The quintessential dish of Sibu, Kampua Mee, done to perfection.
Sibu is a FooChow / Fuzhou town, meaning most of its Chinese population speaks that dialect. There are many dishes associated with FooChow cuisine, but above all, the simple, dry-noodle dish called Kampua Mee is the most famous. Our host and good friend Mike took us around to his favorite haunts in his hometown of Sibu, including his favorite Kampua Mee stall at Liang Yew Cafe, located just across the street from the Masland Methodist Church and not far away from the Sibu Central Market.
The Difference is Dark
The first time we had kampua mee in Kuching, it was a plate of noodles dressed very simply with some oil, fried shallots, and chopped spring onions. For a lot of reasons, I was not impressed.
The plates that Mike ordered for us were different – the noodles had been tossed with some dark soy sauce, which gave it a richer, deeper flavor. The noodles themselves, thicker and smoother than normal Hong Kong-style won ton noodles, were chewy and springy and cooked to perfection. I also noticed that their fried shallots were very good – fried just right so you get that sweet onion flavor without a bitter burnt aftertaste. Thin slices of lean roast pork complete the garnish. The chili sauce is viscous and sweet, with a bit of vinegary tartness and a light chili bite.
Alongside our order of noodles, we also got a plate of small, slippery won tons and a bowl of pork liver soup (not seen).
Kampua Mee Machine
After finishing my plate, I turned my attention to the proprietor working the stall out at the front of the shop. He had quite an operation going, and was working non-stop! The man certainly had all his mess in place and he was turning out bowls and bowls of kampua mee like a machine.
First, he’d gather up a handful of noodles from his pile and toss it into the vat of boiling water. Then he’d prepare the sauces and seasonings in his “tossing” bowl. Reaching into the vat with his spider strainer, he would lift out the noodles and give them a couple of firm tosses to drain the liquid. Then, into the bowl for a quick toss before transferring to the serving dish.
I stood there, mesmerized as he performed this operation over and over. His wife helped by taking away filled bowls and replacing the stacks with new, clean bowls. The thing is, the restaurant wasn’t very busy at this time – only a couple other tables were occupied by patrons. Where were all these servings going?
One table was telling – about a dozen plastic lunch containers were stacked up, waiting. You see, the Masland Methodist Church across the street operates a kindergarten and primary school on-site. And there are lots of hungry little kids who are going to be getting his perfect kampua mee, come snack time.