Foochow Kampua: A Simple iet Iconic Noodle Dish from Sibu Sarawak
Kampua 干盘面 is a dry noodle dish from Sibu, Sarawak. It is introduced by the early migrants that came from Foochow city in China and settled in Sibu. The early migrants were poor and they needed a dish that’s cheap, filling, and easy to make to fill their stomach. So they started making a dish from their homeland Foochow – dry mixed noodles. All they did was mixing their homemade noodles with pork lard, shallots and seasonings, and called it a meal. Thus, Kampua is born. 干拌面 ‘Dry mixed noodle’, sounded like 干盘面 ‘dry plate noodle’ in Foochow dialect, thus Kampua’s Chinese became ‘dry plate’.
The noodles used in Kampua are crafted from wheat flour, eggs, salt, and water, devoid of any alkaline components. To prepare the dish, a handful of noodles is immersed in boiling water until cooked. Once tender, the noodles are strained and shaken to remove excess water before being placed in a bowl. Here, they are tossed with fragrant pork lard, sauces, and seasonings. Thin slices of pork, often dyed red to resemble char siu, are added along with garnishes, completing the dish.
Today, Kampua has evolved to offer various flavor profiles. Some variations incorporate dark soy sauce or chili sauce, resulting in three primary variations: plain (traditional), dark (rich and savory), and red (tangy and mildly spicy).
Kampua bears a striking resemblance to Kolo Mee, a similar dish from Kuching, not only in appearance but also in taste. These dishes likely share the same culinary heritage, making them sibling dishes. The key distinction lies in Kolo Mee’s inclusion of minced pork and cut chilies, which are absent in Kampua. Furthermore, Kolo Mee often features an array of toppings, including prawns, fishballs etc., while Kampua typically focuses on thinly sliced roast pork. Kolo Mee utilizes different noodle types such as vermicelli, flat rice noodles, or flat egg noodles, served in a bowl due to its more soup-like consistency. In contrast, Kampua boasts drier noodles served on a plate.
However, the line between these dishes has become increasingly blurred as noodle shops and stalls across Sarawak put their unique spin on dry mixed noodles. While Sibu remains a reliable bastion for traditional Kampua, with its characteristic presentation, Kampua variations can be found throughout Sarawak, reflecting the evolving tastes and preferences of locals.
Experience the authentic flavors of Kampua in Sibu or seek out its diverse renditions across Sarawak, as this beloved dish continues to delight both locals and visitors alike.