In a Chinese family, serving “Lam Mee” or Birthday Noodles at a birthday celebration is important as the long noodles are meant to represent longevity in a person’s life. When I thought a simple noodle dinner with the family members to further celebrate my Dad’s birthday was fine, I had received news that there would be two more guests joining us. I got panicked. With all lethargy from helping out and cooking during the festive season, I had decided to just order some “Lam Mee” from a nearby stall, although not my favorite one. By the time I had received the call, it was already too late as the stall was closed. Help! What should I do now?
The dinner was expected to be around 6.30pm that day and it was almost 3.00pm here. When I thought the best alternative was to go around town to search for good food to compliment with the noodles, the results was none as all my favorite places were still closed for the celebration. My mind went berserk seeking for solutions. Should I cook up something? What have I left in the refrigerator that I can cook up in less than 3 hours? Luckily, I’m a person who would always keep my fridge well stocked or else it would be dooms day.
I rushed to the nearest shopping mall and grabbed whatever ingredients I needed for the rest of the meal. The noodle dish would need to be pepped up with flavors as the taste was not as I wanted. Even the soup needed some fine tuning. Moreover, the ingredients and garnishing were not that impressive to be served to my guests. I had to cut the meat slices smaller and halves all the large prawns that came with the order and marinate them again with some pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil and fry them with chopped garlic. On top of that, I had some pounded dried flounder to garnish the noodles as this pounded ingredient would give the noodle a unique fragrance. I then gave the noodles a final touch by garnishing with some scrambled eggs, chopped spring onions and coriander. Viola! The “LAM MEE” had a total makeover!
One dish settled. The next was another headache as the clock was clicking real fast and I did not even know what would impress my guests. I needed to think of a dish that would require minimal cooking time. I grabbed some apples, pears, hami melon slices and cherry tomatoes that I had in the fridge and cut them into cubes. I then diluted some mayonnaise and mixed with some fine sugar, pepper, pasta herbs, milk powder and a dash of sesame oil. I folded in the fruit cubes. Since I had just bought some chicken fillets a day ago, I sliced them thinly and marinated the slices with some sesame oil, soy sauce, some grounded black pepper and ginger juice. I then coated them with some multi purpose frying flour and deep fried them to golden brown. These pieces were then garnished on the fruit salad with an additional sprinkle of mixed herbs. Here’s the masterpiece – Crunchy Chicken with Fruit Salad.
Two dishes on the table sounded odd as three would be a great number for a Chinese family. Three means “San” which has a similar intonation and meaning of “alive”. Now what else could I cook to make up the number? I remembered having some roasted chicken in the fridge. Half a large bird would be enough for everyone but serving that plain would be quite embarrassing, especially in the eyes of my guests. Well, I had the bird chopped up into bite sizes. I then sautéed some chopped garlic in some oil, throw in some ginger slices and stir fry them until fragrant. I added in some soy sauce, a pinch of fine sugar, some pepper, some dark say sauce, some oyster sauce, some sesame oil and mixed them well in the wok. I then pour in some stock and let the chicken simmer for awhile. To thicken the gravy, I had used some corn starch. When the gravy thickened, I poured in some Chinese wine (Shao Xing) to add that special taste into the dish. I called this dish Braised Roasted Chicken in Wine.
It was 6.30pm right on the dot when I heard someone came into the house. Phew! I had everything handled well except that I did not have time left to prepare desserts. To my surprise, both guests brought in an ice cream cake each. I was saved!
I just hope that I won’t have to face such limited time again to come up with an impromptu dinner. It could really be stressful mentally and physically.