Thursday, February 27, 2014

JoJo's Little Kitchen

Jojo's Little Kitchen 
The Strand
Kota Damansara
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Figure 1: Jojo's Chilli Pan Mee

In Western culture, the number 7 is thought to be a lucky number. Many would argue that this notion has its roots in the Bible, which tells us that the universe was created in 7 days, the Passover is 7 days long, Jericho's walls fell on the 7th day after 7 priests with 7 trumpets marched around the city 7 times, and so on and so forth. 

However, in Chinese culture, the number 8 is believed to bring luck, fortune, happiness and prosperity. This is probably because chili pan mee is item #8 on Jojo's menu. 

I've done my research. 

Figure 2: Eyes on the prize

Figure 3: Noodle porn

Jojo's is a chain of noodles shops in Kuala Lumpur that specialises in pan mee (板麺), which translates into "flat flour noodles". This is a completely inadequate name that fails to encapsulate the glorious deliciousness that pan mee actually is. A symphony of taste and texture, pan mee is composed of seasoned pork mince, runny poached egg, fried anchovies (they call it ikan bilis), chili sambal, potato leaves and freshly made noodles. The result is one of the most addictive dishes I've ever eaten.

Figure 4: Incognito 

Jojo's has several branches dotted around Kuala Lumpur, but the Kota Damansara one was the closest to my office. If you end up coming here, don't panic when you see the blinds are pulled down - this is just to block out the sweltering hot Malaysian sun. Just walk around the side and you'll find a little haven of wooden chairs and tables adequately ventilated by many, many electric fans. The staff (who I'm told are exclusively from Burma) are fast, efficient, and if you stare at them too much while they're taking your order, they get really shy and embarrassed and start smiling at the floor. 

Figure 5: Lunch time

Figure 6: Tick or tin?

The Ang Moh's Guide to Ordering Pan Mee

1. Order item #8 from the waiter - the actual name is lat jiu pan mee (辣椒板麺), but I recommend the point-and-smile if you're unsure.

2. Choose thick or thin noodles - I always choose thick. But you can choose whatever you want. I won't judge you. Much.

3. Order a drink - Jojo's serves some awesome stuff like three-layered tea, soya cincau (tastes better than it looks) and a wicked sweet honey-lemon juice. Also, if you want bottled water, you say "mineral water", and it costs RM 1.80. If you want a glass of water, you say "drinking water, cold" and it costs RM 0.80. You probably don't care about that, but it took me forever to figure out what the difference was and it drove me insane. 

Figure 7: Perfection, every time

The most important thing you need to know about Jojo's pan mee is the key ingredient: the chili sambal (sauce). Whether or not you have the right amount of sambal will make or break your pan mee experience. Too little, and your pan mee will lack that amazing kick that only Jojo's chili sambal can deliver. Too much, and your head will explode and you'll be ordering glass upon glass of RM 0.80 drinking water to put out the flames. I recommend taking out half of the sambal (you can scoop it out easily as the ingredients come in cute little sections), and adding it back in if you can handle it. Try not to do it in front of any Malaysians though. You will be ridiculed. 

Figure 8: The secret ingredient 

Figure 9: Slurp

The second most important thing you must know about pan mee is: you have to completely go nuts on it with your chopsticks and mix it up until it looks like the above photo. A lot of my expat friends tried eating pan mee starting with the pork, then eating the egg separately, then munching on the anchovies here and there before rounding on the noodles. This was very upsetting. To enjoy pan mee the way it's meant to be enjoyed, you gotta work it girlfriend. 

Figure 10: Officially missing you

The CEO of the startup I was working for (his name is Vincent) is crazy about Jojo's chili pan mee. He will always tell any newcomers that it's the most delicious thing in the universe and make a point to do at least one round every time he flies into Kuala Lumpur to see the Malaysia office. I used to laugh at him for being so obsessed with the stuff, but now that I'm back in Australia, I finally understand. There is now a gaping hole in my life that can only be filled with Jojo's chili pan mee. And I guarantee you that once you've tried it, you will never find anything else quite like it.