Sunday, July 10, 2011

Food: Sarikei kampua shoot out - My kampua is better than yours

Sarikei Chin San 青山 cafe, 2010

The gauntlet has been thrown on the Sarikeians facebook page. Which stall can toss the best kampua noodles 干盤面 in town? There were several mentioned but Chin San 青山 led the polls at press time. Chin San is in the same block as Hong Kong Studio at 15 Jalan Masjid Lama and became popular since it started in 1980 at this location. Before this, he operated from Hai Bin kopitiam 海濱茶室

Sarikei Chin San cafe, 2010

Kampua is a humble Foochow dish that harps back to the early migrant days of Sarikei and Sibu. It has become the most popular non-halal comfort food for the denizens of these two districts.  The most popular stalls in Sarikei in the 1960s-1970s were in Block 3 Right Repok Road (now replaced by a new block after it was burnt in 1990). Mr Loh (now retired) of Tong Kiow 同僑 at No. 12 Repok Road was arguably better than Yew Leun 友聯 of No. 18 Repok Road.

Sarikei Chin San cafe, 2010

The noodle is loosened in boiling water for about a minute and is then drained. It is then jiggled in water at room temperature for a few seconds to prevent the strands from sticking to each other. The noodles are heated in the boiling water again for a few seconds and then the water is drained away. The noodles are tossed in a plate of sauce that's prepared with dark soy sauce, MSG and lard. Garnish it with chopped spring onions, fried shallots and char siew pork slices and you will be in business.

Sarikei Hiek Lik cafe, 2009
Source: Sblog

Hiek Lik 協力 cafe at 33 Repok Road (next to the traffic light) became popular for its kampua in the early 1980s under a former name 即桃園 cafe. Nocturnal beings thronged this corner shop for its kampua and drinks.

What differentiates one stall's kampua from another? Not much really. The noodles are sourced from the few noodle production shops. The texture of the noodle depends on how long the cook boils and cools the noodle. The not-so-secret sauce has the same few ingredients but the stalls use different amount and brands of dark soy sauce and the optional chilli sauce. The lard has to be fresh and MSG is, well, MSG. The white pork slices (not really the traditional char siew roast pork) have never been a deciding factor. And do you ever bother to sip the bland clear soup with a few pieces of floating spring onions?

Sarikei Hiek Lik cafe, 2010

Then why do people have their favourite stalls? My personal favourite is a shop next to the end of the Bank Road bus station. I don't even know its name. Yes, there are nuances in the flavour depending on the texture of the noodles, the subtle process the cook uses, the freshness of the lard and the different amount and brands of the ingredients. The rest boils down to an unconscious routine and a social networking factor that brings us back to the same shop. That's why every kam pua stall is almost always well patronised in Sarikei.


sarikeikia said...

Recently I went back for a short visit and my personal opinion is the Kampua at Chin San score 5 out of 10. I give the one at No. 9 Repok Road: Kiew Lok Kopitiam 僑樂園茶室 8.5 out of 10.

DOMINIC HII (許信惠) said...

Let me be the first to comment onb your lovely blog here. I have been back quite a few times lately. I have tried kampua in many places even in Sibu, Miri, Bintulu and Kuching. There are lots of Foochow traders in Kuching today serving just kampua and not Ko Loh Mee. Kumpua in Spring Shopping centre Kenyalang costs $4.50 (Ringgit) a year ago. There is however one excellent kumpua stall in a coffee shop just round the corner from Chartered Bank run by an elderly Sarikean but he closes at 8.30 pm every night. Behind the same cafe is also a famous food stall also run by a Sarikean by the name of Stephen Yong. who was from Chung Hua school when young. Highly recommended to savour our own Sarikean food when you are billeted at Somerset, 360 Express, Pullman or Lik Hwa hotel. The one in a separate building outside Mega Hotel in Miri is quite nice apparently started by a family originally from Sibu but they cook other dishes too in a simple air-conditioned restaurant.Always busy here.

But Chin Sann The Green Mountrain Cafe in Sarikei beats all not just in price but also in quality. I don't know why but it is just the strands that bounce in your mouth when you consume the noodles. I tend to like the way that they apply the rich sauce. Besides, we have here in Saerikei itself a generation of well kept secret of having the best deh si (Tea with milk) and flavoursome Malaysian coffee in the whole of Sarawak served in the traditional way like they do in old uptown Kopitiam. ie in proper porcelain cup and saucer with prcelain spoon and not the common large ugly mugs I get elsewhere. Cheers!

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks for the comments. Interestingly everyone I speak to has his own favourite kampua stall in Sarikei.

Others mentioned in Sarikeians facebook pages and this comment thread are:

Chin San 青山, Jalan Masjid Lama
Hiek Lik 協力, 33 Repok Rd
Full Tien 富天, corner of Lorong 3, Jalan Abdul Rahman and Jln Tun Abdul Razak.
Aik Seng 益星, No. 21 Wharf Road.
2020 at Nyelong Esplanade
Kiew Lok 僑樂園, 9 Repok Rd
Lee Yuen, Payang Puri block.

WinnieT said...

Simply nostalgic! We know the towkay so well that we could ask for extra spring onion, fried shallot and even noodle, without being charged for the extras! ;)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Well written foodie post....There is always this Just Right Kampua somewhere in Sarawak. Sometimes you get it sometimes you don't. I have eaten some terrible ones which put the Foochow brand to shame.

these days it is hard to get really good kamkpua in Miri.

Reading your post makes me think that may be I should go (back) to Sibu and Sarikei more often!! thanks.

TengQ said...

Well, finally I heard from a friend that Kam Pua is now available at Bugis Junction's Noodle House in Singapore. Making a plan to try out!!

ront said...

i think not many are actually using lard nowadays. it cost more and needs more time to prepare. a few i know simply insist on using peanut oil. not any other oil.

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