Red and White, You're All Right

How does one even begin to talk about Singaporean food? I’ve tried so many times to share the diverse cuisine of my home with friends from other places, and I just don’t feel like I’m getting the true scale of Singapore’s food culture across. You know the stock line - it’s a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian. Yes, it is, but it’s also so much more than that. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing justice by breaking it down into a few historical influences.

What makes our food culture so special boils down to how much we Singaporeans love food. I’ve had so many conversations with friends and family, debating the merits of a certain dish at a certain restaurant, or comparing notes on where to find the best BCM (that’s Bak Chor Mee, if you didn’t know) or BKT (Bak Kut Teh). And you know when you can refer to food in acronyms, you mean business.

It’s a little intimidating but I am hoping to try my hand at recreating some Singaporean classics at home. But in the spirit of National Day, we’re going a little kitschy with this recipe. Red and white, you’re all right.

It doesn’t look like much, but the pillowy bee hoon (rice vermicelli) really sucks up the flavourful dressing, and blends perfectly with the tomatoes and prawns. The addition of herby freshness really makes the dish, so if you don’t like coriander, just replace with parsley or dill. Make sure this salad is really cold when you serve it and kick back and refresh in some hot Singaporean weather.

Tomato and Bee Hoon Salad

Serves 4

4 individual bundles of dried bee hoon

400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

500g shelled prawns

3 cloves garlic, grated

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

Juice of 5 limes

4 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 chilli padi, finely sliced

White pepper, salt

Large bunch of coriander, chopped

Start the dressing off by mixing the grated garlic and ginger with the lime juice, fish sauce and honey. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. It may seem crazy to add salt to fish sauce, but you do need the dressing to be saltier than you think to flavour the bee hoon. Mix in the chilli padi - add as much as your tongue can take!

Toss the halved cherry tomatoes in with the dressing and stir. Let this marinate while you get on with the other tasks so the tomato juices flow out and flavour the dressing.

Cook the prawns. I just poach them in simmering water for about 5 minutes and then dunk them in cold water. To cook your bee hoon, just cover it in boiling water and let it sit for about 5 minutes. When it has softened enough, drain and rinse in cold water and set aside.

Mix everything up together in a big bowl. Taste to check, and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This allows the bee hoon to really soak up that flavour and get cold and refreshing. Serve with a sprinkling of extra coriander on top.