Hokkien prawn noodle soup



Hokkien prawn noodle soup is a popular local dish made up of Hokkien mee (thick yellow noodles) in a broth of pork bones and prawn stock made from prawn heads and shells, and garnished with bean sprouts, slices of pork and prawn, and kangkong (water spinach).1 Hokien Street was once the most popular place for eating the dish.2 

Description
To create the rich stock necessary for Hokkien prawn noodle soup, pork ribs, pork bones and sometimes pig’s tail are first browned in lard. The cooked meat is set aside, and the pork fat left in the pot is used to fry a mixture of ground garlic and shallots until they are fragrant. The pork bones are then returned to the pot and simmered for two to three hours in water with white or black peppercorns and some star anise. Prawn heads, shells and tails that are stir-fried and flavoured with caramelised rock sugar are added to the broth, which is simmered for at least an hour more. Salt or soya sauce is added as a finishing touch.3 Some enhance the soup with kum cho (Chinese licorice), lohan fruit (a natural sweetener) and orange peel, adding a piquant aftertaste to the dish.4


Before serving, the yellow noodles are blanched. Sometimes, bee hoon (rice noodles or vermicelli) is also blanched and served together with the yellow noodles. Soup is then added to the noodles, and the dish garnished with cooked prawns and thinly sliced pork, blanched bean sprouts and kangkong, and fried shallots.5 It is traditionally topped with crispy fried pork fat.6

The Hokkien prawn noodle soup may also be served dry, with soup on the side. In this version, the noodles are usually flavoured with chilli sauce.7

History
Many early accounts of the origins of Hokkien prawn noodle soup describe how it was brought to Singapore in the 1880s by immigrants from Fujian province in China.8 Dried shrimps and scallops were brewed for at least eight hours to make the stock, resulting in an orange-tinted soup.9


In post-war Singapore, the mee used in Hokkien prawn noodle soup was made at Hokien Street and China Street. Australian flour was mixed with water in an alkaline solution to bring out the yellow colouring, before the mixture was flattened and cut into threads. The Hokkien noodle soup dish was then known as “boiled mee” to distinguish it from the Cantonese noodles that were similarly yellow, but thinner and containing eggs.10 Between the 1940s and ’60s, Hokkien noodle soup was served along Hokien Street and was popular with the night crowd of cabaret girls and other visitors. A bowl of soup could be ordered separately with just the pig’s tail or bean sprouts, and topped with kangkong.11

Variants
A variant of Hokkien prawn noodle soup features bak kut teh (a peppery pork-rib soup) stock mixed with prawn soup.12 Another variant contains jumbo prawns and can cost as much as S$10 per serving. In Malaysia, the Penang version with jumbo prawns is served with a quartered hard-boiled egg as well as pig intestines, and topped with sambal belacan (shrimp-paste chilli) and sometimes pork crackling.13


Hokkien prawn noodle soup is known as Penang Hokkien mee in Penang, where the soup is made from prawn heads, shells and tails fried in oil and browned with caramelised sugar, chilli oil and light soya sauce, thus producing a stock that is darker in colour. The sio hae (peeled and halved shrimps that are fried till they are brown) garnish the dish, along with a hard-boiled egg and fishcake slices.14

Variant names
Hokkien prawn mee.15 

Hae mee,16 hay mee,17 hae mee thng (prawn noodle soup),18 har meen.19
Mee yoke.
20



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Basan, G. (2006). The food and cooking of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Aquamarine, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING q641.59595 BAS); Tan, S. (2004). Singapore heritage food: Yesterday’s recipes for today’s cook. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN)
2. Weekend food and fun guide. (1970, November 14). Singapore Herald, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tan, C. (2006, December 10). Stock option. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Chan, M. (1987, January 25). A 100-year-old recipe borne on the back of a migrant. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tan, S. (2004). Singapore heritage food: Yesterday’s recipes for today’s cook. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN)
6. Basan, G. (2006). The food and cooking of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Aquamarine, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING q641.59595 BAS)
7. Chan, M. (1987, January 25). A 100-year-old recipe borne on the back of a migrant. The Straits Times, p. 3; Ling, N. (1986, May 22). Under the flyover. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. A 100-year-old recipe borne on the back of a migrant. (1987, January 25). The Straits Times, p. 3; Fast food of the 1960s. (2003, October 5). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Fast food of the 1960s. (2003, October 5). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lee, A. S. (1950, May 13). It’s beaten and rolled. The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, S. (2004). Singapore heritage food: Yesterday’s recipes for today’s cook. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN)
12. Chiang, M. (1991, September 29). Have prawn mee soup will workout. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Cheong, S. (2007, January 6). Jumbo bonus points. The New Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
14. RasaMalaysia. (2014, February 24). Penang Hokkien mee. Retrieved 2016, December 5 from RasaMalaysia website: http://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-penang-hokkien-mee-prawn-noodle/; The difference is in the soup. (1985, November 24). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Raghavan, S. (2010). Flavors of Malaysia: A journey through time, tastes, and traditions. New York: Hippocrene Books, p. 145. (Call no.: RSEA 641.59595 RAG)
16. Raghavan, S. (2010). Flavors of Malaysia: A journey through time, tastes, and traditions. New York: Hippocrene Books, p. 145. (Call no.: RSEA 641.59595 RAG)
17. Basan, G. (2006). The food and cooking of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Aquamarine, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 BAS)
18. Seetoh, K. F. (2005, December 24). Prawn mee paradise. The New Paper, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Famous street food of Penang: A guide and cook book. (2006). Malaysia: Star Publications, p. 76. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595951 FAM)
20. Basan, G. (2006). The food and cooking of Malaysia and Singapore. London: Aquamarine, p. 28. (Call no.: RSEA 641.59595 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
Heritage and Culture
Cooking, Singaporean
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Chinese