In “One Good Meal”, we ask cooking-inclined creative people to share the story behind a favourite dish they actually make and eat at home on a regular basis — and not just when they’re trying to impress.
Tinoq Russell Goh and Dylan Chan’s two-room flat is an embodiment of their eclectic being. Located in the sloped HDB neighbourhood of Bukit Ho Swee, the celebrity makeup artist-hairstylist duo’s home is a sanguine enclave of paraphernalia where diverging colours and prints clash in a tumble. In their self-renovated living room, cyan florals and leafy prints drape the walls, where at one corner, about two dozen paper lanterns are clustered just above folded kimono fabrics and antique plates. A shelf on the other side exhibits porcelain knick-knacks, a Buddha head, a curlicue light that flickers “Good Vibes Only” in neon pink.
At least one evening a week, the pocket-sized space hosts the partners’ private dining guests. One banquet table, seating about 10 on old-school Chinese restaurant chairs, will be set up in the middle, laden with enamel bowls of Goh’s home-cooked dishes.
“I miss the kampong [village] spirit,” says Goh, who is of Indian-Chinese descent and cooks his Peranakan-inflected recipes for his Tinoq Private Dining clientele. “I grew up in a Pasir Panjang kampong to the side of the now-defunct Starlight cinema. There were a lot of pushcarts around in the ’70s. Everybody sold their specials: Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, Peranakan — people from around the world were my neighbours.”
Goh, preparing his signature kampong-style mee siam in his compact kitchen.
As a curious and constantly hungry child, Goh frequented the kitchens of his neighbours, learning how to cook diverse dishes by watching and helping the “bibiks, nyonyas, makciks” cook massive portions to share with as many people as they could possibly invite in. “Back then, people really mean it when they ask, “Sudah makan?” [“Have you eaten?”],” Goh chuckles. “So now my philosophy is, whether you’re a friend or a client, if you enter my house, I make sure you’re fed well.”
Fondly, Goh recalls the mee siam — a Thai-inspired Peranakan noodle dish — as a particular childhood favourite. “They’d take a banana leaf, make it into a cone, heap the dry mee siam in — the gravy is a little sour — and put the toppings in: sliced omelets and a lot of chives ,” says Goh. He remembers running around his kampong while liberally squeezing green limes into his noodle and pairing it with air batu, which is homemade syrup frozen in a tiny, long plastic. “So delicious.”
Goh’s own traditional mee siam recipe requires him to grind his own paste, of which lemon grass he forages from the verdant six-metre edible garden he and Chan nurtures at the common grass-carpeted area behind his flat (“I grow my own herbs. I’m very particular of where my food source comes from.”). For the beehoon, he recommends using Chilli Brand’s thin vermicelli rice noodle (“It’s my favourite, I use this brand. All hawkers use this brand.”).
“I need friends around for mee siam, and there should be three or four other things to complement it, like paitee or popiah. I like to have variety,” says Goh. “And my house always has food.”
“Whenever I need something, I just walk out to the garden and pick it up,” Goh says. In Goh and Chan’s verdant garden, pots of edible plants range produce green limes to green chillis.
Tinoq’s Kampong Style Fried Mee Siam
Serves 6–8 people
1 packet of Chilli Brand vermicelli rice noodle (soak in water until pliable and cut into half the length)
2 tablespoons grounded taucheo
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste or 2 sliced tomatoes
1 cup chives
500 grams medium-size prawns
4 pieces tau pok, thinkly sliced
200 grams bean sprout
4 eggs, fry into thin omelette and shred for garnish
Ingredients for Mee Siam Sambal Paste
3 large bombay onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked
10 stalks dried chilli, soaked
1 centimetre shrimp paste, toasted and grounded
2 stalks lemongrass, only the white part and thinly shredded
1/2 tablespoon tamarind paste
Goh’s traditional prawn mee siam.
1. Blend all mee siam paste ingredients and stir fry in hot oil until fragrant and oil separates.
2. Add in taucheo, salt, sugar, tomato paste or sliced tomatoes.
3. Add prawns and fry till cooked. Remove prawns from the sambal paste and set aside.
4. Add in noodle into sambal and toss till evenly well-coated in the paste.
5. Fry beehoon until it’s cooked then add in chives, taugeh, taupok and toss well.
6. Add in the prawns and shredded omelette.
7. Serve with lime, chives and sambal tumis.
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