Certain dishes include 3 parts nostalgia in the recipe. This is one of those meals; it brings back lots of childhood memories to me–um, all of them bitter and resentful.
I did not appreciate this dish as a child – not because it didn’t taste good or because the stinky smell of salted fish was overpowering–but because I was one who had to remove the root from each sprout. Ever had to do this? Ever had to remove the root hundreds of times every meal. Thousands of times each month. Millions every year. I grew to hate this dish whenever my mother prepared it.
I’m over it now though.
Growing up in a big family, Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish was a staple in our diet. It was simple, cheap and healthy (it was simple for everyone except me!). I recall going to the wet market with my mother where we paid only RM 0.20 for a big pack of bean sprouts. Then my mother would “ask” me to help her with plucking the roots as she prepared the rest of the meal. It wasn’t much fun for a 7 years old stuck in the kitchen for the afternoon with a mountain heap of bean sprouts and their roots, having to clean every single one of them. It was probably one of the most boring tasks ever.
OK, maybe I’m not quite over it yet.
I secretly swore to myself that when I grew up I would be wealthy enough to never have to prepare salted fish and bean sprouts ever again.
I think the country has grown up with me. Nowadays in Malaysia you can hardly find this dish at restaurants anymore–unless you go to small mom-and-pop eateries. Look for at least one very bitter small child in the back.
Never mind my childhood baggage though, you should try preparing Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish yourself–they truly are delicious.