Fried Hokkien prawn noodles



Fried Hokkien prawn noodles, known locally as Hokkien mee, is a dish comprising thick yellow noodles fried in a rich prawn and pork stock and served with chilli and lime on the side.1 It is a popular local dish that has various accounts of its origins.2

Origins
According to one account, the dish was originally known as Rochor mee because it was first sold at Rochor Road. A Hokkien ex-seaman created this dish in the 1930s and sold the dish at his stall on Rochor Road.3


Others suggest that a stall beside the 7th Storey Hotel near Rochor Road first concocted this dish, hence its association with the road.4 The Rochor mee here was sautéed in a stew made of prawn shells, bones and other ingredients, and served with prawn and sotong (squid). For takeaway orders, the noodles were wrapped in opir (brown lotus leaves).5

Another anecdote suggests that the dish was sold as early as 1880 by a Hokkien immigrant at Rochor Road. His Hokkien assistant set up a rival stall but later shared his recipe with four Teochew friends, who made a pact not to sell their dish within 8 km of one another. The stalls were set up at Tanglin, Balestier Road, New World amusement park, and Katong near Roxy Cinema.6

The local version of fried Hokkien mee is sometimes referred to as Teochew Hokkien mee. According to a 1988 Straits Times article, most hawkers selling the dish at food centres then were Teochew.7 The dish was popular with well-to-do Europeans, Eurasians and Peranakans in the 1930s and ’40s, who often drove up in cars to order their noodles, paying a pricey 10 cents compared with only two cents for a plate of Teochew fried rice noodles at the time.8 In later years, Rochor Hokkien mee was also sold at car-park stalls opposite the Orchard Road Cold Storage supermarket.9

Description
The dish is made with round yellow wheat noodles, known as Hokkien noodles, and bee hoon (vermicelli), which are fried with bean sprouts, prawns, eggs, squid and slices of cooked pork.10 Stock is poured over the mix several times. Each time, a lid is placed over the wok so that the flavours seep into the noodles and the sauce thickens.11 The dish is served with a dash of sambal (chilli paste) and calamansi lime on the side.12 The early version of this dish had a brown gravy.13 The finished noodles are traditionally wrapped in opei leaves from the betel nut palm.14


Variants
Hokkien char mee (tai-lok meen in Cantonese) is made of thick egg noodles, similar in appearance to Japanese udon noodles, braised in black soy sauce and fish gravy. The main ingredients are sliced pork, pig liver, pork rind, shrimp, sliced fish and squid. Choy sum, a type of leafy vegetable, adds a little green. Sometimes an egg is broken onto the hot plate of noodles, or sambal belacan (chilli with fermented prawn paste) added. The dish may also use vermicelli instead of the egg noodle. Contemporary stalls have also replaced the sliced fish with fish cake and the pork with chicken. This version is more familiar in Malaysia.15


Fried Hokkien mee refers to completely different dishes in different parts of Malaysia. For instance, the Hokkien mee found in Kuala Lumpur is called tai lok meen and is a dish of flat noodles cooked in a black sauce.16 This dish is also different from that available in Singapore as it uses only fat wheat noodles. The flavours of bean sprouts, chives and garlic are also missing or limited. Instead, the dominant flavours tend to be from fried caramelised onions and thick black soy sauce sweetened with caramel.17 In Penang, an order of Hokkien mee is a dish of prawn noodle soup.18

Another variant of the dish, sang har meen, is made using giant river prawns and wonton noodles. The prawns are halved and then cooked and poured over the deep-fried noodles with the gravy. Found mainly in the Klang Valley of Malaysia, this dish tends to cost more than other versions because of the exorbitant price of the prawns.19

In some Western countries, a dish known as Singapore egg noodles is, in fact, a version of fried Hokkien prawn noodles. This dish often does not have the rich stock gravy of the original but is instead a fried egg noodle dish with some meat, seafood and vegetable.20

Variant names
Fried Hokkien prawn noodles.21

Teochew Hokkien mee, Fried Hokkien mee.22
Rochor mee,23 Rochor Hokkien mee.24
Singapore egg noodles.25



Author

Bonny Tan




References
1. Chan, M. (1984, September 9). Dish that has its roots in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2005, July 1). Oral history interview with Jean Yip and Dawn Yip [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002951/3/2, p. 60]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
3. Tan, S. (2004). Singapore heritage food. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN)
4. Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2005, July 1). Oral history interview with Jean Yip and Dawn Yip [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002951/3/2, pp. 59–60]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
5. Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2005, July 1). Oral history interview with Jean Yip and Dawn Yip [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002951/3/2, pp. 60, 62]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

6. Chan, M. (1984, September 9). Dish that has its roots in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chan, M. (1988, March 6). Fried and true: Local version of KL Hokkien mee. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chan, M. (1984, September 9). Dish that has its roots in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Ramdas, W. (1990, May 20). A date with some old flames. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, C., & Van, A. (2012). Chinese heritage cooking. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 116. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN) 
11. Chan, M. (1984, September 9). Dish that has its roots in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, C., & Van, A. (2012). Chinese heritage cooking. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 117. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN) 
13. Chan, M. (1984, September 9). Dish that has its roots in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Seetoh, K. F. (2007, June 24). Siblings stir up the past. The New Paper, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Cheong, S. (2006, July 8). One Hokkien char, make it big. New Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
16. Chan, M. (1988, March 6). Fried and true: Local version of KL Hokkien mee. The Straits Times, p. 4; Genuine KL Hokkien mee here. (2001, June 24). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Chan, M. (1988, March 6). Fried and true: Local version of KL Hokkien mee. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Leong, P. P. Y. (1999, February 5). The answer is in the noodles. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. In prawn noodle heaven. (2006, June 24). New Straits Times Online. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
20. Basan, G. (2006). The food and cooking of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Aquamarine, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING q641.59595 BAS)
21. Chan, M. (1984, September 9). Dish that has its roots in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chan, M. (1988, March 6). Fried and true: Local version of KL Hokkien mee. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
23. Chan, M. (1988, March 6). Fried and true: Local version of KL Hokkien mee. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
24. Ramdas, W. (1990, May 20). A date with some old flames. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Basan, G. (2006). The food and cooking of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Aquamarine, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING q641.59595 BAS)



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Noodles--Singapore
Ethnic foods
Cooking, Singaporean
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Chinese