Cultural Appreciation Or Cultural Appropriation?
To the best of my memory, I’ve grown up loving Mee Siam. But, at the tender age of 11, I referred to it as the Canteen Aunty’s Meehoon… *signal chorus of angelic voices*.
The Canteen Aunty’s Meehon held such magical powers over me that I would save my lunch money and pack it every school day as a pre-dinner snack in a rectangular plastic bag just a bit larger than the iPhone 6 Plus.
It was different from the Meehoon I had at home, it was spicy and packed in lots of flavours I had never experienced before in an Asian Chinese household. I felt as though I stumbled into a new world and my view has just gotten from Reyes to Juno.
I was hooked so bad I remember eating it even when it had gone slightly sour! I have a reservoir of other horrific eating habits that I hope to share in my future postings ^.^
It was only many years later, when I was tasked to organise a media luncheon at my first job that I was reunited with this familiar flavour. A potential Client told me, “Great job with the Mee Siam, I really liked it :)” Ah! It has a name!
The picture above was taken at Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock in Oasis Damansara (my latest happy place for Sunday brunch).
Visit them at https://www.facebook.com/alimuthuandahhock to feast your eyes.
I am not too sure if this is Mee Siam but it says Fried Meehoon on the menu.
But anyway, one day I decided that waiting to go Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock’s to eat Fried Meehoon on every 7th day is too long of a wait and took matters into my own hands. I shall cook it myself!
Spicy Meehoon (Rice Vermicelli) with Turmeric Chicken aka My Version of Mee Siam (Siamese Noodle)
Starting from my high school years, I had become more adventurous and went on to sample more food beyond what was cooked at home. Being in Malaysia, we certainly enjoyed other cultures’ cuisines like Malay, Indian and Eurasian fares but before the advent of the world as we know now as the Internet, we could only look forward to night markets, Ramadhan bazaars, taking a trip to Chow Kit Road for Nasi Kandar, saving up to buy mixed Indian rice.
Now thanks to so many recipe-sharers, people who are not insecure about giving away their family trade secret, I have taken a good peek at many recipes and added my twist to it.
Here’s me, reciprocating in a non insecure way, sharing my tribute to Mee Siam with my version called the Spicy Meehoon with Turmeric Chicken.
Main Must Haves, Do Not Skip:
400g of Rice Vermicelli (soak in cold water for 30 mins, and pour in hot water to cook it for 2 mins)
2/3 bowl of Dried Shrimps
Tamarind Juice (¼ soup bowl)
3 generous teaspoons of Old Ginger paste
Chili Paste Ingredients:
Two hand grabs of dried chillies
2 large onions
A handful of Garlic
1 teaspoon of Sea Salt
In Turmeric Chicken Marinade:
Diced Chicken (2 chicken legs)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 generous teaspoons of Paprika
1 ½ teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1 ½ teaspoon of Onion Powder
1 tablespoon of Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon of Sea Salt
Fry the following to 90% doneness and keep aside - Red Onion slices, Turmeric Chicken, Beaten Eggs.
Fry Dried Shrimps until crisp and keep aside.
Fry Chili Paste for 15-20 minutes. Just about halfway, pour in 3 generous teaspoon of Ginger Paste. As it reduces, pour in Lemongrass Paste. Stir in fish sauce (just a few droplets), fry for a while and stir in Tamarind Juice. At this point, you need to keep tasting to find out what is acceptable for you. For me, the sauce should be just a little too spicy, just a little bit too salty and a little bit too tangy at the same time. Don’t worry, as this it applied to the big packet of Rice Vermicelli, the taste will balance out eventually.
For those that love an extra punch like me, you can add in some bird’s eye chilli
4.Pour in the Rice Vermicelli and any leafy vege (I like to use kangkung or water spinach)
5. Mix in Red Onion slices, Turmeric Chicken and stir
6. Mix in Beaten Eggs and Scallions (I love using scallions to heighten the taste of the dish. Use it towards the tail end of the cooking so that it doesn’t get too soft)
This is my hawker style Spicy Meehoon I cooked on 30 Dec 2015.
We ate this for dinner over 2 days.
I experimented again today on 1 Jan 2016, with a few tweaks in my attempt to make a healthier version.
Overall, what I want to say for the New Year is this. I feel very blessed to have so many friends and family members of different ethnicities in Malaysia. We are so intertwined in our lives that we pepper our conversations with English, Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien and Tamil; we celebrate each other’s diversities that we embrace it as part of our lives.
I can’t be sure where Mee Siam originated from. But, I can be sure of one thing, if I choose to eat and cook this, I will not be held guilty for appropriating someone else’s culture. I’d like to believe that in the eyes of my multi-racial friends, I am appreciating and celebrating the beauty of Malaysia.
Happy New Year!