The ‘noodle king’ of Sri Aman
by Wilfred Pilo firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on August 12, 2012, Sunday
ASK Sri Aman townsfolk for Mee Tiong (noodles) and you will be directed to the stall of the fryer Tiong Ing Hui in a jiffy.
Tiong is undeniably Sri Aman’s undisputed ‘noodle king’ whose Foochow-style fried mee is an all-time favourite among both locals and visitors alike.
His speciality – Foochow-style mee mixed with a dash of satay sauce – is the most sought after meal in Sri Aman town.
Regular customers often have to queue up for their choice repast and despite the long wait, they almost never leave without first having a fill of the ‘legendary’ Mee Tiong.
Tiong learned the trade when he was 12 years old from his late father who owned a café in town.
He worked hard to uphold the family code of serving the best dishes in town, and over time, his diligence and a natural flair for cooking, enabled him to come up with his own special Foochow noodles that has made him a household name in Sri Aman town.
Indeed, his name is always on the lips of local diners when it comes to fried noodles. His stall is always packed, and at times, he would politely point customers to the other stalls or another café unless they would like to wait.
At the busiest time, he will be frying noodles non-stop but if customers are patient enough, he will serve up the tastiest mee to meet their order.
“People wonder what makes my noodles different from the other operators’. To be honest, there are no secrets. I have always made my own noodles – and am still doing it today,” Tiong told thesundaypost.
And he doesn’t mind sharing his recipe –100 chicken eggs for 25kg of flour plus powder imported from Singapore for the satay sauce. Some of the other ingredients for his satay sauce are also ordered from abroad.
Other Top Seller
Tiong also serves mee goreng, kueh teow goreng and bee hoon (vermicelli) goreng and he prepares them with tomato sauce as well, depending on the order.
His other top seller is bee hoon soup. Customers must come early if they want to enjoy this dish prepared with deliciously seasoned offals.
Tiong’s popular cuisine was sorely missed when he hung up his wok a few years ago. But recently, he came out of retirement after being asked by a café owner to help boost business at the latter’s newly-opened eatery in the new commercial area of Sri Aman town.
Tiong was reluctant at first but after thinking the offer through, he agreed to set up a stall, and is pleasantly surprised the business has taken off.
Such is his popularity that many people go to the new commercial area not only to shop for their daily groceries but also enjoy the fried noodles at Tiong’s stall where a signboard at one side boldly proclaims “Fried Mee So Good.”
“My new regulars know where to get their favourite noodles in town,” he said as he fried his famous Tiong Mee for waiting customers.
Tiong’s reputation has spread beyond Sri Aman as he was featured in a documentary by a China TV network – and many local Chinese dailies have also written about him.
“My last documentary was done by a French TV network and I hope people who love food appreciate it and how we portray our cooking culture to world. This is what I can contribute to Sri Aman and our rich culture,” he said.
According to Tiong, his three sons are unlikely to follow in his footsteps, admitting that he could well be the one and only Mee Tiong seller in Sri Aman town.
All his sons are not in the food business and he will not ask them to carry on the family’s “cook-for-a-living” tradition.
“My sons are in a different profession and it’s really up to them to pick up the food business if they want to venture into it in their spare time.
“We are from a different generation but if they work hard, I believe they can also excel in their own fields,” he said.
Tiong added that his enthusiasm for frying noodles had not waned although he does not work long hours now.
“Not like before when I used to stay up long hours serving diners. Now, I take it a bit easy.”
One of his culinary tips is that if you cook, you must put your heart and soul into it to ensure the ingredients and proportions are always consistent with the customer’s expectations – and if they like your cooking, they will always come back for more.
Tiong will be a tough act to follow but stall holders in Sri Aman know that just like them, he is only trying to make an honest living frying his unique brand of noodles known to hordes of customers – both local and foreign – as Tiong Mee.