吉隆坡福建炒麺 KL Hokkien Mee
July comes almost to end and with that the MFF Selangor Food Fest as well. This month, I’d managed to recreate 3 dishes from Selangor, the most I’d done to date for any MFF month I think, save for the inauguration of this monthly online “cook-along” event with Melaka last August. Klang Bak Kut Teh was a personal challenge I’d set for myself while Sekinchan Shark Porridge was through the initiation by Wendy, and Hakka Pan Mee was simply because it is so immensely popular that every other food blogger taking part this month seems to have cooked it and it is almost sacrilegious not to follow suit! With just 2 days left, I’d managed to squeeze some time to whip up another simple but splendidly delicious dish from the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, Fried Hokkien Mee which is incidentally also a dish that reminds me much of my childhood.
When we were young, my sister and I would follow my mum to “回娘家” i.e. visit my Grandma every Sunday. It would be a day packed with fun and good food at Grandma’s place, playing with my cousins and savouring all the delectable dishes Grandma would prepare for us. But what I often looked forward was supper at the end of the day. It was a treat we get to enjoy once a week. Along the way back home from Grandma’s, we would stop by Whampoa Hawker Centre to grab something home as a late night snack, a sort of reward for a good week in school, or simply for another peaceful and blessed week gone by. It could be goreng pisang, deep fried banana fritters marked by a über crispy batter coat on the outside encasing a sweet and custardy banana which had been thoroughly cooked through from the heat, or perhaps satay, bamboo skewers of chicken, mutton or pork which had been heavily marinated with a heady melange of spices before being grilled ceremoniously over charcoal fire imparting that lovely smokey flavour, not to mention scrumptiously charred bits, dunked into a “kuah” spicy peanut sauce which is both sweet and savory at the same time! One favourite supper choice was Hokkien Mee from the 煮炒摊 “tze char” stall. Strangely, I’d always preferred this over the paler version cooked with both thick “laksa beehoon” (rice vermicelli) and yellow round oil noodles. The black version has an indescribable and uncanny appeal to it, thick yellow oil noodles with an assertive taste of alkaline water, glistening in dark and gooey sauce. The highlight of the dish must surely be the little morsels of lard croutons which we fondly call “bak yew phok” that had been added together with lard oil. This is quinessential for Hokkien Mee as well as other stir-fry dishes like Char Koay Teow , transpiring all that wonderfully unmistakable taste and smell to the sauce, flavours that lingered on even as I age, helping to etch the profile of my childhood food memories that I fondly recall from time to time. Oh how I miss the hawker fare from the yesteryears. Many of my favorite hawker stalls have disappeared, their numbers greatly decimated with time as these culinary masters in their own right age and tire, their children unwilling to take over their business and no apprentice to continue their line of gastronomic legacy.
吉隆坡福建麺 KL Hokkien Mee and the version we have in Singapore are essentially variations of the same theme. Despite being grown from the same vine, they do have their intrinsic differences which make both of them unique in their own ways. Most apparent is the flavour of the sauce. While the Singapore version is an intermingling of savory and sweet, the KL version is mostly savory. An innate sweetness levels from the use of Chinese cabbage stewed together with the noodles in the dark sauce and if any form of sugar was indeed added, it would have been kept to a bare minimal, just to “balance” off the salt which would have otherwise made the dish 死咸 “see kiam” which directly translates to “dead salty”, an interesting culinary term in Hokkien to mean “salty in a flat and monotonous manner”. Sounds funny but rather apt description yeah? For that, I’d used 1 tbsp of sweet dark sauce (kicap manis) together with 3 tbsp of dark soya sauce as a substitute for 4 tbsp of caramel sauce and 2 tbsp of light soya sauce as stipulated in Wendy’s recipe. The resulting concoction is definitely not as sweet as the Singapore version but rather pleasant in taste on the whole and hopefully what is served in KL.
KL Hokkien Mee is also significantly drier than the ones we have in Singapore. That can be easily circumvented through the use of less water. I’d also added a bit of starch water at the end as a thickening agent which also helps to make the sauce adhere and bind to the noodles and ingredients better. The noodles used in KL seem to be a tad thicker than what we have here in Singapore as well. Not wanting to bastardise the Malaysian version, and also saving the flatter yellow oil noodles we have here in Singapore Hokkien Mee for a later post, the regular yellow oil noodles we eat in kway teow tng was used instead. The stewing time for the noodles has also been shorten considerably. Anyway, its only a slight matter of girth and should not affect the overall tasting experience. So for once, size does not matter! *chuckles*
吉隆坡福建麺 KL Hokkien Mee Recipe (serves 4)
adapted from Wendyinkk
Mise en Place
- Marinate pork slices in a small bowl with 1/3 tsp salt and set aside.
- To a wok with some oil added, fry the dried sole fish until crispy. Remove place sole fish slices on kitchen towels to absorb excess oil. Blitz in food processor until finely powdered. Set aside.
- Remove the shell and head from shrimp and set aside. The shell and head can be retained for the stock for another dish.
- Detach the head of the squid from the body. Remove quill and the insides of the body, rinsing thoroughly. Remove ink sac from the head. In a basin of water, poke the eyes to burst the ink stored within (MUST DO THIS IN WATER!). Remove the pearl-shaped “beak” from the squid. Halve the head and cut the body into 1/2 cm thick rings. Do not cut too thinly as they will shrink upon cooking.
- Cut fish cake into 1/4 cm thick slices.
- Peel garlic and mince finely.
- Cut Chinese cabbage into large chunks, separately the layers of leaves.
- Separate the stem of Indian mustard greens from the leaves. Halve stem lengthwise if too thick.
- Place noodles in a large bowl and pour hot water over it. This helps to loosen the strands as well as wash away any residual oil and ammonia/alkaline water used during its making process. Drain slightly
- To make bak eu phok, first heat wok on medium heat and put in pork fat. Let it cook until oil starts to ooze out. Turn heat to low and slowly render the lard out and cook until the solid fat pieces turn golden and crispy. Drain and keep the crispy fat and lard oil separately.
- Heat wok on high and put in 1 tbsp of lard oil, Wait until the wok is smoking hot. Put in the pork slices and stir fry to cook evenly. When the pork slices start to turn pale, add shrimp to stir fry together. When the meat is well seared and the shrimp curls up and turns slightly pink. Dish up and set aside.
- Add another 1 tbsp of lard oil with half of the crispy fat to wok and let it heat up until hot.
- Add minced garlic and stir fry until it turns lightly golden and aromatic.
- Put in cabbage, and give it a quick toss and then the indian mustard stems.
- Put in noodles, seared pork, prawns, squid rings and sliced fish cakes, give it toss, then pour in water. Add all the seasoning and bring it back to a boil with lid on and let it cook at medium heat for about 5 minutes until the noodles have softened considerably.
- Add the Indian mustard leaves and cook until it wilts. Add cornstarch mixture and stir fry quickly to thicken the sauce. The noodles and ingredients should remain very moist and well coated with sauce BUT not wet and soaking in it.
- Dish up, sprinkle remaining crispy bak eu phok over the noodles and serve immediately with sambal.