I have shared before that I am not terribly fond of Malay noodles like mee rebus and mee siam. However, I make an exception for dry mee siam, which I believe has Nonya or Peranakan roots. The Peranakans were Chinese immigrants who settled in the Malay archipelago in the 15th – 17th centuries, intermarrying with local Malays, Indians and Portuguese-Eurasians. I have often been asked if I am Peranakan, possibly because of my insatiable obsession with local food, but I unfortunately I have no such origins and am easily able to trace my ancestral roots to Southern China 2 – 3 generations ago. The Peranakans are also known for their fiesty and indomitable matriarchs, the mish-mash of local patois (which meant that you had to be effectively trilingual to understand the blend of English, Malay and Hokkien) as well as a truly incredible cuisine. If I were Peranakan however, I would probably be able to dominate my kids and I would definitely be able to make them eat durian and spicy food. Unfortunately because they spent several of their early childhood years in the land of pizza and Mac and cheese, I have abysmally failed to pass on my love of local spicy dishes to them. I think the first 6 years of life are where one’s taste vocabulary is indelibly formed and I suspect I have missed the boat in making them my durian kakis.
Actually, come to think of it, my taste vocabulary was probably set up by multiple visits to Penang as a child. My mother’s family was from Penang and I have great memories not just of Penang street food like the char kuay teow, Penang laksa and chendol, but also great home-cooked food. One of my adopted grand aunts who did the cooking was a truly awesome cook and one of my greatest regrets was that she passed on before I was old enough to want to learn to cook from her. I remember one holiday going very early in the morning to a nearby stretch of beach and picking up the little clams that were dotted on the shore in the receding tide. I had a little red bucket and managed to fill it almost to the brim. We then trotted home and passed great-aunt our spoils of the morning and in less than half an hour she had a steaming spicy clam “siput” dish ready for us. The lady could cook superb meals out of anything and even today my aunts still talk about her prowess. I suspect we have lost a whole generation of tastes and culinary ability with the passing of that generation of women, few of whom ever passed down their kitchen secrets.
Anyway, back to Nonya dry mee siam; I have tasted pretty good versions of it in Singapore. Nonya dry mee siam is a rice noodle dish and the robust flavours are drawn from dried shrimp and shrimp paste that gives each mouth of noodle a very rich, seafood-y flavour. The salty bean and shrimp paste is balanced out by the tartness of the tamarind paste and a small amount of sugar. Again, making this a low carb dish was not too difficult as shirataki noodles mimics local noodles much better than spaghetti, and soaks up the flavours really well.
LOW CARB DRY MEE SIAM (NONYA RICE NOODLE) RECIPE
Rempah (spice mix)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 10 shallots
- 20g belachan
- 50g dried shrimps, soaked and drained
- 3 tbsp sambal chilli
- 2 tbsp tau cheo (fermented soy beans)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 packets of shirataki noodles, drained and dry roasted
- 300g bean shoots
- 300g prawns
- 100g (about 1 block) firm toufu, cut into small 1 cm width cubes
- 3 hard boiled eggs, cut into halves
- 10 stalks chives
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- 2 tbsp tamarind paste, dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, seeds removed
- 2 tsp sugar substitute
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- fried shallots
- 1 lime, quartered
- In a pot of boiling water, add the prawns and cook till pink. Remove from pot, shell and devein the prawns. Slice the prawns in half and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the cubed tofu till browned. Set aside. Make extra if you have kids that come and steal food off your table.
- Place garlic cloves and shallots into a blender and finely chop. Add the belachan, dried shrimps and sambal chilli and tau cheo qnd blend until it is a fine paste consistency.
- In a wok or skillet, heat vegetable oil over a medium flame. Add the spice blend and fry till fragrant and browned, but make sure not to allow the mix to burn. Fry for abour 8 – 10 minutes.
- Mix the tamarind paste, sugar substitute and fish sauce into the chicken stock and pour the stock into the spice blend, mixing further. Simmer for another 5 – 6 minutes. Add salt and ground white pepper to taste.
- Add shirataki noodles and bean sprouts mixing well with the spice sauce to make sure the noodles are well coated, for another 2 – 3 minutes. Add the chives, reserving about 2 tbsp for garnishing, and mix well.
- Plate the noodles in 6 plates, and top each plate with half an egg, fried tofu, prawns! fried shallots and the rest of the chives. Serve hot.