Back home, I remember having this on only two different kinds of occasions. One, during morning breakfasts at the local hawker centre before heading to the grocers’ market, and two, while having a BBQ, as a carbohydrate accompaniment for the lead-acting chicken wings.
In any case, last week, I managed to get hold of some dried rice noodles (affectionately known as bee hoon back home), courtesy of my friend and neighbour Joanna. In attempt to recreate the subliminal dining experience of Fried Bee Hoon, I’m clueless about the proportionate and quantities of the ingredients. But I’d like to highlight the important processes around getting the right noodle-texture – not too soft and not too stringy.
- Before getting down to doing anything, put the kettle on. Then, submerge the desired quantity of dried rice noodles with hot hot water, letting them soften until they are soft but still firm. If unsure, make a guess, what you’re aiming for is that the noodles feel about 5-10 minutes away from being cooked (in a pot). This is absolutely crucial.
- While that’s going on, prepare all your ingredients e.g. carrots sticks, sliced onions, minced garlic, slices of ginger, beansprouts, etc.
- Next, stir-fry all the ingredients in a large wok with an appropriate amount of vegetable oil. Garlic, onions and ginger going in first, frying till fragrant, then the rest of the veggies. Once they’re done, turn the heat down low.
- In a small bowl, make a mixture of fish sauce, light soy sauce, white pepper, dark soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. (TIP! I’m not certain of the quantities at all, but as a guideline, fish sauce is VERY salty, and sesame oil can be overpowering in flavour so don’t use too much. Also, dark soy sauce is to give the lovely deep brown colour to the noodles but using too much can be overwhelming as well. A peppery kick is essential so don’t skimp on the white pepper.)
- Dump the drained rice noodles into the wok together with the cooked veggies, and then pour in the sauce mixture.
- With CHOPSTICKS or tongs, toss continuously till the end of the cooking time, gently but surely, from the bottom up.
- For the texture of the noodles, add water in small quantities, bringing to the boil first with a higher heat before steaming the noodles with a low heat. Do this continuously until you get the perfect texture – not too soft and clumpy yet not stringy and wire-like at all.
- For the flavour, taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly until you’ve got what you think is right for you.
- Serve it up with a fried egg sunny side-up, and with sliced red chilli. Or if you’ve thought ahead, pickled green chilli.
Don’t be afraid that of cooking too much at a go, saving it in the fridge overnight and having it the next day makes it more moist, and some say taste better.
Before coming to London, my mother feared for my lack of cooking knowledge, and she mentioned in brief this trick I could do with a rice cooker. It basically just involves dumping everything into a rice cooker, vegetables towards the last five minutes so they maintain their crunch. It’s funny how I’m only doing this after two years away from home.
Some vital seasonings would be:
- slice of ginger
- white pepper
- salt and/or soy sauce
- sesame oil
- dark soy sauce
- pinch of sugar
I guess the best part is that you’re allowed to experiment. Don’t worry, any error should be rectifiable with an addition of salt or soy sauce after.
Asian-fried spaghetti of pork cubes, sugar snaps and egg, with cumin, oregano and chilli.
- The usual drill. Set the pasta away to boil in a pot.
- In a hot skillet and a little oil, fry minced garlic till fragrant.
- Toss in pork cubes and sugar snaps.
- Add in crushed cumin and oregano.
- When pork is almost done, move all to the side of the skillet. Add some oil in the pan and crack in an egg. Beat it erratically and let it cook in chunks.
- Toss in sliced chilli.
- Mix everything together and season well with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
- The pasta should be done by now. Drain and add to skillet. Stir everything together into a party of lovely colours.
Pork shoulder fillet braised in garlic, ginger and honey north of carrot and red chilli, served on wilted Chinese leaf.
- In a skillet with some water, make a broth of minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, carrot and red chilli. When the water comes to a boil, incorporate about a tablespoon of honey, depending on how much broth you’ve made. Taste the broth, it should be a sweetish-salty flavour.
- Set in the fillet of pork and braise till done.
- When the pork is almost done, add in the Chinese leaf and remove all once cooked.
This is the Kuala Lumpur variant of Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles, similar to the usual Chinese Stir-Fry, but going crazy with the rendered lard and dark soy sauce, the darker the better.
- Get your noodles, or linguine boiling in a pot and have your ingredients all ready. Drain your noodles or pasta as soon as they’re done. This is important ‘cos stir-frying is a whizz, no time for chopping carrots while your garlic is burning away into a pile of charred lumps.
- In a screaming hot wok of a tablespoon of oil, get your slices of Chinese sausage, or lardons in.
- Add minced garlic, minced onion and a slice of ginger into the wok to flavour the oil.
- Welcome the Aroma Fairies.
- Carrots go in ‘cos they take longer to cook through.
- Once your carrots are almost done, add a small bit of oil and crack in a egg, stirring it about erratically till about done.
- Then, add in your marinated (minus soy sauce) Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pork, stir-frying it with small quantities of the noodle boiling water.
- Toss in leafy green vegetables and drained noodles.
- Go crazy with the dark soy sauce till it’s all nice and blackish. (Bear in mind that doing this can get VERY salty, so the darker the soy sauce, the better.)
- Season with light soy sauce if necessary.
- Add a generous pinch of sugar and still happily away.
Frozen fish is an sufficient alternative if you haven’t got fresh fish. However, cooking frozen fish can be a tricky task; when done wrongly, the fish can be real dry, and gross. A good way to do it I’d say, is to baste it continuously in the accompanying sauce.
In this case, I’ve done a mild tom yum sauce, with carrots, shallots, garlic, a slice of ginger and a squeeze of lemon. If you’re wondering, the tom yum base was from an instant paste in a bottle just like this one:
- Set the pasta away in a pot to boil together with a handful of frozen peas. Boiling the peas instead of sauteing them allows them a fresher flavour and sweeter crunch.
- I made the sauce by tossing the chopped condiments (mentioned above) together into a skillet, and adding a teaspoon of tom yum paste and an adequate amount of pasta-cooking water.
- Then, I cooked the fish, drenching it repeatedly in the sweet yet just sourish gravy. Nonstop, till the fish was just right.
- Drained the pasta and peas and served with a chilli garnish, for colour and added heat.
Kinda like an Asian bolognese, slightly spicy, and with fish. Lush.
Click here for the original Tom Yum Spaghetti recipe.
I confess, I am currently obsessed with the ballotine. Rolling meat into a tight bundle and then cooking it makes me happy. It doesn’t help that there is such a sense of excitement when the time is nigh to slice it.
Alright, so maybe pork isn’t so appetising in a ballotine. In any case, a drizzle of sesame oil elevates its flavour immensely. Served with ultra-thin rice noodles, carrot mash and seared lettuce, I am definitely playing with my food.
French-style cooking and Asian flavours, at its best.