Wat’cha goreng about ?
Mee Goreng translates simply as ‘Fried Noodles’ in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. When the Chinese traders sailed to these shores, they introduced the wok and noodles. Soon after, came the myriad of street food dishes, which are still popular today in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In Malaysia and Singapore, the more popular dish is known as ‘Mamak Mee Goreng’. ‘Mamak’ means ‘uncle’ in Tamil, referring to Tamil-Muslims who were also known as Chulia Muslims . There are two distinct varieties of Mamak Mee Goreng in Malaysia and Singapore. One is drier and uses minced mutton as its flavour base whereas the other has gravy poured over it. The latter version is very popular in Penang and the oldest and most sought after one is at Bangkok Lane where the prawn fritters, cuttlefish and gravy in the dish is from the Pesumbur (Indian Rojak) stall next to it. The drier version is more popular in Singapore and the stalls at Ayer Rajah Food Centre are well-known for frying up some of the tastiest, reddest versions of it. In the 70s, a variation of the Mamak Mee Goreng, known as ‘Punggol Mee Goreng’, was created by the owners of a Chinese seafood restaurant when their Indian cook had left. This version is less spicy, sweeter and uses a seafood-based sauce. The Indonesian version, Mie Goreng, is completely different as its origins and influences aren’t the same.
Getting down to business …
Whichever the version, a good mee goreng has to have some charred crispy bits from being fried over a very hot wok and powerful wok burner. Herein lies the difficulty in recreating a good mee goreng as most homes aren’t equipped with such a powerful burner that allows the flames to lick nearly halfway up the sides of the wok. Without the fire power, ingredients tend to release too much liquid from taking longer to cook and the noodles become soggy as a result. To counter this issue, I turn to a Chinese technique for stir fries where meats and vegetables are separately cooked, set aside and combined with the noodles at the end. They remain perfectly cooked and not become a disappointing mess. The key to getting those charred noodle bits with the sauce barely clinging on to the strands is to fry off the noodles until fairly dry before adding the spice sauce and not to overcrowd your wok. If you only have a small wok, half the recipe and cook the ingredients in batches, set aside and return them to the wok at the end. Also, a nonstick wok, as the name implies, will never achieve the charred perfection as a good cast iron or carbon steel wok.
The beauty of this recipe is that you’ll be able to achieve those darkened, slightly crisp noodles that are lusciously coated with the thickened sauce, crisp vegetables and perfectly cooked seafood from the comfort of your kitchen without any fancy equipment. The best part is (wait for it…) slurping some piping hot Mamak Mee Goreng in your comfy shorts, slumped over the couch while enjoying your next Netflix bingewatching party. This is my version of a homemade Mamak Mee Goreng heaven and hope you’ll also enjoy it.
Seafood Mamak Mee Goreng
Recipe by: Vasun, www.cupcakesncurries.com
- 8-10 large prawns, cleaned, deshelled and deveined, pat dried
- 1 medium squid, cut into medium slices (about 1 cup), pat dry
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- pinch of fine sea salt
- small piece of fishcake, cut into 1 cm strips (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 ½ – 2 tbsp dried chilli paste (read notes*)
- 3-4 tbsp tomato ketchup (I used Heinz)
- 2 tbsp caramel soy (elephant brand)*/ dark soy sauce (read notes*)
- 1-2 tbsp mild curry powder/ fish curry powder (It’s not Mamak if there’s no Baba’s, right? )
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- tiny pinch of MSG (optional)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 8-10 stalks choy sum, cut into 2 inch segments
- 100 g bean sprouts, washed and pat dry
- 1 large red onion, peeled, thinly sliced
- 1 large spring curry leaves, rinsed, pat dry
- 1 + 1 large green chillies, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ tbsp ginger-garlic paste(read notes*)
- 2 medium tomatoes, each cut into 6 segments
- 450-500 g yellow noodles, loosened
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
- salt, to taste
- juice of 3-4 calamansi lime
- spring onions, small diced
- Marinate the cleaned prawns and squid with turmeric, chilli powders and salt. Set aside.
- In a bowl, mix the chilli paste, ketchup, caramel soy, curry powder, salt and MSG (if using). Set aside.
- Place all ingredients for stir fry near your cooking station.
- In a medium-large wok, heat oil over medium heat. Fry cubed tofu till golden and crisp. Alternatively, you can airfare or bake your tofu cubes. Drain tofu cubed and set aside.
- In same wok, over medium-high heat, add prawns to wok. Let it brown on one side and flip using a spatula. Drain and set aside. Do the same for the marinated squid.
- In the same wok, add choy sum stems, bean sprouts and choy sum leaves, in that order. Stir-fry till stems begin to soften a little. Drain and set aside.
- Add a little more oil if necessary. In the same wok, over medium-high heat, add curry leaves, sliced onions and stir-fry till onions start to soften. Add 1/2 of green chillies, ginger-garlic paste and fry for another 30 seconds, constantly tossing the mixture.
- Increase heat to high. Immediately add sliced tomatoes and noodles. Fry till noodles begin to charr a little, 1-2 minutes.
- Add spice paste. Toss noodles using spatula and tongs to make sure all the noodles are completely coated with the spice paste.
- Reduce heat to medium. Push the noodles the one side of the wok. Add the beaten egg. Wait for 5 seconds and then toss to coat the noodles.
- Return all the pre-cooked seafood, vegetables and tofu. Toss to evenly coat all the ingredients in the sauce. Taste for salt.
- Garnish with spring onions, remaining sliced green chillies and cut calamansi limes. Serve immediately.
- Dried chilli paste: dried chilles, rehydrated in hot water, drained and blended with 2 tbsps water.
- Ginger-garlic paste – equal amounts of fish garlic and ginger, blended.
- Elephant brand Caramel Soy Sauce (Cooking Caramel) : This is what gives that darkened colour in most Malaysian and Singaporean hawker food. If not available, use dark soy sauce.