Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fell asleep on Fri night thinking about the finer points of the recipe for hawker style soupy prawn noodles. Woke up on Sat inspired. So I gathered the ingredients at the market and on Saturday afternoon while the kids were at their assorted classes and KH working at the dining table, Lolita and I got to work.

It didn't taste good at the stock level but the finished product was surprisingly tasty and sweet. Not a bad attempt for a first time, declared KH. Isaac rated it 6.5 out of 10. But the girls liked it and I finished all the soup in my bowl, something which I don't usually do at the hawker joints no matter how much I like the noodles.

While I largely followed Mrs Lee's recipe from the original Mrs Lee's Cookbook, I also did not adhere strictly to it and adjusted for taste. For instance, Mrs Lee added MSG, while I went without. She also added pig's tail and pig skin, which I also skipped. I substituted brown sugar for her white sugar. Oh and I added a fat clove of garlic to the stock. I also changed the order of some steps but other than that, it was similar.

I do want to document this before I forget, so here's my recipe (and notes) for prawn noodles.

1 kg yellow noodles and half packet of bee hoon (parboiled. Be careful not to keep this too long in hot water because the yellow noodles get soft and soggy.)
Kangkong - also parboiled (Mrs Lee included tow gay but I omitted this because of my towgay-hating kids)

500g of soft pork bones (neng kut)
200g of pork fillet (shoulder butt - nicely marbled and considered the 'redder', softer part of the pig)
200g pork fat (cut into small cubes)
500g small prawns (peeled but keep the heads and shells)
4 dried chilli - pounded coarsely
4 small shallots - thinly sliced
1 fat clove of garlic (lightly bashed)
two tablespoons of white peppercorns
brown sugar
dark soya sauce
light soya sauce
2.3l of water (enough for about 8 to 10 bowls of noodles)

First, fry the pork fat in a wok - smells heavenly but the cholesterol must be sky-high! Then I remove the bits of pork fat, leaving the oil and fried the shallots till golden-brown. Remove that and most of the oil. Fry the 500g of soft pork bones including the 200g pork fillet. Add a bit of oil when necessary. Remove the pork to a large stock pot. The pork would have emitted a bit of water in the frying process but don't remove that from the wok. Add the pounded dry chilli flakes and fry. It forms a paste with the tiny bit of pork stock left in the wok. Add in the prawn shells and fry until it turns bright red. Add in the 2.3l of water. Leave to boil, add peppercorns, clove of garlic, brown sugar, salt, dark and light soya sauce to taste and for colour. Stock should be a dark brown with a tinge of orange. When you are happy with the taste (this is not the point where you taste and decide if you'll have a winner on your hands, just taste to see if it is adequately salty or sweet enough) and with the colour, strain the stock in the wok (hey it rhymes!) into the larger stock pot where the pork is resting. Bring to boil again. Boil the de-shelled prawns, remove when cooked. Also remove the 200g pork fillet and slice thinly.

Serve the parboiled noodles, kangkong, slices of pork and prawn in very hot soup (keep stock pot bubbling hot) garnished with the pork fat and shallot oil, side dishes of chilli padi and soya sauce. Add in a dash of chilli powder if you like the chilli-hot kick. The soft pork bones can also be served with the dish since soft pork bones have a generous padding of meat, this would have softened with the frying and boiling and the meat slides off the bone very easily while still tasting sweet.

The taste of this can be described as mellow and comforting. The pork and prawn stock blend in nicely so that you can taste both elements of land and sea. The proportion of 500g pork bones and 500g prawns to 2.3l of water ensures a stock that is thick with flavour. Mrs Lee's original recipe called for 200g prawn and 300g pork bones, so I'm confident that this version would have a tastier stock.

Note that the prawn stock, once blended and reboiled with the soft pork bones, would taste much better and more 'complete' after being mixed and boiled with the pork. I made the mistake of tasting only the prawn stock and grimaced thinking something was missing. I thought I had a disaster on my hands since the prawn stock tasted weird and 'off'. But later, when I had a go at the finished product, the prawn and pork had melded into a nice blend of flavours - sweet, tasty. And no MSG! So overall, I would declare this effort a success but would need to work on it to refine it again and add that oomph factor. Maybe next time I'll include the pig's tail and the pig skin.

Finally, the taste would not be complete without the sinfulness of pork fat oil. Even plain shallot oil cannot make up for the fragrance and texture of lard in the soup. The extra lardy bits, shallots and oil went into a glass bottle for future use. Really, throw the diet plan out of the window when eating this otherwise you would not be doing the dish justice by omitting the lard and the oil.

1 comment:

makeupmag said...

I can't believe it - I'm eating my mil's yummy hay mee as I'm reading this! Your recipe sounds delish! :D