Rating: 6 / 10
Hokkien Mee, one of the "must do" meals of anyone visiting Malaysia, has a few stalwarts of tradition simmering around Chinatown, and none are as loyally visited as Lian Bee. For over 70 years they have been smashing out simple plates of noodles from this strange little alley opposite Shin Kee Beef Noodles.
Having tried the far more famous Kim Lian Kee a few times on late night snack-attack grabs, I decided to pursue a different kind of reward down a dark, dirty alleyway.
They won't win any awards for ambiance, and with the average temperatures in KL swelling to above 30 and humid, it takes a stubborn bastard to sweat it out for a plate of grub. However, for me food is more important than service and surroundings, so i'll gladly sit wherever they put me if the food is up to par.
In my numerous visits to KL, I have made it a point of trying all the most famous local delicacies, and usually go back to the one's I liked the most for repeated returns. Hokkien Mee is not at the top of my food pyramid in terms of crave-ability, but like anything that is spoken of in reverent tones by locals, I'll try it. Kim Lian Kee serve up a decent plate, but nothing that set my tastebuds alight, so I was hoping that perhaps Lian Bee would have an ace up their sleeves.
As far as a food hunters adventure goes, the outset was brilliant. Hunting down via failing google maps, a tiny alleyway where they set up their stools and wok, and flash out food at breakneck speed during rush hour. I managed to arrive too early or two late three days in a row, but on the fourth I managed to time it perfectly. The main rush had gone, but the wok was still full of stinging power and the greeting from the chef was more than boisterous.
In short, the food was better than at Kim Lian Kee, but again, Hokkien Mee is not my favourite dish from the Malaysian cross-cultural pantheon. The noodles were solid, the spots of meat good, but it's that underwhelming sticky sauce that is slightly on the sweet-funky side that doesn't sit right with me.
I ate it from a comprehensive approach, to understand the Malay palate, and paid my bill and decided to not return. I usually try everything twice, but these sort of dishes are simple enough to understand at first bite, and require no further feeding.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored in the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"