Hokkien hae mee or mee yoke as it is called in Kuala Lumpur originated from Penang, where it is simply known as Hokkien mee. This noodle soup has since become popular in the other urban centers in Peninsula Malaysia. As the name suggests, this delectable dish has its roots in the maritime Hokkien (Fujianese) cities in China and acquired its spicy flavor in the warm tropics. Like all favorite urban dishes, the debate on the best Hokkien mee rages in both Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
In many of the best Hokkien mee joints, the wait is long and fraught with the anguish of a sudden end when the stall runs out of soup. It is not uncommon for patrons to agree to a stripped-down version with only the noodles and the soup when the accompanying toppings and condiments run out. Such is the draw of a good bowl of Hokkien mee.
Hard to believe Nona-Nona is into its fourth month running. So far Denise and I have prepared kerabu (a Nyonya or Malay salad), used sardines, and made Chinese kuih. Since noodles make up a big part of the Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine, it is only fitting that one of Nona-Nona’s theme should feature this ingredient. Therefore, I suggested Hawker Noodles (peddler or street vendor noodles) for today’s theme and Denise being the versatile chef that she is quickly agreed. I do not have a clue as to what Denise has prepared. I hope it is not prawn noodles. Let’s hop over to her Singapore Shiok kitchen to find out.
While you are there, do check out her brand new cook book launch at Kinokuniya (Takashimaya, Orchard Rd, Singapore) this Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm. I heard it’s going to be fun out there with chances to win copies of this cookbook, food tasting, and a cooking competition. For full details and program, click here.
The fresh mee (yellow egg noodles) and koay teow (flat-cut rice noodles) in Malaysia and Singapore are some of the best I have eaten and they are consumed at all times of the day. When fried like in char koay teow (fried rice noodles) or combined with a tasty soup as in koay teow th’ng (soupy rice noodles) or Hokkien hae mee (prawn noodles), the combination is out-of-this-world. It is the very quality of the different noodles that sustain the popularity of the top 5 noodle dishes in Penang – Hokkien mee, asam laksa, char koay teow, koay teow th’ng, and curry mee. Over here, I am just thankful for whatever fresh or frozen noodles offered at the Asian markets.
It is almost impossible to find Hokkien hae mee here in Minnesota. This is one of the must-taste dishes for me when I visit Malaysia. During my recent trip, I ate it twice – once in Petaling Jaya (the one I usually go to when I visit) and the other time in Kuala Lumpur (recommended by my brother). Both soups were richly flavored with shrimps and pork. To get that deep shrimp flavor, the shrimp head and shells are fried, blended, and mixed into the soup. The soup is already slightly spicy but the punch comes from the additional chili condiment served as a side to be stirred into the soup. It’s delicious!
Many noodle dishes are served with eggs in Malaysia. Often times, slices of hard cooked eggs are added as a topping in Hokkien hae mee. I omitted the eggs this time.
Here is my homemade version. It is easier than it looks and well worth the effort. I did take a short-cut using Korean chili paste, gochujang. I hope you will give it a try.
- 1 lb (450g) unpeeled shrimp
- 1 lb (225g) bone-in country style pork ribs
- ½ lb (225g) streaky or belly pork
- ¼ cup + 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 large onion, peeled and blended
- 3 tbsp Korean chili paste (gochujang)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 12 oz (340g) bean sprouts, trimmed
- 4 oz (115g) ong choy (kangkung/water spinach)
- 1 lb (450g) fresh yellow noodles
Peel shrimp, reserving the shell. Do not discard. Pat dry with paper towels.
In a large pot, bring about one third pot of water to boil. Add pork ribs and streaky pork. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Remove pork ribs and streaky pork with a pair of thongs. Discard water.
Fill the same pot with 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water. Bring it to a boil. Return pork ribs and streaky pork to the pot. Lower heat and allow it to simmer.
Heat ¼ cup canola oil in a medium sized pan. Add sliced onion and fry until fragrant and golden brown in color, about 5 minutes. Remove with strainer and set aside.
Add blended onion and fry for about 3 minutes. Add chili paste and continue to fry for another 2 minutes. Transfer into a small bowl.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil into the same pan. Add shrimp shells and fry until shells turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove and allow fried shrimp shells to cool slightly. Blend the shells in a food processor until fine. Transfer to a filter bag.
Place filter bag and 2 tablespoons of cooked chili paste (keep the remaining as condiment) to the soup. Season with salt and allow soup to simmer for 1½ hours.
After half an hour of simmering, remove streaky pork. When cool enough to handle, slice thinly and set aside.
In the meantime, fill a separate pot half full of water. Bring to a boil. A bean sprouts for about 20 seconds. Remove with a metal strainer. Do the same for water spinach. Discard water.
Refill pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add noodles and allow it to cook for about 3 minutes or according to packaging instructions. Do not overcook. Remove with metal strainer.
When soup is done, remove pork ribs and filter bag with processed shrimp shells. Discard filter bag. Remove meat from pork ribs or discard. Add fish sauce and shrimps to the soup and allow it to cook for 3 to 5 minutes until shrimps curl and turn pink. Remove and set aside.
Place a portion of noodles, bean sprouts, and water spinach in a bowl. Pour soup over noodles and vegetables. Top with shrimps, sliced streaky pork, and reserved chili condiment. Serve immediately.
1. Additional topping may include slices of hard cooked egg.
2. For a richer soup, save as much fresh shrimp heads and shells as you can in the freezer until ready to be used.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!