It’s no secret that I absolutely adore noodles, I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner – in fact, I’ve done so more times than I care to admit! To my mind they’re the ultimate fast food and I just can’t get enough of them. I would be hard-pressed to pick my favourite, but if I had to chose, wonton mee would perhaps rate as my ultimate noodle, making this the perfect choice for my 100th post!
A childhood favourite and made up of a medley of distinct components, wonton mee is a master-stroke of combined flavours. Rather unsurprisingly, wontons are key, along with addition of char siu and sliced pickled chillis, but there are no hard or fast rules. The interpretation of what constitutes wonton mee is notoriously diverse; the wontons can be boiled or deep-fried, the dish can be served wet (in a soup) or dry (with a sauce). It all comes down to individual preferences and finding a hawker who meets your expectations! Personally I like mine dry with soft wontons, lots of pickled chilli and white pepper – naturally my recipe reflects my own preferences, but you should feel free to adapt it to your own tastes!
Everybody in Penang has their favourite hawker centre and mine was at the back of Pulau Tikus Market. Sandwiched between the textiles stalls and the darkly fragrant meat section, this was the home of my ultimate wonton mee. The mee here had all the elements I loved, plus it was topped off with an enriching thick sauce that was, as far as I know, unique to this particular vendor. I’ve tried to replicate this sauce over the years, but never quite got it right – I guess somethings should be left to the professionals!
Midway on my daily cycle between home and school, stopping at the market for a quick bite was part of my morning ritual. Dressed in my school uniform I would sit perched on one of the many battered tin stools; my feet raised above the ever-wet concrete floor, knobbly teenage knees strained against my ill-fitting khaki school trousers. My order placed, I sat eagerly awaiting my wonton mee fix. The meal was always short lived, devoured in a matter of minutes and washed down with a glass of sweet kopi-o ice – there was no better way to start the day! After checking for specks of errant sauce on my white shirt, I would continue on to school, sated and ready to face the high-school dramas that that invariably lay ahead. I can’t say that I miss my school days, but I certainly do miss those morning pitstops at the market!
So this is my muddled take on a true Penang classic!
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Wonton Mee Dry: Serves 1
- 100g dried shrimp or scallop noodles
- 3 wontons
- 50-80g char sui (Chinese BBQ Pork), thinly sliced
- Chinese greens i.e. choy sum (or kai lan, but just the leafy part), cut into 4cm lengths
- 1 spring onion (green part only), thinly sliced on the diagonal
- A dash of ground white pepper
- Sliced green pickled chillies
- 1 tsp. lard (plus a few bits of crackling, if available)
- 1 tsp. thick sweet soya sauce (kecap manis)
- 1 tsp. light soya sauce
- 1/2 tsp. dark soya sauce
- A pinch of salt
- A dash of sesame oil
- First prepare your sauce by combining all of the sauce ingredients in the bowl you are going to be eating from, then set to one side
- Fill two medium sized pots with water and add a good pinch of salt to both. Bring to a rapid boil
- In the first pot, add the noodles and cook as per the instructions. Generally the noodles will take about 3 to 5 minutes to cook, do not over cook them as you want them to still have a slight bite. Make sure you separate the noodles with some chopsticks as they cook
- In the second pot (whilst the noodles are cooking), add a drizzle of oil and then your wontons. They will also take about 3 to 5 minutes to cook and will float to the top when done
- As soon as the wontons are done, add the prepared Chinese greens to the wonton pot and cover. Cook for just 30 seconds and then, using a slotted spoon, remove both the wontons and the cooked greens
- Drain the noodles and immediately add them to the serving bowl with the prepared sauce. Using a spoon and chopsticks, mix the noodles and sauce until combined
- Top the noodles with the sliced char sui, the wontons and Chinese greens. Finish off with the sliced spring onions, the pickled chillies and a dash of white pepper