Recently at uni, I learnt that one's heritage language and culture is lost at a rate of roughly 30% through each generation. Realisation hit me a long time ago that it would be up to us - the younger generation to learn and preserve it for the future. I'm not referring to traditional Chinese proverbs but more of the food culture. Years ago, I used to lament how no one learnt how to make grandma's home cooked dishes so I made it a point to learn at least one when I went back earlier in the year. I did end up with more scribbled recipes that I would have imagined but haven't exactly replicated anything besides the chiffon cake which I learnt the year before. But I like to think the initiative is something I can use to draw back on in the future.
Making the kon lo (dry tossed) pan mee earlier today, it reminded me that there is still hope. The dish above reminded me of the time I ate out with my cousins by the roadside made by a group of youngsters complete with freshly made noodles and a queue to boot. I'm sure I'll be able to order pan mee at Malaysian restaurants, but I get a kick of learning how to make it myself. I've done it before (1 2 3) but I've been reluctant to share my notes because there are no proper measurements due to the
spontaneous nature old school cooking in my house.
Since eating my mum's pan mee earlier last year, I waited until she made it again so I could document it properly. There is no proper recipe but the notes below are actually way more detailed than mine which is pretty much an ingredient list. But I think it's quite flexible if you use it as a guideline and adapt to your own tastes. Just remember to:
1. Look up a proper recipe first if you are unfamiliar with cooking this
2. Taste test continuously
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Notes on my Mum's Hakka pan mee (客家板面)
Place two chicken carcasses and 0.5-1 kg pork bones in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, drain and clean the 'dirty stuff' off the carcass/bones under running cold water. Return to the stockpot with a handful of shiitake stems and fill with water. Bring to a boil. Add some fried anchovies. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer for at least 1.5 hours. Skim scum off the top occasionally. Season with salt, fish sauce (optional), a lump of rock sugar and chicken stock powder.
Fried anchovies (ikan bilis):
Wash a generous handful of dried anchovies and drain well. Deep fry in hot oil on low heat until crispy. Drain and reserve oil for later. Add 1/4 portion of the fried anchovies to the stock and drain the rest with a paper towel. Set aside for later.
Wood ear fungus:
Soak with cold water overnight or hot water if using on the day. Trim off woody ends and cut into thick strips.
Saute thinly sliced garlic cloves in reserved oil from the anchovies (flavour bomb!!). Add sliced wood ear fungus and stir fry before adding pork mince (about 100g per person). Season with white and black pepper and chicken stock powder. Finish by seasoning with soy sauce and sesame oil. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Blanch and drain leafy green vegetables of your choice. We had them with bok choy this time, but it tastes great with stir fried amaranth (yin choy) as well.
Cook fresh noodles (we like thick Shanghai noodles) according to packet instructions/"the pinch test". Drain and run under cold water to cool to prevent sticking. Maybe we'll try making the noodles next time...
To serve (soup version):
Arrange cooked noodles and toppings (vegetables, pork mince, fried anchovies, fried shallots, sliced spring onions) into a bowl and carefully ladle in hot stock.
To serve (dry tossed version):
Toss cooked noodles with oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, white pepper, garlic oil (or melted lard!) and a bit of the stock. Arrange toppings (vegetables, pork mince, fried anchovies, fried shallots, sliced spring onions) into a bowl and you're good to go.