Mi Goreng Base
Thursday, 23 Mar 2017

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Once I read a criticism of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks - I forget if it was a ‘real’ article or one of those disgruntled Guardian comments, probably the latter - that said she was deliberately advancing the cause of thoughtless grocery consumerism by encouraging people to buy packets of non-recyclable-plastic-wrapped stuff from supermarkets. Like most people on the edges of income, when saving money matters but you still have enough leeway to decide between fairtrade and Tesco Value, I constantly vacillate between right-on consumption (local! indie! carbon footprint! direct-from-producer coffee!) and prepackaged convenience (does any of it really matter when we have Hinkley; is conscious consumerism a lie?). However I must admit I regularly buy those bags of prepared stir-fry veg and fresh egg noodles from supermarkets.

Most days it makes more sense to me than buying individual vegetables which I would then only use half or a quarter of, leaving the rest to reside in my fridge, principally because my fridge is very small, and is mostly occupied by jars of jam and pickles and bits of cheese and so on, and bags of my more staple vegetables like spinach (for smoothies) and tomatoes (for everything else). Let’s be honest, a whole head of cabbage takes up a lot of room.

Then there are the other vegetables you’d want in a stirfry, like bean sprouts which barely last a day, and water chestnuts and edamame, which for most people, respectively come in a can and in frozen form anyway. Justification aside, there’s another very important reason I buy these bags: most days I’d like to eat a variety of vegetables but can’t face the prep. Even with a food processor. Occasionally I’ve even considered those bags of frozen diced onions but never went through with it because it’ll take up valuable freezer space, which I need for my bananas.

I know I’m not alone, because if I go down to my neighbourhood Sainsburys Local around 6pm (today I went around 5), there will be no more fresh egg noodles and my choice of stirfry veg will be strictly limited. The truth is many of us are buying bags of veg of dubious ethical origin in plastic packaging from supermarkets, motivated by dinner rather than desiring to prop up industrial agriculture (although the lack of intent doesn’t make it innocent or ideal, but still). So here is a recipe for an alternate mee goreng inspired sauce, made principally using Things In Bottles, to vary these bag-sourced meals.

Mee goreng means fried noodles and various forms exist, and though I had my favourite noodle places, it’s fairly ubiquitous and I never really thought about it when I lived in Singapore. My mother’s version involves dumping allium-type veg and soy sauce in a blender to make a paste, others involve stock, oyster sauce, etc. etc. but at heart they’re mostly the same: onions/shallots and/or garlic, maybe with ginger, definitely soy sauce of some kind and then the modifiers that make each recipe unique, eg. sesame oil, or chicken stock, or various other sauces.

The version I finally settled on uses one large onion (or two small, or two echalion type shallots) and garlic, and two tablespoons of ground chilli, ketchup, Maggi chilli sauce, dark soy sauce, kicap manis (I use Habhal’s Malaysian version my mother does rather than the Indonesian version, if you’re in London I got it in New Loon Moon in Chinatown for considerably less than Amazon). The two tablespoons thing was mostly for ease of remembering and repetition - but the amount works very well for a noodle stirfry for two. It has the thick, ketchupy quality that an authentic storebought mee goreng does, and which is lacking in many fried noodles recipes. This you simply add to your noodles, veg and protein of choice. I like to add two eggs at the end for soft scrambled egg-curds coating noodle strands. Variations include adding a pinch of curry powder for spice, peas, a fried egg instead of scrambled with, zoodles as a substitute, the inclusion of chunks of fried potatoes, the classic accompaniment of sliced cucumber with a blob of ketchup on the side - this is a truly open-ended everyday food.

Base recipe for your mee goreng stir fry

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 2 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp kicap manis
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • ground chilli to taste (I used 2 tbsp)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • fresh or rehydrated noodles for 2 people
  • mixed stirfry veg for 2 people
  • protein
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • oil
  • pepper
Method

Peel and dice the onion and garlic.

Mix the chilli sauce, kicap manis, dark soy sauce, ketchup, ground chilli and a dash of pepper in a little bowl.

Scramble the eggs in another little bowl.

Heat some oil in a pan.

First saute the onion until soft, then the garlic until golden, then your protein until cooked, veg for about 4 to 5 minutes, noodles for about a minute, eggs for another minute, toss with sauce to coat.

You're done!


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