August 10, 2012
Eating Kampua in Batu Niah
Batu Niah is one of the most famous towns of Sarawak because it is the place where the World Famous Niah caves are found. Hence people in other parts of the world and even Malaysia know more about the Niah Caves than the town itself.
Batu Niah was a small town which was established by the side of the Niah River as a result of small trading businesses by the Chinese and the Malays and Kedayans more than 100 years ago .Timber also contributed to the establishment of more shops in the 1960's. Actually it was the demand for rattan and Birds Nests from the Niah Caves which first contributed to the establishment of the little town in the early days. However in the last 20 years the oil palm industry has actually given a great boost to the building of more shops and modern homes in this area. Take for example Sepupok and Kuala Niah (nearby townlets) are now fast growing with a good population and a great number of Hilux and lorries.
Eateries in Batu Niah are mainly operated by the "original" Chinese settlers of Batu Niah - the Hakka people and to a small extent the Hokkiens. Some Foochows have established themselves here after the timber companies have left town when logging could no longer make money.
Although Cantonese (?) Fried Noodles and Hakka braised noodles are popular Hokkien Stir Fried noodles can also be found in the eateries. The Kampua seems to have taken hold of the cuisine found in Batu Niah in recent years. With a population which swells in the weekends the town's coffee shops and small hotels do a brisk business. Most of the people from the hinterland come into the town to buy supplies and even gold jewellery at the end of the month according one business man I interviewed.
According to a die hard Foochow business woman in Batu Niah..."Every one would still care to order a plate of Kampua Mee because it is so nice even in Niah...no need to go to Sibu to order a plate of Kampua Mee!!"
Yes indeed we used to swear that only Moi Suong's kampua in Sibu was the best and Sarikei also produced some good kampua mee too. In Miri Wan Hin Coffee shop has one of the best kampua ....May be we don't have to find the best...just look for OK ones...
We went to this local coffee shop in the original old bazaar of Batu Niah(not the Miri /Sibu Road junction) and ordered kampua mee...and our friends said that the kampua is "OK"...and may be that's why the business in this shop is good!!
The deep fried onions made the kampua nice and the "Sup Kosong" or Ching Tang (Clear soup) is tasty. I would say if the towkay puts into one Wonton (dumpling) into the soup for good measure with extra chopped green onions.....even more people would come and patronise the coffee shop!!
I heard from a friend that when one outlet in Miri did not give complimentary bowls of Clear Soup some of its customers stopped coming. Later when the soup was offered "upon request" some customers came back. Now the clear soup is given without being asked...more customers have come back and putting the business on its feet again. so I think one special Wonton or dumpling in the Clear Soup would help make the business even better.
Kampua Mee is quite a staple and it need not be made by the Foochows. Halal Kampua Mee has become quite popular every where in Sarawak.
The secret is in the sauce and the oil which gives the plain noodles a good taste. But other factors must also be taken into consideration....It is not as simple as you see it to be....
It is difficult to say who makes the best Kampua Mee ....because your taste and my taste are really different...
Have you heard of the Ministers' Kampua Mee stall in Sibu? If you have the time...you can try to find out the Ministers' taste...