Mee Siam is one of several Malaysian dishes that I first tried in the UK, instead of being introduced to it by friends and family in Penang. In this case I initially ate it at C&R Cafe in London’s Chinatown, having been tempted by it’s description in the menu, and also having no objection from my wife! At it’s core, it’s a dish of fried bee hoon (vermicelli) with a flavour paste and various toppings. But it can be so damn tasty!
As the name implies, Mee Siam (Siamese Noodles) is thought to have been adapted from a noodle dish originating in Thailand, most probably by Nyonya cooks. It’s popular in both Malaysia and Singapore, though the Singaporean version is wetter with a gravy. They probably also put too much sugar in it, which I find a common trend with food in Singapore. Luckily, I’m concentrating on the Malaysian version!
It tends to be more of a restaurant or home-cooked dish, with not many hawkers offering it from their stalls in my experience. Most of the flavour of the dish comes from the spice paste (rempah) which includes both tangy tamarind and savoury tau cheo (fermented soya beans). This is then combined with various tasty toppings which offer different textures and flavours to make eating Mee Siam a joy. For me, it’s real comfort food, though to this day I still don’t know why it’s not referred to as ‘Bee Hoon Siam’, as that’s the noodle it uses! Maybe I should try a version with egg noodles or koey teow…
Ang Moh’s Mee Siam Recipe
Serves 4, or 2 Malaysians
300g prepared beehoon (rice noodles)
100g tofu pok (around 8 of them)
200g of raw or cooked prawns
100g of raw or cooked chicken meat, cut into strips
150g bean sprouts
100g ku chai (Chinese chives), normal chives will do, cut into 2 inch sections
70g peeled shallots (around 4 of them)
5 cloves of garlic (around 15g)
3 red chillies (de-seeded or not, depending on your preference for heat)
3 tbsp fermented soyabean paste (tau cheo), hoisin sauce will do if really needed
2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 calamansi limes, or normal limes will do, halved
3 spring onions, sliced
some sugar and light soy sauce to season
optional crispy fried shallots for garnishing
First off, we’ll make the omelette. Crack the 2 eggs into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and whisk for a few seconds. Add the whisked eggs to a medium-hot frying pan, swirl the mixture so it covers the entire pan and cook until firm. Then transfer it to a plate and let cool for a while, then cut it in half, and then cut it into strips. I really shouldn’t need to tell you how to cook an omelette!
Next we’ll prepare the flavour paste. For this, blend together the shallots, garlic cloves, chillies, fermented soyabean paste and tamarind paste. You may want to add a few drops of water to the paste if you’ve having difficulty blending everything. Decant the paste into a bowl and set aside. If your tofu needs crisping up, now is the time to do it. Heat your wok with a bit of oil, and fry the tofu until it’s browned to your liking, then put it aside.
Now comes the time to put it all together! Heat up your wok and add in your oil. Add in your flavour paste (rempah) and stir fry it until it’s fragrant and the oil seperates. Now toss in your chicken and prawns, and stir fry them in the paste until cooked, or if you’re using pre-cooked liao, until it has a nice colour on it. Now sprinkle in around a teaspoon of sugar and light soy sauce, and stir fry the lot for another minute or so.
Add in your prepared noodles, and stir fry the lot for a good few minutes, tossing the noodles so that the flavour paste can be evenly distributed. Next add in the bean sprouts and chives, and stir fry for another couple of minutes, or until they’re wilted to your liking. Check the seasoning, and add in small amounts of much sugar and soy sauce, depending on what you think it needs. Note that I think it’s better to add soy sauce here instead of salt, for both flavour and colour purposes. Finally add in your tofu pok and give it another minute of stir frying.
To serve, dish out the noodles into a bowl of your choice and add the strips of omelette, chopped spring onions, and sprinkle some fried shallots on top. Add half a lime to the side of the place and you’re ready to go. You can even add a dollop of sambal on the side if you have any.