Friday, 17 September 2010



My elder son wrote the above Chinese phrase when he took part in a Chinese calligraphy competition earlier this year. After the competition, he showed me his work. He wrote a few sheets and submitted the best. While he was fishing out the crumbled sheets of rice papers, he grumbled that the words were something so kiddish...he was expecting something more profound, like those in past competitions. When I saw what he had written, I felt in love with the lines right away.

I told him those few simple words were my exact sentiments, every day.

Loosely translated it means:
"开开心心上学去" - going to school with a happy mood
"平平安安回家来" - coming back home safe and sound

Now, this is what a Stay-at-Home-Mum like me expects on every school day. Every morning, I will wave to them in the semi darkness while the school bus starts pulling away from the curb. In my heart, I am sure they are going to have a great day in school. Every afternoon, I will keep a look out for their footsteps at the doorway. I will start to get anxious if they were just a couple of minutes late.

Once they step into the house, they will always ask me this question: 'What are we having for lunch today?'. Then they will start taking exaggerated deep breathings...trying to make a guess what would be on the dining table that afternoon. I will then leave them to negotiate among themselves...who will be taking the shower first?...base on...who has got the most homework that day; while I head back to kitchen to dish up their lunch. Only when I am in a super good mood, I will start picking up their socks, pants, shirts...that they left all over the floor as they start stripping away (^^').

Yesterday, we had Heng Hwa noodles for lunch. This is a regular home cooked food I grow up eating. We call it "Pah Mee" (pronounced as 'pa-ah' 'mee'), based on the Chinese form, 打面, in our dialect, heng hwa (兴化). Heng Hwa cuisine started to gain its popularity recently. In the past, whenever anyone asked me which dialect group I am from, I am always met with a confused look. This is not surprising since heng hwa still remains as a minority dialect group here. But by now, I am sure when I mention Pu Tien (莆田) many locals would have heard about it.

I grow up calling this dish 'Pah Mee', but for those who are from different dialect groups, you may find this name Heng Hwa Lor Mee (兴化卤面), more familiar. No, I don't regard this as lor mee, never, ever. My feelings for this dish is so strong that I really feel like hammering whoever who came up with this absurb alternative name. It is pah mee, not lor mee, ok. The ingredients, the noodles, the way it is being cooked has got nothing to do with lor mee.

I followed the way how my mum used to cook this dish. The noodle is cooked in a pot of soup together with some pork slices, dried bean curbs, vegetables, dried mushrooms, clams and fish balls. A special type of dried clams is usually used to prepare the stock, which makes the dish so delicious and gives the umami taste. An authentic bowl of pah mee is served with deep fried seaweed (a special type too, see pic here) and peanuts as garnish. Just like the other dish Heng Hwa mee suah, this noodle is very well-liked by the adults and children in my extended family, including my husband and brothers/sisters-in-laws who are from different dialect groups. I am nowhere near my mum's standard. Even though I know they could tell the difference between a good bowl of pah mee from a sub-standard one, my lovely kids were all thumbs up and happily slurping away ;) Even my husband could only lick away from his screen when I sent him a picture of it, commented 'ma chiam from putien' (almost like the one served at the pu tien restaurant we frequent).

My kids have came up with many different versions of the Chinese phrase above, eg: 伤伤心心上学去,快快乐乐回家来, or 开开心心上学去,哭哭涕涕回家来, 哭哭涕涕上学去,开开心心回家来, etc. However, I am glad to say, most of the phrases they came up with, always end with looking forward to come back home or at least coming back home to seek consolation :D


Baking Fiend said...

A very delicious bowl of noodles that's just right for this cold and gloomy weather!

I'm like you, even when I'm in the office, have to call home to make sure that sonny gets home ok.

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

a very meaningful Chinese phrase, your son is brilliant! Beside this phrase, I like to re-phrase for my hubby :开开心心上班

Joceline said...

Ha!ha!Your son so cute & funny.
The chinese writing look nice.
Send the wishes for u & your family~happy moonceke festival.

FL Mom said...

Are those your son's practice sheets in the background? His calligraphy is really good!! I hope he keeps up his enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

I like this sentence a lot 平平安安回家来 :) We will tends to worry when our love ones haven't reach home..:)


Tan SH said...


I enjoyed reading this post of yours very much! The question your boys ask upon arriving home is the same question my 8 yo girl would ask when she is back from school too!

BTW, your older boy writes beautifully! And your boys' variations of the chinese phrase are so heart-warming. :)

Small Small Baker said...


我小时候,一年只吃一次传统的Pah Mee,那就是拜年的时候。后来长辈不在了,也没机会吃了。我特别喜欢吃Pah Mee。所以妈妈会经常到Bugis一带买回来煮。近年来年纪大了也少去市区逛,竟然找不到卖Pah Mee的摊位!麻烦你告诉我哪里可以买得到。谢谢咯!

Aunty Liew said...

OOh! Your "Pah Mee" looks sooo yummy!
Wah! Your son is so talent in Chinese calligraphy, all the words that he wrote are so neat and beautiful! Thumbs up!

HF said...

Although I seldom leave messages on your blog, I decided I shall do so after looking at your pictures of the oh so familiar dish. My mum is heng hwa, so naturally, I grew up eating "pah mee" and "cha hoon" (unsure of the spelling, basically bee hoon mix with mee sua noodle soup).
But over the years, the style of our pah mee has changed. Instead of the traditional ingredients (like the way you cook it), we throw in whatever we feel like eating, eg. prawns, silver fish, or even yam. Lol. But nevertheless, it's still one of my favourite dishes.
Looking at your pictures just reminds me of the pah mee I had in a Pu Tien restaurant several years back, and I'm feeling hungry all of a sudden. =)

Cosy Bake said...

It was a very heart warming post. Though I stil have quite a few years to go before I start picking up my son's socks, pants..... But I already could feel how is it going to be like. The noodles looks very warming too. I love soup noodles. HMmmm....!

Beau Lotus 涟 said...

That's all I ever do, pick socks etc up.

I've always envied people who can do Chinese calligraphy, maybe it's not too late for me to pick it up now at my old age - only must learn how to write Chinese better first :-)

Happy Homebaker said...

Baking Fiend, I were do the same if I am a working mum :)

Sonia, my kids also came up crazy versions for their daddy ;)

Joceline, thanks for the well wishes, happy moonceke festival to you and your family too :)

FL mom, yes, those were his draft he wrote during the competition. I kept it, and it has been on my coffee table since. He hopes he can still practise calligraphy when he goes to secondary school next year. His character is very suited for calligraphy ;)

Adeline, exactly! I look forward to sending them off to school so that I have time to do my own things, yet I look forward to them coming back home safe and sound.

Unknown said...


Your son is so talented in chinese calligraphy wow wow wow...

Happy Homebaker said...

Tan SH, really?! I thought it was only my kids, especially the elder one...he shows more enthusiasms for food than his studies!

SSB, we have this dish regularly...only the mee suah we get to eat only during CNY. Like you I used to tell people that I am a Hokkien, too lazy to explain ;) I have sent the address to your flickr mail and I sent one a month ago regarding chiffon cake, let me know if you didn't get it.

HF, cha hoon is my favourite too! I have not learned how to cook it though, so I get my fix from pu tien restaurant.

Honey boys, I think you will have to first go thru the stage of picking up lego bricks from every corner of your house, before picking up socks, have 'fun' parenting ;)

Beau Lotus, I also envy my son now, but I doubt I will ever pick up the brush!

Miss B @ Everybody Eats Well in Flanders said...


Your son writes beautiful calligraphy! How old is he now and how long has he learnt writing? I wish my baby son can grow up to write good calligraphy too, but 1st I must pick up calligraphy myself before I can teach him...else there is no experts to teach him here.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I envy your son who can write so beautiful Chinese Calligraphy, for I can't even write Chinese characters with a pencil. Granpa always said my Chinese writing is like chicken scratches.When you mention you are from Heng Hwa, you remind me to think of a neighbor who is from there. She called her cat "molee" and the mouse "lolee" One day she told us her molee has eaten a lolee and everybody exclaimed "wooh", we all thought that her cat has eaten a lorry.

Kind Regards

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Looks like you are a proud mummy of 2 talent boys. Nice calligraphy. :) Is this noodle Hokkien? I'm Hokkien too, but have not tasted it before! Btw, I cook noodle soup fir my kids 3 times a week too, looks like I have new yummy recipe to try. :)

WendyinKK said...

Your son can really write very well.
Sorry but I have to be frank.
The calligraphy took more of my attention than the noodles. Hahaha!!!

I liked the part where you wanted to hammer people who called this noodles wrongly. Hahaha.
Please don't hammer me if I got this wrong.
I've got a friend who's a Henghwa, she told me, it's almost unheard of here, but in East Malaysia, it's more common. It's nice to promote your traditional dishes.

Happy Homebaker said...

MissB, he's in P6, and has been going for weekly class since P1.

Anonymous, thanks for sharing your encounter, lolz! yes, heng hwa sounds alien to many people ;)

Bee Bee, no I am not a Hokkien, this is heng hwa noodles.

kyyc said...

He has very nice handwriting. Where did you send him for calligraphy lesson?

Alison said...

How lovely is this post :) and the noodles as well !

Trina said...

I am a heng hwa too n love Pah Mee!!!

experimentalcook said...

Very intereesting article. Never have Heng Hwa, maybe should try next day. I am literally in stitches at the last part of your article. It sure makes a good read!

Anonymous said...

The dish looks yummy. Can u post the recipe pls?

Pei-Lin said...

HHB,這篇文章寫的非常妙!我從來不知道有興化這鄉團的存在!我才和Wendy大略討論這鄉團的東西。我現在光然大悟。興化有如廣東的客家和潮州人 -- 人處廣東但非廣府人!興化人處福建但非福建人!你們是自己一個獨特的鄉團!好開心哦!又學到多一些東西了!

你不說是‘打麵’我也不知道。我還以為‘pa-ah mee’是板麵這樣解。哈哈!聽起來也挺接近的。我對一切閩南話(福建、潮州)一竅不通。我的祖籍是廣東台山(四邑人)。台山話(廣府話的一邦)在我家就快失傳了,我爸還會聽但不會說。我們這裡講的都是廣州-香港式的。不過因為我娘的關係,我本身還算是半個潮州人。但我不會潮州話!哈哈!




Swee San said...

I noticed that u've linked to my blog. Please kindly change the feed address to so it updates automatically. Thanks :)

sherlyn said...

Hehe, I love the phrase ... your son is so smart to come up with this phrase .. tell him alot of aunties here think the phrase is very good :)

My dh is HengHwa, think I mentioned to you before .. and he only know abt Cha hoon .. if not for HF, I would have think Cha Hoon and the Pah Mee is the same. Anyway, he doesn't like having oyster making the soup base. hehe

I showed my hubby your photographs .. he thinks they are taken by a pro leh :)

Bakericious said...

HHB, your boy can write so well! I am now more concluded, like mother like son, the mother is so talented that's go to the sons too! The noodle looks good too but hor, I kept looking at the calligraphy leh :P.

Bimmer said...

very nice calligraphy! For once, something else steals the limelight from your food (not that your food doesn't look does as always)!

Aimei said...

This is a very heart-warming post. The love and anxiety of a mother for her children, and cooking them a warm meal when they are back home from school. You have very sensible kids I can tell who are good and positive!

Angie's Recipes said...

Your kid was so cute of inventing all the different versions.

mj said...

Hi hhb, this is such a delightful post:) i assume yr elder boy is taking e PSLE this yr? Here's wishing him all the best ;D

hanushi said...

I have never seen or eaten this 'Pah Mee' before. Looks v yummy... I grew up eating mee sua on special occasions...

Happy Homebaker said...

yyc, he attends lesson at the chinese calligraphy society.

Thanks Alison :)

Trina, besides pah mee, I also like cha hoon, mee suah and fried heng haw bee hoon, which is super fine compared to other types.

experimentalcook, thanks! Let me know whether you like it if you happen to try it :)

Anonymous, I am not able to post the recipe, as there is really no recipe. I cook it based on gut feel and the ingredient amount is by estimation. I don't measure out the ingredients, or take down the time needed to cook the noodles to the right texture.

Happy Homebaker said...

wendywy, I won't hammer you, don't worry ;) Yes, there are more heng hwa over at east Malaysia…probably because of the type of trade/business.

Pei Lin, this is different from 板麵, the noodles used is not the same type. I can't speak Heng Hwa too ;)

Swee San, thanks for the alert, I have updated the link.

Sherlyn, no, he didn't come up with the phrase, it's the 考题 actually. It must be the first time your DH has seen any food blog right? My photos are so so only. I wish I can find time to really study in depth about food photography!

Jess, when my son saw the photo, he protested! He told me it is really very embarrassing…because some characters eg '来' really cannot make it. He told me I should have blur everything.
There are no talents in my family, I wish I have gifted kids then I do not have to worry about their studies! I can only say 'practice makes perfect' and diligence is the key :)

Bimmer, actually his writing is not that great, those who know calligraphy will be able to tell it is a 'so so' piece of work ;p

Aimei, next time when you become a mother, you will be able to experience all these 'wonderful' emotions :)

Angie, 能写繁体字没什么,书法都是用繁体的, he still has a long way to go ;)

mj, yes, PSLE is round the corner! Thanks so much for your well wishes!!

hanushi, I hope you have chance to try this one of these days.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a SAHM just like you. I read your latest post about how you would wave to your kids in the semi darkness while the school bus starts pulling away and how you would keep a look out for their footsteps at the doorway and being anxious if they were just a couple of minutes. I was strike by a strange familiarity .. it felt as if I was reading abt my own daily routine. It is nice to know that another mom is sharing the same woes and simple pleasures that I go thru everyday. Left my job 7 yrs ago to be a fulltime mom and unlike working in an office, sometimes being a mom can be a "lonely" journey so it is nice that I could find someone like you who probably shares a very similar life journey (I am same age as you, have 2 kids P5 and P2 and a wonderful and supportive hubby who travels occasionally). Thanks for sharing your experiences on the blog :)

Orange Juice

Fong said...


I am not a Heng Hwa, but I'm sure your bowl of Heng Hwa Pah Mee is very tasty as they are cooked with love. Must try the Heng Hwa cuisines some day. Any place to recommend and what are the signature dishes that I should try?

Hearty Bakes said...

Feels heartwarming reading this post! Same sentiment from me the part of us waving bye to them and anxious a minute they are back late.
Your boy writes very well, love all the different versions your boys came out with, rather meaningful actually.
I just love all the liao in this bowl of noodles. Looks very tasty, full of mummy's love too.

Hearty Bakes said...

Hi HHB, 祝妳和家人过个快乐温馨的中秋节!

Bakericious said...

HHB, I fully agree with you on practiced makes perfect I still thinks that one need to have some talent to achieve better result. I guess this is most parents dream to have gifted kids, now I not dare to have this wild dream, I only wish my daughter will be auto when come to doing homework herself, I will be satisfied liao. Tell your son his writing is really very good, all the aunties and uncles here very 欣赏。 祝你与家人过个美好快乐的中秋!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Orange Juice, thanks for your comments :) I am happy to know that I am not alone :D

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

HHB, this is a rare non- bake post... I have to stop by. Ever since the 学子规 episode, I know you have 2 well brought up boys. I don't know what inpired him to write this phrase but it is very thoughtful and heart warming...开开心心回家来,快快乐乐齐开饭!

Elaine said...


i'm also one who grow up w pah mee... cos my mum is a heng hua... nice to find someone who can still cook pah mee... :)

Roxanne said...

So heart warming & authentic!!;) just discovered ur writings. Simply love them!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Roxanne, thanks for visiting :):)

Corinne said...

Hi, I love this noodle. May I know what noodle did u use? It looks so close to the ones in store. I would like to try this at home. Appreciate lots :)

Happy Homebaker said...

Corinne, the noodles is heng hwa noodles which I can get from a stall at the wet is called 'pah mee' (direct translation to Chinese is 打面). The raw noodles looks like ban-mee but it is not the same thing.