Thursday, 9 August 2012

Mee Hoon Kueh (Torn Handmade Noodles)



My mum is a wonderful cook. You would think this means her kids all grow up brandishing woks and slicing onions without a tear in their eyes. Unfortunately, my sisters, brother and I were not quite the culinary prodigies you expect. You see, my mother was fiercely protective of her kitchen. It was her space, her divine territory, where she did her 'thing', and we mere little imps were not allowed to mess this sacred part of the house up with our amateur attempts at cooking. That sounds a bit harsh and I may be a bit bitter on hindsight, because frankly, it's much more likely that she (like most Asian mothers) just wanted her children to be free from menial distractions, so they could spend their time more conducively i.e. hitting the books or playing the piano.



I have only a cherished handful of memories of time spent in the kitchen with my mum as a little girl, and one of the few things I remember making was mee hoon kueh. These are handmade noodles, done without any of the faff of a pasta machine or even a rolling pin. These aren't even in the usual long thread/ribbon shapes. To make them, you simply tear off a piece, crudely flatten it between your floury palms, and toss it into the boiling pot. Unlike the uniform squares you get in hawker stalls, these homemade ones are ragged affairs, though I remember my sister and I often trying (quite unsuccessfully) to form them into more exciting shapes. The formula is simple, with no egg in it, unlike fresh pasta dough, and I'm sometimes still amazed at the simple miracles flour, water and a bit of bicep work can create.




Mee Hoon Kueh (Torn Handmade Noodles)
serves 1
Ingredients
For the noodles
100g flour (I use white spelt flour, leftover from my breadmaking experiments)
big pinch of sea salt
water

To assemble
2-3 cups of homemade asian clear stock (or quick anchovy stock/ dashi)
handful of roasted dried anchovies ikan bilis
handful of fried shallots + 1 tbsp of fried shallot oil
small bunch of bok choy (or your choice of leafy greens)
chopped spring onions
(opt, kind of) a fresh free-range egg
sea salt and white pepper, to taste

Method
1. Mix flour and salt together, and gradually add enough water till it just comes together to form a dough. I'm sorry I can't give the exact amounts, but that's the old-school way of doing it and also, the amount of water needed may differ slightly e.g. spelt requires less liquid.
2. Knead till it forms a soft bouncy dough, about 5-10 min, then cover and set aside to rest for an hour or more.
3. To cook, bring stock to a boil in a pot. Taste and season.Tear pieces from the dough and flatten between your palms, before tossing it straight into the boiling stock. They are done-ish when they float to the top. Lower the heat to a simmer.
4. Crack open and gently slip the egg into the pot and cover, cook till whites are just set and yolks still creamy, or if you like your eggs fully cooked, do it longer. Add the greens towards the end too, just for a min or so to wilt.
5. Pour into a bowl, drizzle the shallot oil over, and sprinkle the ikan bilis, fried shallots, and spring onions on top. If you must have chilli with everything, like me, serve with a simple sauce made from good traditionally brewed soy sauce and chopped red chillies.



There is nothing like a bowl of noodle soup to me when I'm missing home. These may not be the prettiest of noodles, with their messy torn edges, but I love mee hoon kueh precisely for its rustic simplicity, down to that egg poached unfussily straight in the broth. I like the mix of crispy saltiness from the anchovies and sweet fragrance from the fried shallots but you could do with any topping/extras you like really, crudely-formed meatballs being one of the other popular options.

Anyway, I wanted to share this very special dish and memory, as a hook to get people to the next plusixfive supperclub that I'm hosting with the brilliantly obsessive Jason from feasttotheworld. It's quite a funny menu. There will be (gasp) no rice for an Asian dinner, but we'll be spreading lots of love and dough around instead. Unfortunately, but gleefully, it turns out we have already sold out, though you can still get your share of love and dough now that you've got this recipe.

I've also done this before with my sourdough pasta dough which gave a quite special, heartier, tangier result, see here if you like

58 comments:

  1. My experience was opposite - my mom would put me to WORK in the kitchen if I ran in there threatening to mess things up. These noodles look divine, I love the fact that you can just make them with your hands without tools, sounds like a great comfort food!

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    1. My mum would just shoo us away! Yup, that's exactly what I love about these noodles too, they take hardly any effort or gadgetry to make at all! Simple good food at its best.

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  2. Who needs rice, when you have noodles!

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    1. Hah. That, coming from you, might be a -slightly- biased statement.

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  3. Good post! My mom is a good cook, but with time she started pushing us in the kitchen to have her me time, which was alright.
    Love the fact that I can make my own noodles in a snap. Beautiful, colorful dish :)

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    1. Thanks munaty! My mum pushed us in the opposite direction haha. I'm glad I went overseas to study, or I would never have learnt!

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  4. Happy National Day Shu Han! I have celebrated by making your Nonya Achar this afternoon (already liplicking, it'll be even better by the weekend :-) I'm feeling terribly nostalgic for Singapore today, wishing I was there, swimming in the pool with my little girl, nipping down to the coffeeshop for some chicken rice and watching the parade on tv. Sigh.

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    1. Happy Nat Day!! Hah guess what I was doing yesterday. If you have me on fb/twitter, we were crazily cooking for a huge crowd of 52 for national day. chwee kueh, satay, curry puffs, braised duck, pork belly buns, sambal eggs, ngoh hiang, pulut hitam, kuehs. How's that for a national day feast ;)

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    2. Sounds AWESOME! We're having a party on Saturday - try out some flavours on our Scottish friends, and it looks like (fingers crossed) the sun will shine too :-)

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  5. Lovely pictures. I love handmade noodles; so flappy.

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  6. My mom loves to make this during the summer time together with some mantou or paozi for the lunch. Really yum!

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    1. wow what a hearty yummy lunch, with mantou and bao at that!

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  7. A beautiful post and a beautiful recipe too. One of these days I'm gonna sit down and make this. It really looks stunning and so comforting. Lovely stuff!

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  8. I love this dish. In Hakka, this is called Dao Chet Mar and was something that we used to eat when i was young too. No rice eh, who would have thought but can't wait to cook with you on 19th...bring it on! :)

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    1. You mean like "dao xiao mian"? Those are just made by just cutting the dough by a knife aren't they? I love those too!

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    2. Nope...it's hand-torn too, exactly the same but with chilli leaves and minced pork added . In Ipoh, the restaurant (posh version) will use a pasta machine to cut it into tagliatelle shape but I still prefer the hand-torn rustic version. :)

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  9. Made this together with my mum when she last visited and it was yum!
    I hope I'll get a chance to try your cooking soon!

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    1. PLEASE do come one day for one of our supclubs!

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  10. That sounds just like my mam - she's an excellent cook and the kitchen is her territory, not for messy children! I've never tried mee hoon kueh but I have a soft spot for square rice flakes.

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    1. I have yet to try square rice flakes myself, sounds intriguing!

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  11. Haha! It's the bit of bicep that is often difficult (at least for me). These noodles look absolutely out-of-space! This is not the thing I would find in any Asian restaurant here (or maybe in whole Europe?). The whole dish looks so luscious (I don't know if it's the dish itself or your perfect photos... Probably both). Good luck with another supperclub meal!

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    1. Maybe because I ws only working with dough for one person, it didn't take too much bicep work! Thanks for the well wishes, I'll need that when I multiply this by 20!

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  12. My Dad is the cook in our family. We used to have this dish, too, usually using leftover dough from making dumplings. He used to cut the dough into pieces over boiling water, or roll them in his palms/stretch them into weird shapes. :)

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    1. Ooh dumplings AND mee hoon kueh.

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  13. Awesome! Love the simplicity will definitely try this, thank you!

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    1. yay! It's easier and cheaper than usual hoemmade pasta.

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  14. Huge fan of noodles but had never heard of this! Glad you introduced me to it because it looks like the best comfort food :)

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  15. sigh. that bowl with the runny egg looks so amazing and comforting.

    can i just say that you are so right when you mention how an asian mom, rather than allowing her kids to participate in the menial tasks of cooking or cleaning the dishes, she'd rather they were studying ... i never had to do the dishes or cook growing up, so when i left the house, i floundered a little...

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    1. exactly. the only thing asian kids had to do in the kitchen was probably to pour themselves water or something.

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  16. huh, that's really cool!

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  17. I'm starting to feel like I'm getting to know your mum through your posts and recipes! I have great faith that this recipe will turn out so much better than my last (and first) attempt at making homemade pasta/ravioli, which was a bit of a fiasco :-) I feel better about this one already (though not giving up on the traditional pasta, I guess I'm more stubborn than afraid of failure!) I love how this, the pasta, the egg, are crude and imperfect, way more salivating that way!

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    1. I hope you try this, it's crude and simple, much harder to mess up than traditional pasta because you just make it your own! (it's cheaper too!)

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  18. Oh, i like the look of these. We used to make something similar as kids, except we'd then wrap the dough round a stick and cook it over the fire. It was eaten dipped into jam or ketchup or whatever we had lying around. I'd never enve thought of creating a noodle from it. Now I'm getting all excited at the idea. Great recipe!

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    1. WOAH that sounds even more exciting. roasting dough over a fire. does it taste like flatbread then? pancakes?

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  19. Awww your Mum sounds fierce in the kitchen but rightfully so, I think HAHA! Love reading about your memories of you guys in the kitchen you were younger. I tell you, your whole blog is such a great way to honour your Mum and all the awesome food she's made for you over the years. Very inspiring! And this is the kind of food I'd be happy to eat over and over again every day!

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    1. Thanks so much winston! I hope my mum thinks so too, she still thinks I'm wasting my time :/ Oh well.

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  20. Great stuff. People get too much in their heads about being 'perfect' when cooking. Perfection leads to predictability which leads to boredom. Much better to have fun with your cooking and not sweat the details too much. Great post Shu!

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    1. Thanks gene! That's what I love about home cooking, all those little imperfections/ "character" ;)

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  21. Sounds to me like you're following in your mom's footsteps whether she wanted you in the kitchen or not! These noodles sound wonderful!

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    1. Unfortuantely, yes haha. She still keeps tellign me I should be studying, not messign around in the kitchen and with this blog :(

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  22. Beautiful Shuhan - I saw something similar recently on another blog too and thought how lovely it looked, but this looks fantastic - gorgeous colours, a beautiful filling meal too!

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  23. What a happy memory and what gorgeous little rags to sop up any delicious sauces. Great post!

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  24. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! I have blog envy. And what a coincidence, my friends and I just made homemade pasta today. It took the three of us to man the pasta machine (it was a manual one) one of us had to hold the pasta roller down because the clamp didn't work, one of us had to turn the crank, and one of us fed the pasta through. These noodles sound A LOT easier to make.

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    1. do try this kyleen, this is MUCH easier to make!

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  25. home made mee hoon kueh is one of our favorites here whenever we don't feel like having rice. yum!!

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    1. I almost never tire of rice to be honest haha, but noodles are lovely!

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  26. Hi Shu Han,

    Now that dish looks lush as they say here in Wales! I love the sound of those torn noodles and the egg in the dish would, I think, just add to the deliciousness!

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  27. your drawings add a nice touch to your posts! mmm i love mee hoon kueh. i never attempted to make them at home before but now i'm motivated to!

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  28. We have a very similar kind called Soojaebi. Hand torn noodles, almost like flat dumpling, served in the soup. Simple dish but so comforting. Love your illustration! You are very talented!

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    1. I think I've heard of it before! I have a feeling all cultures who eat noodles have a version of this. Somewhere along the way, someone must have thought "heck! I'll just tear them up and throw them in!" I think I even watched an Italian cooking show once where they did something similar, but it was served with pesto instead of in soup!

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  29. I've got a child who is crazy about noodle soup. It doesn't matter if it's Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese etc etc. Guess she takes after her mom. I used to eat this at a Malaysian kopitiam style restaurant in Auckland but I have no idea how to make the mee hoon kueh. I know the West Malaysians call it different. The foochows (that's me!) have a different way of making ours with rice flour and tons of water so it's softer and almost translucent. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I want to try that rice flour version! sounds amazing! (sorry I saw this comment so late)

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  30. Looks really good and I made my first batch of 麵粉粿 tonight. Certainly brings back fond memories of home!

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    1. aw thanks angelina! mee hoon kueh is one dish that really really reminds me of home :)

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