Ngiu Chap Sarawak style
ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO, I was just a broke, homesick undergraduate in Sabah who would grab anything on sight that reminded me of my homeland Sarawak.
So when I first saw the word Ngiu Chap on a fluorescent-lit sign in a food court somewhere downtown Kota Kinabalu, an image of a bowl of dark brown broth filled with chitterlings, organs and pork, otherwise known as Kueh Chap flashed in my mind.
Boy, was I wrong. Ngiu Chap was almost nothing like Kueh Chap. Ngiu Chap means ‘beef noodle’ in Hakka, and unlike Kueh Chap, it is a light broth of either beef or buffalo meat cooked with the noodles of your preference (bihun, white oil noodles, or kuey tiaw), tendon, beef balls, white radish, stewed beef and, of course, an assortment of bovine organs.
Little did I know it was one of Sabah’s famous cuisines until I’d been told that my gastronomic journey to Sabah would be incomplete without having a bowl of Ngiu Chap.
Today, you won’t have to travel all the way to the ‘Land Below The Wind’ to have a taste of their famous beef noodle dish; just head to Kota Sentosa’s 7th Food Station and let your taste buds be impressed at the Ngiu Chap & Stewed Lamb stall.
Run by Sarawakians David Liew, 36, and his wife, Izmaniza Mohd Iznan, 30, they lived in Kota Kinabalu for four years before returning to Kuching last December and opening their own Ngiu Chap stall.
Liew’s take on Ngiu Chap may be a Sarawakian interpretation of a Sabahan dish, but it’s not the typical mee sapi you find all over Kuching.
Visually, Liew’s Ngiu Chap is what you would expect from a bowl in KK: bihun, decent-sized beef balls, cubed white radish, stewed beef, tendons, intestines with cilantro sprinkled on top, all soaked in a light brown broth.
Tastewise, Liew’s style of this Sabah-famous dish is indeed unique for me; it is lighter in taste, because he uses beef as opposed to buffalo meat typically used in Sabah’s Ngiu Chap, and he also goes easy on the soy sauce.
I found that the bihun was cooked to the right texture, the beef broth was smooth, hearty and had the right level of saltiness. The stewed beef was tender and flavourful, the beef balls were not springy and the white radish was almost melt-in-my-mouth soft.
According to Liew, each ingredient is prepared separately before being put together in a bowl with broth freshly made that morning poured over it.
First question I had was, why only bihun or rice vermicelli? In Kota Kinabalu, Ngiu Chap would include a few choices of noodles like bihun, white oil noodles or kueh tiaw. In some places they even serve it with rice.
Liew explained that if you asked any of the old customers what type of noodle they preferred; their main choice would be bihun.
He also noticed that some Ngiu Chap in KK are served with a very spicy sauce poured into the broth but for his version, he said that he used simple ingredients like chillies, ginger and vinegar to cater for those Sarawakians who are not keen on spicy food.
Overall Liew’s kind of Ngiu Chap is a twist of the traditional version without wandering far from the original taste. His effort to preserve the authenticity of the broth has led to some his regular customers being from our neighbouring state, Sabah.
The one I had was the normal Ngiu Chap which costs RM6.50. For Special Ngiu Chap (RM8.50), the portions are bigger and the noodles are served separately from the beef soup.
His other dishes, Handmade Noodle served with either minced beef or fresh beef; both cost RM4.50 and his Stewed Lamb Noodle comes in normal (RM6.50) and large (RM8.50).
If you want to catch a bite of Ngiu Chap, make sure you visit the 7th Station Food Court, Lorong Liu Shan Bang 8, Kota Sentosa. Liew’s stall is open everyday from 7.30 in the morning till 1 in the afternoon and if you feel like having a bowl of Ngiu Chap for dinner, don’t worry, because it also opens from 6pm to 10.30pm. They close only twice a month.