This is not the mee siam I’m used to. The version that I love, nurtured over many years in sweaty school canteens, is sweet, tangy, with a watery gravy, and measly slices of egg with – if you’re lucky – more yolk than white. So it was a little startling when I ordered my favourite Malay beehoon dish at Hooked On Heads restaurant in Sin Ming Plaza. It arrived looking like a bowl of curry, with thick, orangey gravy, three small shrimp, a dollop of delicious sambal, and – check this out – a whole hard-boiled egg.
At first slurp, it was wonderfully tangy but offering none of its sweetness I was expecting. Instead, its gravy was almost nutty with hints of curry. My instinct was to push the bowl away and retreat to the nearest hawker centre for something more familiar. But after a few more spoonsfuls, I thought: “I could get used to this.” And before I knew it, I had polished off the entire bowl. It turned out that this is a Peranakan version of mee siam, which explained its richer, more complex taste.
At $3.80 per bowl, it is one of the cheapest items on the menu of this newly opened restaurant. Specialising in spicy local fare, highlights include fish head curry (from $18), curry chicken ($5.80), black pepper beef ($8), sayur lodeh ($5) and barbecue stingray ($10). The signature dish, fish head curry, was beautifully done. It arrived in a big claypot with succulent fish submerged in a delicious simmering sauce.
Owner Thomas Leow, 46, said the recipe for mee siam, as well as the other main dishes, were family secrets passed down from his mother. The rempah (Malay for punded spices) for mee siam is made from at least 10 ingredients and slow-cooked for two hours. Its components include peanuts and sesame seeds, which are ground into a fine paste, as well as evaporated milk and coconut milk. Mr Leow, a former life insurance agent, ran an outdoor catering business for 12 years and decided to open a restaurant last year. To make sure that the recipes are not leaked to outsiders, he roped in his brother Tony, a 39-year-old trained chef, as head cook.
Intent to make this an affordable, family-friendly restaurant, Mr Leow has introduced a slew of promotions. From Feb 15, he offers a $19.80 set meal for two to four people, which comprises fish head curry, a vegetable dish, a bean curd or omelette item and rice. This is good value considering that the dishes’ combined prices is $34. There is also personal set lunches at $4.80 or $5.80.
Click Hooked On Heads Menu to see their complete menu.