It all started when we discovered our diabetic mother snacking on instant noodles while we were not around. It dawned on me that we could have been a tad too controlling over her food intake. While it is necessary to make sure that she sticks to low glycemic index food groups, this often means that she will be deprived of her usual hawker favourites and have to be content with my vegetarian sister’s cooking which to me, always seem to taste of vinegar and ginger – irregardless of the dish she may be cooking. I personally shun her cooking and if I have the time to cook for my mum, would not hesitate to load up a broth with anchovies for that umami flavour.
While she used to love eating dried wonton or fish ball noodles (tah mee) , she should basically stay away from these noodle dishes. Thanks to the growing demand for organic and healthy food, we are now able to find brown rice vermicelli and mee sua(thin salted Chinese noodle made from wheat flour) but the texture of these still differ significantly from the traditional wonton noodles or Mee Pok. So when I came across a Tah Mee recipe in Wee Eng Hwa’s encyclopedic ‘Cooking For The President’, I knew I have to cook this for my mum. While I knew I can make my own wholemeal mee pok by tweaking a good pasta recipe, a good sauce is what would deliver an authentic Tah Mee experience.
In the heart of a good Tah Mee has to be an outstanding chili sauce and this one…. is to die for.
Made up of a mixture of aromatics, spices and dried shrimps, this chili sauce is so good that I can polish off a bowl of steamed rice with it alone. For those who would try to make this, make a big batch because your whole house will be smoked through with the odour of the spices irregardless of the portion size you are preparing. Another word of caution is to fry the ingredients over low heat and exercise patience. I burnt my first lot with an over zealous flame and the bitterness from the burnt sauce rendered it totally unpalatable.
With the first component of the Tah Mee completed, look out for the next installment of home made wholemeal Mee Pok!
- 15g Dried red chilies, softened in hot water
- 50g Large red chilies
- 60g Garlic
- 160g Small red onions (shallots)
- 60g Dried shrimps, soaked and drained
- 240ml Oil
- Ground dried shrimps finely and dry fry in a wok(no oil) until semi dry. Set aside.
- Cut the vegetables into small pieces and in the following order, grind them together to form a fine paste – dried chilies, large red chilies, garlic, onions. (always add in the wettest ingredient i.e. the onions here last)
- Fry (2) in a wok with the 240ml oil over medium or low heat until reddish brown and aromatic. Add the dried shrimps from (1) and fry until deep reddish brown and intensely aromatic. Add ¾ tsp salt (or to taste). Cool and store in an air tight jar in the refrigerator.