True Singapore Food: Fried Bee Hoon

Fried Bee Hoon (rice vermicelli) gets my vote as being the national dish of Singapore. The “official” national dish of Singapore is Hainanese Chicken Rice, but I think the popularity of chicken rice has slowly been eroded away over the years. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about Fried Bee Hoon that makes me want to eat it every time I see a stall selling it. There’s an instant sense of connection with it. It’s the food that needs the least convincing to choose for breakfast. Anyway, the ubiquity of the so called “Economic” Bee Hoon food stall says something about the popularity of Fried Bee Hoon in Singapore, and the same cannot be said about the neighbouring Malaysia.

Fried Bee Hoon is cheap, typically costing under S$2.50 if you order it with 2 simple sides of vege and egg. If you do it at home, it is even cheaper. Much cheaper. A 400gm pack of Bee Hoon costs under $1.50, and it is enough to serve 6 adults. I often buy Bee Hoon from Malaysia, where it costs less than RM3 per pack, which is under S$1.

It is very easy to prepare Fried Bee Hoon at home. I basically learnt to do it by trial and error, and it is more or less the same as how Kenneth Goh (Guaishushu) does it, so i won’t reiterate the recipe here. I love his recipes, by the way. The irony about Fried Bee Hoon is that it is actually more cooked than it is fried. It took me a long time to figure this out, because i always assumed that Fried Bee Hoon is as its name suggests, fried. If you only fried it, you will end up with very stiff Bee Hoon, likely inedible. It requires cooking for some time to soften the Bee Hoon. Anyway, to arrive at tasty Fried Bee Hoon, besides the regular seasoning – light and dark soya sauce and optionally oyster sauce, you could try adding a bit of cooking wine and even chicken stock.

The side dishes i love to have together with Fried Bee Hoon are fried eggs, stir fried cabbage, fried tofu and luncheon meat. These are pretty easy to prepare also. To reduce the oil used for frying the tofu, you can use the egg frying pan to do the frying. Use only as much oil as needed to cover up to half the height of the tofu. Thereafter, you just need to flip it over to fry the other side. Soaking the tofu in brine the night before helps to improve the flavour. Or if you’re lazy (you are), buy the pre-fried tofu, and just heat it up will do. Once you get enough practice, i would say it takes about 45 minutes to prepare the Fried Bee Hoon and all the side items. The logical order is to start with the stir fried cabbage, while frying the tofu at the same time. Next, cook the Fried Bee Hoon, then fry the luncheon meat. Finally, fry the eggs just before serving.

Stir fried cabbage
Stir fried cabbage
Fry Tofu on one side, then flip and fry the other side
Fry Tofu on one side, then flip and fry the other side
Luncheon meat
Luncheon meat

Not everyone will have the luxury of time to do this often, but as often as you can do it, you can enjoy a luxurious, true Singaporean breakfast, good for the entire family, for no more than S$7.50 (Luncheon meat $2.50, Bee Hoon $1.50, Cabbage $1.50, Tofu $1.00, Eggs $1.00).

Ngoh Hiang (meat roll and fritters) with Fried Bee Hoon. Best.
Ngoh Hiang (meat roll and fritters) with Fried Bee Hoon. Best.
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