I found myself in a similar situation weeks ago when winter officially set in with low single-digit temperature (Celsius) everyday. There are at least three restaurants in Manhattan that serve Malaysian dishes, but every trip leaves me yearning for more as they never quite scratch that itch spot-on. I still drop by one of them now and then for some prawn fritters (aka cucur udang) which I lack the motivation to make at home, and also to say hello to my Indonesian friend who works there. We barely remember each other's names but can always pick up from our previous conversation. That is, me getting there in the first half hour of opening.
A firm belief of mine when it comes to Malaysian home-cooking, particularly true for one-pot meals that contain carbohydrate, protein(s) and greens, is that you either go big or go home. There is no such thing as cooking for just two portions. Anything less than eight portions is not worth the trouble, especially factoring in the fact that ingredients here in America are packed by default in larger quantities. Gone are the days when you go to the market and ask the makcik for fifty cents' worth of taugeh.
My sister back in Muar, who cooks very authentic Malaysian cuisine, swears by her all-purpose chilli paste that she makes in buckets for convenience. She keeps the cooked paste in pint containers, uncontaminated, and stores them in the fridge. It works perfectly because whenever she cooks something - which is very often since it's her staple food - she can dive right in to cook with the desired amount of paste. No soaking peeling nor grinding, let alone washing up.
Thus with great determination and a huge appetite, I spent the last two weeks working on my idea of the perfect mee siam. Malaysian-style. (I will try the Singaporean version in the near future.) One that is savory with the distinct tauchu flavor, not in-your-face-spicy-hot, generous and beautiful despite being a messy dish. I made a small batch of the seasoning paste with little difficulty - one just needs to invest some time for it - that was enough for three large woks' worth of mee siam.
180 g rice vermicelli
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
220 g mung bean sprouts
180 g fried firm beancurd
100 g chinese chives
220 g shrimps
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons fermented soybeans
3 heaping tablespoons mee siam paste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
200 ml water
4 tablespoons fried shallots (optional)
Soak the rice vermicelli in a large bowl of warm water and stir in turmeric powder for natural coloring. Meanwhile rinse and pick the tails off the sprouts, rinse and cut the chives to 3-cm lengths, cut the beancurd into thin 4-cm strips.
When the vermicelli is pliable, about 15 minutes, remove from water, and use a pair of scissors to trim them to 10-cm lengths. You can leave them longer if you plan to work your biceps later on.
Peel the heads and shells off shrimps, beat the eggs loosely in a bowl so some egg whites are intact, set aside the portions of soybeans, paste, oil and water. Rinse and wipe dry your knife and board, then set them back at your prep area as you will need them again. Bring all the ingredients to the cook area.
Heat a heavy-bottom (nonstick is good here) sauteuse on medium-high heat. When it is hot, drizzle one tablespoon of oil and pour in the eggs to cover as much surface area. Make an omelette, never mind if it is not perfect but try to keep it in large pieces. Transfer to a bowl and place on the cutting board. Get back to the stove.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil, sauté the paste quickly (it is already cooked, you just want to heat it up), add the shrimps and continue to sauté till almost opaque, then add the beancurd strips, sauté further until evenly coated with the paste.
Add the vermicelli and fermented soybeans, and toss them with the shrimps and beancurd. Pour the water around the sides of the sauteuse, toss a little more then leave it to cook on medium heat while you move over to the omelette. Quickly slice the omelette into thin strips, put back in the bowl and return to the cook area.
Add the omelette strips, sprouts and chives, tossing all the ingredients gently as your sauteuse will be very full at this stage. Use two wooden spatulas so you workout both arms equally. Do it until the chives are just wilted and turn off the heat. If you are using fried shallots, stir them in now and serve immediately. You want the sprouts to still have that slight crunch when you tuck into it.
Hence I recommend that you only cook the above recipe for people you love. Or better yet, people who will really appreciate your doing so. For a large party of 20, assuming there will be other items on the menu, you can even double just the amount of rice vermicelli, and it will still be generous by most people's standards. Either use a really large wok and good luck with the tossing; or cook in two batches and give yourself a little more practice. Which is not a bad thing, really!