Curry is an interesting and ubiquitous food and its varieties or should I say permutations are just breath-taking..
Broadly speaking, in Malaysia we have Indian Curry, Malay Curry, Chinese Curry and Peranakan Curry (or Nyonya Curry).
It goes without saying that the taste and preparation of curries are different between the group but not only that as even within the group the preparation of curry are different depending on whether they originates from the Northern or Southern part of Malaysia.
Since curry are so ubiquitous and with so many varieties I will only talk about one of my favorite – the Curry Noodles or Curry Mee.
Curry mee is a versatile dish as you can eat it with curry chicken, steam slice chicken, prawns, cockles, egg-plant, lady finger, long beans, fried dried tofu, char-siew (honey roast pork) roast pork and even deep fried breaded chicken and many more.
According to wiki it seemed that Curry Mee is sort of unique to Malaysia and Singapore. How true that is is anyone guess 🙂
But I do grew up eating curry mee. My parents sold it. And during primary school I frequented the malay uncle stall selling curry mee in the school canteen. Though I don’t know it at that time, the uncle is selling a wash down kind of curry so that kids like us can enjoy it without fear of having a burnt tongue (from the spiciness!) or an upset stomach!
The ingredients (spices and such) for the curry base are quite simple, however, different household or hawkers will prepare it differently with a plus or minus of certain spices according to their experiences or preferences.
The basic ingredients would include garlic, small onions, lemon grass, cloves, star anise, belachan (shrimp paste), cinnamon, chilies, curry leaves.The same ingredients can be use to cook curry chicken or curry wild boar – it is just a matter of using the right amount and for curry wild boar you may need to add other spices as well.
To start, give the ingredients a good toss in the work until the aroma start filling the room before adding the curry paste. Do make sure there is sufficient oil and it is not overly hot otherwise you will burn the curry paste and the curry will be spoil.
The curry paste can be bought from the wet market, the supermarket or home make. And it can be in powder (dry) form or can be wet curry paste.
Cooking with dry curry powder will give you a different flavor from cooking with the wet curry paste. So you would need to experiment to know which is better for you.
And oh yes, not forgetting the coconut milk which must be divided into the first press and the second press. Some hawkers are using Carnation Milk instead of coconut milk or both together.
So, there you go, preparing curry mee soup is that simple! 🙂
However, to make a good curry mee soup it is not only about the ingredients / spices that you use. The trick is also in the sequence of the cooking, the control of the heat, the oil and the timing of frying the ingredients into the correct consistency.
The color of the curry soup is dependent on the amount of oil used and the consistency of the soup will depend on the amount of coconut milk used.
Quite often I came across curry mee that is water like and bland which means there is not enough curry paste, spices nor coconut milk in the mix.
Curry mee come in 2 type – either soup or dry with a varieties of toppings.
In Ipoh, Dry Curry Mee is prepared with black sauce, soy sauce, some oil (either garlic oil, pork oil or sesame oil) bean sprouts, slice steam chicken, siew yoke (roast pork) and sometime char siew (honey roast pork) or fried pork skin top up with mint leaves and accompanied with a small lime.
However if you try ordering the same in KL, most often than not you will receive a blank stare. 🙂
We normally have our noodle with sambal chilly sauce or birds-eye chilly. But for curry mee we will be given a small bowl of cooked chilly paste. I normally don’t want it as it is either too dry, too salty or too oily. Personally I like soy sauce to go with curry mee. A dip of soy sauce will enhance the flavor of the curry mee. If you have not tried it – do so!
In other parts of Malaysia, such as Muar and Kulim they serve a different type of dry curry mee. They have less toppings than the Ipoh dry curry mee but nevertheless as tasty.
Most of the time I prefer not to order the curry chicken with my mee as the curry chicken is most often overcooked and dried. My preference for curry mee is to add steam slice chicken and bean sprouts as it is a good combination to the flavorful curry taste.
However, the curry chicken in the picture which I had in Lunas and Muar respectively is surprisingly good, juicy and tender – a class above most of the chicken curry I had in KL.
Penang curry mee has always been out shined by its cousin the Assam Laksa and Hokkien Mee. However, Penang curry mee has its unique taste compared to the rest. Their soup is not overly thick with coconut milk and the aroma from the curry paste is strong. And what I like most about Penang curry mee is that they also serve with plenty of mint leaves (which I love! 🙂 ) always with fried pork skin, coagulated blood and small lime. (cockles is an option for me. Not really a big fan though some would swear that with cockles the curry flavor will be enhanced… well……)
And from the color of the curry soup I am sure you already know it is the famous Penang “white” curry noodle 🙂
OK. Before I wrap up and go for my curry mee – here’s a few more varieties of curry mee for your enjoyment!