Strictly: Stir-Fry

Before I begin with this post, an apology. I am so far behind in my blogging that I am ashamed to admit it to myself. Until I logged on to write this post I did not realise how far behind. A couple of weeks, maybe, I thought, all full of myself. Oh no my friend, I am one whole month behind, and the backlog of things I have to write is a little scary, so I apologise for the long radio silence that will now be followed by a slew of updates that will probably bore the pants off you by the last one. I’ll try and space them a little bit, I promise.

To begin this maniacal catching up, a post about something that I did almost a month ago (I apologise in advance if my memory about it is a little rusty). At the end of March I decided to take the plunge and do one of the things I promised myself I would when I moved to Asia, I booked onto a cookery class. I really wanted to do a whole course but I can’t seem to find any, so I instead settled for a class that comes highly recommended on the pinnacle of class that is TripAdvisor. Now, sometimes TripAdvisor is a bit naff with its recommendations, mainly because people will moan about anything, no matter how small and pointless, just for the satisfaction of being able to moan. However, Cookery Magic, located out in the East of Singapore, is not one of those things. There are a variety of classes, run every day of the week, by Ruqxana, the owner and cookery extraordinaire of Cookery Magic. She’s one of those cooks who completely convince you that something which is really, horribly, extremely difficult and fiddly is the easiest thing in the world to do. Therefore, I’m slightly doubtful that I’ll be able to recreate the dishes I made in the class at home, but when I get half the chance I’ll definitely give it a good crack. Cookery Magic offer a dizzying variety of classes to choose from, in all sorts of cuisines, from classic Asian, to Western, to fusion cuisines, I honestly believe you could never get bored attending their classes. Because I want to learn how to cook some Singaporean dishes I opted for a Local Noodles class. The three local noodles I cooked (and ate, man, was I full for the rest of the day) were Mee Rebus, Fried Bee Hoon and Fried Mee Suah. I will now try and remember the cooking process. Wish me luck.

1) Mee Rebus

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Maybe it coloured my view because Mee Rebus was first, but this was by far my dish of the day. When I first saw the recipe for Mee Rebus I could not fathom how I’d manage to put the slew of ingredients needed together in the right way to actually make an edible, and presentable, dish (and yes, the photo above is the meal I made, swanky, right?!). Because of who I am as a person (and because I got lost) I was late to the class, and this meant that I was paired with Ruqxana, the lovely but slightly scary cookery teacher. This meant that I was both under a lot of pressure to demonstrate what she was describing to the group, and also that I probably had an unfair advantage over everyone else, in that her input made my dishes a lot better than they would have been otherwise. And I am very proud to say that she commended my Mee Rebus sauce as being the best in the class. I am definitely a natural Nigella. This dish itself is noodles with various dressings and a prawn stock based sauce, made with prawns, chicken, garlic, onions, tomatoes, various other things I can’t remember, something that’s like ginger but apparently better, and a lot of dried chillies. And when I say a lot I am in no way over-exaggerating. The above picture is probably 85% chilli. Making this dish was the first time in my life I’ve got to properly use a mortar and pestle (and to my shame I needed help, turns out I’m not the strong man I thought I was) and it’s also when I discovered that something other than onions can make me weep, uncontrollably, in facial agony. My trials and tribulations aside, I thoroughly enjoyed making (and of course eating) Mee Rebus, and I don’t think I was half bad at it.

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2) Fried Bee Hoon

Now, it probably seems weird that I’m not bothering to actually share the recipes or cooking techniques with you, but my opinion is that, if you really want to know, you’ll just google it, and by keeping this information to myself when I (maybe) cook these dishes for some of you they’ll blow your minds and you’ll pronounce me as the next Delia Smith (without the alcoholism and football club ownership). The second dish I cooked (and, again, ate) was Fried Bee Hoon. Ruqxana told us that this is one of Singapore’s national dishes, can include pretty much any meat and/ or vegetables (leftover or otherwise) and is the closest we’ll get on this side of the world to English style Singapore noodles (which are my favourite Chinese takeaway item, next to crispy chilli beef, but I digress).

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Compared to the grinding and frying and simmering and what-not of the Mee Rebus, Bee Hoon was a relative walk in the park, all it really requires is for you to stir fry some spices, add your ingredients and garnish to your hearts content. I still think I did a pretty stellar job of it (and anyone who knows me knows that I can be pretty bad at stir-frying).

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3) Fried Mee Suah

Weirdly, this is the dish I remember least about. Perhaps because my mind (and my stomach) had, by this point, been overloaded with food, or maybe because, 2 full meals down, I was basically in a walking food coma, a lot of what I did and learnt while cooking Fried Mee Suah has gone. There are, however, 2 very important things I remember. One is that it is horribly difficult to fry dried noodles. I can’t remember why we had to fry them, I think that it’s not necessary but adds to the flavour or something, but after frying (in a lot of oil, for roughly 7.5 seconds) you have to somehow transfer them to a dish, minus the ocean of oil they were cooked in, and very quickly stick them in boiling water to cook. It was so complicated and stressful it’s probably why I’ve blocked out the rest of the cooking process (and, I imagine, why I forgot to fry my beansprouts which, apparently, you’re meant to do). The second thing I learned is that, in Singaporean home cooking, you can never have too much salt. The trick, apparently, is to add a generous helping of salt to the frying pan before the oil and then, if in doubt about flavour, keep adding more. Apparently the Singaporean chef’s motto is ‘cholesterol and high blood pressure be damned’. To be fair, it did all taste immense, and I imagine a lot of that was down to the gallons of salt I ingested. When you get over the difficulty of the early cooking process Mee Suah is noodles and beansprouts fried with prawns, green vegetables and a clear stock. It was the mildest of the three dishes, which was not a bad thing by this point, and tasted just as good, even if I was the size of a house by the time I’d finished.

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I learned a lot from my day of cookery, including the important lesson that it is possible for one normal sized human to eat 3 lunches consecutively and not die in the process. I also discovered that I can cook moderately well outside of my normal culinary tripartite – pad thai, one-pot curry, minced based dinners. Cookery Magic host their classes in what is essentially someones kitchen, and this personal touch (along with the small class size and hands-on attitude) made for a really enjoyable and educational morning. Now I just need to decide what class to do next.

Leah Out X

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