Thursday, 6 February 2014
Penang nyonya lam mee
This morning when I was walking around the neighbourhood, enjoying the crisp cool air, a small pang of nostalgia overcame me.
Today would be the seventh day of the Chinese New Year and by tradition, my family members would gather to celebrate the birthday of the human race with a plate of Penang's Nyonya Lam Mee. Unfortunately, my aunt was no longer around to do the cooking.
I decided to cut short my walk and go to the market instead. My resolve was to try and reproduce her Nyonya Lam Mee, so that we could sit down and continue with this tradition for the evening's meal, with or without my aunt.
But my problem was, I was practically a newbie when it comes to cooking with hardly five dishes that I can claim to have cooked. Nyonya Lam Mee was definitely not one of them. So, not knowing where or how to start or begin, I had to turn to the Internet for recipes. Luckily, there were loads of them. I just tried to follow one and improvise.
If I may say so myself, I believe that I may have surpassed myself with my version of the Nyonya Lam Mee. My wife and son liked it very much. I'm sure that if my daughter had not gone back to Kuala Lumpur yesterday, she would have loved it too. But I've already promised to cook it for her when she's back in Penang next.
So what did I buy from the market? First, about RM8 worth of medium-sized prawns from the fishmonger. But don't ask me how much they weighed. Then two strips of pork ribs from the butcher. This, I know came up to 550 grammes. Next, a stalk of Chai Sim vegetables and a big bag of bean sprouts. Finally, I didn't forget to pick up a bag of the all-important yellow noodles. What is Nyonya Lam Mee without the yellow Hokkien noodles, right?? The other ingredients, I already have at home.
Preparation took quite a while. I took quite a while to remove the shells from the prawns and then de-vein them. I think that was one of the slowest part of the whole process. Doing that, as well as nipping off the roots from each and every bean sprout. According to my wife, my aunt usually went one step further by breaking off the top of the bean sprouts too, but that's going a wee too far in my books. Getting the shallots ready for the frying pan was also quite time consuming but not as frustratingly long. Apart from that, I had to clean and chop the Chai Sim into smaller pieces.
To prepare the soup stock, I blanched the pork ribs for about a minute or two in a pot of boiling water, then I cooked the prawns in the same pot for about three minutes or four, before returning the pork ribs into the pot and let everything boil slowly for about 40 minutes. In the meantime, I had fried the shallots and then made a thin egg omelet which I then rolled up and cut into very thin slices.
Come closer to dinner time, I brought another bowl of water to the boil and then blanched three portions of the yellow noodles for about one minute. Removed the noodles from the pot and then laid them down on a big plate. I covered the noodles with the Chai Sim and bean sprouts, and then threw the huge chunks of pork ribs (my son called them macho chunks), prawns and sliced egg on the vegetables. Finally, I poured all the soup stock into the big plate and voila! Dinner is ready. All that remained to be brought out was the sambal belachan from the refrigerator, and my meal would be complete.