Updated: Sep 5, 2020
Hokkien mee, or Hokkien noodle, is a noodle dish that has its origin in Fujian (Hokkien) Province of China. However, just like there is no Hainanese chicken rice on Hainan Island, there is no Hokkien mee in Fujian. The dish was named "Hokkien" mee probably because the persons who prepared them were from Fujian or it has the similar cooking style as those in Fujian.
In the old days, Chinese immigrants from Fujian to Singapore and Malaysia prepared their noodle dishes differently and resulted in various versions of "Hokkien mee" in Singapore and in different parts of Malaysia. So, "Hokkien mee" is not the same in different places — it was just that they happened to be named the same.
Hokkien Mee of Penang
Hokkien mee in Penang is a broth-based prawn noodle dish and is also called "prawn noodle" (虾面) — in fact, the full name is "Penang Hokkien Prawn noodle" (滨城福建虾面), but locals called them either "Hokkien mee" or "prawn noodle" for convenience and resulted in confusion.
Penang's Hokkien prawn noodle uses both yellow noodle and thin rice vermicelli and served in spicy broth. Dried shrimps are used to enhance the flavour of the broth. The noodle soup is usually topped with prawns (dried shrimps actually), beansprouts and fried onions with optional sambal chili.
Green House Prawn Mee & Lor Mee @ Jalan Burma, Penang
Hokkien Mee of Kuala Lumpur
Unlike the spicy Hokkien mee of Penang, Kuala Lumpur's Hokkien mee is sweet. It is a dish of dark-soy-sauce-based fried noodle. Broad yellow noodle is usually used for the dish and fried with slices of pork, squids and spring onions. There is no prawn in this dish unlike the other versions.
Kim Lian Kee Hokkien Mee @ Jalan Heng Lekir, Petaling Street, KL
Hokkien Mee of Singapore
Singapore's Hokkien mee is a dish of fried noodle with prawns as its main ingredient and squid, fish cake, egg, etc, may be added. Normally, two types of noodle are used, the thick yellow noodle and either thin or thick rice vermicelli. The lightly-fried noodle dish is usually served a little wet and with optional Mandarin orange and chili for additional sour-spicy flavour.
Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee @ Tiong Bahru Food Centre, Singapore
In Singapore, Hokkien mee and prawn noodle are two different noodle dishes. Many people, especially Malaysians, erroneously linked them together.
Prawn Noodle of Singapore
Prawn noodle in Singapore is a soup-based noodle dish that uses yellow noodle, with or without rice vermicelli, in a bowl of soup. The soup is usually prepared by boiling pig bones and added with soy sauce for flavour.
Prawns are usually the main ingredient although it is also a new trend to have both prawns and pork ribs in a bowl of prawn and pork ribs noodle.
Blanco Court Prawn Mee @ Beach Road, Singapore
Hokkien Fried Vermicelli of Fujian
There is no noodle dish by the name of "Hokkien mee" in Fujian but the province is well-known for its vermicelli, especially those from Xinghua, in Putian of the province (莆田兴化米粉). So, Fujian has Hokkien fried vermicelli (福建炒米粉). It is not a standard dish but mainly frying thin rice vermicelli with any ingredients as desired.
In Singapore, Hokkien fried vermicelli is commonly seen in catered buffets.
Is there a "Hokkien mee" dish that I did not include in this post? Let me know!