Wednesday, February 21, 2018


An article on the BBC website about Singapore mentioned 'fried bee hoon'. Which is a relatively simple hawker dish cocked-up to a fare-thee-well in the United States, with significant omissions and additions, and sold to the public as 'Singapore Noodles'. In which guise it should really be called "Half-assed Hong Kong Chachanteng Reinterpretation of a Popular Dish with Curry Powder Added", and further qualified as "we sell a lot of this to folks in a hurry and white people". Many, many white people.

White people such as me. I'm very white.

But I have my own version.


Bee hoon are rice stick noodles (米粉), pronounced 'mai fan' in Cantonese, or 'mai foon' in Toisanwa. They are very easy to prepare, requiring only a soak before adding to soups, or a blanch in boiling water and immediate rinse with cold before stirfrying. The hawker or street stall version makes a good breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack.

Gild sliced shallots or onion, garlic, and perhaps ginger and chilies, in a little hot oil or bacon grease. Then dump in some shrimp or squid, pork (charsiu) or chicken if you feel like it, and stir briefly. Add vegetables of any type that have been parboiled or cut appropriately for very short cooking, plus the reserved noodles shortly thereafter. Toss it all together over high heat with dashes of condiments: sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis*), oyster sauce (蠔油 'ho yau'), cooking sherry (or rice wine), and a few drops of sesame oil.
Garnish with crispy fried onion and chopped green chili.
And (essential!) ribbons of sliced omelette.
There is NO curry powder in this.
But sambal is okay.

That basically describes my dinner or late evening snack, most of the time.
My vegetables of choice are chopped Jalapeño chilies and stalky mustard (芥菜 'gai choi'), sometimes little bokchoi (白菜 'siu bak choi'), the meat is frequently chopped bacon or whatever. Even smoked sausage. Along with a hefty squirt of Sriracha during cooking, and I'm happy.
If there are shrimp, I add shrimp.
Oysters also can.

Sometimes I do use curry powder.
For a typical American touch.

Noodles and crunchy vegetables in equal measure, meat less than. Enough soy sauce or oyster sauce for savouriness, and feel free to not add the fried onion on top. If you briefly blanch the noodles beforehand they will clump far less than they would if merely soaked to soften.

A person from Singapore would argue that bawang goreng (the fried onion mentioned above) is essential, it's what makes it truly authentic. And they might add ketchup and Worcestershire to the dish while cooking. There would be less vegetable in their version, perhaps more shrimp, and squid. Also carrot (!), and bell peppers (?), celery, and even frozen peas!
Plus fresh crunchy bean sprouts.

Keep it simple and be careful what you add.
It can grow enormously otherwise.
Keep sambal handy.

NOTE: because ketjap manis is not locally produced and consequently unreasonably expensive for mediocre imported stock, I make my own.

Half cup each: cane sugar, Kikkoman soy sauce.
Two TBS each: sherry, dark vinegar.
One Tsp. salt.
A whole star-anise (kembang lawang, 八角 'baat gok'), optionally a clove (bunga tjengkeh, 丁香 'ding heung'), and a piece of dried Chinese orange peel (陳皮 'chan pei').

Simmer sherry with the salt and solids. Add sugar and half the soy sauce. Heat, gently stirring, till the sugar is dissolved, the liquid becomes syrupy, and starts foaming up. Add the rest of the soy sauce, stir to mix the two liquids, and turn off heat. Cool, strain, and pour into a bottle.
Use the dark vinegar to swirl the pan and take up the last of the soy syrup, add this to the bottle and shake. The acid prevents crystallization.
Refrigerated, it will keep a very long time.
It's good for many things.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

No comments:

Search This Blog


It was on the warmer side today, around seventy, and I was dressed too thick. Consequently when I got home I felt like crap. The coolness of...