Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hokkien Prawn Mee Soup


The secret to making a memorable Hokkien Prawn Mee Soup is in, as with most Asian noodle soups, the stock. My grandmother, who spent a good part of her childhood in Penang (to this day, I think of Gurney Drive's version as the definitive one), taught me that a properly made Hokkien Mee stock should be a deep ruddy brown even before the addition of soy sauce or palm sugar. The stock derives its rich flavour and colouring from prawn shells, patiently sauteed until well caramelized - not only is much flavour concentrated in the shells, but their carotenoid pigments contribute to the stock's characteristic burnt umber hue. Skimp on this step and the resulting stock will be anaemic in both flavour and colour. Whenever we eat crabs, prawns, crayfish or lobster, I hoard their throwaway heads and shells. Carefully cleaned, wrapped and frozen into packages, it means there's always a stash to call upon for amplifying any shellfish based stock, ensuring a brew sweetly saturated with shellfish flavour - as was the case when we decided to have Hokkien Mee last Sunday. A mixture of pork is also used to round out and frame the shellfish flavour - tail lends succulence and body, while meaty bones and ribs add flavour. The following recipe is my grandmother's - the only change I've made is to cook a separate batch of pork for topping the Hokkien Mee instead of using the meat from the stockpot, which tends to be tired, having given its best to the liquid.

HOKKIEN PRAWN MEE SOUP

Prawn and Pork Stock
*1Tbsp peanut oil *200gm pork fat, cubed *15 shallots, thinly sliced *300gm pork ribs *300gm meaty pork bones *1 pork tail *5 dried red chillies *At least 4 cups of loosely packed prawn heads and shells, including those of 12 large tiger prawns (to be used later for topping) which have been de-veined and set aside *3 litres water *1 tsp salt *1 tsp black peppercorns *3 cloves *1 cinnamon stick *1 star anise *2 Tbsp gula melaka (palm sugar), or more *2 Tbsp light soy sauce, or more

Heat wok over high flame until very hot. Add oil and pork fat dice, which will release a lot of oil as it crisps and browns. Remove, drain well on paper towels, and set aside (to be used later for topping). Now fry the shallots in the same wok till golden brown. Remove, drain well on paper towels, and set aside. Turn flame down to medium-high. Stir-fry the pork ribs, bones, tail and chillies (in batches if necessary) till crusty and golden brown. Remove and place in a roomy stock pot. Set aside. Turn flame down to medium. Add prawn heads and shells to the wok, frying slowly until shells are crisp, caramelised and well-coloured. Remove and add to stock pot. Add water, salt, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise to stock pot. Bring to the boil. Turn down to a leisurely simmer. Simmer for 4 to 6 hours, until stock tastes richly flavoured and is the colour of tea. Add palm sugar and soy sauce to taste. Simmer another 30minutes. Strain stock. Set aside.

Toppings & Garnishes
*12 large tiger prawns, de-shelled and de-veined (from making the stock earlier), poached 2 minutes in simmering salted water till cooked, drained, sliced lengthwise *Fried pork fat cubes (from making the stock earlier) *Fried shallots (from making the stock earlier) *6 pork spare ribs, cubed, rubbed with 1 Tbsp soy sauce and steamed over high heat for 2 hours (add resulting juices to stock; set meat aside) *2 finely sliced fresh red chillies, placed in a small bowl with 3 Tbsp light soy sauce *Large handful of beansprouts, topped and tailed *Large bunch of kangkong (water convolvulus, or morning glory; substitute spinach if unavailable), thoroughly rinsed, woody stems discarded, leaves plucked with a little hollow tender stem attached *Pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Prepare all the toppings and garnishes as described up to the red chillies macerated in soy sauce. Set aside in individual bowls. Blanch beansprouts and kangkong separately in a large pot of boiling water into which a tiny pinch of bicarbonate of soda has been added (this helps retain colour). Drain very well and set aside.

*1 kg Hokkien mee (fresh yellow egg noodles)
*200gm beehoon (dried rice vermicelli)

When ready to eat, blanch Hokkien mee and beehoon separately in large pot of boiling water. Drain well. Divide both into deep roomy serving bowls. Top with prawns, pork cubes, beansprouts, kangkong, fried shallots and fried pork fat. Bring soup to the boil. Ladle over each bowl of noodles and serve immediately. Let diners help themselves to the chillies and soy sauce. Alternatively, bring everything out on separate serving dishes for everyone to help themselves, including the hot stock in a large pitcher or bowl.

Serves 4 to 6

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yummm -sounds like a good recipe - do the asians normally include pork in the stock. Yes, i kinda figured caramelising the shrimp shells gives it that color..

Lovely photo again - your ingredients list is interesting

6:00 pm, August 17, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I was always looking for a good recipe for Hokkien prawn mee, but never found one. Now that you've shared this one, I can make it at home knowing it's been tested by someone whose taste I trust.

Thanks again!

7:08 pm, August 17, 2005  
Blogger pseudo chef said...

Hi J

Thank you for this post and recipe - brings back memories of growing up in Penang/B'worth (all the gorging on this dish).

7:20 pm, August 17, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi reid, thanks... i simply love the nomadic eclecticism of your tastes...from spam to pho to hokkien mee! have fun with the hokkien mee-making...cheers,j

hi pseudochef, most welcome...the very mention of gurney drive makes me ravenous...cheers,j

7:35 pm, August 17, 2005  
Blogger cin said...

It's always such a pleasure to read your posts. You're a great inspiration to a new blogger!

7:49 pm, August 17, 2005  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi j, my mum's recipe for the broth is quite close to yours though we use normal white sugar, will have to try it next with gula melaka ... great post as usual!

9:14 am, August 18, 2005  
Blogger debbs said...

everytime i read your blog, i end up drooling all over my keyboard!

i figured since i've got so much time on my hands i'm going to start venturing into the kitchen and cook and bake to no end!

10:09 am, August 18, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi cin, thanks...glad to be of service ;)

hi cath, my granny believes in the more-than-just-sweetening powers of gula melaka...who am i to disagree ;)

hi debs, thanks...cook and bake to no end sounds like a most pleasurable way of spending the day ;)...cheers,j

12:37 pm, August 18, 2005  
Blogger bornappleT said...

hi J, seems that not only you are an expert when it comes to cooking or eating. Not only that, those pictures are well-taken and those cutlery design and setting are fabulous.

7:21 pm, August 18, 2005  
Blogger Anthony said...

Lovely J, a kindred spirit. The virtue of thrift with ingredients is it's own reward and I wonder of stock makers are natural hoarders. I love keeping crayfish shells for chowders. As for prawns, I usually just end up eating the lot.

10:55 pm, August 18, 2005  
Anonymous ChubbyCat said...

I've never really been a fan of Hokkien Prawn Mee Soup. That is until a family vacation to Penang some years back and a late night run to Gurney Drive. It's hard to find one of comparable quality since. Thanks for sharing :)

8:38 am, August 19, 2005  
Blogger Ruth said...

As usual, it's a pleasure to visit your site. I love the photos and your writing.

Thanks for sharing

9:07 am, August 19, 2005  
Blogger babe_kl said...

you made it sound so easy hehehe... slurps

12:07 pm, August 19, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

oooh! I have a heap of really good prawn stock in the fridge... would that be ok?

8:27 pm, August 19, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi bornapplet, thanks :)

hi anthony, glad to see i'm not the only hoarder (i like to think hunter/gatherer) ;)

hi chubbycat, it's nostalgic for me too ;)

hi ruth, thanks for visiting, and your kind words...cheers,j

hi babekl, it actually is pretty easy, just time consuming...

hi clare, it's just begging to be turned into hokkien mee broth ;)

12:14 am, August 21, 2005  
Anonymous Big BoK said...

Now.. what wouldn't i give to have a taste of the prawn mee stock again.. !! drool , drool.

2:34 am, August 21, 2005  
Blogger Santos said...

hi j! ever since i've returned from holiday, i've been craving laksa, so i thought i'd troll through your blog to see if you had a recipe. i came across this first, though, and ended up making it last night. i didn't have all the toppings and garnishes, but the stock was fantastic, even better for lunch today :) thank you and thank your grandmum for sharing!

2:32 pm, August 24, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi big bok, :)

hi santos, most welcome - granny's pretty thrilled her hokkien mee recipe made it all the way to your exotic locale :) ...leftover stock freezes beautifully for kickstarting future batches..

3:28 pm, August 24, 2005  
Blogger Shirl said...

Hi J,

Thanks for a wonderful recipe. I have been deprived of Malaysian food since April, and had this strong craving for Hokkien Prawn Mee. So I searched on the internet and found this site. Though I had to substitute some of the ingredients while leaving out some(I can't find them here in France), but the stock turned out to be quite alright ;) Merci beaucoup!

8:41 pm, August 13, 2006  
Blogger Faidenk said...

Hi J,
My recipe calls for the addition of belacan, about a thumb size, roasted till it crumbles; and I pound the prawn shells and heads in a mortar to extract the flavour fully.

The belacan adds a lot in the richness of the broth.

Never fails to draw requests for second and even third helpings whenever I cook for friends overseas.

4:35 pm, October 12, 2006  
Blogger Tinoq Russell Goh said...

im a kampung boy from pasir panjang, 6-L
alexander lane from singapore. please give your grandma a big warm hug from me n also thank her on my behalf> what an awesome women with a heart of gold for willing to share her recipe....... im speechless, kamsia. its a gem a very fantastic recipe.

regards,
tinoq russell goh
98162149

10:35 pm, December 18, 2011  

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