Perth eaters have to thank Joseph Lau for bringing Sarawak-style cuisine to Western Australia.
A latecomer to the hospitality world – hosting a muffin break for a year was Lau’s introduction to the food industry – the former lumber merchant opened Kitchen Inn in Thornlie in 2011, introducing Perth to the laksa of Sarawak style (laksa made with a combination of coconut milk and sour tamarind), handmade noodles, and other Chinese-influenced dishes that Lau grew up eating in his hometown of Sibu. The success of the restaurant led to the opening of The offshoots of Kitchen Inn as well as other specialty Sarawak restaurants such as Willetton’s Sarawak Hawkers Cuisine.
After selling his share in Kitchen Inn, Lau took a break from the kitchen before teaming up with his wife Georgia Ding and son-in-law Kevin Er (a former stockbroker turned barista) to open Two Hands Noodle Shop in Como in 2019. The restaurant quickly outgrown its original site and, later that year, moved across the road to a larger space that could accommodate 40 people. During the lunch rush, it really feels like each of those 40 indoor and outdoor seats are catered for as students and expats from Southeast Asia descend on Two Hands for the high-definition tastes of East Malaysia.
While the menu also includes a handful of rice dishes, most people are (naturally) here for the noods. Soft, springy, and delicious, they’re made with protein-rich eggs and wheat flour on the spot using an old-fashioned noodle roller that works much like a manual pasta machine. . Noodles are prepared daily, in the morning and afternoon between lunch and dinner. On particularly busy days, Lau tells me, he and his chef Eddie Low will occasionally have to prepare noodles while on duty.
âThat’s why we call the restaurant Two Hands,â Lau explains, as he and Low effortlessly knock out a demo batch of noodles for me. Before opening the first Kitchen Inn, Lau spent a week at a friend’s noodle factory in Sibu, where he learned the intricacies of the power of flour. While he’s happy to mix the restaurant’s bao dough in a machine, the old-fashioned way isn’t negotiable. “All… [is made with] two hands.”
Two Hands specialties represent two of the language groups from southern China that migrated to Malaysia in the early 1900s: the Foochow food from Sibu that Lau grew up with and the Hokkien-style cuisine synonymous with Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. . Among the main differences between the two styles, Hokkien-style noodles (curly kolo mee and kolo mee pok) are cooked only briefly to maintain an elastic, almost al dente mouth feel. In comparison, Foochow-style noodles (thin, straight mee pok and kampua) are a bit more springy. The noodles are also seasoned differently. Foochow noodles are flavored only with lard and soy sauce. While Hokkien noodle cooks also roll out lard and soy sauce in their bowls, they also squeeze in garlic oil and – most importantly – white vinegar. Of course, the best way to taste these differences is to go with a buddy (or an appetite) and order an assortment of bowls. The noodles are available in regular and large sizes.
In the two years I have been eating here, I am about to go through the entire menu. Hand on my heart, I did not encounter any failure. As for recommendations, the banyan (cut thicker than the other noods) are always a pleasure to eat and my choice of noodles; plus size baos are chewy, dense, and make great travel snacks; while the stir-fried rice rolls have smoke and flavor for days. I may not be specifically from East Malaysia – my Asian heritage can be traced west of Sarawak to Medan in Indonesia and Singapore – but Two Hands’ cuisine is wonderfully familiar and extremely heartwarming. For those looking for the flavors of South East Asia, this is a must-see Perth address.
Two-handed noodle shop
4/2 Downey Drive, Como
(08) 6249 3746