Penang Hokkien Mee/Har Mee (Prawn Noodles)

When I eventually rule the world, one of my first decrees would be to outlaw throwing your prawn shells away – to do so should be nothing short of criminal! Along with pork and chicken bones, prawn shells are the humble building blocks of that lifeblood of cooking: stock.

A prolific and self-confessed Bone Collector, I freeze every scrap that comes my way; and reckon any home-cook would be remiss if they didn’t have at least one bag of bones lurking in their deep-freeze! For all my boney odds and ends, by far my most prized is my horde of prawn shells.

Pure crustacean gold, these precious cast-offs are where the flavour is really at, and are the foundation of one of my all time favourite dishes – Penang Hokkien Mee. Also known as Har Mee in the rest of Malaysia, this simple prawn noodle dish is a masterstroke of hawker food. Made with a combination of bee hoon (rice vermicelli) and yellow noodles, Penang Hokkien Mee is actually all about the broth.

Made with a base of fried prawn shells and heads, the stock is then lightened with either pork or chicken stock. Add to that a dollop of sambal goreng for kick, and crispy shallots for depth, the broth is almost akin to a bouillabaisse on Asian crack, and its just as addictive!

Like all good stocks, the broth takes its time; but other than that, Penang Hokkien Mee is a surprisingly easy meal to make at home. Though the ingredient list may seem intimidatingly exotic, the dish is actually achievable with even a limited Asian pantry,      I was able to reconstruct this hawker classic without needing any specialist ingredients. Other than substituting the traditional topping of kangkong with watercress, the only challenge you might have is the sambal goreng, but this can easily be made at home. There was a time when crispy shallots/onions were difficult to find in South Africa, but thankfully these days they can be found at Woolworths, saving us the effort of frying our own. The hokkien noodles can be sourced from Checkers, but if you can’t find them, feel free to just use the rice vermicelli on its own.

Aside from that, I suggest you start collecting as many prawn shells and heads as soon as you can – because once you’ve tasted Penang Hokkien Mee, there’s no going back!

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

For other noodles recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Penang Hokkien Mee/Har Mee (Prawn Noodles): Serves 6

Ingredients: 

Stock

  • 300 g pork belly strips or boned chicken thighs
  • Pork or chicken bones (about 400 g)
  • 4 litres water
  • Prawn heads and shells, as many as you can source
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 – 2 tbsp sambal goreng
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup crispy shallots/onions
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce

Toppings

  • 12 prawns, cleaned and shelled
  • 6 eggs, hard-boiled
  • Beansprouts
  • Kangkong (or watercress)
  • Crispy shallots/onions
  • Sambal Goreng

Noodles

  • 500 g yellow Hokkien Noodles, blanched
  • 200 g Bee hoon (rice vermicelli), blanched/softened

Method:

Making the stock:

  1. Place your bones in a stock pot and cover with 3 litres of cold water. Bring to a boil, skimming any impurities away as they rise. Add the strips of belly pork (if using chicken, hold off for now).
  2. Reduce to a steady simmer and cook for about an hour, or until the pork belly is tender. Top up with more water as the stock level reduces.
  3. If using chicken, add the thighs to the bubbling stock 10 minutes before it’s done
  4. Remove the meat and rinse under some cold water, then set aside
  5. Strain the bones from the stock
  6. In a clean pot, heat the oil and then add the prawn shells and heads.
  7. Using a spatula to break up the heads, continue frying for about 10 minutes until fragrant, crispy and red.
  8. Add the sugar, crispy shallots and sambal goreng, fry everything together for a couple of minutes, then pour in the stock.
  9. Using a stick blender, give the stock a couple of pulses (skip this step if you don’t have a blender)
  10. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer.
  11. Cook for at least 3 hours, before adding the fish sauce and ground white pepper
  12. Strain the broth through a fine sieve before returning to a clean pot
  13. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly

Assembling the dish:

  1. Bring your stock back up to a rolling boil
  2. Add the prepared prawns to the stock and poach till just cooked through, remove and slice each prawn in half
  3. Cut the reserved pork belly/chicken thighs into thin strips, and the hard-boiled eggs into rounds
  4. Divide both the blanched noodles into individual bowls
  5. Top the noodles with beansprouts and kangkong (or watercress)
  6. Pour a couple of ladles of hot broth over the noodles
  7. Add the prawns, pork/chicken and eggs
  8. Sprinkle over some crispy shallots/onions
  9. Serve immediately with some extra sambal goreng on the side

Top Tip: 

Freeze any leftover stock/broth

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

For other noodles recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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