Makansutra: Hae mee with a Malay twist
Hae mee (prawn noodles)
In our multi-cultural and deliciously colourful world of food, I can't help but notice how frequently cross-pollination of ethnic flavours occurs.
For instance, ask around about curry rice, and not a lot will mention the Indian version, but rather, the Hainanese curry rice that you find at almost every hawker centre.
It has a British-Indian influence brought here during the colonial era, and tastes nothing much like what it does in India.
Then there's the Punggol mee goreng, created in the Punggol Road seafood days, inspired by Indian mee goreng (adapted with Chinese and Muslim touches and not originally from India) but with a seafood twist.
A recent example, Deanna's Kitchen, has seen Muhamad Asri Ramli diligently offering his mother-in-law's Chinese-style recipe of halal prawn noodle soup since last month.
Their social media posts fed my curiosity. How does one tweak this Hokkien dish for our Malay friends, besides losing the porky accent?
When my upsized Prawn Noodles with Clams ($6.50) came, the first twist was obvious - the clams.
They lent an appealing sweetness to the prawn head broth and were freshly blanched upon order. I loved it, and they were generous with the clams.
The noodles were blanched a little softer than al dente, like it should be done.
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Asri revealed that he had never cooked this dish before but had prepared it like other hawkers would, except his stall was a lot cleaner than many I've seen.
The soup had a rich and nice balance of prawn shell stock and soy sauce with fried shallots.
The prawns were freshly peeled or came unshelled and the clams were sweetly fresh.
For the health-conscious, beansprouts or kangkong can also be added.
Deanna's Kitchen also offers decadent lobster ($26) and crayfish ($12.50) versions, which make for great photos on social media, a consideration for savvy new-generation hawkers.
There is nothing very Malay about this dish. The fresh fried shallots, unlike many that rely on pre-packed stuff, places high on my scorecard. The use of soy sauce and cut chilli dip is as authentic as it comes.Perhaps, if they had offered sambal on the side, as a dip or blended into the soup, this would be engagingly refreshing.