KitchenTigress: Mee Siam (Spicy Rice Vermicelli)

Mee Siam (Spicy Rice Vermicelli)


Mee siam is a popular noodle dish in Singapore. Bee hoon (rice vermicelli) is mixed with spices and seasoning, then a slightly spicy, sweet and tart sauce is added. Basic toppings include egg slices, fried beancurd, sambal, garlic chives and lime.

The mee siam recipe I'm sharing is from "Cooking for the President".

When Wee Kim Wee was an ambassador in Malaysia and Japan, Mrs Wee's cooking took Tokyo and KL by storm (according to the cookbook). She invited 500 guests at a time, and laid out an entire spread of Nyonya delicacies.

Mee siam was one of the guests' firm favourites, along with sambal udang and chicken satay.

The magic in Mrs Wee's mee siam is the bee hoon made with a special ingredient: coconut milk. Thick, freshly squeezed milk is fried till all the water evaporates, leaving coconut oil and nicely browned curds.

The coconut oil is then used to fry dried chillies, shallots, belachan and taucheo. This aromatic, spicy paste is mixed with the coconut curds, plus another not-found-in-other-recipes ingredient: tomato ketchup. Finally, it's tossed with coarse bee hoon.

Mrs Wee's dry mee siam is nothing short of presidential. It's so good it can be totally eaten on its own, but the wonderful mee siam sauce makes it even better.

"The sourness, saltiness and sweetness of the sauce are so balanced that none of them dominate. The sauce is more savoury than sweet. The assam (tamarind) flavour in the sauce is assertive, but not sharp. Towchew (preserved brown soya bean paste) and prawn flavour are essential, but not obtrusively dominant."

"Cooking for the President"

If you're not on Mrs or Ms Wee's rarefied guest list, never mind. You now have her mee siam recipe.


This recipe takes some time. The good news is, it'll be the best mee siam ever. It's pretty idiot-proof, and you can make it ahead. If you like, you can skip the sauce and make dry mee siam. That'll also be the best dry mee siam ever.

mee siam
INGREDIENTS

Bee hoon
  • 1 kg coarse dried bee hoon (rice vermicelli)
  • 6 large pieces firm beancurd (960 g)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 540 ml fresh undiluted coconut milk (2¼ cups)
  • 40 g dried chillies – soak in warm water till soft, about 30 minutes; squeeze dry
  • 375 g shallots – peel, wash, pound with dried chillies till fine
  • 8 g belachan – toast till dry, pound to yield 2 tsp powder
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 90 g light brown taucheo (fermented soya beans) paste
  • 130 ml tomato ketchup
  • salt to taste, about 1 tbsp
Sauce
  • 40 g dried chillies – soak in warm water till soft (about 30 minutes), squeeze dry
  • 375 g shallots – peel, wash and pound with dried chillies till fine
  • 100 ml + 15 ml vegetable oil
  • 12 g belachan – toast till dry, pound to yield 1 tbsp powder
  • 120 g light brown taucheo (fermented soya beans) paste
  • 50 prawns weighing about 1 kg prawns
  • 2 pieces assam gelugoh (tamarind skin), adjust to taste (I used 8 pieces)
  • 60 g assam jawa (tamarind paste)
  • 80 g sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
Finishing touch
  • 350 g garlic chives – wash, trim, cut 2 cm long
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs – peel, slice crosswise 0.5 cm thick
  • 10 calamansi limes – halve crosswise, discard seeds

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. To prepare bee hoon, cook according to package instructions till soft but still very springy. Do not overcook. Refresh in cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside to drain.

  2. Halve each piece of beancurd. Cut into slices 5 mm thick. Deep-fry in hot oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue frying till lightly golden. Transfer to a plate.

  3. Fry coconut milk over low heat till oil separates and curds form. Increase heat to medium. Fry till curds are medium brown. Drain to separate curds and oil. You should now have about 100 ml coconut oil, 100 g curds, and a dirty wok (unless yours is non-stick or really well seasoned). Set oil aside, grind curds till fine, and wash wok.

  4. With coconut oil made, stir-fry dried chillies and shallots over medium to low heat till reddish brown and aromatic. If paste sticks to wok, drizzle with 1 tbsp water, scrape to loosen sticky bits, then continue frying. Add 2 tsp belachan powder and stir through. Push mixture to one side.

  5. Put 2 tsp vegetable oil in the middle of the wok. Add 90 g taucheo. Fry till intensely aromatic, adding 1 tbsp water and scraping if it sticks. Stir taucheo and chilli paste together. Turn off heat. Leave till cool. Add tomato ketchup, coconut curds and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add bee hoon and half of fried beancurd. Using (clean) hands, toss till thoroughly mixed. Taste and if necessary adjust seasoning. Cover and set aside. Refrigerate if necessary. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

  6. To make sauce, stir-fry dried chillies and shallots in 100 ml vegetable oil over medium to low heat till reddish brown and aromatic. If paste sticks to wok, drizzle with 1 tbsp water, scrape to loosen sticky bits, then continue frying. Add 1 tbsp belachan powder and stir through. Push mixture to one side.

  7. Put 1 tbsp vegetable oil in the middle of the wok. Add 120 g taucheo. Fry till intensely aromatic, adding 1 tbsp water and scraping if it sticks. Stir taucheo and chilli paste together. Set aside.

  8. Shell prawns, leaving tails on. Devein and wash. Dry-fry shells and heads till red and fragrant. Add enough water to cover, along with assam gelugoh, assam paste, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes. If assam paste is not yet disintegrated, mash with spoon and stir through. With a slotted spoon/spatula, remove and discard shells, etc, leaving only stock. Poach prawns in the stock till just cooked. Remove to cool down. Measure stock and top up with water to 1.4 litres. Add fried chilli paste. Stir through. Bring back to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn off heat.

  9. To serve, heat up sauce if necessary. Place bee hoon in a deep plate. Add sauce sparingly. (Presidential mee siam doesn't swim in lots of sauce, unlike those from hawker centres.) Top with eggs, poached prawns, beancurd, and chives. Squeeze lime over mee siam and dig in.