“When I sampled the Bakmie Babi, the noodles were cooked al dente, to borrow an Italian culinary phrase.”
For a handful of Tangerang’s residents, noodle seller Tjeng Hok could be more popular than the city’s mayor. Exactly when the 83-year-old creator of the delicious home-made Bakmie Babi (minced pork noodles) first started his business, though, nobody knows. Not even Kim Mey, Tjeng Hok’s fourth daughter who now runs the stall. “I was born in 1962, and by that time, he was already selling Bakmie to make ends meet,” she says.
It was actually Kim Mey’s grandmother – Tjeng Hok’s mum – who gave him the idea of selling Bakmie Babi. Being a good and obedient son, he duly followed her suggestion and got going his new venture by using a shoulder pole. He traded the shoulder pole for a green-coloured cart as the business began to flourish so that he could move around easily. You can now find the cart sitting in front of the shop as a reminder of the past.
Bakmie Tjeng Hok is one of a very few establishments in Tangerang that creates its noodles from scratch. According to Kim Mey, Tjeng Hok used to do everything on his own, which included bashing and slamming the dough. “People used to think he was a kung fu master because he was very fit, when he actually got his honed physique from making noodles,” she laughs. This method is what makes his noodles so special.
When I sampled the Bakmie Babi, the noodles were cooked al dente, to borrow an Italian culinary phrase. They had a very smooth texture; chewy yet not too dry or overcooked. Topped with a generous serving of minced pork and choy sum (green vegetables commonly used in Chinese cuisine), its savoury flavour satisfied my taste buds. As a side dish, I ordered Tjeng Hok’s home-made Baso Tahu (tofu with pork meat), which came with a hot soup.
Although Tjeng Hok has long retired, his hard work has paid off. At the time of my visit, I encountered a 65-year-old loyal customer of Tjeng Hok’s who had his kids and grandchildren with him. “I remember celebrating my junior high school graduation here, and nothing has changed,” he beams with nostalgia. By Jessicha Valentina
By Jessicha Valentina
Jl. Raya Otista No. 17,
T: 021 552 3328
Open daily from 12pm-9pm
Rp.20,000-30,000/US$1.40-2.20 per person