Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Malaysian/Singaporean Hawker Cuisine: Prawn Noodles

I don't often do posts on savoury dishes mainly because I HAVE TO cook dinner every Monday to Friday whilst I DON'T HAVE TO make desserts, bake cakes, pastries or cookies, thus the idea of baking becomes more appealing and is a treat for me. Styling and Photographing sweets is more fun too because the colors of sweets are more interesting.
However, every once in a while I whip up something savoury that takes a little more time and effort than the Monday to Friday dishes, something like this that I really take pride in preparing. I had some friends over recently to share this dish.

Most of you guessed right – This is Prawn Noodles or ‘Hae Mee’ as it’s known in Singapore or ‘Mee Yoke’ as it’s known in Malaysia. I’ve made Prawn Noodles in the past, but I must say that I was only totally happy with the flavour recently, thanks to Madam Chia Ah Bee, the mother of a good friend of ours from Singapore, Jeffrey Lim. On their holiday trip here two years ago, Madam Chia was kind enough to show me how she made her famous Prawn Noodles. Those of you living in Dover Road Singapore will remember Madam Chia for her noodle stall simply known as ‘Teck Hock Prawn Noodles’ that had been in the area since 1978. She is retired now and spends her time doing the things she loves like travelling, having her weekend mah-jong sessions, cooking for her family and watching cooking shows on TV.

Madam Chia Ah Bee (extreme right) with her family on holiday in Bangkok

Life wasn’t this easy for Madam Chia in the late seventies – she had been widowed in her mid 30s and had to be the only bread winner for her family of four children. Teck Hock Prawn Noodle Stall became her primary source of income. On Sundays and Public Holidays, she made and sold another of her specialty dishes, Braised Duck Noodles which was another popular favourite. I was told that Madam Chia had learnt her cooking skills from her mother and Mother-in-law, and this had become an invaluable asset for her in hard times.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to learn some of her ‘tips’ and ‘secrets’ to making some of the best tasting Singaporean dishes including this Prawn Noodle dish. The secret to making a memorable ‘Hae Mee’ is in the stock, which derives it’s rich flavour and coloring from prawn heads and shells that are sautéed until well caramelised.

I look forward to my next trip to Singapore when I will again savour Madam Chia’s skilful cooking!