People often ask me what’s the first thing I have to eat when I step off the plane in Singapore.
It’s impossible to say because the answer really is, everything.
Right up there, though, is mee pok ta (also known as ta mee pok), a dish comprising al dente tagliatelle-like egg noodles tossed in a spicy aioli together with fishballs, sliced fishcakes, minced pork and crispy cubes of fried pork lard.
The dish has special meaning for me — in Singapore, my father and I love nothing more than to get in the car first thing in the morning and drive over to our favorite mee pok place nearby for breakfast. There, as each fiery bite of noodles sinks in, we’ll slowly wake up.
So when my international Let’s Lunch group of bloggers suggested posting a Father’s Day-inspired dish for June, mee pok came to mind. I had never attempted to make it before — it’s so inexpensive (about U.S. $1.50 or $2 a bowl) and easily found in Singapore, no one needs to bother.
In New York City, however, it’s an entirely different matter. So with a bag of fresh noodles from New York Chinatown in hand, I decided to give it my best shot …
The process was fairly straightforward — and I’m going to explain it here instead of in a nicely written recipe because I’m currently at an artists colony, scribbling up this post during a short lunch break.
In the spirit of my Singaporean aunties’ “agak-agak” (or “guess-guess”) method of conveying recipes, however, here goes:
First, I marinated a pound of ground pork in white pepper, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, a little fermented bean paste and Chinese black vinegar. You want the pork combination to smell a little sour — the black vinegar scent should really come through. (If you want to see if the taste is there, too, you could do what my grandmother does — press your finger into the ground pork mixture and taste it.) Let that mixture sit in the fridge at least two hours or overnight.
Then, you slice up some fishcakes and set that aside.
When you’re ready to start cooking, heat up a combination of sesame oil and a little corn or vegetable oil in a wok, toss in minced garlic (lots of it), some finely chopped shallots (about a quarter cup) and stir fry until fragrant. Then add the ground pork mixture, cooking until it’s almost done. At that point, add in the sliced fishcakes (and fishballs, if using) and stir fry until the fish cakes and balls are warmed up.
Next, cook the noodles according to packaging — err on the side of it being less done. You want these noodles to be very firm.
Then, heat up about a half cup of chicken or vegetable broth in a small saucepan with dashes of black vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, white pepper and a sizable glob of sambal. Once that is well mixed and heated through, toss it together with the noodles (adding more dashes of black vinegar to taste) and ground pork mixture. Serve immediately.
How did it taste?
Nothing like the original, alas. (Not that I expected it to, especially once I decided to leave out the delicious chunks of deep-fried lard.) But I won’t be heading back to Singapore for some months yet — so there’s still time for perfection.
In the meantime, happy father’s day, Dodo — and bon appetit to all dads out there…
Don’t forget to check out the Let’s Lunchers’ Father’s Day dishes below! And if you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.
Aleana‘s Homemade Scottish Oatcakes at Eat My Blog
Charissa‘s Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks & Uncle Andy’s Chimichurri Sauce at Zest Bakery
Eleanor‘s Salmon Bok Choy Soup at Wok Star
Emma‘s Ham and Rice at Dreaming of Pots & Pans
Jill‘s Root Beer-Glazed Onion Dip at Eating My Words
Grace‘s Taste of Diversity at HapaMama
Karen‘s Klondike Bars at GeoFooding
Linda‘s Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings at Spice Box Travels
Lisa‘s Hot Sugary Lip-Smacking Jam Donuts at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s Granddaddy’s Skillet Fried-Corn with Bacon at A Cook and Her Books
Patricia‘s Egg Candy at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Rashda‘s Beth Howard’s Apple Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Rebecca‘s Harry Cohen’s Matzo Brei at Grongar Blog
Sonja‘s Spicy Smoked Paprika Lamb Shank Goulash at Foodnutzz