The origin of noodles have always been something of a contentious issue between the Chinese and the Italians. Friends might bicker about it over a plate of pasta and coffee one day and the next, continue their discussion over fish ball noodle soup and iced tea.
In 2005, 50-cm long strands of yellow noodle, supposedly the remains of the world’s oldest noodles, were unearthed in China, which gave a whole lot more weight to the Chinese argument.
Still, regardless of who eventually wins the debate, the fact remains that pulling dough into long strips and boiling them in hot water is a brilliant one. It has given us a tresure trove of Southeast Asian noodle dishes, each one different from the other with its individual tastes and ingredients.
The Noodle Queen
In Southeast Asia, many people look forward to a bowl of steaming hot noodles for breakfast every day. One of these is Lee Geok Boi, called the “Noodle Queen” by her family in Singapore. Madam Lee has prefered noodles to rice since she was young, and has made cooking and eating noodles her life art.
Her book, “Classic Asian Noodles” published by Marshall Cavendish, is packed full of old favorites from all around the Asia Pacific region, including lots of different recipes of Southeast Asian favorites - from the Vietnamese Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) and the Malaysian Mee Siam (Malay-style fried Vermicelli) to Mee Soto from Indonesia.
Long Live Noodles!
It is noodles, noodles all the way. There is even a section on how to make the different types of noodles, all popular and widely consumed. I love her recipes – they are easy to follow, concise and go straight to the point. Even her secondary recipes for soup stock, garnish and marinades are arranged in a clear fashion, allowing the novice cook to work his or her way towards creating a noodle dish, without too many pitfalls.
In addition, the illustrations in the “Classic Asian Noodles” are terrific and the presentation of the finished product is delicious enough to make any noodle lover hanker for a taste of the dishes.
This 212 page cookbook provides recipes not only from her home turf of Singapore, but also from destinations such as Laos and Cambodia and even China and Hong Kong. Madam Lee shows how complicated noodle dishes can be accomplished with a little bit of careful planning.
With this book, Madam Lee has left behind an important legacy for noodle lovers like me and many others, as some of these delicious and popular noodle dishes may become commercially extinct with the younger generation of hawkers refusing to carry on the tradition of selling and serving authentic noodle dishes. At least now, we know how to cook them at home.