Terry Wong, an Anglican pastor and an avid home cook, lost his mother in 2007. He started a cooking blog, the Food Canon, shortly after to share her Nonya recipes with his friends. The blog ended up reaching a far larger audience and leading to the publication of Wong’s debut cookbook, Mum's Classics Revived: Inspiring Home Cooks. In this book, Wong shared with the world a solid, smartly curated collection of recipes from both the recipe book that belonged to his mother, a former Malaysian and Singaporean street-food chef, and the memories of his palate. Cook along with this book and soon you’ll find yourself being able to master the home-style classics, well loved by Malaysians and Singaporeans. If you’re looking for a place to start, we recommend this classic Malay noodle soup, Mee Rebus.
Mee Rebus is a Malay dish, where yellow wheat noodles are eaten in a thick, potato-based broth along with condiments. My mum’s version has its origin from the small town of Teluk Intan in West Malaysia, where it is served with prawn fritters and cuttlefish sambal. She learned this dish from her close friend and companion chef.
I have never tasted a plate of Mee Rebus as good as Mum’s. The flavors, the balance, and the different textures come together magically. Her recipe here is spot on. When I first made it, eating it was going down memory lane. We have Mum to thank for that.
Mum’s recipe uses dried anchovies (ikan bilis) rather than dried shrimp (ha mai or hae bee), resulting in a broth which does not have the sharper taste of dried shrimp. Crunchy fresh green chilies, bean sprouts and Chinese parsley (editor: you can use cilantro) finish the dish very well.
- 3 kg (6.6 lb) thick yellow noodles
- 1 ½ kg (3.3 lb) bean sprouts
- 2 kg (4.4 lb) yellow potato
Ikan bilis broth
- 500 g (1.1 lbs) dried anchovies (ikan bilis), heads off and bodies rinsed
- 6 litres (1.5 gal) water
- 30 dried chillies, soaked in hot water (alternatively use chilli paste)
- 5 candlenuts (buah keras)
- 20 shallots
- 6 lemongrass bulbs
- 1 teaspoon chopped turmeric
- 240 ml (1 cup) cooking oil
- 500 g (17.5 oz) tomato sauce
- 200g (7 oz) peanuts, skinned
Flavoring for soup
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 chicken stock cubes
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 400 g (14 oz) tamarind pulp (assam) mixed with enough water to form a liquid paste
- 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
- 2 cuttlefish
- 20 shallots or red onions, sliced
- 240 ml (1 cup) chilli paste
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons spice paste
- 1 cup crushed roasted peanuts
See page 213
- 2 pieces extra-firm tofu (tau korn)
- 12 eggs, hard-boiled
- 1 bunch Chinese parsley
- 10 green chillies
- 10 limes, halved
Preparing the ikan bilis broth
Fill the stock pot with the water. Add the ikan bilis and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the broth.
Preparing the spice paste
Grind or blend the spices and herbs finely to make the rempah (spice paste).
Heat up the oil in a wok. Add the rempah and tomato sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the rempah for the cuttlefish and add the rest to the pot of anchovy broth.
Grind the peanuts finely and add it to the broth.
Preparing the potatoes
Peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes.
Add them to the broth and simmer till the potato cubes are soft.
Use a stick blender to puree the potatoes in the broth. Alternatively, cook the potatoes in some water till soft and use a blender to puree it before adding it to the broth.
Flavoring the soup
This final phase of finishing off the flavors of the soup requires you to taste and adjust according to what you like. Use the amounts of flavouring given as a rough guide. The soup should be sweet with a salty and sour undertone. Adding cornflour will thicken the soup but bear in mind that as you simmer the soup, it will thicken.
Preparing the sambal cuttlefish
Slice the cuttlefish into bite-size pieces. Heat up some water in a wok or pot and, when boiling, blanch the cuttlefish for 20-30 seconds.
Heat up the oil in a wok and fry the sliced shallots, the reserved rempah, and chilli paste for 15 minutes. Add the crushed roasted peanuts, sugar, and salt.
Turn off the fire and add the cuttlefish. Stir to mix. If you overcook the cuttlefish, they will harden.
Preparing the Prawn Fritters
See page 213.
Preparing the garnishes
Slice the extra-firm tofu into thin slices.
Cut the green chillies into rounds for the crunch and and heat.
Chop up some Chinese parsley. Don’t confuse this with coriander leaves, which are shorter. Chinese parsley go really well with this dish.
Peel and halve the hard-boiled eggs.
Serving the Mee Rebus
Prepare the Mee Rebus plate by plate.
Blanch one portion of noodles and a generous amount of bean sprouts in a pot of boiling water.
Plate the noodles and bean sprouts and pour on the hot broth to cover half of the noodles.
Top it with the Prawn Fritters, Cuttlefish Sambal, eggs, sliced green chillies, Chinese parsley, and tau korn. Serve immediately.
- The prawn fritters which Wong has suggested you serve this dish with can be found in the book on page 213.
- Any thick, round Chinese-style noodles can be used in this recipe. If you use the dried variety, cook them first according to package instructions.