There is nothing quite like a regular fix of mum's cooking to make my tum feel all warm and satisfied. On my Tuesday night dinner visits, she indulges me with all my favourites - itek dim (ducked soup with salted vegetables), prawn sambal, sweet potato leaves stir-fried with chilli, babi assam (pork stewed in a dark tamarind sauce)...the list, no doubt, goes on.
Last night, she served up yet another favourite of mine - mee siam. I've been meaning to learn how to make it for the longest time, but I always manage to find an excuse not to. You see, like many Asian dishes, mee siam is a rather painstaking process, which involves peeling more than 40 shallots, grinding it with a bagful of chillies, making the rempah (spice paste), soaking the noodles, frying the noodles and tofu in the rempah (separately), chopping chives, boiling eggs, peeling and boiling a heap of prawns, plucking the stems off bean sprouts...you get the picture.
But I figured it was high time I learned and so I got mum to take me through it step by step. Now it all sounds easy enough - watching someone cook and asking the right questions. But it is the responses of your teacher that have everything to do with how well you fare.
Me: How many onions do you use, mum?
Mum: Three dollars worth
Me: How many chillies?
Mum: Forty cents
Me: How much water and tamarind?
Mum: Oh, about this much (she picks up a handful of tamarind and a small tub of water)
As you can see, measurements are not quite my mother's thing. So unless I go to the very same market stall from which she buys her onions and her chillies (come to think of it, I could have just sat there and counted them, couldn't I?), or grab that handful of tamarind and insist she drop it onto the weighing scale, I'm afraid, it's going to be a case of trial and error for me.
Mercifully, mum's still around to make it for me. So until I finally do it on my own AND get it right, I am unable to post a proper recipe (okay, my mum's recipe). So for now, I'm afraid the picture above will have to do.