(English translation: Fast to cook, good to eat!)
If you’re from Malaysia, you’d have probably chanted the above tagline while you were reading it. In fact, you probably grew up (and will grow old) with it. You see, I was desperately satisfying my craving for prawn mee today at PappaRich (I know, it’s not something I’m very proud of as a Penangite), and when I eat alone, I tend to observe my surroundings more.
And as usual, something caught my eye. Most, if not all of the kids that came with their families were having instant noodles for dinner. Now, at a place like that, a bowl of instant noodles cost easily around RM8. But what bothered me wasn’t the price. Or its lack of nutritional value. We all know that instant noodles are heavy-laden with MSG and there’s absolutely nothing nutritional about them except they’re loaded with carbs and keep us happy, albeit thirsty at the end.
What bothered me more, was that their folks could not spend 10 minutes cooking a simple bowl of instant noodles for their kids. In fact, it wasn’t as if they really liked PappaRich and had to bribe their kids with instant noodles just to get them to tag along (most of them hardly finished their food!) – and looking at how occupied they were with their phones, were they really too busy to cook a simple meal?
It bothers me because I grew up with people I love cooking instant noodles for me. And each bowl of “maggi mee” (not all are Maggi, but it’s just like how people tend to use Colgate as a reference to any toothpaste) had its own “traits”, depending on who was cooking it for me.
I spent a lot of my childhood at my grandma’s. And her version would be the “dry” kind, whereby she would cook the noodles, get rid of the water, and mix the noodles with thick soy sauce and “eu chang eu” (deep-fried garlic oil). Because she never cooks the soupy version or use the packet of MSG, she would buy the “bulk” version of instant noodles that hawkers normally use. I would have it for tea time (or whenever I want it), while I watch the telly or do my homework.
Once in a blue moon, my late-grandpa would take over the stove and his version of dry instant noodles is even more fancy (I’ve always thought he possessed a secret passion in cooking). Instead of black soy sauce, he would stir fry the noodles with some vege and chicken meat. I never told him this, but I’ve always wanted him to cook more.
Mom’s version would be a very mommy version. If it’s the soupy version, it would be less MSG. If it’s the dry version, there would be less soy sauce. She didn’t want us to lose our hairs too quickly or get kidney stones or high blood or….. you get the picture. But as we got older, and she realized that we were hopeless, she didn’t stinge on flavor anymore. And probably also because we tend to eat less of it as we grew up (instant noodles became ’emergency food’), so it was okay for us to indulge in MSG-land once in a while.
Then my brother learned how to cook instant noodles. His first attempt at the dry version was epic failure. Even though I was still very young at that time, I remembered how ‘crunchy’ his noodles tasted. My guess is he didn’t pre-cook it in boiling water, and straightaway tossed the whole thing into the pan. But when he mastered the art of cooking soupy instant noodles (not much art lah, just reduce water), for a short period of time (around 10 years), I preferred his version to mom’s. Then mom gave up trying to make instant noodles healthier and everyone finally cooked instant noodles the way it’s supposed to be. Then I learned how to cook, and the rest is history.
So here’s the thing. ‘Cepat Dimasak, Sedap Dimakan’ means something to me. And I’m sure it means something to you too (if you come from my generation). It’s not exactly comfort food, but it’s definitely one of those with a story. My folks didn’t bring me to a restaurant and chuck me there with a bowl of instant noodles. In fact, instant noodles were never found in menus! I feel it’s a little sad, that sometimes people get so busy they don’t even know what it’s like to prepare a meal for a loved one or have one as a family anymore.
Does it mean anything to you?