By Wilfred Pilo
KUCHING, May 19: Longevity noodles or Mee Sua is a popular dish. It is a comfort meal for when one is feeling under the weather.
Aficionados of authentic Foochow cuisine consider the noodles a symbol of long life and believe that eating it can rejuvenate one’s energy.
When most of us look at and think of these iconic noodles, those of us fortunate enough to have eaten it will have little problem recalling that taste of bliss when it touched our tongue and the feeling of hearty satisfaction as it filled our bellies.
Despite its many fans, most people don’t know much about the ingredients used to create the savoury broths which the noodles are often served in.
The versatile Mee Sua can be cooked and enjoyed in various ways to suit individual tastebuds and this is aptly demonstrated in a cafe here which serves local Chinese cuisine.
The writer recently spoke with stall operator Sugan Hii who had 21 years of culinary experiences and has served this Foochow favourite for ten years.
“Mee Sua is a zesty and pleasing meal for many people,” he explained.
“It is also different in texture. The savoury noodles are made from wheat flour but most significant are the savoury ingredients and the broth that goes with it,” revealed Hii.
Hii pointed out that Mee Sua is a popular dish to eat during birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and festivals, or at any time one gets the craving.
At Hii’s stall, the menu features Red Wine Chicken Mee Sua, Batin Pork Leg Mee Sua, and Cuttlefish Pork Leg Mee Sua.
“These dishes tend to be more popular with our patrons and our regulars,” he disclosed.
“In addition to these dishes, we also serve Ding Bian Hu, Chicken Soup Hun Gan with egg and Chicken Soup with Handmade Noodles, so our patrons have a range to choose from.”
According to Hii, his patrons most often order the Batin Pork Leg Mee Sua and Cuttlefish Pork Leg Mee Sua.
“These two dishes are popular as both can give energy when eaten,” he said, explaining that the broth for his Batin Pork Leg Mee Sua is made using a mixture of eight medicinal herbs.
“These herbs are mixed and boiled together in water to make a broth which can rejuvenate our bodies and restore our energy.”
He also revealed that women often take this dish after having menses.
“They believe the herb can replenish their body naturally,” he added.
As for how he prepares his Cuttlefish Pork Leg Mee Sua, Hii revealed that the broth contains herbal nutrients from a medicinal tree grown in China.
“To make the broth, we boiled the wood chips together with the dried cuttlefish. The taste of the broth is a little bitter but it is not overpowering,” he shared.
Patience is the name of the game when cooking the broth. Hii elaborated that it takes four to five hours to prepare the broth with constant monitoring.
“My grandmother often related that in the old days, people loved this dish. Most people had to do physical labour to earn their living.
“The herb helped to boost their energy. Eating it became a norm as it has medicinal value.”
Hii jested that this medicinal tree is equivalent to the famous “Tongkat Ali” or longjack which has many fans in Malaysia.
“They (customers) believe in the herb that cures the ailment and boosts our general health,” he added.
Hii also revealed that Cuttlefish Pork Leg Mee Sua is his personal favourite.
“My typical day starts at 4.30am. My stall begins operations from 6am until 2pm. So having this dish helps me boost my energy. It lifts my spirit,” he laughed.
Hii shared that another popular Mee Sua dish among his customers is the Red Wine Chicken Mee Sua.
“This dish is popular among women when they are having menses or during confinement. The main ingredient for the broth is Chinese red wine, ginger and dried mushrooms.
“Chinese people believe that this dish is a very “heaty” dish and good for women to boost their health especially after giving birth,” he elaborated.
“I am glad to be cooking and selling these dishes and follow in the culinary footsteps of my ancestors. I made my grandmother and parents proud. I hope people from all walks of life continue to love these authentic Foochow dishes,” he said.
Hii’s stall also serves the popular Foochow dish Ding Bian Hu.
“People love this savoury soupy dish for breakfast or at any time of the day. It is simple to prepare,” he said.
Ding Bian Hu consists of thin shavings of a rice flour crepe scraped from the walls of a wok which is then simmered in broth with meatballs, fishballs, cloud ear fungus, lily bubs and various seasonings.
“To me, Ding Bian Hu dish has its tale. But Mee Sua is on another level,” said Hii.
Food lovers in search of authentic Foochow dishes may find them at Best Friend Cafe located at RH Plaza. — DayakDaily