While Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, it’s a very mixed country as well. Thus, finding pork is not a problem and, in fact, it is one of the highlights of Sandakan. And that’s because Sandakan has a strong history with a fried pork noodle stall dating back to 1940. Of course, basically the entire city was burned down in World War II so the stall physical stall itself is a bit newer. That, however, doesn’t seem to stop the locals from coming by.
The stall is on the top floor of the market and can be found by looking for the sign that says “Since 1940: The Original Homemade Kueh Teo with Deep Fried Pork.” Outside the stall several picnic-style tables are set up and the area seems to be pretty packed throughout the morning. From what I could tell, this is by far the most popular stall in the market and there are a few people who cook and an additional few who serve.
The fried pork noodle dish is called Kueh Teow and its origins are in China because Malaysia has a very sizable Chinese population. It can come in either a dry or souped up version. I ordered the souped up version at one of the tables, then watched as one of the cooks busily chopped up the pork to drop it into the dishes as they were laid out in front of him.
When my dish arrived, it had a surprising beauty coming from a place like this. When I first bit into the pork, I was taken aback. The texture was like no pork I had ever eaten and at first I thought I was biting into gristle or bone. I couldn’t have been further off, as this was just the crispiness that is the inevitability of deep frying the stuff. After that first bite I couldn’t get enough. The noodles were of the flat and slippery variety, while the soup required some additional seasoning. This was likely on purpose, as a few different sauce options were at the table. I snagged one, squeezed it in and proceeded to love the soup from that moment on.
This stall is a must for any visitors to Sandakan. It embodies the cultural history and diversity of Malaysia and at the same time tastes really damn good. Oh, and did I mention it costs the equivalent of $1. Yes, that’s right. Just make sure you go in the morning, as this is a breakfast only situation and you don’t want to miss out.