Friday, 15 November 2013

Bak Chor Mee, noodles dry-tossed in crack



Yes, THE most requested recipe ever from stranded Singaporeans who read my blog.

Chewy egg noodles, slippery with fragrant lard and fried shallot oil and coated with a crack sauce made  with sweet black vinegar, soy sauce and the mother of all chilli sauces, bak chor mee is one of those things that make me proud to be a Singaporean (comes just ahead of our award-winning airport on the list).  It's a dish which our migrant Teochew forefathers brought over, but they gave it their own South-east Asian twist with dried-shrimp chilli and all sorts of goodness, making it quite unique to Singapore. There are tons of similar dry-tossed noodles all over Asia, but I'm not entirely convinced any one could match up to bak chor mee– though I may be biased of course.



I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about a bowl of noodles that makes me go weak in the knees; it's a combination of everything that goes into it.

1. Noodles
The noodles have to be cooked just right so there's still a nice amount of bite. They have to be tossed with the oily sauce right after it's cooked, when it's still warm, so they don't clump and stick together. There are two kinds of 'egg' noodles you can use, the thin one mee kia or the thicker flat one mee pok, but both are noodles made with alkaline water so they are wonderfully chewy.
It is of course easy to get these fresh here in Singapore from the markets, but when I made this dish in London, I had to make my own alkaline noodles fresh. Thank you Charlene again for the pasta machine.

2. Sauce
This sauce is not difficult to make if you already have everything in your fridge/ larder. The ones that require a bit of work are the sambal, fried shallot oil and lard, but these are kitchen staples for me and I make an extra large batch every time. Do not skip out a single thing in this sauce.

The sambal 
When I was younger, and didn't fancy chilli that much (ha ha ha), my mum would order this dish for me and my sisters with the chilli swapped out for ketchup. That said, ketchup bak chor mee is actually quite good. But different. Slow-fried with shallots and fermented shrimp paste (some hawkers add dried shrimps to the usual sambal too), this chilli adds not just heat but a hit of umami to the sauce.

The lard
A lot of hawkers nowadays skip the lard to get a 'healthier choice' sticker plastered on the front of their stall. Pfft. The fragrant lard is what makes the sauce glide over the noodles. The fried shallot oil alone is still great, but do yourself and your grandmother proud and use the damn lard. Lard from a happy pig is one of the healthiest (and most delicious) fats you could eat. My friend Uyen swears it's why she still looks like a teenager. From a chefy point of view, the pork fat also ties together the ingredients for this dish– minced pork, pork liver and crackling.

The vinegar 
I would say the amount of vinegar you use is adjustable to your preference. I always ask for extra vinegar when I order from the hawker stalls. It has a wonderful musky sharpness to cut through all that richness.

3. The toppings
The only essentials (I feel) are minced pork and braised mushrooms.

Minced pork
Bak chor mee literally translates to minced pork noodles after all. The minced pork is simply blanched, but in a rich pork stock so there is no loss of porky flavour as you would get with just using hot water.

Mushrooms
The braised shiitake mushrooms are da bomb and worth making extra. They add an extra juicy sweet savoury something to any plain rice/ noodle dish.

Liver
There is actually a very funny 'non-political' podcast about this. I always ask for "mai ter gua" (no liver) not because I don't like liver (I love it), but because you have to be absolutely sure the liver is fresh and cooked just right or it will smell disgusting and taste powdery. In the version I make, there is no liver simply because I'm lazy to go out and get some.

Everything else
You can get tons of variations of this. With prawns, fishballs, sliced fishcakes, etc. I had no fishballs in London and wasn't about to make them too.
BAK CHOR MEE
feeds 2 
Ingredients
2 bundles of fresh flat egg noodles, mee pok
100g minced pork*
(opt) 70g thinly sliced fresh pork liver *
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp white pepper
1 cup 'Asian' pork stock*, seasoned with salt and white pepper, to taste

For the sauce
2 tbsp good, traditionally brewed soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2 tbsp sambal tumis
1 tbsp fried shallot oil
2 tsp lard*

To serve 
chopped spring onions
sliced braised mushrooms (make extra)
     6 dried shiitake mushrooms
     1 tbsp good soy sauce
     2 tbsp good oyster sauce
     1 tsp toasted sesame oil
     1 tsp unrefined sugar
(opt) slice of lettuce, for some greenery

*from happy pigs please

Method
1. I like to do this step the day before so I have less to worry about. Mix the pork with the fish sauce and white pepper. Measure out enough water to cover the mushrooms, then add all the seasonings and mix well. Leave both in the fridge overnight to marinate.
2. The next day, slice the mushrooms into fat slithers. Bring the mushrooms to the boil in the soaking liquid and simmer gently until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mushrooms are now plump with sexy juices.
3. Combine the ingredients for the sauce and divide into bowls.
4. Blanch the noodles in boiling water until cooked but still al dente. Do it portion by portion for best results. They should still retain a somewhat toothy, springy bite. Drain well by tossing hard in a sieve to shake off excess water, then turn the noodles out into the bowls. Dry toss in the sauce so that each strand is well-coated in deliciousness.
5. The pork stock should be at a rolling boil. Blanch the minced pork in the stock for a minute, or until cooked. Use a fine sieve to remove the pork, then add over the noodles. Repeat with the liver if using.
6. To finish, top the noodles with the braised mushrooms, crackling, and fried shallots. Ladle the hot pork broth into smaller bowls and finish with an added dash of white pepper and spring onions, then serve with the bowls of noodles.



It seems like a lot of work, especially if you are making everything from scratch, but everything is prepped in advance and the actual assembly takes minutes. It is also pretty amazing so it's worth it anyway. I think I've written enough already. I didn't intend to be so pedantic and long-winded but once I started I couldn't stop. Like you would with a bowl of bak chor mee.

This recipe is featured in The Plusixfive Cookbook, along with other kickass (not biased at all...) recipes for Singaporean favourites.

43 comments:

  1. Great recipe! I had Bak Chor Mee at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle on your recommendation earlier this year! One of my favourite bowls of noodles. I liked the bits of crispy fried fish, but I gave the liver a miss.

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    1. If this is one of Mr Noodles' favourite bowls of noodles, it must be amazing then;) Thanks for backing me up ha! Yeah crispy fried fish is one of the highlights of hill street bcm! I wish I had that when I made this in London..

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  2. I'm dribbling. The photos are so beautiful. And yes, Changi is certainly something to be proud of (God knows, I've spent enough time in there!).

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    1. Thank youuuu! Changi is like a giant entertainment mall/resort/airport all rolled into one, it's nuts!

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  3. "looking like a teenager" is a little exaggie from little Miss Shu! as I look like a old teenager! But yes, good proper pig fat all the way x

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  4. gosh my favourite, i remembered the last time I had in Bedok, bus station . i had 2 bowl.

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  5. You do have a pretty awesome airport. For days when I'm lazy and lardless...any recommendations on a place that serves good bak chor mee in London?! x

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  6. Use the damn lard! I love that line, brilliant. :) Looks like a fantastic dish.

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  7. Shuhan, I'm so excited to learn about this dish! I have never even heard about it but it seems to be a huge star in Singapore. I must not forget it and prepare it one day. It looks absolutely delicious!

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    1. I'll wait for the day it appears on your blog then ;)

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  8. ohhh Shuuu, this post is so perf on my screen right now! This year will be the one year where I won't be going back to Indonesia for my bakmi (your bak chor mee equivalent I presume) fix so can't wait to whip these up myself when I'm feeling that little bit of nostalgia. :D

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    1. Ooh! I'm quite curious to try bakmi now to see how it compares to bak chor mee! Thank you for your sweet sweet comment and good luck with this! x

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  9. Hi Shu, nice to be back around the blogs! I love the sound of this - you had me at "crack sauce", lol! It looks so good and really colourful too! Hope you're keeping well :)

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    1. Helloooooo Charles! I've missed you! I'm well, looks like you're having a blast roadtripping from all my facebook updates. Take care and say hi to the lovey missus and mini charles x

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  10. okay, i want that right now. that looks incredible. can't believe 'i've missed this blog for so long. it's my favourite! x

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    1. nice to see you back here love!! x

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  11. Shu Han, I don't think have eaten this noodle before but I know I will love it. Will attempt it when I have some free time. Your post title caught my attention - yeah the word "crack". Hee..hee...

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    1. haha you definitely should! It's a fair bit of work if done from scratch but everything can be done ahead and keeps well AND yes it's crack ;)

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  12. This is like the Kong low noodles here ..my favourite noodles for lunch .,

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    1. ooh I love ko lo mee too! There's soemthing different about it though, maybe the type of noodle or somethng about the sauce. Both good, but I'm biased hehe!

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  13. I think your blog is adorable! And this recipe has so many good tips so I may have to try soon. Thank you.

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  14. wow I'm impressed!! there's a lot of work involved in that recipe... and the result is absolutely delicious!!

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    1. It really is a fairrrrr bit of work because I did it from scratch being 1. in london 2. just plain anal, but it's worth it :)

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  15. Literrary my kinda grown up dish, never even thought to made it from scratch.....
    slute with you my friend!!!

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    1. Yeah slightly mad/ completely anal. Thanks mate ;)

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  16. My goodness that looks so damn good better than many many hawker centres! I swear your kitchen would prolly be the best place to eat in the whole of Singapore. I friggin love BCM so damn much. The combo of spicy, salty, sour noodles with all the pig parts... YEOW!!! I'm saving this recipe to make next time.

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    1. Haha no way winston I doubt my noob cooking skills can match up to the 20 years experience most hawkers have!

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  17. This sounds just too good. What a fantastic combination of flavours and textures!

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    1. cheers caroline! It's completely brilliant- I take my hats off to the forefathers who thought of throwing these togeher!

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  18. I eat too much of this ever since moving to Singapore. Love this post!

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    1. Hee hee hee I know how hard it is to resist bak chor mee! Thank you :)

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  19. I want noodles tossed in crack! I'll have to make everything from scratch but it's worth it. Side note -- since coming to the US, I'm almost entirely meat-free (I still eat seafood) because it is so so hard to find happy pigs, happy cows, happy chickens ... you get my drift. The more sad and angry I get about the revolting factory farming practices in the US, the more particular I become about the animals I eat, and the more empathy I feel for them. How I miss Nathan the butcher, where I knew the animals had happy lives before slaughter. :-/

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    1. I know! It's the same way here in Singapore- I eat much more seafood because I can't get hold of good meat that easily. There willl be the expensive non-local ones imported from New Zealand, but there is virtually NO good local meat. Do you know free range chickens are actually against the law in Singapore due to fear of bird flu or something?! Seafood is alright, and actually very fresh because in Asia, how fresh your fish is is a key consideration. I would have thought that the US is very concerned about happy animals given all these hippie LA types touting green smoothies and an organic lifestyle.. Are you gonna be back in London??

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    2. p.s. hope you do get round to making this. I made everything from scratch too in London but all the sauces/ ingredients can be used for more than this dish so it's def worth it!!

      If you can finf some good happy pigs of course....

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  20. Hey, may i know where'd you get your sambal? :) and what brand, if there's a specific one..

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    1. Hello! I make my own - link in the post. I haven't tried any commercial ones that I like.. If you live in Sg you might be able to beg steal borrow some from a hawker.

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