Most Chinese in Malaysia originate from Southern China. In Penang and Malacca, the Chinese are mainly from Fujian, and the dialect spoken is Hokkien. Although the Hokkiens is one of the most prominent groups, their cuisine is not so commonly found outside homes, as compared to Cantonese food.
One of the reasons is that Hokkien food is simple home fares. The one restaurant that specialises in Hokkien cuisine is Ang Hoay Lor in Penang. It’s an old restaurant, and their specialties include bak ki mi sua (vermicelli soup with the softest meat coated in starch flour), leek stirfried with tofu, oyster omelette and of course Hokkien char (stir fried Hokkien noodles).
Hokkien mee (noodles) means different things in different parts of Malaysia. In Penang, Hokkien Mee is prawn noodles but elsewhere in Malaysia it refers to big fat yellow noodles stir fried with thick soy sauce and garnished with pork lard bits (like croutons), prawns and pork liver. My current favourite is the one served up at Reunion restaurant in Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur.
Then, there is Hokkien Char, which is commonly found in Penang but not elsewhere. Hokkien Char is yellow noodles stirfried with prawns, liver, choy sam (sawi) with a little thickened gravy, and garnished with fried shallots.
Then, there is the home-style version of Hokkien noodles, such as the one served in Ang Hoay Lor restaurant and in homes. It’s just plain stir-fried noodles – yellow noodles stirfried with a little garlic and flavoured with light soy sauce, and garnished with meat, seafood and some greens.
Most everybody knows how to make these stir-fried noodles, and we mostly use whatever is available in the kitchen to make this – anything from pork to cuttlefish. It’s nice to add mushrooms and carrots too.
For me, this dish is elevated from plain to delicious with some sprinkling of fried shallots, and most importantly an accompaniment of sambal belacan (red chillies pounded with toasted belacan (shrimp paste)).
We cook these noodles mostly for breakfast, or when we need to cook something quick to feed lots of people. I hate to admit it, but this noodle dish is one of those home-style dishes that we often take for granted.
I tried ordering it at one of those stir-frying food stalls in KL one day, and realised that there isn’t even a proper name for it. I can’t call it Hokkien Mee or Fukien Chow because that refers to the fat noodles in black sauce, and my Cantonese is too elementary for me to describe what I want.
So, I guess the next best thing to do it to cook it myself.
Stir Fried Hokkien Noodles
1 cup of cooking oil
6-8 shallots, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
10-15 prawns, remove shells
4-5 squids, cleaned and sliced
8-10 slices of either chicken, or pork
2-3 dried mushrooms, reconstituted in some water and cut coarsely
1/2 carrot, sliced
2-3 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/1/2 teaspoon of MSG, optional
2 cup water
500g yellow noodles
100g bean sprouts
2-3 stalks of choy sam, cut coarsely
Heat the cooking oil, and saute the sliced shallots over a medium fire till fragrant and crisp. Keep stirring, and watch that it does not burn.
(Fried shallots is optional, but it does enhance the taste of the noodles).
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil from frying the shallot. Saute the garlic till fragrant, and then add the prawns, squids, and meat. Saute over high heat, stirring till the prawns turn pink. Lower the heat to medium, and add the mushrooms and carrot.
Season with the light soy sauce, white pepper and MSG. Stir to mix together, and add water.
Let it simmer, and add the noodles, bean sprouts and choy sam.
Stir it all together, and taste. Season with more soya sauce or salt to suit your taste. Let the noodles simmer for a few minutes, and serve.
Garnish with the fried shallots.
Serve with sambal belacan, or cut red chillies in soya sauce.
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