Kolo Mee , history and what's the secret
This is a staple when you visit Sarawak. Kolo Mee (pronounced Kolok Mee by some) literally translated to "dry mee" . It is similiar to "wantan mee" (or actually more similar to Hakka Mee) in Peninsular Malaysia except being served with much less soy sauce, it is slightly curly with i personally feel a slightly different "after taste" then wantan mee. You know that lingering taste in your mouth after eating noodle?
There is no written history on kolo mee and its origin. Just like Laksa Sarawak. It is believed to be brought to Sarawak as far back in 6th century as "hakka mee" , then perhaps someone changed the texture/shape of the noodle to become thinner, and cook it in "drier" way. Perhaps this become "viral" back in the day , and if something is selling well sure theres "copycat" and it branch of to become officially as "Kolo Mee". Similar story is heard from "laksa sarawak" of its origin. Theres no clear story of its origin. But as a unqualified historian, this is what I think happened. This is how Hakka noodle look like btw, pretty similar with Sarawak Kolo Mee right? :
Another reason why kolo mee is popular is because it is a very very simple dish, cheap (I grew up when kolo mee cost somewhere within RM1 - RM1.70 , at a time when a MCD meal cost RM9 this is very cheap). It is suitable for hawker as it doesnt use complicated ingredients. Just noodle, some meat, some onion oil, msg , salt and some garnishing, its almost as simple as making instant noodle. In Sarawak kolo mee is enjoyed by all races, Iban, Bidayuh, Chinese, Orang Ulu etc, Malays and muslim Melanau came up with halal variation which uses barbeque chicken instead of char siew.
Now come the secret part. First of all its the noodle itself. Such a simple item, but different supplier have different texture. It is like Indo Mie will have different texture then Maggi mee, or Mi Sedap etc. We tried different brands, different supplier, and in the end we choose the one from Sarawak for genuine Sarawak taste. Ok second important secret is practice, practice, practice. Do not be deceived by this very simple dish : everybody could cook it, but not everybody can cook it perfectly. It is the same like maggi mee, very simple but i tasted maggie mee cooked by some people become soggy; i dont like it. So thats where the practise is important we need to blanch it at just the right water temperature, and at the right timing. So unless we can come up with a machine/a robot to do this, it could be inconsistent.
Third is amount of msg/salt. These does not come with precise amount of small packets like instant noodle. So we have to eyeball the amount (the msg amount is so little that we couldnt say "one teaspoon", so maybe need to come with smaller measuring device).
Sounds too tiring? Simple.. just order from us here (Klang Valley only) We decided to go the "halal" way because we have quite a number of Malay friends after staying here for 10 years. We want our friends to seat with us and enjoy our food in our restaurant one day, regardless of race and religion.
The most successful halal kolo mee in Kuching actually tasted almost like original version. So that is another challenge for us ; making our kolo mee taste like the original one; while using halal ingredients. There is no recipe revealed for this online, we dont have a baseline to follow. The one online is usually actually "mee sapi", another variation of mee kolok. So we played around with vegetable oils, amount of shallot and various halal flavoring to get that genuine flavor. We come up with at least 12 variation, and once we get that ummph.. that tasted original, we conducted a blind taste. One with original kolo mee, another halal version, side by side. Taste and decide which one is genuine. 2/4 time (yes its MCO, we can only do limited test) we get the wrong one as genuine. But considering we have grown eating kolo mee. It is preeeety close. We also have some variation of Kolo Mee such as "kolok mee seafood" which is served with seafood such as prawns, salmon ball. Another variation is "kolok mee ayam kicap" if you like sweet soy sauce flavor. The third variation is "kolok mee tomato" or simply "mi tomato". This is actually a rare variation, even in Sarawak ; only a few shop sell this. Still in RnD is "Mee Sapi" or "Kolok Mee Sapi" . We are yet to figure out a way to make beef stew so soft it melt in the mouth (the best mi sapi in Kuching is like that). When we release it. I promise you guys its gonna be great.