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)
For the noodles
100g flour (I use white spelt flour, leftover from my breadmaking experiments)
big pinch of sea salt
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
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.