One of the local dishes which I missed dearly living abroad was mee siam. Yes it is available in Singapore but somehow, it wasn't my luck to taste very good ones. Besides, the Singaporean mee siam is different from that across the causeway. It comes with a tamarind-based broth and the condiments are mostly added at the point of serving. The Malaysian version is dry with most of its condiments cooked together with the rice vermicelli.
I can't help but digress. Just utter the words "mee siam" to any adult Singaporean and chances are, you'll hear "mee siam mai hum" (mee siam without cockles) within minutes. It was the talk of the nation for weeks back in 2006 after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it in his national day rally speech. Haters jumped at this golden opportunity to prove the disconnect between the PM and his countrymen. Someone plastered the phrase to Black Eyed Peas' My Humps and the Youtube video went viral. I think PM Lee meant to say "mee siam mai hiam" (mee siam without chilli) but then again, I don't recall people ordering mee siam that way either. Hmm.
So ANYway, I made mee siam for the second time in my entire life. The first being two days ago. I had this craving simmering within after eating a bland version of it a couple of weeks ago. You can say that my indignation drove me to it. So after some reading on the internet, my first attempt took place on Tuesday as JL left on a business trip. I had no problem having mee siam for a few meals. There was another "first" - I've never blended any paste in my life! I took it positively because now I can finally put my six-year-old handheld blender to good use. (I've only used the immersion blender and whisk components all this while.)
Taucheo reminds me of a rather cool ex-colleague turned friend who, in reply to people calling her, would say, "Yes? Si mi taucheo?"
If you don't get it, I shouldn't explain.
Blanch and drain the beehoon (rice vermicelli). Estimate 50g (dry weight) per person. Use as much bean sprouts and chives as you love.
There wasn't time to take photos of the cooking itself as it's something which requires one's full attention. Nonetheless my recipe follows.
For the paste
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly cut
5 shallots, peeled and roughly cut
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded
1 heaped tablespoon taucheo (preserved soybean paste)
3 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper
2 taukwa (extra firm tofu), cut into 1-inch strips
100g chicken fillet, cut into thin strips
250g medium prawns, shelled and deveined
1 teaspoon sugar
200g dried beehoon (rice vermicelli)
250g bean sprouts
50g chives, cut into 1-inch strips
2 limes, cut into wedges
(Optional) 4 tablespoons fried shallots
1. For the paste, blend all the ingredients and set aside.
2. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan on medium-high heat, add the eggs and swirl the pan to spread them out. When the edges of the omelette start to dislodge from the pan, flip the omelette. The omelette is done when parts of it are brown. Turn the heat off. Transfer the omelette to a cutting board. Half the omelette, and with both halves stacked and rolled up firmly, slice it into thin strips and set aside.
3. Heat one tablespoon of oil in the same pan on medium-high heat. Add the taukwa strips to fry until the strips are light brown on all sides. Set aside.
4. Heat one tablespoon of oil in the same pan on medium-high heat. Add the paste and fry until it looks dry, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat if it splatters too much.
5. Add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 3 minutes, mixing thoroughly with the paste. Add the prawns and do the same until they are cooked, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, and a small amount of water if the chicken and prawns look like they are drying up.
6. Add the beehoon and mix it thoroughly with the chicken and prawns, achieving a homogenous light orangey-brown colour. Use thongs or chopsticks. You can cut the beehoon with the spatula to mix more easily but don't overdo the cutting. Again, if it looks too dry, add a small amount of water.
7. Add the taukwa strips, two-thirds of the omelette strips, bean sprouts and chives, and mix thoroughly for one minute. You don't want to overcook the bean sprouts and chives.
8. Serve either on a large platter or four individual plates, garnishing with the remaining omelette strips and fried shallots, if any, and the lime wedges on the side.