Revisiting Auntie Ruby's Hokkien Prawn Mee

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I am doing another write-up of this fantastic recipe. I have posted the recipe and updated it recently.

Here, I use a different format and document some additional notes. Actually, I am doing this for myself. These are cooking notes, if you like. As I don't cook the same dish in twice in a row, writing it down helps me to remember what went right and what didn't. While I am at it, you might as well read it too.

I have since cooked it for many parties. There are times when the broth tasted really good. There are times when it did not. Once the pork was hard, dry and tasteless as I left it boiling and forgotten for too long. On numerous occasions, the bee hoon was way took soft. I have since learnt that you don't need to pre-soak it in warm or hot water. Cold tap water will do.

I really think that Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee is somewhere up there amongst the best noodles in the world. It is worth your effort to cook it well.

Preparing the Broth

The broth is of course the heart of this dish. The key to my Mum's version is the extracts from the prawn heads and shells. I have dedicated a post (What makes Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee Special) on why the heads and shells - properly prepared - makes such a big difference to the broth.

Glorious "Prawn juice"
when you blend it
You should use heads and shells from about 2 kilo of prawns to serve 10 pax (about 15-20 bowls). At least. More won't hurt as the broth won't turn out well without enough flavours from the shells. Never throw away your prawn heads and shells. This way you will always have extras for this..  
  1. Peel the prawns and separate the heads from the shells. 
  2. Fry 300 gm of dried shrimps (hae bee) and heads in a wok till they turn red-orange.
  3. Put it in a deep pot and use a stick blender to blend. 
  4. Boil the stock for about 20 minutes and leave it in the pot overnight or for a few hours. It is important to steep the prawn stock if you want to intensify the prawny umami flavours.
Next, in a separate pot, add some pieces of ginger, stalks of lemon grass and 500 gm of anchovies (use good quality ones). Simmer for 45 minutes. Then strain away the solids and add the prawn stock to it. Keep on low simmer and from here you adjust the taste of the broth.

As you can see, the trio of prawn heads/shells, dried shrimps and anchovies form the base of the stock.

Strained Residue
Towards the last phase, you adjust the taste with some chicken stock (granules or concentrate), sambal chillibelachan (shrimp paste) and rock sugar. Some lard oil will be good too for the mouthfeel. I won't bother with giving you the measurements as it depends on how sweet your prawns are etc. Adjust the saltiness and sweetness of the stock, adding salt if you need to.

Remember to taste, taste and taste. That is how you train your palate to discern whether your stock is good enough. If you have eaten the ones I made, be guided by those taste memories. If not, reference to some good ones you have eaten outside. (I recommend Penang Road Cafe's verison, opposite Novena Church). 

As for the amount of water in the finished broth, 5 litres of broth will serve about 15 bowls. 

"The trio of prawn heads/shells, dried shrimps and anchovies form the base of the stock."

Preparing to serve the bowls
The stuff in the bowl
Locally, the glass prawns on the right
are sweeter and crunchier. They have 
brighter tails and shells
With a great broth, you can be confident that the main work is done. Further finesse in garnishing and preparing the noodles will enhance the eating experience further.

Slices of Loin Pork -
you can see that they are not overcooked
Soak the Bee Hoon (vermicelli) in water for 20 minutes. Together with the yellow noodles, trimmed Kangkung (Water Convolvulus), bean sprouts blanch in a strainer in a pot of boiling water. About 20 secs will do. This will also help remove the "Kee" smell from the mee.

Garnish with slices of prawns (see photo above), fish cake, boiled eggs and pork. Then add the broth (it should be hot and simmering in the pot). Garnish with fried shallots before you serve.

As for the pork, I prefer to use loin pork. Don't over cook it. It should be soft and moist. I put large chunks into the broth and simmer for about 15-20 mins. Cooked the peeled prawns in batches in the boiling broth. The prawns need to cook quickly to avoid bits and pieces flaking off. Slice the prawns into two flat slices.

Proportionately, don't end up with too much stuff in your bowl as it will absorb the soup. Serve a small portion  and you will be happier when they ask for a second serving.

Sambal chilli
This is not optional :). How can this do without a good plate of Sambal Chili? If you have ready made chilli paste use it. Fry your blended shallots in some oil till fragrant and add the chilli paste. Adjust the taste with Gula Melaka and salt.

This dish is not difficult to make. Satisfying and a sure guest-pleaser treat, it rewards you in bowls spades.

I think this is really up there amongst some of the world's best noodles

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  1. simply marvelous! Thank you for sharing the detail steps with us. this has to be not only the best tasting but the best recipe ever on the net.

  2. when i saw this prawn recipe, i knew instanly this is the mother of all prawn mee recipe. when making soup it's alway the broth that count, i knew about prawn shell and hei bee but not the anchovies. thanks for the NOT so kedekut AKA selfish sharing. i know a lot of people will share only part of their recipe to others, which included me...LOL

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I love it. got other style of chilli paste? Thanks for the sharing.

  5. Thank you for the recipe! I only started cooking not too long ago, and this is my first trying to prepare Penang Hokkien prawn mee, and it turn out not too bad!

    Just a question though, in step 2 and 3, when you mentioned add some water, and then boil the stock, how much water should I add at this stage? Is it the entire quantity of water to be used for the broth already? or should more water be added after putting in the dried shrimps and anchovies.

    There was a smoky aftertaste to my broth, as I forgot to add in more water, while I simmered the broth after adding in the dried shrimps and anchovies! Luckily I added more water to save my stock.

    Appreciate your enlightenment!

  6. In step 2/3, for the prawns, just add water till is covers the prawn shells, will be sufficient. The rest of the water u use when cooking the dried shrimps and anchovies. You can of course adjust the water later to taste when you finish up the broth. Should be intuitive.

    Yes, have to account for water evaporation. :)

  7. Thank you Sir! Now I can't wait to master the recipe and cook a good PHPM for my family when I am back home. Cheers =)

  8. Hi, I wld like to know to steep the prawn stock overnight, izzit to place it inside the fridge after it had cool down or jus leave it covered outside?

  9. Leave it in the pot or wok, no need to fridge