Comfort… in Food

You can take a boy out of Sarawak but you can never take Sarawak out of the boy. Having been in Singapore for the past decade or more of his life, CH is still very much a Malaysian boy at heart.

While comfort food for me comes in the form of a slice of rich chocolate cake, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or my dad’s luscious, unbeatable butter cake, CH would go for a steaming plate of noodles. Not just any noodles, mind you. He frowns upon the noodles served here – either the yellow noodles tastes too strongly of alkaline, or the noodles are over/under cooked, or too drenched in chilli oil and lard which conceal the taste of the badly cooked, or simply bad, noodles.

What he craves for is the noodles – gan pan mian, found only in his hometown. I first tasted this noodles three years ago when I went back to Sarawak with him. Being brought up on Singaporean style minced pork noodles, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of gan pan mian, which literally means dry noodles.

What defines gan pan mian is the noodles –  it takes centrestage. I had never tasted noodles like this. The noodles tasted… well, like noodles, without the strong taste of alkaline. The colour of the noodles is pale and the taste is clean. The texture is wonderful, with the right amount of chewiness. Best of all, gan pan mian is dressed with just fried shallot oil and a dash of soy sauce, so you can really taste the noodles.

The closest we have in Singapore that resembles gan pan mian is Kuching Kolo Mee, but most of the versions sold here have been dressed up to suit the Singaporean taste.  So when my mother-in-law is coming to Singapore, CH would usually request for her to bring a kilogram of dried, uncooked gan pan mian noodles here.

My mum-in-law’s version of gan pan mian is a slight variation of what is found on the streets of their hometown. She would would toss the noodles with lots of fried shallot oil, fried shallots and a pinch of salt. The noodles is then garnished simply with fried ikan bilis and topped with a sunny-side up. And that, to my dear Malaysian boy, is a plate of heaven.

You would be surprised how fast we would exhaust our supply of a kilogram of noodles. Fortunately, CH found a brand of Taiwan-made dried noodles which resembles the taste and bite of his hometown noodles. I could still remember the gleam in his eyes when he found that it tasted a little like home!  🙂

We had cooked the noodles several times at home and for lunch today, I made a version of his mum’s gan pan mian. It is the easiest thing in the world, simply tossed noodles garnished with some leftover rocket leaves for that addictive peppery zing.

Simple but no less satisfying. THIS is what comfort food is all about.


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