Curry Mee (Curry Noodles)
In Ipoh, a varied and diverse range of noodles are used when serving Curry Mee. Customers often have a choice of what type of noodles they want. Vendors typically offer yellow noodles, vermicelli, or hor fun (flat rice noodles) while some provide a wider choice such as wheat-based wanton noodles or Hakka noodles.
Before delving into what is Curry Mee, we should first be aware that the evolution of this dish in various places throughout Malaysia has given rise to a problem of terminology. For instance, what people in Ipoh (and other places such as Penang for example) call Curry Noodles might simply be referred to as Curry Laksa in other areas such as Johor. In essence, the two dishes are very similar. But Curry Noodles (or Curry Laksa) should not be confused with Asam Laksa. While the former is (generally coconut-based) curry noodles, the latter is a spicy noodle soup.
Curry Noodles Ingredients
Curry Noodles consists of a delicate blend of ingredients and spices. To make the ‘soup’ there are a number of common ingredients. Some vendors might use all of these, while others will use additional items. The variance can be quite significant. That said, the tyical base ingredients are curry powder, star anise (bunga lawang) curcumin (kunyit) lemon grass (serai) cassia bark (kayu manis) cloves (bunga cengkih) curry leaves (daun kari) dried and fresh chili, coconut milk (santan).
In respect to the last ingredient, coconut milk (or powder), many Ipoh vendors do not use it. It is impossible to specify a ratio, but it should be noted that it is entirely possible to purchase curry noodles in Ipoh and avoid coconut should you have an allergy or simply prefer to not have a coconut-based curry.
In Ipoh, a varied and diverse range of noodles are used when serving curry noodles. Customers often have a choice of what type of noodles they want. Vendors typically offer yellow noodles, vermicelli, or hor fun (flat rice noodles) while some provide a wider choice such as wheat-based wanton noodles or Hakka noodles. Moreover, you can choose to have more than one kind of noodle in your bowl. When locals order this dish, they will typically specify the noodles (or combination of noodles) they want.
However, some travellers who are unaware of this and ask for curry mee, will often be served ‘yellow noodles’. If there is no language barrier, and there usually is not, make sure you ask for the noodles you prefer.
Wet or Dry Curry Mee
The choice does not stop at the type of noodles. There are also ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ versions of curry noodles. Thus far, we have described the ‘wet’ version of curry mee, but in Ipoh you can also opt for a ‘dry’ style. Instead of a curry soup, this type of curry mee uses a thick curry gravy to ‘dress’ the noodles. Forming part of this curry gravy can be other ‘dressings’ such as shallot oil, garlic oil, chicken oil, dark or light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and a dash of white pepper.
In Ipoh, the curry noodles stall generally will compliment this noodle dish with choice of Yong Tao Fu – different kind of meat balls, fish balls, fish cakes, stuffed vegetables – to complete the meal. Curried chicken, BBQ pork (char siew), roast pork (siew yoke), shrimp, cockles, poached or shredded chicken, can make it into the ingredient mix. Lime juice can also be option that is blended into the curry mee for further flavouring.
Ipoh has a lot of famous shop houses and restaurants that sell curry noodles. But you should be aware that many of Ipoh’s coffee shops (kopitiams) have a curry noodles hawker stall. If you are with a local in a coffee shop and they say they would like Liu Fun, they are referring to a curry noodles stall that also sells Yong Tau Fu.