Scenes from a childhood restaurant

It's one of those worth-driving-an-hour-into-a-different-state type things. Growing up, this was the only type of curry noodles I knew and loved, the curry noodles from a quaint little wooden shop in Kemaman.

It's been there ever since I can remember, operated by an elderly lady who knows everyone in town. It opens as early as 5am (till 4pm) and I think and is, for most locals, the staple breakfast haunt. Nothing like a hot bowl of noodles, the fresh morning air and the sound of roosters crowing to start the day.

The curry noodles are really unlike anything else and is usually referred to as a type of laksa by non-locals, probably due to the way the gravy is prepared. A peek into the huge pot of boiling gravy and one would notice that the gravy is actually clear broth made from fresh fish. The noodles are served in piping hot gravy with kangkung, beansprouts and a spoonful of delicious sambal.

Along with the sambal, a veteran would add some special chill sauce to the gravy. I think that's why I liked it so much when I was younger - there was always the fun of adding your own condiments and because everything is done to your own discretion, it's really quite personalised and would have just the right kick.

A bowl of curry noodles is never complete without fish keropok (crackers). Most people develop their own way of eating the keropok with the noodles over time but probably the most common method is to fashion the keropok into a spoon before sandwiching the noodles between the crispy crackers. I personally prefer just giving the crackers a quick dip into the gravy. The crackers soak up a bit of the gravy but are still nice and crunchy that way.

Add on fish taken straight out of the pot of gravy and eaten with sambal and a squeeze of fresh lime, a glass of cold barley or coffee - you've got the perfect curry noodles experience.

A trip back to my hometown of Kemaman is never complete without a visit to the blue wooden curry mee shop. For me, it's not just the curry noodles that keep me coming back but the comfort of the years of childhood memories and the fellowship that always go along with our bowls of noodles.

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