The 'best noodles' in the world?

LanH, [email protected] | .

YEARS ago as a young father, I was fond of bringing my family especially my young boys 'to sample' food at various eateries. One day, while quietly eating his 'mi goreng kicap' (noodles fried deep in ketchup sauce) at a 'gerai' (stall), my five year old child cried out that his 'mi' was 'paling sedap' (the best) in the world.

I was not surprised at his 'outburst' - the boy was too green, the Malay old folks would say 'baru nak hidup'(just beginning to live) or 'baru setahun jagung' (still a greenhorn). Perhaps he had not tasted the many types of noodles available at the many eateries around us such as the stalls and restaurants with unique names such as 'Mi Kari' (Curry Noodles), 'Mi Goreng Mamak' (Fried Noodles Mamak Style) and 'Mi Sup Gear Box' (Noodles in hot soup with oxen ligaments).

These are a few types of 'mi', there are also 'mi siam (beehoon)',(Siamese variety) 'laksa' and the likes of it. Lately I tried 'Mi Kolok' of Sarawak fame and during our outing at the eateries, 'I was sure' my wife would 90 percent ask for her 'mi kung-fu'. And as for me, my favourite is always 'Mi Bandung'!

Well, as human beings we are the 'masters' of our chosen worldly matters including in the culinary world for example as 'mi’ experts. We are free to cook whatever dish we wish to but of course as Muslims, our cooking and food must in line with the requirements of Islam such as what is 'halal' (permissible) or 'haram' (forbidden).

Regarding this matter, a 'hadith' narrated by Anas notes that the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by some people who were busy with pollination and said: “If they would not do this, then it would still come out right.”

The date crop that resulted was of a very poor quality. Then he passed by them and asked: “What is with your date palms?”

They said: “You had told us such-and-such…” He said: “You know best the affairs of your worldly life.”

Well, we decide for our worldly affairs. Recently I received this 'warm' and 'promising' e-mail from a reader who after that had sent me a book regarding his nostalgia of living in Muar. One of the many things the writer noted about Muar was on food and he did mention 'Mi Bandung' (my favourite) which is the signature food of the town also known as Bandar Maharani.

The name 'Mi Bandung' made me curious to know why it is called so. I had been to Bandung, but 'sadly' the people there said 'there is no such thing as 'Mi Bandung'. Alhamdulillah (Praise be only to Allah SWT), in this book, I have the answer...

'Salam' (Greetings to) LanH,

I have always enjoyed reading your articles in Harakah. Have you ever thought of publishing it so that more would be able to read it as not many people I know subscribe to Harakah. I recently published a book, 'Pages from my Past' written by Kamaruddin Abdullah. It is a compilation of articles about Muar in the 1950s and 1960s. If you are interested we could discuss this further. If you could let me have your address I will send you a copy of the book published by Kalsom Taib Publishing. - Kalsom Taib

Regarding 'Mi Bandung', Kamaruddin in his book 'Pages from my Past' among others wrote: "'Otak-otak' (fish paste) and 'Mi Bandung' needed no introduction. Some may ask whether 'Mi Bandung' originated from Bandung. No, it did not. 'Mi Bandung' has its origin right here in Muar Town. Why is it called 'Mi Bandung' then?

"Let me tell you the story, which was told to me by my close friend Mohammed Mahmood. Nobody in Muar Town of my time knew Mohammed Mahmood, but mention the name of Awang Kitang to them and they would immediately remember the most notorious and playful Muarian the town had ever produced. Yes, Mohammed Mahmood was Atan Kitang and this is his story:

"A year after our country gained independence, our Prime Minister the late Tunku wanted to foster closer relationships with our neighbours Indonesia and Singapore. One of the activities proposed was the exchange of cultural shows among the three countries. I remember attending one of the shows at the Rex Cinema. The Indonesian troupe consisted of the legendary Bing Selamat and Titiek Puspa. The Singaporeans too presented their talented artists. Our legendary late Tan Sri P Ramlee was just beginning to shine and was not included.”

"Across the road where the Grand Paradise stood was a small row of shop houses fronting Jalan Sisi...Among these traders, there was a man we called Pak Ma'il and his assistant Taib Tenuk. They both served the best Malay noodles that had no specific name. It was simply called 'mi kuah'. Muarians flocked to this small restaurant to enjoy this specially-cooked noodle dish day and night.

"In 1959...there was another cultural show performed by troupes of the three countries...At the end of the show, the troupes sang their own country's song; the Malayans sang 'Rasa Sayang', the Singaporeans 'Geylang Si Paku Gelang' and the Indonesians 'Ole Ole Bandung'

"After the show, it was time to fill their stomachs and the only suitable place was Pak Ma’il's little restaurant...When they reached Pak Ma'il's restaurant, they all ordered that special noodle with no name..When it was served, they tucked in and the Indonesians liked it very much.

"One of them asked Pak Ma'il the name of the dish and he replied that the dish had no specific name, just noodles mixed with the 'kuah' of pasted shrimps and bits and pieces of other ingredients, such as sliced meat, cuttlefish  and vegetables. He said that it be just called 'mi kuah'.

"The Indonesian then suggested the name 'Mi Bandung' because they were singing 'Ole Ole Bandung' when their meal arrived. Everyone laughed and agreed that the lovely dish be named 'Mi Bandung'. So it was, and from then on the dish cooked by Pak Ma'il and his assistant Taib Tenuk became known as 'Mi Bandung Muar'.

"Later Pak Ma'il and his assistant taught some others to cook this dish and eventually many restaurants began to serve 'Mi Bandung'. So the next time you pass Muar Town, try it and remember this story...

Recently my wife and I drove to Muar from Melaka which is a half hour drive, 'to accept' the writer's 'challenge'. Someone told us that one of Muar's best 'Mi Bandung' was 'Mee Bandung Central' which is situated just in front of the gate of Sekolah Menengah Sains Muar in Tanjung Agas.

We failed to locate the outlet but as we were about to head to the famous Muar Bridge, we came across two restaurants in a row of shop houses which had a large signboard which read 'Mee Bandung Muar' and 'Mee Udang Banjir - Mee Bandung'.

At first we tried our luck at 'Mee Bandung Muar' but had to move on as this restaurant was 'full house' - not a chair was available for us to sit. At 'Mee Udang Banjir - Mee Bandung' we managed to squeeze ourselves at a small table - my wife ordering 'Mee Udang Banjir' while I as usual my favourite 'Mee Bandung'.

My wife complained that her 'Mee Udang Banjir' was salty but for me, my 'Mee Bandung' was 'excellent'. But both of us agreed that the noodles in the dish were too little - taking several spoon bites from the plate, it was finished. Well, both dishes cost RM6.50 each; it was quiet expensive but who could complain because nowadays raw items such as prawns and eggs are very, very expensive.

A kilogram of a medium sized prawn could go up to RM30.00 while a small crate of 30 eggs is more than RM12.00! - ES

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