Taste of Umami at Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery [Hole in the Wall]

Casual and cozy, Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery serves food inspired by the culinary traditions of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Long Beach dive hails from Borneo Kalimantan in Alhambra, a hole-in the-wall that originally offered fish and chips as Little London Cafe until diners found out about chef Phin Fung’s secret Borneo dishes and started requesting the Kalimantan menu.

Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, the third largest in the world. The food of Borneo is representative of its diverse Southeast Asian communities of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei—a melting pot of complex, rich, umami flavors.

Uncle Fung’s menu is small, with encyclopedia-like descriptions of each dish’s origin. Gado gado, a vegetarian salad, can be found on the streets of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, as well as throughout the country. Ayam goreng penyet is an Indonesian-spiced fried chicken that’s described as having more of a hearty, halfway-crunchy fry than the familiar shattering crisp of southern fried chicken.

Laksa mee is somewhere between soup and curry. The spicy, coconut-based broth is vibrant and full-flavored thanks to shrimp paste, creating an aromatic balance of sweet funk; it’s packed with golden-brown fried-tofu triangles, fishcake and plump prawns, then served over chewy homemade egg noodles (famous in West Kalimantan and Jakarta) and topped with a mound of fried shallots, scallions and a halved soy hard-boiled egg. Then there’s the Bornean hokkian mee, a springy egg-noodle dish that is served dry, garnished with barbecue pork, crumbled chicken soy, mushrooms, mustard greens and a blanket of fried shallots. The dish is served with a transparent broth that’s reminiscent of miso; mix the two together for a light, fragrant combination. On each table is an unmarked red squeeze bottle of sambal terasi matang (shrimp-paste chile sauce), which you should use liberally to add a pungent kick—but avoid speaking with anyone for the rest of the day because your breath will reek of it.

From Malaysia and Singapore, roti prata is an Indian-influenced type of flatbread that’s served with a creamy curry sauce for dipping. Be prepared to make a flaky mess of this buttery, crisp, snack. Wash everything down with a sweet Bornean tropical-fruit tea or kopi tarik, a brewed Aceh Arabica coffee mixed with sugar and condensed milk. In the process of making this drink, the newly brewed coffee is poured repeatedly from one container to another using a cotton strainer to give it a special thickness and hazelnut-like rich taste.

Lucky for us, Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery will soon open a second location in Buena Park, bringing the taste of Borneo that much closer to OC.

Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery, 5716 E. Seventh St., Ste. B-5, Long Beach, (562) 494-3888; www.unclefungeatery.com.

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