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Mee rebus is a dish found in Malaysia that comprises egg noodles covered in a gravy that has been thickened with potatoes. The gravy is sweet and spicy with a slight sourness. The dish has a number of garnishes, including limes, chilies, bean sprouts and hardboiled egg. Although the origins are uncertain, some believe it was first created in the northern areas of Malaysia and then brought to the south by Indian traders. There are variations of mee rebus in other countries in the region, some of which are very different in certain regards.
It is thought that the dish originally spread throughout Malaysia because it was being made, eaten and sold by Indian traders moving through the country. Eventually, street vendors began to sell the food from two pots that they carried with them. They would make the mee rebus to order when someone wanted it. As time progressed, fewer street vendors carried the meal and it moved into the restaurants of Singapore, where it remains popular.
The base part of mee rebus is the egg noodles, which is what the word "mee" means. These are blanched quickly to cook them. The noodles also are used in other Malaysian dishes, such as hokkien mee, in which they are fried instead of blanched.
The sauce that dresses the egg noodles is made of beef stock, shallots, turmeric, coriander and peanuts. It is thickened by crushing potatoes into it and releasing their starches. Sweet potatoes were originally used to thicken the sauce, but any type of potato might be used in modern kitchens.
Once the noodles and sauce are combined, the dish is garnished. Mee rebus has a wide array of garnishes. The plate is decorated with limes, fried tofu, bean sprouts, chilies and shallots. It also is traditional to place prawns or squid on the plate. All of these can either be arranged around the outside of the noodles or mixed into the gravy.
In Indonesia, a variation called mee jawa exists that is both similar and different from mee rebus. It is essentially a soup made with egg noodles. It does not contain any potatoes and the sauce is not thickened. It incorporates different elements, such as tomatoes, shrimp, fish balls and cabbage, but maintains the wide selection of garnishes from mee rebus. The taste of mee jawa is distinctly different, but the dish itself shares some core elements with mee rebus.
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