Penang - Mee Udang (Malay Prawn Noodles) Face-Off in Teluk Kumbar
The tranquil fishing village of Teluk Kumbar on the south side of Penang island is also home to a clutch of eateries offering “Mee Udang”, the Malay version of prawn noodles. Malay prawn noodles tend to be less spicy than Chinese prawn noodles (or Penang Hokkien Mee) and has a distinctive tomato-based sweet-sour flavour.
What sets apart Teluk Kumbar’s”Mee Udang” from other versions in the rest of Malaysia has to be their use of some of the freshest prawns I’d ever seen … ever. And the generous amount of prawns which went into each bowl of “Mee Udang”.
Stop #1 Ilyana Mee Udang. The eatery has an air-conditioned section, but we opted for the airy semi-al fresco seating area which felt more natural, considering its proximity to the fish market by the beach.
The owner, Ahmad Afifi Sahimi, is a genial, friendly chap who preferred to converse to us in fluent English. The eatery is over 20 years old and offers fish-head curry plus a plethora of other seafood dishes, besides the signature dish: "Mee Udang".
Ilyana’s version of the “Mee Udang” is thick, unctuous, and very tasty – the sweet-sour tomato-based gravy was good to the last drop. Huge, fresh prawns, a trademark of Teluk Kumbar’s “Mee Udang” was in evidence – up to 10 large prawns for a ‘small’ serving. The thin egg noodles provided the perfect foil to the thick gravy. Small local limes were provided, to be squeezed over the noodles to give it an extra zing.
Next to Ilyana is the beach-side Salwa Mee Udang – perhaps the most famous outlet around – but it’s not open for lunch. We need to return here another time.
Stop #2 Ayu Mee Udang which has been serving out its brand of prawn noodles for over 17 years. Ayu’s version is lighter and more soupy compared to Ilyana’s. Owned by a Malay couple, Mohd Noordin Mohd Noor and Zauyah Abu Hassan, the eatery is clean and bright, located incongruously in a largely Chinese residential area. Ayu’s version of “Mee Udang” included hard-boiled eggs besides the ubiquitous large, super-fresh prawns. The stock has the requisite tomatoey flavour, with chopped celery, lightly spiced. Each serving is garnished with finely-chopped scallions, fresh onions and crisp shallots The wife, Mdm Zauyah, is the daughter of Pak Hassan, who used to run a simple “Mee Udang” stall, a more spartan type using small shrimps, and not the lavish version we identify the dish with these days, back in the 1970s.
Both Ilyana and Ayu have their own characteristics & unique deliciousness – some may prefer the thicker gravy offered by Ilyana, whilst I actually liked Ayu’s lighter version more.
Ilyana Mee Udang
10 Gerai JKKK
Kampung Nelayan Teluk Kumbar
11920 Teluk Kumbar
Ayu Mee Udang
936B Lengkok Kampung Masjid Satu
11920 Teluk Kumbar
Teluk Kumbar's mee udang stalls are always competing. The 2 oldest ones I know of are Ad Mee Udang and Zalina Mee Udang at Jalan Sungei Batu.
Mee Salwa that you mentioned is also very popular because their famous customer is Malaysian film director Jins Shamsuddin who gave the previously nameless stall their name. But I think Salwa's setting is pretty rundown and dusty. Ilyana next door is more comfortable.
Yes, I did read about Salwa, apparently very popular among Malaysia's celebrities, politicians and even some minor royalty from the neighboring sultanates.
Here's an extract from an interesting article about the mee udang spots in Teluk Kumbar. Regarding Mee Udang Salwa:
'Salwa is run by Azmi Don. A plate of Salwa Mee Udang used to be RM3 but the price has since increased by more than RM10 because in the early days, the prawns were only going for RM8 per kg. Now, it can even go up to RM65 per kg, Azmi laments.
In his sixties, Azmi claims that the original Mee Udang Pulau Pinang was his father’s creation. “Competition is stiff these days with so many stalls mushrooming in Teluk Kumbar but I am not worried. People who come to Salwa, know what they want – Teluk Kumbar’s original Mee Udang.
“Veteran actors, directors and musicians like Ahmad Tarmimi Siregar, the late Datuk Ahmad Daud, Datuk Ahmad Nawab and Senator Tan Sri Dr Jins Shamsudin have been here. “It was Dr Jins who gave this place its name – he came here so often that one day, he got frustrated because my stall was nameless,” he says.
A peep into his kitchen reveals rows of Heinz and Kimball tomato soup cans. Azmi denies that his is an “instant Mee Udang”. “Yes, I use canned soups because unlike other stalls, I don’t use potatoes to thicken the gravy – potatoes are for Mee Rebus, which isn’t what I’m selling.
“What keeps my customers coming back is the blend of over 60 roots and spices I add into the gravy. During my father’s time, he used even more spices which are almost impossible to get these days,” he shares.
Azmi takes about two weeks to prepare the fragrant blend of spices that include ginger, Tongkat Ali and lemon grass. “I sometimes have to get the spices from as far as Kelantan.”
Indeed, there is a unique spicy-bittersweet aftertaste to the dish which complements the strong prawn flavour. Azmi insists on fresh ingredients or he won’t get into the kitchen.
“The prawns are also very important – you will never catch me cooking with prawns imported from neighbouring countries. “Market-bought prawns are not fresh enough for me. I get the prawns straight from the local fishermen,” he says.'