The tour of Le Monde de l’Arabe that took us by foot around the 5th arrondissement of Paris was about to end. We were appreciating the beautiful symmetry of the garden courtyard in the Mosque of Paris when a low rumble was emitted. It had nothing to do with the pneumatic drill going off nearby but my tummy signalling that it’s past the lunch hour for me.
Did you know that the Grande Mosquée de Paris is the largest mosque in France and the third largest in Europe? It was founded after WW1 as a symbol of France’s gratitude to the 100,000 men who sacrificed their lives defending La France against the Germans. It served as a secret refuge, providing shelter, a safe passage and even fake Muslim certificates for Jewish children.
The tour which was organised by my kawan, MVO took almost 2 and half hours to complete. I never miss out on a tour that MVO has organised because they are always interesting historic tours that end with luncheon at a resto picked by MVO herself. She spends copious amounts of time visiting restaurants in the vicinity of the area toured to finally select an apt resto. For example, today’s tour would have ended with lunch in an Arabic restaurant.
So what does noodles have to do with the Great Mosque of Paris? I hear you ask. Well, kawan kawan, in effect – rien! It had nothing to do with the tour, just with the fact that I was famished and had to have lunch asap before rushing off to collect RN. I would have loved to sink my teeth into some taboulé, hummus, chicken shwarma and have halva or baklava for afters. But time did not permit this luxury.
So with Christine B, we headed towards the Boulevard St Germain to a noodle house that I’ve eaten at a couple of times. It was first recommended to me by my friend Ann Mah of Kitchen Chinese fame and la famille and I have been eating there ever since.
Christine B, social butterfly, devoted mother, talented cook and enthusiastic foodie was very excited to join me for lunch. Gamed to try any new eateries, she was thrilled to learn of Les Pâtes Vivantes.
We were seated almost immediate although the restaurant was at almost full capacity. The menu had a variety of noodle choices – fried noodles, noodles served with a pouring sauce full of vegetables and meat or shrimp and noodles soaked in broth. There are noodles that you can eat cold served with a salad of shredded carrots, cucumber, scallions and a spicy meat sauce – Ja zhiang mien . For the rice fiends amongst you, they also serve some rice dishes. But this restaurant’s speciality is really their noodles, hand pulled by the chef behind a glass counter:
These noodles are called lah mien in Chinese and is a very popular economic lunch time dish in North-Western China. The noodles are hand made or pulled (lah meaning pull in Chinese and mien meaning noodles) from a lump of dough, stretched repeatedly until the dough becomes long strands of noodles.
Christine B and I had made the same choice – noodles with prawns and pickled mustard greens (hum choi) in a bisqe-y broth:
These mustard greens are pickled and is a traditional vegetable featured mainly in soups. My mother makes a delicious duck and hum choi soup which I dream about in the wintery months. The fresh variety is known as gai choi, a peppery variety of the cabbage family and these can be stir fried with garlic or your choice of meats. It usually goes very well with pork or shrimps. Gai Choi is delicious when slow cooked as it becomes meltingly tender. When using the pickled variety, remember that it has to be soaked in water for a couple of hours to remove the saline and vinegar used to pickle it before cooking. You can also stir fry these greens with pork and garlic. In this case, no salt or soya sauce in required. That, is a recipe for another day, my kawan kawan.
The hum choi gives the soup a sourish aftertaste which I actually like. However, I drizzled black Chinese vinegar over the noodles to further enhance the sourish taste. This is pure childhood comfort food, kawan kawan. This brings back memories of the mee pok man, wheeling his mobile stall selling boiled noodles mixed in a sauce of chilli, soya sauce, oil and black vinegar with a heap of minced pork and pig’s liver, dressed with fried shallots. This mee pok man, dressed in a pair of shorts and vest would come to my grandparent’s home, honking to announce his presence to the neighbourhood whereby we would gather around his mobile cart with bowls brought from our kitchens to await our Tah Mee Pok. Those were the days when hawkers sold their food in mobile carts. These days, for sanitary purposes, mee pok can be found in the various hawker centres dotted all over the island state of Singapore.
Fearing that the noodle soup will not be sufficient, we ordered a vegetable tempura to share:
This comes accompanied by a dipping sauce of sweet Thai chilli. I thought it made the tempura rather tasty although Christine B would have preferred a tempura sauce. Well with this being an authentic Chinese restaurant, no tempura sauce could be found.
Kawan kawan, this is a must try Chinese eatery or in Singlish, a die-die-also-must- try Chinese eatery. You’ve been told, so please whenever you find yourself on the Blvd St Germain, locate number 22 where you’ll find yourself surrounded by oodles and oodles of noodles.
Les Pâtes Vivantes, 22 Boulevard St Germain, 75005 or if you’re in the 9th arrondissement, locate them at 46, rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009, tél: 01 45 23 10 21.