Friday, August 3, 2012

depot mie gadjah mada, noodles with soul

Homemade noodles & wontons, freshly made every day

The first restaurant I went to when I visited Malang, East Java after a long 5 years away was Depot Mie Gajah Mada. And there's a good reason for it.

This small noodle shop on the crazy busy street of Pasar Besar cannot be missed, partially thanks to the number of bright blue window frames on its shopfront, and the other part to the large blue sign announcing the shop's name and a big red number 1. It's funny how I never noticed any of these details before, but blogging about it made me saw things that I glossed over previously.

Pangsit mie istimewa - Rp 19,000

I have been eating this deliciously stretchy noodle for 20 years, but never once have I gone to the kitchen to see how it all happened. That day I wrangled my way into the kitchen and I am now so happy I did that. And it answered my question, how do they turn the most humble of ingredients to this bowl of goodness?

As you enter the shop, immediately before you is the restaurant. The cashier is towards the back of the shop, separating the restaurant from the kitchen. The shop owner, who is in her 60s, has been working everyday in that same kitchen since she and her late husband opened the shop in 1974. Though these days, she has quite a few assistants helping her in the kitchen. Her son, who has somewhat too serious of a demeanour, sits at the front, by the cashier, overlooking the shop.

After adding the sauces to the bowls, the encim cooked the noodles in the huge pot of water just the right amount of time so that it's al-dente, no timer necessary when you've been doing it for 20 years

The encim (an endearment term for an old chinese woman), was quite shy for such a boisterous lady with few jokes to tell. She preferred for her picture not to be taken. Just as well, because I wouldn't do her beautiful spirit justice anyway.

While the encim is adding the noodle to the rest of the bowl, her assistant is stirring the noodle vigorously to coat it with the sauce and oil so that it doesn't clump and become gluggy

I was there during the busy lunch hour, but the encim was nothing but gracious and generous in showing me how things work in her kitchen. And even took the time to hold things still when I took a photo. I hope this post didn't disappoint, because the food definitely did not.

Wontons are cooked just the right amount of time to be delicate, yet not falling apart, then added to the bowls

Last stage is to add the various toppings, minced pork, chicken, mushrooms, chicken gizzard, fried shallots, just to name a few
While I was snapping away, and listening to the encim mischievously teased me and the rest of her staff at the same time, the pervading thought was that this was truly a labour of love. Even after 40 long years, she still enjoyed it, she still enjoyed serving up her famous noodles. Her energy was so infectious, I could see the staff being all caught up in it.
Pangsit mie ayam jamur - Rp 19,000

And that love is apparent on each strand of noodle and each delicate wonton.

We love the "dry" style, it is when the noodle is served without broth added in the same bowl, the broth is served in a separate small bowl.

The "wet" style, is when the noodle is served swimming in the delicious broth.

Nothing to do now but eat.

After my last long slurp, all I felt was contentment, bliss. I thought to myself, if anyone deserved the bragging rights to put up a giant flashy red number 1 sign, it would be none other than this place.

Depot Mie Gadjah Mada
Jalan Pasar Besar 17A
Open Mon-Sat 9am-2.30pm 5pm-9pm, Sun 9am-2.30pm

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