This KL Hokkien Mee, 福建炒面 (Fú jiàn chǎo miàn) is my vegan take on the must-try best noodle dish when you visit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It’s a plate of slurpy thick, chewy noodles in a dark charred sweet sauce. 🚨 Alert! A napkin is needed after every slurp.
There are 2 versions of Hokkien mee (noodles) in Malaysia, one is prawn noodle soup also known as hae (har) mee in Kuala Lumpur. It’s spicy with a touch of sweetness from the seafood. It’s often served with water spinach, mung bean sprouts, and other protein.
The second one is stir-fry yellow thick and chewy noodles in a special sauce made from soy sauce and dark soy sauce, which is what I’m sharing today. One of the most traditional ways to cook it is tossed in a big wok over a charcoal fire. That gave this noodle the most amazing wok charred aroma.
Ingredients in KL Hokkien Mee that make it stands out from other noodle dishes are the thick chewy noodles, thick caramel dark soy sauce, and fried lard (bak yiu pok).
My version uses tiny firm tofu cubes that were pan-fried or shallow-fried then season with salt, which tastes so similar to the lard. If I have to choose just one of the key ingredients, then, it will be thick dark soy sauce. This recipe is inspired by my aunt where I had a chance to cook using her big wok at her restaurant many years ago.
Fun fact: My mama (best mom-in-law) always says ‘You are not Hokkien if you don’t like Hokkien mee’ to tease us.
KL Hokkien Mee Key Ingredients
1. Noodles – Yellow noodles are often used, and the most common ones are thick and chewy similar to udon which also comes in a thinner form. The main ingredients used to make the noodles are flour, water, salt, and lye water which gives the yellow.
The closest yellow noodle sub that I found from Ranch 99 is called LoMi. However, I’m using frozen udon cakes in today’s recipe since it’s more accessible. When buying frozen udon cakes, look for the simplest ingredients.
2. Thick caramel sauce or dark soy sauce – As mentioned above, this is a not-to-be-missed ingredient. It’s a soy sauce that’s caramelized into a dark thick sauce with a sweet smoky flavor. Although it’s mainly used for color this adds that extra touch and blends so well with salty soy sauce for an amazing taste experience in this dish.
3. Vegetables and protein – You’ll see how I made two types of tofu, one is sliced and next is cubed. The sliced tofu is pan-fried until golden and the cubed is crisp up as a topping for later. I also loaded it with lots of cabbage and gai lan although yuchoy is more commonly used.
How to make KL Hokkien Mee
This recipe is really simple with just a few ingredients and used vegetable stock. I prefer to use mushroom seasoning or mix water with an umami seasoning such yondu or use homemade vegetable stock. For store-bought vegetable stock, choose one that has less celery taste.
Before you start cooking, thaw your frozen udon cakes in cold water. This step will loosen the strands so it’s easier to toss them with the sauce later. Or cook the frozen noodle cake in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain out the water.
Part 1: Prepare the ingredients
First, prepare the protein and mushrooms. I’m making two types of tofu here as mentioned above. One is sliced and the second is cubed. You’ll only need a handful of the cubes since those are for toppings only. Simply pan-fry the tofu slices until golden brown and seasoned with salt. Repeat the same step for the cubes but aim to make it crispier than the slices.
Next, prepare the vegetables. Since I’m using gai lan, I’ve separated the stems and leaves to ensure they are properly cooked through. If you are using yuchoy, simply separate them and add them to the noodles along with cabbage later.
For the cabbage, I simply chop them into larger pieces to retain the crunch during cooking. I’m also using Taiwanese cabbage which is generally more airy and crunchy after cooking.
I’m using King oyster mushrooms because of the texture but I’ve used konnyaku slices before which work amazingly well in this recipe. To prepare the mushroom, clean it with a brush or paper towel to remove debris.
Then, slice the mushrooms into 1″ thick coins. Using a paring knife, score both sides so they absorb the sauce easily.
Now, pan-fry them on a skillet until golden brown and season with salt.
Part 2: Cook the noodles
Prepare the sauce by mixing the soy sauce and thick dark soy sauce in a bowl until well combined. Alternatively, you can add the sauce while you are cooking.
To make the KL Hokkien Mee, heat a large wok or tall skillet with oil over medium heat. Then, sauté minced garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.
Then, add the tofu slices and gai lan stems, toss to combine.
Now add the noodles and swirl in the sauce. Toss until the noodles are covered with sauce. If your noodles still appear clumpy, don’t worry. It will loosen up later while you braise it.
Add the vegetable stock, and turn on the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook until the noodles absorb most of the sauce. Now is a good time to separate the strands if there are any clumps.
Uncover, add the cabbage and gailan leaves, then toss to combine. Taste and season with more soy sauce or mushrooms seasoning if needed.
Once the cabbage is as crisp-tender as you like, fold in the mushrooms, and toss to combine. Serve warm with a side of sambal or chopped Thai chile in soy sauce.
KL Hokkien Mee Cooking Tips
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Before I share the tips, please note that the taste of this dish is savory with a touch of smoky sweetness. It is meant to be served right after it’s cooked. If you waited too long, it will start to dry up especially when the noodles have absorbed all the gravy.
1. My noodles taste slightly sour – I experienced this many years ago when I used the wrong udon noodles. This will not happen if you are using yellow noodles. So, get a brand that has the simplest ingredient or use the brand below.
2. Thick caramel sauce – the brand below is referred by a Malaysian restaurant owner here which works great in this recipe. If you can’t find this particular brand, try other dark soy sauce and look for the thick kind that’s usually a sweet soy sauce version. My mom has her favorite brand but I can never find it here in the US.
3. Vegetable stock – Please use vegetable stock that has little celery flavor or make your own. I added mushrooms seasoning and yondu (umami seasoning made from leek) in water for a quick stock in this recipe.
Other Malaysian favorites to try
Why you need this vegan KL Hokkien Mee
- Nothing beats the mouthfeel of biting into thick, chewy noodles
- Packed with a lot of vegetables
- Easily customizable with other vegetables that you like
- Tasty and cozy
- Seriously, can’t enough of this noodle!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan KL Hokkien Mee
- 3 frozen udon cakes
- 6 oz King oyster mushrooms
- 7 oz firm tofu – drained
- 3 garlic clove finely minced
- 2 cups chopped cabbage
- 1 cup chopped gailan stems and leaves removed (or use yuchoy)
- 2 tablespoons thick caramel sauce see notes
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon mushroom seasoning or vegetable bouillon
- 2 – 2 ½ cups vegetable stock see notes
- Prepare the vegetables: Separate the gailan stems and leaves. Slice the stems diagonally into bite size pieces, then transfer them into two different bowls. If using yuchoy, simply separate the leaves from the stems.
- To prepare the mushrooms, clean them with a brush or towel to remove debris. Then, cut into 1 inch thick coins. Using a paring knife, score both sides and set them aside.
- Slice about 5oz of tofu into rectangle slices and the rest into tiny cubes. Then, pan-fry tofu rectangles with a drizzle of oil until golden brown, season with salt & set aside.
- Using the same pan, add a little more oil & cook tofu cubes until crispy & season with salt – these will be saved as toppings.
- Now, pan-fry the mushrooms until golden brown and season with salt as well. Set aside.
- Soak thawed noodles in cold water or cook frozen noodles in boiling water for 1-2 mins to loosen up the strands. Drain & set aside.
- To make the sauce, combine soy sauce and thick caramel sauce in a bowl, then whisk to combine. Set it aside.
- Heat a large wok or non-stick skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Sauté garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.
- Add the tofu slices and gai lan stem and toss to combine. If you are using yuchoy, add that along with cabbage later.
- Then, add the noodles and swirl in the sauce. Give it a quick toss to coat the noodles with sauce.
- Add the vegetable stock and turn up the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and let the mixture cook until the sauce has reduced to almost half.
- Uncover, add the cabbage and remaining gai lan leaves, then toss to combine. Taste and season with more soy sauce or mushrooms seasoning if needed.
- Once the cabbage is as crisp-tender as you like, fold in the mushrooms and gently toss to combine.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the noodles to a large plate.
- Top with the crispy tofu cubes and serve warm with a side of sambal or chopped Thai chile in soy sauce.
- Please check the above section to see the type of thick dark soy sauce to use. If you can’t find that particular one, other sweet dark soy sauce will work. Just a quick note that some dark soy sauce is saltier so you’ll need to adjust the taste accordingly.
- To make a simple vegetable stock, simply add your favorite umami seasonings such as mushroom granules or leek seasoning such as yondu. I used a tablespoon of yondu to 2- 2.5 cups of water