I grew up within walking distance to wet markets and hawker centers. When it comes to meal times, i was always spoilt with so many choices that sometimes i find myself standing at the front of a row of stalls like a Regimental sergeant major inspecting a parade.
The tense standoff between hawkers and me began the moment i was within a 5 metre radius of their stall.
They would call out, ‘ Xiaodi, 来。 吃还是包 ? ‘( youngman, having here or take away )
My heart would start beating faster as i forced myself mentally to make up my mind where or not to order from that stall.
Now, these are stalls i grew up eating regularly. I know what their noodles, or rice, or dumplings, or carrot cake taste like. I could tell them apart if laid side by side on a blind test but every time without fail, i would be hit with this dilemma.
What to eat ?
My stress level would increase as more stall holders call out to me and the friendly they are, the more nervous i felt. When the stress eventually built up to the point where i could not longer handle it, i would quickly turn and walk away.
I would walk towards a familiar stall.
The economic bee hoon stall.
The stall where fried, greasy comfort food is displayed in all it’s glory. There is something comforting about the stacks of luncheon meat, the fried filet, the nuggets, the fishballs, the sunny side egg and the Otahs all lying side by side.
Out of a dozen varieties of side dishes to choose from, i would always go for the usual few, but i would always hesitate. I liked that feeling of being able to choose.
The uncle would grab a serving of Bee Hoon and he would look at me with a nod of his head, his tongs at the ready to grab the dish i specified in a moment’s notice.
Fried luncheon meat, fish fillet, sunny side up egg, sambal long beans.
More Sambal chilli.
Receiving the plate of food with 2 hands, 2 hands, it’s always 2 hands, i would bring it carefully to a seat of my choosing.
Preferably one away from any food stall that generates a lot of smoke.
What happens next is a ritual i have cultivated over the years. It doesn’t matter if it’s food from my regular economic bee hoon stall or one that i’m trying for the 1st time.
I would carefully separate the dishes from the bee hoon. Making sure that the chilli don’t contaminate the first mouth, i would taste the bee hoon as it is.
The first mouthful will set the expectations and mood for the rest of my meal.
Am i fucking out of my mind ?
In a stall where almost all of their side dishes are processed food, the only report card you can grade the stall on is their staple.
A good plate of bee hoon should not be too soft and soggy, the strands must be more than 10cm each.
I hate bee hoon that has been pulverized into small segments of less than 10cm. I refuse to order from stalls that keep their bee hoon in cylindrical rice warmers.
They must be fried in portions that fit into a tray about 75cm x 25cm wide and the depth of the tray should not be more than 2 inches.
As if my other works and post on this site is not disturbing enough, i’m sure this one is the final nail in the coffin for you to form your opinion of me.
James is mad.
Siao. ( crazy )
Let me explain.
You see, there are good reasons for my pickiness. It’s a dish i eat at least 3 times a week for more than 30 years of my life.
Imagine you fry a big batch of bee hoon and you dump them into a rice warmer. The heat, it’s own weight, the vapour, all of it is cluster fucking together inside that warmer waiting for the next order to come in.
If it doesn’t come in, that potent combination continues to fester like some witch’s brew in that container. The moisture and steam condenses on the underside of the cover. When it gets heavy enough, it rains back down onto the bee hoon, making it soggy like someone just sneezed on it.
How to eat ?
If the tray holding the bee hoon is too deep, the weight of the bee hoon itself would crush those at the bottom. Only those at the top are just nice.
There isn’t enough space for the steam and moisture of the bee hoon to escape. Within minutes, the bee hoon at the bottom is going to feel like the underside of my armpits after walking around a construction site in the middle of the day.
How to eat ?
If the strands are too small, it’s like eating minced bee hoon. It’s wrong.
If your chopsticks cannot pick up a mouthful of bee hoon without it dropping all over the dishes and table, that bee hoon is a goner.
I know this sounds ridiculous but good bee hoon is hard to find and when i find a stall that satisfy all my requirements, i would literally get an orgasm in my head while eating that simple meal.
I would look at the hawker with that tender loving stare to the point that if the stall is ran by a old couple, the husband would come out and ask me ;
‘ Kua Simi ? ‘ ( Stare what stare ? )
It’s my way of expressing my love and gratitude.
I know the amount of effort and skill that was put into that plate of bee hoon. From frying, plating and presentation in the stall, till it’s being dished onto my plate. It’s no longer just plain o hawker food.
It’s an art.
It’s a pity that economic bee hoon is one of the most under reviewed food by bloggers.
I don’t blame them.
It’s hard to review food when 90% of the food on display are processed in a factory before deep frying at the stall.
My pickiness on economic bee hoon affects the people around me as well with my wife being my number one hater when it comes to having this for breakfast.
Nothing makes me angrier than a plate of horrible bee hoon.
I give in on a lot of things, holidays, financials, family, the kids but the one thing i refused to budge is my plate of bee hoon and my wife knows it.
It’s the one thing that she will never argue with me about.
Nothing puts her on edge more than me trying out bee hoon from a new stall. Her expression would change.
She would grow cautious, choosing her words carefully while observing every change in my expression.
The moment she sees tell tale signs that i did not like it on the first bite, she would start to panic.
My wife will drop everything, leave the kids to their own demise, let them roll in their own pee and poo or paint their own faces with food. She will pull out all stops to try and control the situation.
Offers of sex, blowjobs and even a night of passionate love making after the kids are asleep would all be tabled as an option.
It’s no use.
Just like that 1st mouthful sets my expectation, a bad breakfast of bee hoon cast the rest of my day in stone. It’s one of those things that makes my wife really upset but there is nothing she can do.
It’s my version of PMS.
Instead of bad menustral cramps, i get a withdrawal symptom associated with eating bad bee hoon.
I won’t be able to write anything.
I can’t sustain an erection.
Everything i see becomes black and white.
I wonder if anyone else feels the same about economic bee hoon as me.
Perhaps we can start a new forum, or group, or a new political party whose sole purpose is to push for the development of better bee hoon in the country.
Enough about bee hoon.
Anyone interested to know my view towards fried noodles ?
Till my next bee hoon breakfast.