KOTA KINABALU, Jan 25 — Years ago, my parents would often take a leisurely drive — 45 minutes long — to Tuaran to treat us kids to arguably Sabah’s best noodles.

The drive was charmingly rustic; we would be challenged to spot buffaloes in the vast paddy fields we passed, or count the cow pats and avoid the potholes, both sporadically dotting the road.

Once you get to Tuaran town, a stroll in any direction will get you to one of a small handful of coffee shops serving the noodles.

Tuaran mee has Chinese roots, specifically the Chinese immigrants in this sleepy town; the coffee shops have a similar nostalgic ambience — marble top or wooden tables, plastic chairs, faded posters on the painted walls.

Nowadays, cravings for these noodles can be satisfied at far more convenient places. Many coffee shops in KK offer them, and it has become such a nostalgic dish for Sabahans in the peninsular that a Sabahan opened a coffee shop in Petaling Jaya serving these delectable noodles.

Tuaran mee is in a class of its own. The noodles are springy to the bite — fried, then topped with slices of sweet barbecued pork or char siew, chun kien or egg rolls, and some obligatory greens thrown in to complete the colourful dish.

The dish starts and ends with the special handmade yellow egg noodles that uses only egg yolks. The old hands who pound the noodles do not mass produce them to keep it fresh and maintain its quality over the years.

When fried over a hot fire, the noodles release a distinct aroma and crisps up on the outside while maintaining a firm bite on the inside.

Rumours have it that the secret is the noodles are twice-fried ie. they are “toasted” to keep them from clumping together after boiling, and later again to add crispness and char.

The egg flavour is more intense that way and the wok hei or charring actually serves to make it even more delectable.

Throw in toppings, add a beaten egg and what you have is arguably Sabah’s most distinct noodle dish.

Another town is gaining some traction for the same kind of noodles. Tamparuli mee is perhaps rounder and slightly larger but the char siu, chun kien and beaten egg are staples.

Tamparuli mee has its own fans, thanks to its location in Tamparuli town, along the route to Mount Kinabalu, versus Tuaran, which is slightly more out of the way.

While hard to differentiate — especially to the uninitiated — the name Tuaran mee is by far more popular and carries more weight.

Even though you can get Tuaran mee in KK now, fans of this noodle dish will tell you that for a real feel of Tuaran mee you need to take that leisurely drive out to the town.

Places to check out:

Kedai Kopi Lok Kyun
Address: Shop No.4, Block 8, Jalan Keogh, Tuaran, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: 088 788441/019-8518632
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun: 7:30am–3pm (closed every Monday)

Tuaran Mee Restoran in Tuaran
(Opposite Shell Station)
Tel: 016-5849651
Opening Hours: 7am–5pm daily (closed on Wed every fortnight)

Tuaran Mee Restoran in Inanam
Address: Lot 35, Block E, Ground Floor, Inanam Business Centre, Kota Kinabalu
Tel: 016-8109397
Opening Hours: 7am–4pm

Keng Swee Hing coffee shop
Address: No. 3, Jalan Bontoi, Tamparuli
Opening Hours: 6am to 5pm daily
Tel: 60 88-782417

Restoran Wun Chiap
Address: Lot 9, next to the a Chinese school, SJK (C) Chung Hwa Tamparuli
Opening Hours: 9:30am to 5pm daily.
Tel: 60 88-782845

Restoran Seng Hing
Address: Block E, Lot 10, Sinsuran Complex, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Opening Hours: 7am–4pm
Tel: 6088 211594 / 017-8188855

Kedai Kopi Sin Fatt Hing
Address: Wisma Kosan, (Opposite SM. All Saints school), Off Jalan Teluk Likas (Several shops from Sin Da Xing)
Opening Hours: 9am–4pm

Petaling Jaya

Ah Soon Kor
Address: 42, Jalan SS 3/31, Taman Universiti, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 11am to 3pm and 5.30pm till 10.30pm (closed on alternate Mondays)