“When you move to a new country, start exploring its cuisine first. It usually tells everything you want to know”, a seasoned diplomat once advised me.
As I recently moved to Singapore, I trace its history and read its deep-rooted values in its vibrant culinary scene. Food in the Lion City tells the story of a nation, and mirrors a unique and genuine state of harmony among its different races and faiths.
What is known as street food elsewhere is called Hawker Food Centers in Singapore. Unlike being concentrated in one or two neighbourhoods, Hawker Centers are all over the capital, including the basements of fancy malls. Unexceptionally, all food stalls must acquire a license, and should meet strict sanitary standards. There you can hardly spot any trash on the floor. Tables are cleaned momentarily, regardless the large numbers of locals and tourists who are flocking to them all day.
Over the last few weeks, I ate in enough Hawker Centers— although it is never enough— to start naming a few favorites, and reproduce them in my own kitchen.
In this post and two more coming up, Chef Derik Koh, a Singaporean of Chinese decent is generously sharing with us the tips and tricks of homemaking Singaporean staple dishes.
Chef Koh graduated from SHATEC, the International School for Hotel and Tourism. He worked with the Singaporean submarine for a few years, and advanced his career in Sweden, where he was exposed to Scandinavian traditional cuisine in particular and Western cuisine in general. “It helped me broaden my repertoire, and enlarge my culinary perspective,” chef Koh notes.
Chef Koh is a third generation Chinese immigrant to Singapore. As all Singaporeans, he is extremely proud of the culinary scene in his country. His dream is that Singaporean cuisine becomes a flagship on the world culinary world.
To make this learning and cooking experience even more memorable, I invited two new friends whom I met in Singapore.
My new home’s walls are still naked and plain, and the kitchen is missing my favorite gadgets. That said, my heart is set on practically starting my new life in Singapore. So why put off good times?!
One of my two guests offered me a generous amount of Turkish coffee. Given the absence of a proper “kanaka” (traditional coffee pot), we defiantly prepared it in a tiny sauce pan . My other guest brought over a cinnamon pumpkin dessert to die for! All of a sudden, the empty, cold house was filled with laughter, and the tantalising wafting aromas of coffee and warm spices were all over the place.
In the brightly lit up kitchen stood up Chef Derik Koh in his immaculate black and white uniform, behind a marble island, where all colorful, fresh ingredients were professionally prepped and displayed. He cooked several courses including Hookien Mee, Rojack , steamed sea bass. In this post, we will focus on the Hookien Mee.
His demo was impressively clear. In sound English, he explained each esoteric ingredient, and its relevance to the dish. He was stir frying, tossing, and sizzling, while lucidly demonstrating step-by-the step the directions and all the secrets of the dish success.
Hokkien Mee: Singaporean Noodles with Sea Food
Recipe and Food Styling by Chef Derick Koh
Serves: 4 people
- 50 grams fresh cilantro, including leaves and stalks
- 3 cups water
- 8 Shrimps and 2 pieces of whole squid (head removed)
Stir Fry Noodles
- 250 Laksa white noodles (see notes)
- 250 yellow noodles
- 1 tablespoon soy bean oil or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
- shrimp stock
- 150 grams squid, sliced and blanched
- 50 grams bean sprouts
- 50 grams spring onions
- one medium scrambled egg
- 1 tablespoon Chinese wine
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Lime (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Sambal chili, store bough
- Make the stock. In a deep heavy bottom pan, put together the shrimp, water, and cilantro, including leaves and stalks. Let it come to a boil for 10 minutes. Peel the shrimps, keep the shells to add them to the stock. Simmer until the stock is reduced by half.
- Prepare the stir fry noodles. Over low heat, in a wok, add the oil. When the oil is still warm and not too hot add the garlic. Stir for one minute, then add half amount of the stock.
- Add both types of noodles, stir for one minute.
- Add the bean sprout and scallions. And continue stirring for another minute. Then add the shrimps.
- Add the scrambled egg. Follow with the wine and the fish sauce.
- Stir fry for another minute, add the remaining stock.
- Serve it hot with limes halves and Sambal chili.
- Laksa is Singaporean wheat noodles.