I reckon most of you have childhood memories of classic dishes or foods sold back in the neighbourhood hawker stall, the passing food purveyor on his trusty motorbike, or made by your grandma or even your mom. It’s a dying art, with old school dishes lost in the world of rapid modernisation. The next generation of food entrepreneurs are more keen to create the best cup of java in town, or interpretation of dishes learnt abroad in Melbourne or San Francisco, as opposed to reviving some of the classic dishes. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s seemingly difficult to find any young chef who’s churning out grub like this right here.
Thanks to my mom’s friend, whom introduced us to a really classic joint that sell these gems is located in the older part of town nearby RHB bank, behind Yu Lan plaza. The shop is manned by old aunties who had been making it for years, and supported by local helpers. Honestly I could not have found this place by myself! A hole in the wall, and obscure to even local Miri-ans.
I’ve honestly never tried abacus yam cakes before. It’s a Hakka classic, which luckily for me, is available in Miri. It’s redolent of Gnocchi, but a local version made from yam (as opposed to potatoes) and flour. The texture has a nice bite to it and was very pleasant. The yam cakes had been stir fried with minced meat and topped with chopped spring onions. That’s it really, simplicity at its best.
Another classic from the Hor Poh, a subset of the Hakka clan, is Lui Cha which is made from a mix of mint, green, toasted peanuts, and various vegetables. This particular version was less aromatic than usual, but chock full of vegetables e.g. green beans, and had quite a strong bitter taste to it. I abhorred it as bratty kid, but as age and (hopefully) wisdom sets in, I started appreciating such dishes. If anything, I didn’t succumb to a food coma after lunch, and actually felt cleansed after. Not something that I might crave for, but wouldn’t mind occasionally as a healthier diversion.
Perhaps it’s time we as Malaysians start looking back to our past, in order to craft our identity for the future. There’s a lot of history in terms of food that are slowly dissipating, and will go with our predecessors when the inevitable happens. Paradoxically, it’s probably same people whom encouraged us to pursue steadier careers such as medicine, law or engineering for a better life. Trade offs I suppose, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Food for thought.
Location: New Cafe. 1-13 Jalan Duranta 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia (nearby RHB bank)