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Of Mee Hoon Kueh and Mama.

Mee Hoon Kueh or Man Foon Char Guo – translates to Flour Cake. It is relatively easy to make, the ingredients can be found everywhere. You can make it both with meat or without. It is common to both the Hokkiens and the Hakkas, differing only in the method of which the dough is prepared. One shaves off the dough while the other hand tears it to pieces. You may have seen it before, you
might not. You may call it pan mee, banmian, hand teared noodles, lined up for hours at that one store, somewhere for it. You may have liked it, you may have not.

I don’t know what this common noodle dish means to you.

But nothing reminds me more of my childhood and my grandmother, or Mama than Mee Hoon Kueh.

I remember that Mama used to make it for me as a reward for good grades or as a pick-me-up on a bad day. I would walk in from school, and she would simply smile and say,

“I am making your favorite dish for dinner”.

And just like that, Mama would’ve made my day.

 

The Dough.

250g all-purpose flour (preferably Cap Sauh brand)
100ml water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
a pinch of salt


Combine flour, oil, salt and egg.
Gradually add water while stirring with a single wooden chopstick.
When the mixture comes together, kneed with your hand.
Add more flour if mixture is too wet, or water if it’s too dry.
Knead until mixture is smooth and springs back to the touch.
Cover, refrigerate for at least an hour, or you can leave it overnight.

I remember asking Mama about how much of this and that should I put in. Can I add in another egg? More oil? More flour? And she, like the cooks of the older generations, never learnt the metric or imperial system. It was always, a pinch of this or a dash of that. “You want me to add another egg?” And I would nod eagerly. “Back then when we were poor, we could only have one egg”

And just like that, Mama would’ve taught me to appreciate the little things in life.

 

The Soup Base

250g anchovies, washed and peeled
1/2 piece of preserved vegetable or ham choy
15 white peppercorns
a few slices of ginger
some minced garlic
1.5L of water

In a soup pot, fry garlic and ginger till fragrant, throw in anchovies.
Stir fry till it develops slight coloring
Put in white peppercorns and hamchoy (this is salty, so err on the side of less rather than more)
Add water, bring up to a boil then lower to a simmer.

As the stock simmers on the stove top, the whole kitchen will be perfumed. It’s amazing how on its own these few humble ingredients may not do much but when put together, creates something amazing.

Can we eat now? It has been over an hour. “No, it won’t taste nice if you eat it now. The soup needs to simmer for longer, so that all the anchovies break down and it’ll taste better”

And just like that, Mama would’ve taught me the value of patience.

 

The Assembly

Heat up a separate pot of water. This is to cook the kueh beforehand. (This is an important step so that you will not cloud your broth)
Knead the dough slightly, then pull off a ball of dough in your hand, tear off pieces of dough into the boiling water. (I like my dough pieces really thick for a better mouth feel)
Once the pieces float, transfer them into your simmering soup.
Before serving, add sweet leaves and deep fried anchovies for garnish.

 

Mama always made too much Mee Hoon Kueh and nothing pleases her more than my brother and I asking for seconds or thirds. There will, however, always be one bowl that she would save so that I can have it tomorrow. She hates that I don’t eat enough and in her eyes, her
favorite granddaughter is not fat and should never have to worry about dieting.

It has been over a year since Mama made me Mee Hoon Kueh. She doesn’t live with us anymore and her crippling arthritis means that standing for long hours is out of the question. Mama may not make Mee Hoon Kueh for me anymore but her lessons remain.

I remember the moments that we shared in the kitchen. Watching her small frame
kneading the dough, or watching the fire so that it doesn’t spill over. Her quiet yet strong determination, the result of growing up poor, less fortunate than I am. And her love, expressed not in the most eloquent of phrases but in the simple Mee Hoon Kueh.

I have made Mee Hoon Kueh countless of times, but it is never the same. I don’t know what it’s missing. I get the best ingredients, I follow the recipe to the T, I make use of all the culinary knowledge that I possess.

But something is missing.

I don’t know what it is, and perhaps I don’t care either.

Mama’s Mee Hoon Kueh will always be the best. And I think I am perfectly okay with that.

I don’t know what this common noodle dish means to you, but to me, it means the world.

 

I love you, Mama.

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