A meal in prison is a dire experience. Whenever I visit friends in rural Australian jails, I watch their eyes light up as we order items limited to the visitors’ cafe. Things like Ferrero Rocher milkshakes, peaches, shepherd’s pies, and coffee. The only other time the I see inmates get so excited is when they’re describing the cook-ups they’re forced to improvise as an alternative to jailhouse dinners.
The majority are basically just pimped out versions of microwave meals, but some are truly inspired. And none more so than prison mi goreng.
Variations of the recipe differs across states and prisons, depending on availability of their buy-ups. I spoke to innovative incarcerated chef Andy K for recipes and stories.
MUNCHIES: Hey Andy, how did you end up being the best cook in the unit?
Andy: I came in on drug trafficking charges two years ago. I was actually a chef, but then got caught up on speed, which led to meth, which led to getting fired. So I started selling it to get by. Obviously I wasn’t eating much and I was really fucking my body pretty hard. So when I got into jail I decided to turn my life around and get back into my passion for cooking. It was good for me because it kept my mind off the drugs and it made me happy to do something I love.
How did your unit react to the cooking?
In prison, us Asians have a bit of a reputation for having the best cook-ups. Everyone is jealous of the shit we get make, because we grew up learning bomb combinations from our mums. I grew up in Box Hill, so I was always inspired by different types of Asian cooking. We were pretty poor growing up so we were forced to make up the best dishes from the worst ingredients.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever made in jail?
Well, everyone loves the mi goreng recipe with peanut butter. That is an obvious favorite and it’s mad seeing everyone sit around the table and eat together. We miss our families in here, so cooking a family meal gets us pumped. Whenever there’s a good meal on the table and all the boys are dining together, it makes us feel like family and it’s always a great time. On the outside we would probably sit around karaoke belting lines, but in jail everything becomes a bit more wholesome. It’s the dinners and having a laugh with your mates that keeps your mind off things.
Have you ever copped any bad reviews?
Yeah we had a new guy come through who was on a mad power trip. All of the Asians are united in here, but every so often the Vietnamese guys and Chinese will go through a little drama. Anyway this Chinese guy came inside, all tatted up and claiming to be part of a big set that a few of the boys were actually connected to. We just ignored it because we want everyone to be all family, and especially when they’ve just rocked up. So we were eating rice with chicken, when this guy threw his plate and said it was shit and he wasn’t eating it. We told him he was being mad disrespectful but he didn’t listen. So I told him to get in my cell.
What happens when you ask someone into your cell?
Use your imagination. He disrespected me so I called him out. I went to my cell and tooled up. This guy never showed. I was waiting there for like an hour bro. So then I come out and there's all this commotion. Apparently, someone with ties from the set he was claiming stabbed him through his cheek. The moral of the story is don’t fuck with the chef because in prison they’re the most important players. If the food is right, everyone flies through their time in jail. But when the food is shit, everyone just turns on each other. I’ve really noticed that in here.
And mi goreng keeps everyone happy?
Yeah, the Asians we run with are a tight community and we are all in our 20s or 30s. We have cook-ups with all the different communities though and mi goreng is favored by everyone because it’s so popular on the outside. It’s probably the best food you can have with no money and no time. It’s not good for you, but nothing that tastes this gangster is.