Fried Vermicelli with Prawns

Monday, April 23, 2018

This is years ago now but I used to frequent this fried vermicelli with prawns stall at a HDB coffeeshop. I was still single then and so hmm...that is definitely more than 25 years ago!

It was a noodle dish accompanied by sambal belachan. The prawns used were the firm tiger prawns. This prawn-flavoured, smooth and wok-cooked tung fun dish was a joy to savour.. And I leave the prawns till the last, sucking and licking all the flavours from the heads and shells.

For some reason, it has since close and this hawker recipe seem to have gone out of fashion.
I think one reason may be tiger prawns are expensive these days due to competition with demand in Japan. But you cn still find them in wet markets.

I was glad to encounter it again as a home-cooked version by my close friend and cooking mate, Auntie Lucy Kwok, who served me as a secretary in my previous church, St James Church. 

Lucy turns 80 this year.  She is amazing lady, generous, humble, loving and God-fearing. And to top it all, she loves to eat and she loves to cook!

With Auntie Lucy at a cooking class in 2011
When I decided to feature some of her recipe sin my cookbook, I chose two and this was one of them. 

Glass vermicelli or "tung fen" is made from mung bean starch. It is lighter than mee (wheat flour) and bee Hoon (rice flour). It absorbs flavours very well and is often cooked with seafood like prawns and crabs. Sometimes it is added to vegetarian dishes like Chai Choi or Sayur Lodeh.

The firm tiger prawns will be best for this dish though other types of sea prawns will work too. It is best to leave the heads and shells on for this recipe. The heads add flavours to the sauce.

The scrambled eggs absorb the flavours well too, adding another taste and texture dimension to the dish.

600 g (1.3 lb) medium-sized prawns
400 g (14 oz) glass vermicelli (tung fun)
200 g (7 oz) Chinese cabbage (wong bok)
6 cloves garlic
2 stalks coriander, chopped finely, root reserved and smashed
150 g (5 oz) bean sprouts 
120 ml (1/2 cup) oil 
4 eggs

For the sauce 
3 tbsps fish sauce
3 tbsps light soya sauce 
2 tbsps dark soy sauce 
2 tbsps sesame oil
480 ml (2 cups) chicken stock or 1 chicken stock cube 

For garnishing 
Coriander leaves 
Fried shallots
Lime (Kalamansi)


Soak the glass vermicelli in cold water for about 10 minutes. Slice the cabbage into bite-sized pieces. Slice the garlic into flakes.

Heat up the oil in a wok and fry the prawns till they turn golden red. Sprinkle fish sauce to your taste over them and transfer to a plate.

Add the sliced garlic to the same oil and fry till light brown. Add the coriander roots and the cabbage. Fry till the cabbage is soft and translucent.

Add the glass vermicelli and stir fry. Add the ingredients for the sauce and simmer till the glass vermicelli is dry. Towards the end, push the vermicelli aside, add some oil and scramble the eggs in it. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry briefly. Stir to mix the eggs, sprouts and noodles. 

Dish onto a plate and top with the fried prawns, fried shallots and coriander leaves.

While best eaten warm, it can also be enjoyed at room temperature with some Sambal Belacan and lime (kalamansi) to accompany it.

If you are cooking a smaller portion and using some home wok-hei technique, you can improve on this dish.

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