. Top with meat slices, sliced shrimp, egg quarters, and sprinkle with shallot crisps.
  7. Serve immediately with more chili paste to taste.

Cook’s Notes:

  1. Traditionally, the shrimp heads and shells are stir-fried with oil until aromatic before adding them into the boiling water. I tried this step before and found that my “shortcut” method works equally well.
  2. The hawkers in Penang also blended the shrimp heads and shells after they are briefly boiled to extract all the flavors from the shell. Again, I tried this step before and found that my method works as well if you have plenty of shrimp heads and shells.

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