Nyonya Lam Mee: The Traditional Nyonya Noodle Dish that Celebrates Longevity
Nyonya Lam Mee is a traditional noodle dish of the Baba-Nyonya in Penang. The dish is made by cooking noodles in light broth made from the stock of prawns, chicken carcass and pork ribs. The broth is the main star of this dish, which is cooked for hours to extract all the flavours from the prawns and sweetness coming from the ribs.
Lam Mee literally means “drench noodles”. It gets its name from the action of scooping ladles of hot broth and pouring on the noodles before serving. The noodles used are usually yellow noodles, but sometimes longevity noodles called Mee Suah are also used. Once prepared, Lam Mee is often topped with numerous ingredients such as prawns, pork ribs, thin omelette slices, Chinese chives, bean sprouts, shredded chicken meat, fried shallots and sliced chillies. The dish often comes with a generous serving of sambal belacan to satisfy some Malaysians’ spicy palate.
Nyonya Lam Mee is closely related to another noodle dish called Lor Mee (braised noodles). In early days of Penang, the Baba-Nyonya there were usually early immigrants from Fujian China. The migrants brought with them the food from Fujian, and one of them is Lor Mee. Some of Penang’s cooks gradually tweaked Lor Mee’s broth and toppings to suit their own preference, and eventually the Nyonya Lam Mee branch is created.
As the popularity of Nyonya Lam Mee grew, it spread from the northern region of Malaysia to places like Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. It’s worth noting that although Nyonya Lam Mee and KL Lam Mee may share similar names, they are considered different noodle dishes. Nyonya Lam Mee is cherished for its lighter, thicker and more delicate broth, offering a different experience for discerning noodle lovers.
In Penang Nyonya tradition, Nyonya Lam Mee is also known as “Birthday Mee (See Jit Mee)” as it is usually served during birthday celebrations. The long noodles and chives symbolize longevity, bean sprouts symbolize new growth and the omelette slices are usually dyed pink to add some festive colours. If it’s an elder’s birthday, the Lam Mee is usually put in a beautifully decorated gift basket and sent to relatives and friends. The relatives and friends who receive the gift basket will eat the noodles, and place two eggs and two bunches of thin longevity noodles wrapped in red paper back in the original container as a return favour.
If you can’t wait for your birthday to savour a comforting bowl of Nyonya Lam Mee, fret not! You can find this delectable dish at select hawker centers and kopitiams in Penang. So, don’t miss the opportunity to embark on a culinary adventure and indulge in the flavorsome delights of Nyonya Lam Mee.