Muslim converts satisfy craving for kampua mee with Alex Kitchen’s halal version

(Clockwise from top left) Mee pok, kolo mee, mee dapi and kampua mee featured at Alex's Kitchen. Photo credit: Alex's Kitchen

By Shikin Louis

KUCHING, March 26: If you are a Muslim who has always wondered what the original taste of Sibu’s kampua mee is like, head to Alex’s Kitchen where they serve the arguably similar but halal version of the dish.

Shahrizan Tan Abdullah @ Alexander Tan Seng Leong, 53, is a Chinese Muslim who operates an eatery at Aiman Mall, offering an array of local noodle dishes like kampua mee and kolo mee.

During the month of Ramadan, the father of four children operates a small stall at Kuching South City Council (MBKS) Ramadan Bazaar at Stutong Community Market here.

The special version of Alex’s Kitchen kampua mee dish.

As he touts his food to the bazaar patrons, there is one phrase that stands out the most: “We sell Sibu’s kampua mee”.

When asked by DayakDaily, he clarified that he is not from Sibu nor is he operating a business in Sibu.

However, he remains confident that the kampua mee he makes and sells is no less as appetizing as compared to the traditional kampua mee dish which originates from Sibu.

Blessing in disguise during Covid-19 outbreak

Prior to opening a food business, Alex was a salesman for a food and beverage (F&B) supplier company. However, he had to quit his job when the Covid-19 outbreak occurred in 2020.

While unemployed and prohibited from leaving the house, Alex’s wife Sabariah Abang Deni, 41, convinced him to put his skills of making noodles from his younger days to use and start a small business.

From there, the couple cooked food at home and delivered the items to their customers.

Alex and wife Sabariah pose in front of their stall at Aiman Mall.

“At that time, everyone was not allowed to leave their house during the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO). So I applied for a travel permit from the police which enabled me to do the deliveries in Taman Samarindah area in Kota Samarahan,” he said.

Their noodle business started to grow when they received a lot of orders from customers who learned about their products on Facebook.

They also had to use the Foodpanda and Grab delivery apps to supplement their business.

When the MCO restrictions had been relaxed, the married couple finally gathered their courage to rent a small stall at Aiman Mall.

After two years of renting a stall, they bought the whole eatery at the commercial centre.

The art of making halal version of Sibu’s kampua mee

According to Alex, kampua mee is very popular in Sibu and is said to have been introduced by early migrants that came from the city of Fuzhou in China.

Originally, the dish is traditionally prepared with pork lard and topped with barbequed pork or ‘char siu’.

“Therefore, Muslims could not eat the original kampua mee. There might be some eateries selling the halal version of kampua mee but to find the exact taste which is similar to the original dish is very difficult,” he said.

During his time working as a salesman, Alex often visited Chinese eateries that sold various types of noodles.

While it is easy for the public to find kolo mee dishes being sold in eateries, the same cannot be said for kampua mee.

Following this, he was motivated to use his sources to get the best supplier of kampua noodles.

He claims that having the original kampua noodles is the important essence in making a kampua mee dish, unlike certain food operators who would resort to using different types of noodles as a substitute.

“Different types of noodles have different tastes. For example, kolo mee noodles are thinner in texture and lighter compared to kampua noodles,” he pointed out.

At Alex’s Kitchen, there are three versions of noodle dish – white, red and black. White is the original version, while black get its name for the soy sauce the noodles are covered in.

While he did not reveal the secret recipe for the red noodle dish, it was understood that the original kampua mee’s signature red hue comes from it being seasoned with the sauce from char siu marinade.

Go-to place for Muslim converts longing for Sibu’s kampua mee

Alex disclosed that many of his customers are also Muslim converts like him. After their conversion to Islam, they could no longer eat the original kampua mee as it contains pork.

“Hence, whenever they crave for kampua mee, they would definitely come to find us because the taste of our noodle dish is almost similar to the original non-halal Sibu’s kampua mee.

“When I ask them about the taste, they (customers) have been saying that the dish we prepared had helped them release their sense of longing for the original kampua mee although the meat toppings have been replaced with chicken or beef,” he said.

Although Alex only started his noodle dish business for the sake of putting food on the table for his family, he admitted that the honest reactions expressed by his customers had encouraged him to continue to make the noodles for his brothers and sisters in Islam.

Alex’s Kitchen Chinese Muslim Cafe

The Alex’s Kitchen is located along the row of shophouses at Aiman Mall, Jalan Datuk Mohammad Musa in Kota Samarahan. The operation hours are from 8am until 3pm daily except on Fridays.

Alex sells about 200 bowls of noodles daily. Each bowl costs only RM5, while the special option of a dish could cost up to RM9.

Kolo mee (left) and kampua mee served at Alex’s Kitchen stall at the MBKS Bazaar Ramadan near Stutong Community Market.

However, for the temporary operation at MBKS Ramadan Bazaar, each bowl costs RM6.

Among the famous food items at Alex’s Kitchen are kolo mee, kampua mee, mee sapi, mee pok and wonton soup. — DayakDaily