"Mee Siam" - Singapore versus Malaysia
"Mee Siam' is that wonderful Nyonya noodles dish where rice noodles are smothered with a spicy-sweet-sourish sauce, perked up with a squeeze of lime, garnished with shrimps, eggs, sprouts & tofu puffs.
I came across one of the best "Mee Siam" I'd ever had in Singapore yesterday evening - at Chinta Manis Peranakan Cafe. It had the requisite flavors I'd come to expect from a good "Mee Siam": the nutty saltiness of "taucheo" (Chinese brown bean paste), "sambal belachan" (Malay shrimp paste), lots of heat from the chillies, shallots and "buah keras" (candlenuts). The gravy is then given a pronounced sourish spike with the use of tamarind ("assam Jawa"). The art of making good "Mee Siam" aims to achieve that perfect balance of flavors from the assertive ingredients used. Chinta Manis got it down pat - with perfectly-textured "bee hoon" (fine rice noodles) & beansprouts which were par-boiled just right, then covered with the delicious gravy before being garnished with shrimps, cubes of hard tofu , hard-boiled egg, tofu puffs and fine-chopped chives. It was super-spicy, which suits the Singaporean taste perfectly.
This evening, I was fortunately to come across the best-tasting "Mee Siam" I'd ever had in Kuala Lumpur - at Wondermama in Bangsar. The "bee hoon" was also perfectly cooked, then smothered with a thick gravy replete with "taucheo". It's also very sourish from the use of either "assam Jawa" (wet tamarind paste) or "assam Gelugor" (dry-ish tamarind pieces). The gravy is much sweeter than the Singapore version - Malaysians tend to have much sweeter taste preferences compared to Singaporeans - as well as less spicy (I'd found out to my surprise that Malaysians also have much lower chilli tolerance compared to Singaporeans! Strange, but true!). The "Mee Siam' at Wondermama was garnished with delicious fried chicken nuggets, generous helpings of eggy tofu puffs, crisp "ikan bilis" (anchovies), sliced green chillies, finely-julienned cucumber and egg omelette strips. It was elaborate, but it also excluded the normal shrimp and hard-boiled egg garnishes which one would normally find in "Mee Siam" here in Kuala Lumpur (and in Singapore).
Which one do I prefer? Personally - the Chinta Manis version, but maybe it's my (Singaporean) taste: much more robust, spicier and less sweet than the Malaysian version. The Singaporean "Mee Siam" was soupier here, and had a more pronounced reddish hue from the (much) higher chilli content. But the Kuala Lumpur version trumps with its delicious fried chicken, and the very warm friendly service (Myanmar waiter here in KL, compared to the local Singaporean waitresses back in Singapore).
Ah, but the "Nyonya Laksa"? Wondermama's version (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/866922) trumps any, and I do mean ANY version I'd ever had back in Singapore (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839207).
Both eateries also offer a wide selection of Nyonya "kueh-kueh": coconut-filled crepes ("kueh dadar"), two-layered coconut-pandan custard ("kueh talam"), two-layered pandan custard-glutinous rice cake ("kueh seri muka"), multi-layered white-pink custard ("kueh lapis"), etc. Taste-wise, there's nothing much to choose from between the two eateries. It's really amazing how similar the cuisines of Singapore and Malaysia are.
11 King Albert Park
#01-04 MacDonald's House
(Off Bukit Timah Road
Tel: +65 6465 0383
G6 Ground Floor
Bangsar Village 1
Jalan Telawi 1
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2284 9821/ +603-22020886
God, those look good! I have been having incredible mee soup cravings -- dont' care what kind of mee or soup or toppings at this point! I'm hoping to get back to Singapore in January and eat all my favorites! In the meantime, I'll finally have to try out the Mee Siam recipe in my Singapore HAwker Foods cookbook bought on the sidewalk many years ago outside of Tangs. :)
Keep up the good work!
It's important for us Chowhounds to finding good, often new & undiscovered, off-the-beaten-track eating places & share that with fellow foodies. Since last year, I'd trawled Bangsar and try to look for food I can write about. So far, have tried Chawan, Alexis, Canoodling, Ricetaurant, Plan B, Ben's, the stalls at Rocky, etc. Personally, I'm not into chains and standardized, mass-produced products. I like places where the food purveyors put passion into their cooking.