Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Kolo Mee - Famous Sarawak Food 干捞面
Kolo mee 干捞面 is comfort food to a Sarawakian, just like mee pok tah 面薄干 is to a Singaporean, or kway teow thng 粿条汤 to a Johorian.
Recently, I was in Sarawak for the annual International Bornean Frog Race 2014 in Kuching.
With just 3 days in Kuching, besides covering the frog race, I set myself the doable simple goal of trying some authentic kolo mee, a dish synonymous with Sarawak.
I am sure that I have yet not tried the best kolo mee in Kuching but here are three stalls which I tried and liked.
I must come back for more, definitely.
After checking in at Tune Hotel in Kuching, and with one hour before my dinner appointment, I dashed to the nearest kopitiams in search of kolo mee.
I hurried pass these cat statues along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. Cat statues seemed to be everywhere, which is not surprising since Kuching is the "City of Cats".
This was the first kolo mee stall I stumbled upon in Kuching, right at the corner of Jalan Padungan and Jalan Song Thian Cheok. (Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Vd3zJ )
The kolo mee stall is inside the Chinese Barbecue Specialist shop.
I ordered a kolo mee and gave the stall owner no additional instructions as I just wanted to taste the most basic kolo mee (costs RM3).
The mound of pale yellow, slightly thick and flat noodles were topped with broad thin slices of char siew, bits of clumpy minced pork and a scattering of chopped scallions.
The kolo mee was crunchy though not in the same way as good wanton noodles. Kolo mee noodles have a gumminess which is not found in good wanton noodles. Kolo mee also doesn't have the distinct eggy flavour of good wanton noodles.
The dominant flavour and aroma was from the lard with slight hints of shallot oil. I could smell the aroma of lard when I was tossing the noodles in the sauce.
I got quite a large mound of noodles for RM3 and the lard made me feel quite full when I finished eating my kolo mee.
I asked the stall owner Mr. Lim who has been selling kolo mee for 20 years, how kolo mee came about. Mr. Lim suggested that kolo mee perhaps originated from Hakka noodles.
I need to do more research on the origins of kolo mee, but Mr. Lim does make a plausible point as kolo mee does resemble Hakka noodles (except that kolo mee is not served without yong tau fu, unlike Hakka noodles).
At the dinner with Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), I asked our hosts for suggestions on where to get the popular kolo mee. Mr. Kevin Nila, a regional marketing manager at STB, suggested that I try Mohd Lim's stall which is just 2 minutes' walk from Tune Hotel, where I was staying.
So I got up extra early the next morning to check on Mohd Lim's kolo mee at Kevin's suggestion.
Puan Lim was in charge of the cooking when I arrived at the busy stall. (Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Kwo6P )
Mohd Lim has been a hawker for over 40 years, selling noodles since he was a boy.
I indulged in this RM5 luxury edition on Kevin's suggestion, "Must try the Chicken mushroom mee", he said.
The noodles were smothered in a blanket of red coloured pieces of chicken, braised mushroom slices, with various other spongy and clumpy toppings.
The crunchy, tacky noodles were coloured red by the reddish sauce used in making the chicken.
I like the tender chicken pieces at Mohd Lim.
The next morning, I had 45 minutes before pick up by airport transfer from the hotel.
So, it's another quick dash on foot for kolo mee.
After shooting past this totem pole and white cat statures along Jalan Padungan, I decided to turn around before straying too far from Tune Hotel (mindful that I got a plane to catch).
As I backtracked towards Tune Hotel, I stumbled upon Ah Wee kolo mee stall in Fock Hai Tim Sum Cafe (which is actually just beside Mr. Lim's kolo mee stall which I visited on my first day in Kuching.) (Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Vd3zJ )
This is Ah Wee's basic kolo mee (RM3).
The kolo mee noodles were topped with char siew, chopped scallions, crispy fried shallots and clumps of tender minced pork cooked with sauce.
I liked Ah Wee's curly, crunchy kolo mee noodles. As Ah Wee did not shake out all the water from the noodles, they felt wetter, and less gummy tacky than that at other kolo mee stalls. The lard and shallot oil aroma and flavours were just right for me. The minced pork and shallot crackles complemented the noodles very well.
I didn't speak with Ah Wee as he was handling a lot of breakfast customers and I also got busy speaking with the boss of Fock Hai Tim Sum Cafe about their old style Kuching kopi and their famous big pau (but that's another interesting story I'll leave to my next post :P ).
I tried 4 kolo mee stalls during my 3 days in Kuching (one shop is not mentioned here as their kolo mee was not tasty.)
Back in Johor Bahru, I found some kolo mee stalls pretty similar to the kolo mee I ate in Kuching.
If you are looking for kolo mee in Johor Bahru, click on the photo above for full info and addresses.
My flight to Kuching from Singapore was sponsored by AirAsia.
AirAsia flight AK774 departs from Changi Terminal 1 at 1145am daily. AK775 departs from Kuching at 0950am daily.
AirAsia offers Red Carpet (pre-flight check-in), Hot Seats (priority boarding and extra legroom), and a free, nippy, easy to use Mobile app (for checking flight schedules and flight booking).
My stay in Kuching was sponsored by Tune Hotels.
Tune Hotel Kuching is clean, comfortable and good value for money. It is conveniently located next to the Kuching Waterfront and walking distance to eateries and hangouts.
My trip was supported by Sarawak Tourism Board and arrangements were made by Planet Borneo.
Return to Johor Kaki homepage.