Bihun Sup Utara: The Flavourful Noodle Dish from Northern States
Bihun Sup Utara, meaning ‘northern rice vermicelli soup’ in Bahasa Malaysia, is a specialty Malay dish closely associated with the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia. This dish embodies the cultural influences of Malay, Chinese, and Thai cuisines. The highlight of Bihun Sup Utara is its flavourful soup, prepared using beef bones (sometimes with beef tripe), local herbs, and spices known for their health-promoting properties.
The soup base is crafted by simmering meaty beef bones, infused with a combination of herbs and spices including ginger, lemongrass, black pepper, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, cardamoms, onions, Chinese celery, and garlic. Through hours of slow cooking, the soup develops a remarkable depth of flavor, even though it may retain a light colour. Tender meat from the broth is usually served alongside the soup.
Another distinctive element of Bihun Sup Utara is the rice vermicelli. Unlike regular white and bland rice vermicelli, the version used in this dish is soaked in turmeric water. This process imparts a vibrant yellow hue, as well as the unique fragrance and taste of turmeric to the rice vermicelli.
To present an authentic Bihun Sup Utara, it is garnished with spring onions, fried shallots, pickled salted radish, and additional Chinese celery. The dish is completed with a spicy sambal for an extra kick. Some variations may include fried tofu, coriander leaves, sliced chilies, and lime, adding layers of flavors to the dish.
While Bihun Sup Utara is commonly found in the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia, such as Kedah, Penang, and Perlis, its popularity has spread, making it increasingly available in other regions, even as far as Borneo.