THE savoury Satay Noodles and Fried Ginger Noodles are the two signature dishes of mee seller ‘Ah Hai’, a Teochew from Sri Aman.
His offerings are actually legacies from some of the most well-known noodle sellers from his hometown, and he brought them down for Kuchingites to savour.
His noodles boast a unique flavour; providing city folks with more choices of good, tasty meals to fill their tummies.
What makes Ah Hai’s mouth-watering dishes different from those sold elsewhere are that they are fried, cooked and mixed with a secret recipe comprising homemade ingredients and fresh condiments to suit local taste buds.
“I use local homemade ingredients for my satay sauces. I also use fresh local ginger and my very own secret recipe to create the savoury taste for these two signature noodles,” he disclosed to DayakDaily.
This 55-year-old’s real name is Teo Siak Hai, and he has been in the culinary business for more than 30 years. He knew the basics of cooking since he was 16.
“I learned the art of cooking noodles from my late father, Teo Hiok Kiang. His kitchen was my culinary school of sorts,” he said, when met at his stall at Big Hand Coffee Shop in Lorong Datuk Tawi Sli No.2, 3 1/2 Mile, in Kuching.
Ah Hai disclosed that his interest in cooking started in Japan. He went to work there with several friends from 1993 to 1995.
“After a while, we got fed-up of Japanese food, and I started to cook easy meals like fried noodles. As the required ingredients were readily available in Japan, it gave me the taste that I wanted,” he explained, on how he refined his cooking skills.
He claimed that his friends loved his cooking, especially his fried noodles.
“I believe that cooking is in my blood. I did try to help my father when I was 16, but back then, I never thought of it as something I wanted to pursue when I got older.
“On hindsight, I should have started earlier. It was only after I returned from Singapore in 2000 that I took a serious interest in wanting to have my own food stall and cook according to my customers’ liking, which basically equates to mean simple meals with savoury meat, vegetables and soups.”
His first food stall was at the Sri Aman District Council (MDSA) food market, where his late father’s stall used to be.
“As no one in the family really wanted to do this business, I did it full time by selling the dishes that my late father used to sell. So, you can say I am continuing his cooking legacy to serve the customers.”
When competition in Sri Aman grew stiffer and the tastebuds of locals, especially the young ones, changed, Ah Hai decided to try his luck in Kuching.
“To create a niche for my business, I decided to offer my signature dishes, which are Satay Noodles and Ginger Fried Noodles. Thank god, it worked, and my satisfied customers helped me promote them by making online posts.”
Ah Hai said he is not scared of food critics, because he believed that criticisms, when taken with the right attitude, could prosper his business.
Recently, Ah Hai added ‘Mee Ah Mong’ to his menu. ‘Mee Ah Mong’, named after its original seller, was very well known in Sri Aman in the 70s and 80s.
“It just simple fried noodles with bean sprouts mixed with either slices of pork or fish. But the twist that makes it different is the chilli sauce or rather the chilli paste as a dip for the meat dishes and also the noodles.
“Sri Aman folk are familiar with this fried noodles, and I am bringing this nostalgic offering to the dining tables in Kuching.”
If the chilli paste is the one that does the ‘magic’ but with Ah Mong long dead, how did Ah Hai get hold of the ‘secret’ recipe?
“Oh, I got it from his family!” he chuckled.
Currently, Ah Hai also sells ‘vinegar three-in-one noodles’, ‘crispy noodles’, ‘Cantonese noodles’, ‘mee goreng sup’ and more.
Ah Hai hopes the legacy of noodle sellers from smaller towns in the state would be preserved. — DayakDaily