By: Wei Qing Lim
Being gluten-free is not my only personality trait, I promise! I have also spent a large chunk of my life moving around, living in a total of five countries. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ll say this: while moving has its perks, it also comes with drawbacks, such as the fear of starting over, and the sense of dread that comes with leaving a place that became home. Thankfully, there was one thing that remained stable and familiar through it all -- food. My mom never failed to comfort me with her amazing, home-cooked meals. Nervous about the first day of school in a new country? It all goes away with a hot, steaming bowl of the Malaysian classic, curry mee. It may look like a simple bowl of noodles, but trust me, it is so much more than that.
Curry mee is intricately tied to so many of my memories. I remember summers in Malaysia as a child, being so excited for bed because I knew that I would be able to get curry mee for breakfast at a local hawker center. I would go up to the uncle’s curry mee stand and watch in awe as he tossed his iconic yellow noodles into a bowl with lightning speed, then proceeded to litter the bed of noodles with shreds of chicken, fish cake, green beans, tofu skin, and half of a hardboiled egg. After accounting for all the ingredients, he would dip his ladle into a large, metal pot filled with rich orange broth. Arguably the most crucial part of the dish, this deep and complex broth is made up of sweet shrimp shells, chicken bones, shallots, coconut milk, and a generous amount of chili. I watched as he poured the concoction into the bowl, soaking the contents with the perfectly balanced spicy and coconut-y soup.
For two months, that was all I ate for breakfast, and always with the same amount of enthusiasm. I like to think that I got my love for curry mee from my dad. We would eat it together every day, side by side. I would pair my noodles with a can of 100 Plus, while my dad would have his cup of hot teh tarik. We would leave the center with full bellies and empty bowls-- there wasn’t a lick of soup or a shred of chicken in sight.
If anything, moving has taught me how to be resilient and how to adapt to new environments. While change is scary and can be unpleasant at first, I always remind myself that life is full of simple joys, like a bowl of curry mee. I can’t eat curry mee at most hawker places now, but I still think about devouring a bowl of it from time to time. On the bright side, my aunt is an amazing chef and makes homemade curry noodles that I always look forward to eating when I’m home!
Here’s her rendition of curry mee that you can try at home-- I hope it brings you the same joy it brought me!
THE RECIPE - Curry Mee
Recipe by : @foodsimplistic
Serves: 5 - 6
1/3 cup coconut oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 - 2 chicken breasts (skin removed)
400ml coconut milk (if using cream, dilute with water, ratio 1:1 ->200ml cream + 200ml water)
350g of dried rice vermicelli (soak in warm water for 30 minutes to soften )
6 - 8 pieces of shrimp (peeled and deveined)
5 strands of long beans (cut into 1” lengths)
10 pieces of fish balls
200g of firm tofu (sliced and deep-fried)
Salt to taste
5 shallots (peeled and halved)
3 cloves garlic (peeled, and halved)
3 - 5 dried chilies (seeded and soaked in hot water to soften)
1-2 stalk lemongrass (slice bottom third into rings)
1/2 cup curry powder (for meat curry)
300g pea sprouts
3 to 4 sprigs mint leaves (stems removed)
1 lime (cut into wedges)
4 to 6 tsp fried chili paste (optional)
Blend all spice paste ingredients with ¼ cup water until smooth. Pour mixture into a bowl.
Mix with curry powder to form a thick paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry tofu pieces until golden in color. Remove and set aside.
Using the same oil (leftover from frying tofu), in a large pot over medium heat, stir fry spice paste until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add chicken breasts and cook until opaque, for about 3 minutes.
Pour in 6 cups water. Cover and bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, fill a separate pot half full of water. Bring to a boil. Add the dried rice vermicelli and cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a metal strainer. Set aside.
Remove chicken breasts from curry broth with tongs. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat.
Cook shrimp by lowering them into the curry broth. Allow shrimp to cook for 3 to 4 minutes until they curl and turn pink. Remove and set aside.
Repeat for fish balls and long beans. Remove and set aside.
Pour coconut milk into the broth. Bring it up to a simmer and allow coconut milk to heat through. Turn off heat.
1. Place a portion of noodles, some shredded chicken, shrimps, fish balls, long beans, and fried tofu in a bowl.
2. Ladle curry broth over noodles.
3. Garnish with pea sprouts and mint leaves.
4. Serve Immediately with fried chili paste and lime wedges.