Mee Manja: Javanese-style ‘mee goreng’ served up by four generations of this Penang family

Opalyn Mok
·4-min read
Muhamad Faris frying up a plate of 'mee manja' at the stall. — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin
Muhamad Faris frying up a plate of 'mee manja' at the stall. — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 20 — Back in the early 1940s, an enterprising young man came up with the idea of starting a business doing what he does best — frying up a plate of noodles Javanese-style.

He set up a stall within the grounds of one of the mansions along Northam Road, now renamed Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

The mansion owner had kindly given him a spot to operate his business inside the grounds and soon his mee goreng attracted a steady following of regular customers.

Mohd Musa then secured a stall at the school canteen of the Anglo Chinese School, now known as the Pykett Methodist School, and operated from there for a while.

"My great-grandfather was a good cook so his mee goreng and mee kuah were made from his own recipes... different from other mee goreng stalls," said Mohd Musa's great-grandson, Muhamad Faris Abdul Aziz.

He said it was a Javanese style of noodles that has a mix of ingredients and the mee kuah is especially unique as the base is made with home-made chicken stock.

Each plate of mee goreng has cucur (fritters), taukua (beancurd), potatoes, chicken, squid, bean sprouts and vegetables.

Muhamad Faris preparing the ingredients for 'mee manja' at the stall.
Muhamad Faris preparing the ingredients for 'mee manja' at the stall.

The mee kuah gravy is more soup-based as it is a blend of chicken soup and a specially mixed Javanese gravy.

"Our noodles are different because each plate of noodles is loaded with ingredients," he said.

Mohd Musa's stall became so popular that his son Nagoor Meerah started a pushcart stall in front of Paramount Hotel along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

"It was in 1963 that our stall earned the nickname mee agong because the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Putra Al Marhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail stopped by the pushcart stall and ordered our noodles," Muhamad Faris said.

He said Mohd Musa had named the stall Mee Manja after their family name, Manja, but after the Agong's visit, the nickname mee agong stuck.

Each plate of 'mee manja' has a mix of ingredients fried in a special gravy before the noodles are added.
Each plate of 'mee manja' has a mix of ingredients fried in a special gravy before the noodles are added.

Sometime in the 1970s, the stall shifted to the Chinese Recreation Club along Jalan Padang Victoria and operated there for 14 years until 1992. This earned the stall its second nickname, mee CRC.

"The older generation would still remember us as mee agong and mee CRC but many of the younger generation would not have heard of us," said Muhamad Faris.

When CRC had to expand, they once again moved the stall, this time to a coffeeshop along Larut Road in 1993, called Larut Cafe. The coffeeshop has since changed owners and is now called Seong Huat Cafe.

The operation of the stall has always remained within the family as after Mohd Musa died, his son Nagoor Meerah took over and after that, his sons Abdul Aziz and Mohd Razali took over.

Abdul Aziz died in 2011 while Mohd Razali has taken a step back to let his nephews Muhamad Faris and Muhamad Amin manage the stall.

"I was running the stall with my uncle after my father died in 2011... now my uncle still sometimes comes to the stall to help out," Muhamad Faris said.

The 34-year-old has been working at the stall from young so he can whip up a plate of noodles within minutes.

The stall is now called Mee Manja CRC; Muhamad Faris said they tried to name the business Mee Agong but failed to do so.

The 'mee manja' stall is located in Seong Huat Cafe along Larut Road.
The 'mee manja' stall is located in Seong Huat Cafe along Larut Road.

"We were not allowed to use the word agong for our business so we maintained our original name, Mee Manja," he said.

Muhamad Faris and his brother, Muhamad Amin, hope to continue serving up delicious mee goreng and mee kuah just like their father, grandfather and great grandfather.

"We sometimes still get elderly customers who remember eating the noodles fried by my grandfather at CRC," he said.

Note: During the movement control order (MCO), the stall is open from 10.30am to 5.30pm daily (closed on Fridays) for takeaway only.

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