Mee Jawa

Malaysian Mee Jawa recipe by

Yellow egg noodles drenched in thick, sweet spicy gravy,  Mee Jawa 爪哇 is one of the many popular noodle dishes sold by hawkers on the streets of Penang. Replicating it at home, thankfully, is manageable.

Malaysian Mee Jawa recipe by

Thick from both potato and sweet potato, tangy from tomato paste, and sweet from pork ribs, this flavorful gravy wouldn’t be complete – wouldn’t be Malaysian – without the spicy pop from a spoon of chili paste.

Then on top, the many garnishes - bean sprouts, bean curd, a hardboiled egg, sambal spiced cuttlefish and prawns, crispy fritters, and fried ground peanuts. This yellow noodle dish makes a scrumptious, comforting weekend dinner that my dad always looked forward to at home.

Malaysian Mee Jawa recipe by

Like Asam Laksa, Jawa Mee is another Penang dish with a mishmash of ingredients, which could only mean that its creation was stirred up in the cross-cultural Peranakan kitchen – most likely by Javanese Peranakans (mix of Chinese and Javanese) when many moved from Medan and Malacca to settle on the island two centuries ago.

While the Javanese Peranakan culture in Penang has faded into history, their famous contribution to its cuisine never will. Not on this street food obsessed island.

Mee Jawa or Jawa Mee by Season with Spice
Serves 8

1kg yellow noodles - blanched, and drained

7 potatoes - boiled and peeled
1 sweet potato, boiled and peeled
1 1/2 cup tomato paste
400g pork ribs
2 litre of water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar

Sambal spice paste (to be pounded)
1/2 cup freshly ground chili paste (or 6 fresh red chilies - chopped)
4 cloves garlic - chopped finely
1 stalks lemon grass - cut finely
4 shallots - chopped finely

1 cup bean sprouts - tailed and blanched
1 potato - boiled, peeled, and sliced
4 hardboiled eggs - halved
20 small prawns or 10 medium-size prawns
2 tbsp shredded cuttlefish (optional)
1 tomato - sliced thinly
2 pieces of firm bean curd - pan-fried and sliced
Chinese green lettuce - shredded
Spring onions - chopped
Ground peanuts
Calamansi lime wedges

Additional garnish:
Thin crispy fried fritters
Fried shallots

1. Pound or blend the sambal spice ingredients into a paste.
2. Heat 1/4 cup cooking oil, and stir-fry (tumis) sambal spice paste until fragrant. Set aside.
3. Using the same wok, add garlic and stir-fry for a minute. Add cuttlefish, stir-fry for another minute. Then add prawns and 1/2 tbsp of spice paste and stir fry for 5-8 minutes until prawns are cooked. Set aside for use as garnish.
4. In a big soup pot, add water and pork ribs. Bring the soup to a steady boil and cook for at least half an hour (semi-covered). You want to cook out the sweet essence of the pork ribs.
5. Meanwhile, blend the boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes into a puree. Add some water if needed.
6. Add the potatoes puree and tomato paste, into the soup. Mix well. Season with salt and sugar. Taste and make adjustments at this point. Let the soup (gravy) simmer for 15 minutes.

To serve the noodle dish:
Place one serving size of the blanched noodles in a bowl. Garnish with bean sprouts, sliced potato, egg, prawn & cuttlefish chili mixture, tomato, bean curd, lettuce, and spring onion. Pour the gravy over the prepared dish. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Add a slice of calamansi lime on the side to be squeezed over the dish. Serve immediately.

1. For any leftover gravy, I usually keep it in the refrigerator and heat it up the next day. It becomes an excellent potato-tomato soup that is lovely with a side of bread.