Kim Joo Noodles: A legacy of flavour in Kuching

Kim Joo's specialty is a plate of noodles served with offal and pork meat soup.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, May 21: One of Kuching City’s most popular noodle shops, Kim Joo Noodles, is now operated by the grandson of the original shop owner, Lai Jit Lai.

Lai, a friendly 60-year-old, shared with DayakDaily that he inherited the family business from his grandfather and the noodle station from his grandmother more than 30 years ago.

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“Kim Joo eatery originally was a popular ‘kopitiam’ serving hot beverages with ‘roti panggang’ (toasted bread) for patrons. Then, my mother, a good food maestro herself and a Teochew, wanted more varieties of food for regulars and customers, so she introduced the noodle dishes about 60 years ago,” Lai said.

Lai flashes a thumbs-up at his noodle station.

“So, she did it for 30 years before I replaced her. We continued to use the eatery’s name for our noodles, so it became known and identified as Kim Joo Noodles. It has become a local dish name and was easier for regulars to spot a meeting place for food and beverages in the city, especially in the vicinity of Carpenter Street,” he added.

Lai highlighted that the cafe serves various savory Kim Joo noodles and rice noodles (kueh tiaw), either regular or ‘special,’ and the eatery’s specialty: Noodles with ‘Cheng’ spare parts (offal and pork meats).

“Apart from our noodle dishes, customers must try our handmade savory steamed buns, either ‘Bak Pau’ or ‘Char Siew Pau.’ We make these steamed buns daily,” he enthused.

Lai shared that the food served must be fresh, and so are the noodles, thus giving the flavor and taste.

“When you make a considerable amount of noodle dishes in a day, and to give the freshness you have to constantly change the water in the boiler where the noodles are cooked. The lard we mix with the noodles must be fresh all the time and cannot be more than two days old. This is how we maintain consistency in the dishes, thus preserving the flavor.”

“Our broth is simple and prepared to suit local palates. Nowadays, we stop using salted vegetables in our broth because this ingredient made the broth too salty,” he revealed.

Initially, when he took over from his mother 30 years ago, Lai struggled to stand for three to four hours before taking a short break.

“The noodle station is always hot and uncomfortable, and I needed to adapt and have the energy. I keep my energy and enthusiasm for cooking all the dishes for hours now as I swim and used to do Tai Chi exercises frequently,” he shared.

Kim Joo is located at 73 Ewe Hai Street, in the vicinity of Carpenter Street.

“On the discipline and focus in the job, it is a regimen I inculcated while working for a Japanese company here and a short stint in Japan,” he disclosed.

Lai hopes that Kim Joo Noodles will continue to be a favorite dish for locals and visitors who patronize his family eatery.

“My daughters are helping me, and they know the trade of making these dishes we serve at our cafe. I am optimistic they will take over from me. In the meantime, I love preparing the dishes and serving my regulars and patrons well. To have good food, we must respect it and not waste it. The food’s flavor will be more palatable. That is my philosophy,” he said.

Kim Joo Noodles is located at 73 Ewe Hai Street, in the vicinity of Carpenter Street.

It operates daily from 6.30am to 2pm for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, except on Mondays. — DayakDaily

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