Jawa Mee (Java noodles), this dish of boiled yellow noodles in a thick rich tomato gravy has evolved to become very much a Penang hawker fare with local flavours.

The Jawa Mee is almost like Mee Rebus (boiled noodles) but is slightly different with additional ingredients that set it apart in taste and appearance.

The origin of this hawker fare is unclear but its name suggests that it is linked back to the heydays of the Java Peranakan as its varied ingredients suggest different cultures. There is a belief that the dish was introduced by the Java Peranakan. A Indonesian Java community when they settled in Penang. 

It is thought that this noodle was influenced by Chinese noodle soup. The spice however, is more suited to Javanese taste, which is more spicy and slightly sweet. The name suggests that this dish originated from Java, Indonesia,

It has become one of the many hawker staples that is uniquely flavoured and can be easily found in Penang and several other states in Malaysia. In Penang, the secret to this dish is in the thick sweet gravy that is basically made from boiled sweet potatoes, tomato paste and shrimp stock.

In some instances, the gravy is made of pork ribs stock to give it a slightly meaty flavour on top of the sweetness of the sweet potato and tart flavour of the tomato paste. The resulting gravy is a thick concoction with the natural sweetness of the sweet potato base balanced out by the tomato paste so that it is not cloyingly sweet while the shrimp or pork stock adds another layer of flavour to it. Some will add pumpkin to the gravy to add some twist to the sweetness taste.

The yellow noodles are first scalded before the piping hot gravy is ladled onto it.

Next, it is given a three-dimensional touch in terms of textures with its garnishing of refreshing bean sprouts, soft-boiled potatoes, hard-boiled egg, slices of bean curd and prawn fritters.

Shredded lettuce give the dish some colour while fried shallots, ground peanuts and pieces of crispy thin fritters give it a crunchy bite.

Finally, the plate of noodles is served with a slice of lime to squeeze over the noodles before eating and spicy sambal. These last two are what give the dish the extra zing of sour and spice, adding to the mishmash of flavours and textures.

Jawa Mee is a popular breakfast, lunch and teatime food in Penang as it is considered a “light” meal but it is also sometimes available at some night hawker centres. For those who prefer fried, you can try out the Fried Jawa Mee version.

Places that you can try in George Town:

Jalan Tongkah, Behind Gama supermarket (12pm-6pm)

Cecil Street market hawker centre (8am-5pm)

Pulau Tikus market hawker center (8am-12pm)