For more than 30 years, actress Constance Song's first meal on the first day of Chinese New Year is homecooked mee sua soup.
She eats a version of the thin wheat noodle dish at an aunt's house, where 15 to 20 relatives gather for a feast.
The noodles are served in a pork rib stock brewed overnight and topped with ingredients such as fishball, abalone and black moss (fa cai).
This is the taste of childhood for the svelte 41-year-old, who is currently seen on Channel 5's drama series, Tanglin.
She says: "Although mee sua is soggy and doesn't have an al dente texture, I need to eat it to celebrate Chinese New Year every year. It is a family tradition."
The dish, which is also a symbol of longevity and good fortune in Chinese culture, is also eaten on birthdays.
Over the years, she has perfected her own version. Her soup is a chicken stock spiked with hua diao jiu (Chinese rice wine) and topped with seaweed, peanuts, fried ginger slices, omelette slices and chicken.
"It is the only dish that I've learnt to cook from my mother two years ago, so that I can enjoy it whenever I crave it," she says.
Song, who is starring in home-grown composer Dick Lee's upcoming film, Wonder Boy, opening in August, does not cook often and generally steps into the kitchen only for her "lover, son and therapist", a four- year-old male golden retriever, Murphy. She whips up dishes such as steamed vegetables with beef for it.
It is evident that the two share a tight bond, with the dog prancing excitedly around Song's two-storey terrace house in Upper Thomson Road during this interview.
For this Chinese New Year, Song, who owns Spanish- Japanese restaurant Bam! in Tras Street, plans to whip up a noodle soup dish for Murphy that is inspired by mee sua. The dish comprises chicken and gluten-free bee hoon in a vegetable stock.
"Since Murphy is a part of our family, it should follow what we eat and our traditions too," she quips.
Her other food highlights during the festive period are a steamboat reunion dinner with her family - with must-have ingredients of fiery mala stock, beef and fish - and pineapple tarts, which remind her of pineapple jam biscuits, a favourite childhood snack.
CONSTANCE SONG’S MEE SUA SOUP
- 400g chicken fillet, skin removed and cut into 5 by 3cm slices 5 tsp light soya sauce 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 61/2 Tbs of sesame oil
- 400g ginger, shredded
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 10 to 20g ginger, sliced thinly
- 500ml store-bought chicken stock
- 350ml hua diao jiu (Chinese rice wine)
- 400ml water
- 550g mee sua (seven bundles), soaked for two minutes before rinsing with water
- 25g dried seaweed
1. In a mixing bowl, marinate chicken slices with 4 tsp light soya sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, sugar, salt and white pepper. Set it aside for 30 minutes.
2. In a wok set over medium heat, add 4 Tbs sesame oil and fry shredded ginger till golden brown. Set aside.
3. In another mixing bowl, stir 1 tsp light soya sauce into four beaten eggs. Mix well and set aside.
4. In a clean wok set over medium heat, add 1 Tbs sesame oil, pour egg mixture in gradually till it fills the pan. After two minutes, use a spatula to fold the egg into half and let it cook for two minutes. Flip the omelette to the side and let it cook for another two minutes, till it is slightly brown. Slice the omelette into thin slices. Set aside.
5. In a pan set over high heat, add 11/2 Tbs sesame oil, chicken and sliced ginger, and fry the chicken for three to four minutes.
6. With chicken slices still in the wok, pour in chicken stock and let the meat cook in the mixture till it comes to a boil.
7. Add hua diao jiu and water and stir continuously.
8. Add mee sua and cook for two to three minutes in the stock. Turn heat off. Use a pair of tongs to transfer mee sua into a serving bowl.
9. Divide mee sua and chicken into four bowls. Garnish each bowl with strips of fried omelette, fried shredded ginger and seaweed.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.