Nyonya Mee Siam (Tamarind Noodles)

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Mee Siam directly translates as Siamese noodles, but really originates from the Peranakan people in Singapore and Malaysia. In Thailand (Siam), there is a similar noodle made with coconut sauce (Mee Kati) but that resembles laksa more than mee siam. Mee siam is really a dish of thin rice vermicelli drenched in a sweet, sour and spicy gravy. It is often topped with sliced tofu puffs, boiled eggs and a generous handful of chopped Chinese chives.

There is another version of mee siam which is dry, and not drenched in gravy. This dry version is made by stir-frying the thin rice vermicelli with the ingredients of the gravy.

I really like eating mee siam. It is a guilt-free dish (there is hardly any oil or fat in this, other than the oil used to fry the rempah [spice paste]) that tickles most of our taste buds (sweet, sour, salty, spicy) and it really is a simple dish to make at home.

Ingredients

  • 24 oz tamarind juice (see below, if you don’t have tamarind juice on hand)
  • 3-4 tablespoons chili paste (adjust according to your level of spicyness)
  • 4 tablespoons tau chio (fermented bean sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked, drained and pounded in a mortar
  • 5 medium shallots (or 3 large shallots), chopped
  • 1 pound bean sprounts, blanched
  • 3 bunches Chinese chives (koo chye), chopped
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 5 tofu puffs, sliced
  • 1.5 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

Ingredients for Fried Rice Vermicelli

  • 1 lb rice vermicelli, soaked, then drain before use
  • 2 tablespoons chili paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Directions
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To make tamarind juice, dissolve 1.5 cups of tamarind paste in 24 oz of boiling water.

Let the mixture cool, then strain away the seeds and non-dissolved tamarind bits. Retain the juice.

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In a heated pan, add oil and fry chili paste, chopped shallots and dried shrimp until the shallots are soft.

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Add the fried shallots, dried shrimp and chili paste into a large pot with the tamarind juice.

Add sugar, tau chio (fermented bean sauce) and bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then remove from heat.

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In a heated pan (use the pan that you fried chili paste and shallots from before), add oil, garlic and chili paste.

Fry for about 30 seconds, then add the soaked (and drained) rice vermicelli to the pan.

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Fry the rice vermicelli until the chili paste is evenly combined with the vermicelli, and the vermicelli is soft. (If needed, add 1/3 cup water).

Add bean sprouts, and fry to combine.

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To put everything together, add a handful of fried vermicelli on a plate, and ladle about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of tamarind gravy over the noodles.

Top with a few slices of tofu puffs, a boiled egg (sliced in half) and a generous pinch of chopped Chinese chives.

Serve and enjoy!

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