At 5.30 AM, when minds are still foggy and eyes battling to stay awake, one noodle joint in Sawah Besar near Gambir is already abuzz with activities. But it’s not the hectic energy found in morning markets or the early commute rush. At Mie Alip, it is the easy flow of regular customers clocking in to have a fill of their favourite bowl before they begin the day.
Since 1985, namesake owner Koh Alip has been serving bowls of savoury bakmie from when they were still a food cart in front of Sekolah Santa Maria in Batu Tulis, to now settling in a small, narrow shop on Sukarjo Wiryopranoto street. Green walls with photographs of famous visitors bedeck the bare-bones space, simply furnished with wall-facing tables and stools. Now that can be a downside for those who prefer dining with interactions, but as routine plays out at Mie Alip, many enjoy this solitude and keep to themselves as they savour their order.
Alip and his all-women staff still prepare the noodles out of the same cart, dishing out thin, flat noodles and bee hun heaped with finely chopped chicken and mushroom. Springy, savoury and subtly sweet, the bakmie also pairs well with the chewy fried meatballs on the side, a crowd-favourite that can sell out faster than the noodles. Other condiments (green onions, Chinese pickled cabbage, pickled chilli) are available for diners to adjust as they wish.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Mie Alip’s version different from the rest. It has certainly attracted a cast of regulars from celebrities and diplomats to biking communities making it their pit stop to refuel after a morning cycle—though Alip has had to pull out extra seats in front of the shop to accommodate the pack of cyclists that crowd the shop on weekends.
But just like other bakmie variants in the city, it may call to the simple experience of eating noodles that people know and grow up with—as a takeaway food that parents like to buy after work or a family ritual on a Sunday morning. A hearty meal that isn’t measured so much by the detail, but simply an overall feeling of familiarity. Judging from those who trust to start the day with Mie Alip, this may very well be the case.