I love Mee. No, it’s not a typo, and no, I’m not being narcissistic.
Mee is what noodles are called in some parts of Asia. Mee Kari (Curry Mee), Mee Jawa, Mee Bandung, Mee Hailam, Mee Udang, Mee Goreng (Fried Noodles), Mee Rebus. I can spew out an exhaustive list of noodle dishes in Malaysia and Indonesia, but since that would only make me salivate pathetically, I’ll stop at Mee Rebus.
I grew up eating a lot of Mee, mostly those sold at hawker stalls or in food courts. The Indian eatery next to my father’s clinic nurtured me with my repeated requests for Mee Rebus; bowls upon bowls of voluptious yellow noodles swimming in a sea of thick yet fluid soup emanating with a fusion of aromas I always attributed to coriander and cumin.
Not all noodle dishes have Mee in their names though. Some of my favorites bear the word Laksa (more information on Laksa can be found on Wikipedia) such as Laksa Penang, Curry Laksa, Assam Laksa. So much for stopping at Mee Rebus. These Laksa may use different kinds of noodles, ranging from flat thick rice noodle to the thin strands of vermicelli.
Before I start to drool, let me get to the point of this post; my own Mee-ly creation; Meatball Curry Mee. With help from two of my wonderful and helpful children (May Allah preserve their goodness. Ameen), I managed to make and hoard a large amount of meatballs. My intended plan was to have frozen meatballs, ready to be collectively dunked into a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce (from a jar) for times when I’m too lazy to cook from scratch. I know. I didn’t have to make meatballs from scratch to have a quick meal of spaghetti and ground beef, but give me a break here, okay? Unfortunately for me, I am a ‘from scratch’ person. Even when I’m lazy and grouchy, I have to have something that is made from scratch.
My mother will heartily agree with me when I say that deciding what to cook for lunch or dinner can be very mind boggling. I find that to be one of the difficult challenges in being a stay at home wife. It can ruin your sleep, rendering you an insomniac as you rack your brain trying to figure out what to cook for lunch the next day.
I used to make weekly menus, which I have to say, greatly solves the problem for me. However, my days of ‘prim and proper’ and ‘list and order’ are long gone. Today, I am a fairly reluctant cook who whips up unnamed dishes at the spur of the moment. I don’t have as much cooking-attributed insomnia, but some days, I still find myself brooding and mulling over the dreaded question,
“What shall I cook today?”
One such day, I found myself staring at a ziploc of frozen homemade meatballs plopped carelessly in the freezer. I took them out, planning to cook them, but I didn’t know what I was going to do with them exactly. I thought spaghetti and meatballs, but let’s face it, I am a Malaysian to the core. Well, when it comes to my taste buds anyway.
No Italian tomato-based spaghetti sauce, I thought.
I needed something pungent. Something that will make you shudder with ecstasy and lick your lips with satisfaction. That something had to come about from the bag of frozen meatballs in my hands. My eyes darted to the spice shelves. Before I knew it, my gaze had landed on a plastic jar of Madras Curry powder I had bought at an Asian grocery store, against hubby’s protests about it being too expensive. Personally, I think it’s worth the cost. It’s expensive for a reason. It makes great curries!
Though the United States, or at least where I live, has a dearth of Malaysian curry powder, namely the Adabi brand, I have made do with whatever curry powders are sold in the stores. My new favorite is the Madras Curry Powder.
I looked at the meatballs, and I looked at the curry powder. An idea began to form in my taste buds, I mean, my brain.
Why not make spaghetti and meatballs, but with a curried sauce?
If I had gotten into a hot air balloon, I doubt I would have gotten back down to earth. I felt like an undiscovered genius!
I have to admit that I had the desire to make Bakso with those meatballs. Bakso, is one of my favorite Indonesian noodle dish that is commonly sold by hawkers, stationary or mobile. I remember being ladled a bowl of steaming Bakso by a mobile hawker who ran his rounds throughout the residential area in Medan. (A Bakso recipe from Cooking with Heart & Soul.)
However, being bound by Baby’s allergies, I figured I would not be able to experience the complete coalescence of condiments required to eat Bakso, one of them being sweet soy sauce. I have to be grateful for this impediment though, for it greatly helped me to come up with what I deem my ingenious idea. Hot air, hot air. I was full of it that morning.
Driven by that gust of hot air, I proceeded to make the curry as I do any other curry.
1. Make a wet paste of minced onions, garlic, ginger, curry powder and chilli paste.
2. Heat oil, and saute the wet paste with a few whole cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick until the oil rises to the top.
3. Pour in canned coconut milk. Add water to the desired consistency, and leave to simmer.
I always used to shortchange this step, cheating the onions and spices out of releasing their flavor and aroma completely, but a few sessions with my mother in the kitchen rectified this. She emphasized that the paste needs to be cooked slowly for quite some time to release the full flavor and aroma. Henceafter, I began to notice that my curries look much ‘prettier’. I fondly term them ‘Pretty Curries’.
With the will and help of Allah, I did end up with a very presentable and delectable, if I may say so, noodle dish. Instead of dropping a frozen school of meatballs into a simmering pot of tomato-based spaghetti sauce, I plopped a frozen school of meatballs into a pot of simmering pot of curry, generously speckled with deep shades of miniscule orange blotches where the oil had separated and risen to the top. My ‘Pretty Curry’ was born, yet again.
Of course, since this was whipped up on the spur of a great moment, I didn’t get to lavish it with a wealthy and generous garnish. The only garnish I had on hand were fried shallots and some parsley. It would have looked phenomenal with a few sliced fresh green and red chillies, a few wedges of hard boiled eggs, a few quartered key limes, fried and cut up tofu, and a decorative splotch of deep red chilli sauce.
Ahh…Mee, Mee, Mee. I am a genius, am I not? No, those are not typos. Narcisissm? Err…yes, maybe a tad. Ok, triple tad.
Since I didn’t note down the measurement of the ingredients, I wonder if I can recreate this gastronomical wonder a second time around, with equally delectable results. Hmm…I might need another burst of hot air.
Links to recipes of some Mee dishes mentioned above:
Assam Laksa from Beachlover’s Kitchen
Penang Laksa from Rasa Malaysia
Mee Hailam from MamaFami’s Spice and Splendour