Mouth watering noodle must-eats from Sarawak

By John Isaac

ASK any Sarawakian living in West Malaysia what they miss most and it is likely you will get the same answer – the famous Sarawak Kolo Mee.

As far as noodle dishes go in Sarawak, none are as popular or well-loved as kolo mee. In its most traditional form, kolo mee consists of springy yellow egg noodles tossed in a light, aromatic sauce and topped with minced meat (usually pork) and slices of char siew (barbecued pork).

The noodles are then garnished with fresh spring onions to give it an extra depth of flavour with every bite. Some hawker stalls also pair kolo mee with a bowl of hearty broth containing pork slices and innards (known as zheng by the locals).

As with all things food in Malaysia, there are different variations of kolo mee too. For example, instead of the traditional version, you can try kolo mee tossed in spicy chilli oil or black vinegar and replace the springy noodles with kuey teow (flat rice noodles) or other types of noodles.

Another popular craving is Sarawak Laksa, which was termed as the “Breakfast of Gods” by the later Anthony Bourdain. The dish is so versatile that you can even eat it for lunch or dinner!

Unlike Penang’s asam laksa, Sarawak laksa features a shrimp-based broth that is less tangy. Made with a mixture of sambal belacan, sour tamarind, lemongrass, and other herbs and spices, the aromatic broth is enriched and thickened with coconut milk to give it a savoury aftertaste.

As for what goes into the slurpy broth, expect bee hoon, juicy shrimp, a generous amount of bean sprouts, shredded omelette, and chicken slices. For garnish, a dash of fresh mint and a wedge of lime bring it all together.

A lot of people, including Malaysians, sometimes confuse kampua mee with kolo mee. In all fairness, at first glance, they do look quite similar to each other but there are actually differences that most Sarawakians can appreciate.

Originating in Sibu, kampua mee is a delicacy of the Foochow community. It uses similar ingredients to that of kolo mee, but rather than a light sauce, the springy noodles are tossed in shallot oil and soy sauce, which gives it a slightly saltier flavour.

It is also slightly drier compared to kolo mee and often enhanced with a sweet chilli sauce to complement the simplicity of the dish. Another subtle difference is that while kolo mee is often served in a bowl, Kampua Mee is served on a plate.

No conversation about Sarawak food could ever be complete without mentioning this culinary gem! Keo jiap mee (tomato crispy noodles) is Sarawak’s spin on a unique Cantonese classic that you’ll likely never find anywhere else in the world.

Like its Cantonese counterpart (Kung Fu Cao), Sarawak’s tomato crispy mee starts with a nest of crispy pre-fried noodles on a plate. These noodles are then bathed in a slurpy, thickened tomato sauce and topped with slices of meat, vegetables and seafood.

What sets this dish apart is its tangy sauce. It is much lighter compared to that which is used for Kung Fu Cao and has a sweet-and-sour aftertaste that makes it an irresistible dish to most foodies. While some versions of the dish can be a little pricey (especially if it’s topped with squid and other types of seafood), crispy tomato mee is generally an affordable option that is sure to satiate your cravings. – from