It’s not because it’s ‘just noodles’ when you’re in Singapore. I once met a woman who, when she found out I was Singaporean, starting exclaiming that she absolutely loved Singapore Noodles. I wanted to give her a whole list of noodles I could think of that tastes way better than that curry powder vermicelli someone named after Singapore. Char kway teow, Hokkien mee, bak chor mee, ban mian… It isn’t all from Singapore, but they’re staples at hawker centres.
I didn’t have the heart to elaborate. The truth will set you free…if it doesn’t boggle your mind first.
You might say that I’m being prissy or snobbish about a dish. That it’s just the name of a dish and it doesn’t matter what it’s called. To quote the Bard, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, yes? No disrespect, Will, but no. I mean, it’s like calling New York Cheesecake ‘Arctic Cheesecake’. It’s exactly like the whole French fries not being from France fiasco (Google tells me they originated in Belgium)!
We do have oily, stir-fried bee hoon (rice vermicelli) in Singapore. It’s called Xin Zhou Mi Fen (I’m really not able to translate this one, guys). Xin Zhou Mi Fen is sold in hawker centres everywhere, and it looks like this. Yummy, if you can stomach the oil! But it has none of that curry powder jazz that gives ‘Singapore Noodles’ its ‘unique’ flavour in countries like Australia or the US. Now, I shall take to Wikipedia for some answers on the origins of Singapore Noodles:
The dish appears on the menu of almost all Chinese-style (mainly Cantonese-style) eateries in Hong Kong, and is also very popular in English, Australian, Canadian and American Chinese cuisine. However, it is not a dish that is generally recognised in Singapore itself.
Wow. W-o-w. Doesn’t that say a lot?
From The Travelling Hungryboy – “Singapore noodles” in Singapore?
“How ironic it is when one of the only places to get “authentic” Singapore Noodles is in the US rather than Singapore. I guess I can’t blame folks back home who find it a bit weird when I spend 16 hours to fly across the Pacific Ocean and request a plate of Singapore Noodles from a Chinese restaurant there.”
This is one of many people who believe that Singapore noodles were created in Singapore, and are disappointed when they get to Singapore and realise that it’s practically nonexistent. But, guys! You shouldn’t be disappointed, because Singapore Noodles aren’t representative of Singaporean food!
Okay, so I’m going to make Singapore Noodles – the way I know it to be, not the curry powder version.
However much bee hoon (rice vermicelli) you want
A handful of dried shrimp
2-3 dried shiitake mushrooms
Chicken breast (optional, feel free to use whatever meat you like)
2 cloves of garlic
First up, you need to grab the dried shrimp and mushrooms and soak them in hot water for about 20 minutes.
You can add just a teaspoon of dark soy sauce and stir it into the water, so the dried stuff soaks up the flavour of the sauce.
While it’s soaking, take out your carrots and peel them, then slice them into strips. Once that’s done, beat the eggs, adding a little light soy sauce and pepper for extra taste.
Okay! Now for the bee hoon.
For those of you who haven’t cooked this noodle before, basically all you have to do is soak it in wam water (~10mins) or scald it in a pot of boiling water. It’s really quick and easy! Some people like it stringier and not so soft, so all you have to do for that is to soak it for a shorter period of time. Once it’s soft enough, rinse it with cold water (to stop the cooking process), drain and set aside.
And the frying begins…
Sometimes, your best friends in the kitchen are canned and delicious. Or at least a perfectly satisfactory substitute. I buy canned, minced garlic from the supermarket for the days where I don’t have enough time to chop five cloves of garlic, or I’m just feeling lazy. Really helpful! The only problem I have with this is that it has a small amount of water (to keep it fresh, I’m guessing?) that reacts with the oil in my pan. You know what that means.
I was a little sceptical of minced garlic like this, but it honestly tastes fine! I would recommend it for busy housewives and lazy students.
Heat up some vegetable oil in a large pan/wok and dump about a teaspoon of garlic in (or more, if you like that garlicky taste).
Fry the eggs, scrambling it into pieces as you go. Then dump in the mushrooms, carrots and diced meat. Brown the meat before adding the mushroom-shrimp soaking water.
Finally, put the bee hoon into the pan. I made the mistake of swirling it around too much – just a reminder, it breaks easily.
I’d say you should mix it so the bee hoon is coloured by the soaking water mixture, so that the bee hoon absorbs all the flavours as equally as possible. It’s probably easiest to cook this dish with a pair of tongs, by the way, cos’ spatulas obviously have no grip.
Fry it until all the liquid is absorbed.
Okay, I have to come clean. I forgot to snap a picture of it before I started eating. I was ravenous! I’d skipped lunch, man, don’t blame me!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best way to make truly authentic ‘Singapore Noodles’.
‘Till next time! ❤