Lor Mee is probably the strangest dish of Singapore cuisine I have tried. Lor Mee stands for Braised Noodles. I is most simply described as yellow noodles in corn starch-thickened dark gravy, but of course there’s more to the dish than that.
It had never attracted me. That dark gluing soup with huge pieces of oily fish drowning into it. It had all things needed to make it repellent and scary.
One day I read about an old stall selling Lor Mee. The way the journalist told about it made me salivate and I decided to go for it. I would have no snacks that day to balance.
I went there and I loved it but could never repeat the experience again.
Every bite of fish was a reminder of how guilty I should be. Every noodle was wrapping me in disgust. I finished all traces of thick gravy to which I was becoming addicted and felt a “fat”, my most dread feeling. I looked down, disappointed of myself, to the empty shiny bowl.
Today I walked into the foodcourt after a morning of reminding myself the promise I did yesterday to go back to visit the smiling Malay cook and order Mee Rebus.
As I passed the tables I realized that today many people were eating soma dark soup… Lor Mee! I felt so attracted.
I had a meltdown. I had to close my eyes to avoid real envy of this people.
All of them greedy porks slurping on it, their heads bent as close as possible to the bowl. I was Chihiro escaping from the strange gluttonous creatures in a world she never asked for.
(I am really sorry, I have nothing against those people but I am writing what my hangry eating disorder voice tells me more often than any of you can imagine).
I continued my way to Mee Rebus and… she was not there. I thought of my new resolutions and energically walked to the Lor Mee stall, leaving my body to lead me before my mind could react.
I carefully looked to today’s cook, again in a really humble kitchen. First warning, this Lor Mee had more ingredients than usually, it had whole pieces of roasted meat.
Ha! How stupid you are my poor L. Look there. “Lor Mee to fill you” says the sign, right there, next to the culinary award diploma. You fat cow.
(Sorry for the disruption again, at least this time the hangry insults were for me).
The gravy poured over the bowl of pasta is was almost ‘gloppy’ — but when it hits the noodles it got to a perfect consistency, not too heavy but thick enough to really coat and cling to the pasta.
All was covered by generous serving of fried fish, braised chicken, and a marinated tea egg. Of course, with bean sprouts and parsley to add freshness to it, topped by a bountiful drizzle of black vinegar, chilli and minced garlic.
The gravy. It was a mystery that kept me intrigued before and after each spoon. It was robustly meaty with an intriguing hint of star anise and cinammon, and a final punch of sour vinegary garlic and a pinch of spicy. It had a shiny surface were I could even imagine a candid smile reflected.
Tea Egg. Remembered what I said yesterday about smashing egg yolk in soup. In this one, it gets trapped in the thick gravy, and when you get a piece of it, it released the savory and salty unique taste.
The fried fish. Today it was skilfully fried because after a while, as I continued eating, each piece of fish was still magically crunchy, I could hear it, but the skin was gradually more garlicky and vinegary, so that my last bite of Lor Mee was a delight of fried fish skin containing all other flavors from the bowl in a condensed crispy bite.
Pescetarian then. Am I?
My mind is. I want to be. I need a tag. I need a food tribe to identify with. I need restriction. I need limits. I need control.
But my body wasn’t. My body remembers how I used to like all those things and from time to time still begs for it. I definitely doesn’t let me throw them away once they are in the dish.
Chicken skin. It would have been a crime to remove that skin, as it also contained part of the essence of the dish. The braised chicken was dark, as a result of a long process of marination in dark soy sauce and Chinese 5 spices. It is another element of the magical process of cooking with wisdom, experience, devotion and love.
Considering all the adventure of having a bowl of Lor Mee… It is worth to deprive myself of it?
How can I enjoy eating if I do not allow myself to do? Eating with the mind is eating half of the dish. How can the brain taste what is good? Eating has to become a discovery to my five senses. It must be a complete experience to my body coupled to the mind, so that the whole is mindful enough to remember it.
I have been training this in the last week. I understanding why I am so scared of eating. I was not eating. I was feeding. Thus the feeling of “fat cow”, “fat pork”.
But I am not an animal. I am lucky to be free to have choices of what I want to eat, to have a body awakening to its needs, a mind aware of it, so that I discover what I prefer and makes me happy.
Today I definitely had a comforting meal of real food. And I liked it.
As I write this, the journey continues…
You are killing yourself, it whispers with a tone of mockery.
I am choosing to live, I reply.
You are a fool, it shouts desperately.
No, I am just full, I answer.
The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”