Penang is a heaven for foodies. With each race offering their own traditional fare, foodies will be spoilt for choice. One of the dishes that I never miss eating while in Penang has to be Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle Soup). It is also known as Har Mee in the central/southern of Malaysia.
This dish is what I used to eat as my brunch during weekends when I was living in Malaysia. My mom would ask the stall vendor to separately pack the soup so that the noodles would not go soggy by the time I woke up. And all I needed to do was to mix in the noodles, accompanied ingredients and the soup in a bowl. Then, put it in the microwave to heat up before I started to slurp noisily from my bowl.
The broth is flavoursome, which is the result of using pork stock and the prawn heads and shells that deepen the flavour even further. Apart from its broth, what really makes this a great bowl of noodle soup is the combinations of ingredients – hard boiled eggs, water spinach (Ong Choi), slices of pork, juicy prawns, bean sprouts and of course the hot & spicy chilli paste!
It may take some time to save up some prawn heads and shells. If you usually buy shelled prawns and do not have prawns heads and shells to spare, you can try without. However, the taste of the stock will not be as rich. If you could, try to buy 1kg of prawns with with shells on, save the shells and heads for the stock. You can use half of the prawns and save the rest for other dishes.
Having tried to make this yummy bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee, it brought me right back to Malaysia though physically I am in London. It’s the smell and taste that bring the sense of satisfaction and comfort! I promise you, if you love spicy food, mix in a spoonful of the chilli paste that will even add more dimensions to this dish!
Penang Hokkien Mee (Penang Prawn Noodle Soup)
Yield: 4-6 persons
300g chicken wings and drumsticks, skinned and fat removed
500g pork ribs or pork bones
5cm piece root ginger, peeled and crushed
5 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp whole white peppercorns
15g dried chillies, deseeded, soaked and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1kg prawn heads and shells
500g raw shelled king prawns, deveined
200g lean pork loin
1 tbsp sugar
300g fresh hokkien noodles (egg noodles)
150g fresh rice vermicelli or 200g dried rice vermicelli
200g water spinach, rinsed and cut into 5cm length
150g bean sprouts, trimmed
2 hard-boiled eggs
some fried shallots
12 dried chillies, deseeded, soaked and roughly chopped
50g dried shrimps, soaked
10 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1. To make the stock, put the chicken pieces and pork ribs in a large pot, add enough boiling water to cover and boil for about 4-5 minutes to take out any impurities. Remove the solid pieces to a plate and discard the water. Rinse the pot and put the solid pieces back. Add the ginger, garlic and white peppercorns. Pour 2 litres of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer for at least 2 hours, skimming off any scum from the surface as and when required. Remove the stock from the heat, take out all the solid ingredients and discard.
2. To make the chilli paste, blend the chillies and garlic until it becomes a smooth paste. Put the sunflower oil in a pan over medium heat, cook for the paste for about 10-15 minutes until fragrant or until the paste changes to a darker shade. Set aside
3. Bring the stock to a slight boil. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil in a pan over medium-high, put the shells and heads of the prawns, fry for about 5 minutes or until they change colour. Transfer them into the stock, bring to the boil for a few seconds and simmer for 45 minutes. In the same pan, put the peeled prawns and cook until they change colour. Set aside.
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the prawn shells and heads from the stock. Skim off excess scum if necessary. Bring the stock to the boil and put in the pork loin and cook for 20 – 25 minutes. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut into the thickest part of the meat and the juices should be clear and not pink. Take it out and set aside to cool for 5 – 10 minutes, cut across the grain into thin slices, cover with cling film and set to one side.
5. Meanwhile, put all the ingredients of the spice paste in a mortar and pestle or a food processor and grind into a smooth paste. Heat the remaining of the sunflower oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add the spice paste and cook for about 10 -15 minutes or until fragrant. Then, add the spice paste in the stock and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the sugar and season with salt.
6. Bring plenty of water to the boil in a big saucepan, blanch the fresh hokkien noodles and rice vermicelli for a few minutes to warm through. If using dried egg noodles, add them into the boiling water and cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Repeat the same for dried vermicelli, excepting cooking for only 2 – 3 minutes. Using the same pot of boiling water, blanch the water spinach and bean sprouts, divide into the bowls.
7. Heat through the prawns and sliced pork in the stock, take them out using a slotted spoon and divide enough portion into individual bowls and top with a quartered hard-boiled egg. Bring the stock to the vigorous boil, ladle the soup into the bowls and serve immediately. If you like, you can add the chilli paste in your noodle soup and sprinkle some fried shallots on top before serving.