KOTA KINABALU, April 13 — In Malaysia, Penang reigns supreme as the country’s hawker food haven while Sabah, with its long coastline and beautiful beaches, has long been known as a seafood paradise.
While Penang may also have earned global recognition for its char kway teow and assam laksa, Sabah is also earning some serious foodie stripes for its own specialty noodles.
Many local noodle joints have been featured in Chinese and Korean guidebooks as well as TV shows so it’s no longer strange to see an eager-looking tourist, armed with camera phone and a healthy appetite, in some of the city’s most unassuming coffee shops.
Arguably Sabah’s most well-known signature dish, Tuaran mee is likely THE meal every Sabahan abroad drools over and craves with every posting of the same on Instagram and Facebook.
It helps that it is a ridiculously photogenic mess of yumminess with its combination of bright yellow curly egg noodles with a bit of charring for bite and aroma, slivers of green choy sim, sweet barbecued pork and/or chun kien (pork rolls wrapped in egg) and even more eggs.
Although originally the noodles were fried with eggs and vegetables before being topped with barbecued pork, some places offer beef, chicken and occasionally it is tossed in lihing — Sabah’s own sweet rice wine.
Tuaran mee’s origin is not exactly indigenous as its roots are definitely Chinese. It got its name from the town which spawned it, a 50 kilometre-drive from the city centre.
It has been said that the secret to such delicious noodles is that they are twice cooked by first frying, which helps them to keep longer, then boiled, before being fried again before serving. The first fry is to cook the noodles, while they are boiled to soften them again to prepare them for the last fry, before eating.
While people used to have to drive to Tuaran or Tamparuli town for this delicacy, they are now available in the city:
Kedai Kopi Lok Kyun
Address: Shop No.4, Block 8, Jalan Keogh,
Tuaran Mee Restoran in Inanam
Address: Lot 35, Block E, Ground Floor, Inanam Business Centre, Kota Kinabalu
Restoran Wun Chiap
Address: Lot 9, next to the a Chinese school, SJK (C) Chung Hwa Tamparuli
Tel: 60 88-782845
Restoran Seng Hing
Address: Block E, Lot 10, Sinsuran Complex, Kota Kinabalu
Tel: 60 88 211594 /017-8188855
Meaty goodness in the form of beef, ngiu chap — mixed beef noodles — is also many Sabahans’ comfort food.
It consists of very beefy broth, flavoured by boiling beef bones for hours with cuts of beef including slices of raw beef, stewed chuck meat which add more umaminess, boiled tripe tendon and meatballs among others.
They are usually served with either vermicelli, yellow noodles or flat kway teow in soup, or separately – kon lau style. You can often choose which parts you would like, as the squeamish tend to stay away from the offals.
While perhaps not unique in concept, some shops have been serving up ngiu chap for over 30 years and still remain popular among locals, not least because they tend to be found in suburban neighbourhoods. They’re usually served at coffee shops for breakfast and lunch.
Kedai Cheng Wah
Ground Floor, Lot 8,
Block A, Taman Che Mei (Lido Township),
Jalan Penampang, Kota Kinabalu
Kah Hiong Ngiu Chap
Block A Shop,
No. 2-0-10 Kolam Centre Phase 2,
Ground Floor, Jalan Lintas,
Kolam Centre, Luyang, Kota Kinabalu,
Pork noodles here is known as sang nyuk mien — and they have a near iconic status among fans. A favourite of Kadazandusuns who love all things porky, all parts of the pig are enjoyed.
Not unlike ngiu chap in its concept, the soup is boiled for hours and takes on an intensively porky flavour and more slices of fresh raw pork are cooked in the broth just before serving.
All parts of the pig like the intestines and liver, pork balls and more are offered, and usually the dish is topped with fried pork lard for added flavour. Like most noodles, it can be had kon lau or dry style, or cooked in soup.
Sang nyuk mien is said to have originated from the east coast of Tawau but its popularity spread and it became available in Kota Kinabalu in the late 70s. Kedai Kopi Kim Hing Lee opened a shop in Sinsuran and this is arguably the most established outlet selling sang nyuk mien.
Over the years, many places now specialise in pork noodles.
Kedai Kopi Kim Hing
Blk F, Lot 7, Sinsuran Complex,
Sinsuran, Kota Kinabalu.
Sinsuran Sang Nyuk Mee
Lot 19-0, Ground Floor, Lorong Lintas Plaza
Jia Siang Coffee Shop
Lot 1-0, Ground Floor,
Lorong 3, Lintas Plaza Ring Road,
Kedai Kopi Melanian
Lot 7-0, Ground Floor, Lorong Lintas Plaza1,
Jalan Lintas, Kota Kinabalu
The least well-known among visitors but a staple among locals, Beaufort mee is under-rated among its more popular competitors and only available in a handful of specialty restaurants.
Simple in concept as well, it is ultimately a “wet fried” or “goreng basah” noodle doused with a thick chicken and garlic gravy.
Originating from the west coast town of Beaufort, which is sometimes tied to another neighbouring town, Tenom, the dish is recognisable from the heaping portion of greens.
To be considered good, the yellow handmade noodles must be fried on its own and have a smoky char. The broth must not be overly starchy and taste of garlic and meat. It is most commonly topped with sweet char siew and/or pork slices.
The greens, choy sim or sawi, are also a must-have for the dish to be considered Beaufort mee, and in many instances, completely covers the other contents of the plate.
Yu Hing Restaurant
2-0-20, Block D, City Mall.
Kota Kinabalu Sabah
New Man Tai
Lot No 78, Block 1, Ground Floor,
Ruang Singgah Mata 5, Asia City, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Kim Fah Restaurant
4th Floor, Lot P33B & PF5A, Palm Square, Centre Point Sabah (No.1, Jalan Centre Point), 88800 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah