A uniquely Singaporean noodle in celebration of Singapore’s National Day.
We are a few days away from Singapore’s National Day. As a schoolgirl, I looked forward to this day. I wish I could say, “for patriotic reasons”. The reality was more pragmatic: It meant we could have ‘an excursion’; this referred to a field trip taken during a school day. We’d bustle into large buses with several teachers in tow. Parents were not required to participate in school activities back then. Most importantly, it meant we had no lessons for the day! Some years, our class year would be the lucky class to be part of the crowd at the National Stadium to witness the parade of marching contingents from the Singapore Armed Forces, Police, Civil Defense, labour unions, ruling political party, uniformed groups from schools, etc. Some of my favourite parts were the Presidential Fanfare and Salute, followed by the fly-by of the State flag, singing of the National Anthem, inspection of the guard and the 21-gun salute. There’d be songs, dances, marching bands and various mass displays. I’m not one for sentimentality, but I felt pride and solidarity, being in a stadium with 50,000 other attendees celebrating the country’s independence, to be part of a small but growing nation that was then only emerging on the international stage. In other years when my class didn’t get to participate, there’d be some activity or other in school, more legitimate reasons to not have classes.
Now, living some 8,000+ miles away from the country of my youth, I was inspired to make this quintessential Singaporean noodle. There are several versions of ‘Hokkien Mee’, all called the same, representing the local flavours and styles of Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There can be lively (and inconclusive) discussions about what is the ‘true’ Hokkien Mee. Although all versions can be found in Singapore, I wanted one as close to what you’d get in most hawker centres in Singapore. In fact, this is one of the first foods I seek out when I visit Singapore, often going straight to the food court in the airport and indulging right away. The reason I don’t make this more often is that the preparation is tedious.
The stock is of utmost importance here. It’s what imparts the sweet, briny distinctive taste typical of the dish. And the stock is what takes a long time to prepare. The key to a rich stock is prawn shells, lots of prawn shells. Heads, in particular. I had been saving up shells/heads for 4 months and was glad to find that I had 1 lb of it in the freezer. Unless you’re running a restaurant or have a large family, it can take a while to accumulate. The last time I made this noodle, I was too impatient and didn’t have enough shells. I didn’t need the taste-testers to tell me that the noodles weren’t up to snuff. Now I recommend preparing the stock a day in advance to save time. I also omitted pork lard, which is very typical if you are having this at a hawker centre, and replaced pork belly with pork loin, all in a delusional attempt at being healthy.
Majulah Singapura! (English: Onward Singapore; Chinese: 前进吧，新加坡; Tamil: முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்)
- ½ lb prawn shells
- 2½ cups of chicken stock
- 3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (see below for chopped garlic quantities)
- 1 shallot, halved
- 1 Tbsp white peppercorn
- 1 lb fresh yellow noodles
- 6 oz rice vermicelli, soaked for ½ hour and drained
- ½ lb prawns, shelled
- ¼ lb squid, cut into rings
- ½ lb pork loin
- 1 cup chives
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 2 green onions, cut into 3" lengths
- 3 eggs
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2-3 limes
- Belachan (sambal chilli)
- Prepare the prawn stock. Fry shells in 1 Tbsp of oil with smashed garlic and shallot till fragrant. Add stock, boil then simmer for 45-60 minutes with peppercorn. Meanwhile, blanch prawn, squid and pork in the stock and remove from stock. Strain stock and set aside.
- Allow pork to cool and slice into ¼" pieces.
- Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a wok or pan. Add garlic and fry till fragrant.
- Add eggs and roughly scramble.
- Push eggs and garlic to one side and add noodles and vermicelli. Fry on high heat.
- Add ¾ cup of stock, fish sauce, sesame sauce and pepper. Fry till nearly dry.
- Add another ¾ cup of stock. cover and braise on low for about 5 minutes.
- Add prawn, squid, pork, chives, green onion, bean sprouts and ½ cup of stock. Loosely mix ingredients into the noodles. Cook till most of the stock is absorbed.
- Serve with a dollop of belachan (sambal chilli) and a slice of lime
- Penang Hokkien MeeRecipe (Prawn Mee / Har Meen / Mee Yoke / 福建虾面) by Bee at Rasa Malaysia
- Easy KL Hokkien Mee by Mei Yee at iamthewitch
- Singapore Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee by Patricia BB at My Wok Like