1973…

It was way back in 1973 when I was in Singapore. I was staying at Teluk Kurau in Katong, not far from where my father’s friend and his family lived in Siglap. They were a Peranakan family and his wife, a true blue nyonya, would cook the most delicious dishes and since their house was within walking distance, I would stroll over especially during weekends and stayed for dinner.

I loved going on Sundays – their “casino” days. The wife would cook one huge tray of mee siam with the whole works – the fried mihun with its generous garnishing of chopped chives, fresh red chilies, thinly sliced omelette and prawns, surrounded by hardboiled eggs cut into eights…and there would be a pot of spicy-looking gravy for everyone to help themselves. I did not know what actually went into the making of the delicious broth but all I knew was that there was tau cheo (fermented beans) in it and it was slightly sweet and sour and spicy. I would scoop the mihun and all the condiments to go with it onto a plate and pour the gravy over everything and eat. It was sooooooo delicious and I loved it a lot. I was able to find mee siam in some stalls in some coffee shops in the island republic as well, probably in Katong – I can’t remember exactly where now…but unfortunately, they all paled in comparison.

I tried cooking it myself once, following a recipe in some cookbook that my missus had but it was a total disaster. For one thing, at that time, I wasn’t really into cooking yet…and for another, I was and I still am hopeless at following recipes. Perhaps I should give it a try again one of these days and see if I could fare better this time around.

Of course, I was thrilled to bits when I heard that I could get to eat it at this coffee shop in town – their “Singapore Mee Siam” (RM4.00)…

AhHockKia mee siam 1

…but when it was served, I must say that I was very very disappointed.

It did not look anything like what I had in Singapore back in 1973. The only consolation was that despite the lack of colour, the gravy was very nice – it did taste something like what I had way back then, with the tau cheo and all. Unfortunately, the mihun was a bit too hard…

AhHockKia mee siam 2

…like it had not been soaked in hot boiling water long enough and not only did the colour not look like the mee siam that I knew it to be but it was, in fact, quite colourless. Besides, there wasn’t much garnishing other than the slices of hardboiled egg, the chives and the bits of taupok (fried bean curd). On the whole, it tasted all right – not too bad…if only the mihun had been softer.

Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I did have what they called mee siam at this place once – when it was under the previous management (before it became a Thai restaurant) and they had a new chef reporting for duty that very day when I dropped by. It came out looking like any fried mihun in any of the coffee shops around and it did not even taste half as great, plus it was so very oily that I could barely finish half of it. I don’t know of any other place in town where I can get mee siam so I will just have to be happy with this one or try and cook my own or wait till I go over to Auckland where I’m sure my most wonderful friend there will cook her mee siam

S's mee siam 1
*My NZ friend’s photo*

…for me to enjoy to my heart’s content.

One thing’s for sure, hers certainly looks like what I had in 1973…

S's mee siam 2

…but of course, the test of the pudding is in the eating and until I can get to eat that myself, I will reserve any further comments on her culinary skills. Hint! Hint! Hehehehehehe!!!!!