Image Credit to : Bake with Paws
If you have ever visited Pulau Pinang, you will notice how widely available this dish is around the quaint island located to the North-West of Malaysia.
While Pulau Pinang is mainly popular for their laksa and stir-fried char kuey teow, lam mee is also undeniably one of the main attractions to foodies who come and visit.
What is Lam Mee?
A quick research is all it takes to show you that lam mee is a Penang dish, and a Nyonya one at that! However, as you’ll come to see, later on, lam mee is also known as a Cantonese dish. As you can expect, this dish is going to be one with an interesting origin!
This noodle dish is also known as birthday noodles by some locals in the area, and is often served during birthday celebrations to symbolise longevity!
A brief look at the dish will show you the numerous toppings decorating the dish, such as sliced chilli, thin omelette slices, shrimps and coriander. You might also find bean sprouts and shredded chicken meat on your noodles too!
On the side, you will also find a generous serving of sambal belacan – living true to the Malaysian spicy tastebuds!
However, fancy garnishing and sambal belacan aside, lam mee would not have gained the rich taste that it boasts without the broth made from chicken meat and pork bones. When cooked in this savoury broth, the noodles will have an irresistibly smooth texture.
History of Lam Mee
Lammeeya, a Lam Mee store in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and several other states in Malaysia, is an expert in lam mee and its origins. In fact, there is a page in their menu dedicated to the history of lam mee in its store! Supposedly, lam mee started out with a different name.
When this dish was first introduced to Northern Malaysia in the 1950s, it was known as ‘loh mee’. This noodle dish grew to be popular as it spread from the Northern region downwards to Ipoh, and then to Kuala Lumpur.
In that era, many people of a Cantonese origin were in central Malaysia, and they were looking for a slightly different taste in their loh mee.
So, chefs who understood their taste preferences started to modify the dish – a tweak in the broth here, a small change in the garnishing there. The broth was modified to give a lighter taste, and the name ‘loh mee’ started to be pronounced with a Cantonese dialect instead, thus becoming the ‘lam mee’ that we know the dish as today.
Lam mee is also known by many other names in Malaysia. If the lam mee dish is influenced by Hokkien origins, it might be known as ‘See Jit Mee’. Meanwhile, the original version which had thicker broth might be known only as loh mee!
Types of Lam Mee
Image Credit to: eatophilia
Did you know that the appearance and taste of lam mee can differ even between the states in Malaysia? In Penang, the broth is has a much lighter tone and tastes starchy. The ones served in KL is just the other way around! In some places in Penang, the omelette is dyed a light shade of pink!
Image Credit to: penang365
Since lam mee has gone through a couple of cooking style changes, you’ll notice how this dish can look very different depending on how the cooking style has been influenced. The traditional loh mee would have a much thicker and starchier broth with a darker colour. There is also a lot fewer ingredients garnishing the noodle dish as compared to the modern Penang Lam Mee.
Where to Find Lam Mee in Malaysia
Want to try some lam mee? Then you’ll definitely have to try your next one in Penang, where the dish originated! Try Special Flavour Lam Mee (Georgetown, Penang) if you’re nearby, or head to Ming Tien Food Court (Petaling Jaya) if you’re in central Malaysia!