Mee Rebus please, I said, pretending to be confident.
No more. Mee Siam. Ok?
Ok? I am supposed to answer. No. Not ok. This is not what I planned.
But wait. I was hesitating between both.
I actually liked better Mee Siam until I read somewhere that Mee Rebus had less calories. First I feared Mee Rebus more because I read that the gravy is made of potato and chili.
Yes, Mee Siam please.
She starts preparing. I observe the stall. It is small. It is simple. There are lots of those weird fried Malay stuff that I never try and that they love.
My daydreaming continues until I see how she picks one. And puts it into the bowl. My bowl?
Sorry, what is this?, I ask, anxious.
Potato. Do you know what it is?, she replies calmly.
Yes., I say with a sharp tone.
Do you like it?
No, I respond.
She removes it from the bowl.
I still don’t know how my face looked like then. Probably disengaged because she hesitated. And tried again
Have you tried it?, she continues. Sweet potato. Do you want it? I can give you. You will like it.
I am stucked. Please body, express yourself! Silence.
Ok. I can’t believe I just said that.
Good, she smiles. My kids like it. You will too.
I try to smile. I faint happiness.
Thank you, I finally utter.
I could only affirmatively respond at that point.
Do you know how to eat it?, she continued.
I think so… yes.
I pay and leave.
That was real food experience. And it felt… weird. And uncomfortable.
I am glad I accepted the chili because it was the most complex chili I have ever tried. It was full of ingredients. Spicy first. Then sweet as many foods here. But then came a more deeper, thicker flavor and texture. Fermented. Smashed tempeh!
Now that terrifying totally unplanned greasy ball of sweet potato.
I am curious. I am panicking.
I touch it. It is soft.
I approach it to my mouth. Sweet, as many of the foods in Singapore, and acidic, from the lime juice I poured on it.
I don’t love how it tastes. But I do love how it feels. Melting slowly in my mouth, warming my heart.
Next, the egg. Hard. Ok never mind I can leave it there. I am eating the potato instead.
I never liked egg yolks. Their soggy while dry texture. I used to get rid of them and thrown them away.
One day it was not hard enough to discard it following to my rules and I it gave me hard time separating it. I ate it. I learned that I don’t dislike the taste and I found out that smashing egg yolks into soups make them more yummy and enraged my eating disorder.
How beautiful it was today to see the red chili merging with the yellow yolk. My bowl became a symphony of colours, I played to be Pollock with the little pieces of yolk. The adrenaline or a rebellious act filled me.
I was escaping the rules. My own rules of restriction.
It felt long. It felt tough. It was scaring.
I am scared. I feel full. I feel sick.
My eating disorder is listing all the carbs I just got.
What about the calories? No way to count.
This Mee Siam was unique and full of surprises. It was sweet, spicy and tangy as usual. Also much richer than the typical one. It had a kick that forced me to jump in the void.
When I thought I knew all of it, and felt safe, I found out that there were thin noodles hiding, as thin threads bringing me back to the present. Then came the chewy yellow ones, to play with in my mouth. Then sneaks a lime seed, with its kick to start again.
I can’t measure or know what it is inside. I can’t count, but to rely on my instinct and on on the woman that prepared them for me.
Mee Siam or “Siamese noodles” is a popular Malay dish, inspired or adapted from Thai flavours. The gravy is made from a rempah spice paste, tamarind and taucheo (salted soy bean). Mee Siam is typically garnished with shredded omelette, scallions, bean sprouts, garlic chives, and lime wedges.
That is the Mee Siam I knew. Today it was much richer than that. Topped with the sinful sweet potato fritter.
Eating this meal is a letting go.
This woman put her own story and wisdom in it. She offered me part of her culture and heritage.
She opened to me the doors of her heart. I got to know her. I know she is generous, as she offered me that potato ball. I know she is caring, as when she explained me how it is better to eat them. I know she is humble in her little stall.
I also got to know me. As a little child again. This was a gift.
I will come and visit her tomorrow again. I will seek that food experience, and that nourishing smile.
“What is say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”