Prawn Noodle, Hae Mee

I live in a city about 25 minutes flight away from Penang. And who doesn’t love Penang? It is a foodie heaven. It has the best street food in South East Asia. It has combination of regional dishes, fused into one style, Penang style. It is the home of Rasa Malaysia. Prawn noodle (or also known as ‘hae mee’) is not widely known in our area as it is in Malaysia and Singapore.

Many years ago, my auntie had been selling this in a school cafeteria and my mother is really fond of it. She is the only one in our family who cooks the dish. She was taught by someone she knows a long time ago and has been tweaking here and there since then. There wasn’t any googling activity going on then. I am sure it is not the authentic version of Penang prawn noodle, but it is pretty kicking. Sweet and spicy, with pungent smell of shrimp paste. My auntie is amazing. She has all these little tricks that is perfectly simple and plain common sense but always miss me by an inch.

Her (or now I can safely claim as mine) prawn noodle is egg noodle with prawn-flavored spicy soup, served with water spinach, prawns, chicken and egg. The special spicy sauce is made by shallots, shrimp paste and freshly ground chili. And sugar. It is the most vibrant bowl of noodle soup I have in a while.

Dried anchovies are one of the main ingredients for the prawn stock. The real version would be using a lot of shrimp heads for boiling the stock. We only bought half a kilo of prawns, so we cheated slightly by adding dried anchovies to flavor the stock. Give these a quick rinse under cold water and drain. Do not soak, as soaking will dilute the pungent flavor, which is the whole point of using anchovies.

Get a bunch of medium sized prawns. Trim head and feet off them. Don’t throw them away though. Those would be use for the stock as well.

Get some chicken. A couple of pieces should be enough. Real Penang style would be using pork ribs.

Cut water spinach into equal pieces. You don’t really need to subcategorize stalks and leaves that way. My auntie just does that to get into my head.

She actually made this from scratch. She went to the market to buy fresh chilies. Then she sun-dried them for a couple of days. And ground the dried chili. Look at the vibrant color. Is she great or is she great? And no, you can’t have her.

Some fresh egg noodles from the market. Give them a quick rinse over running cold water to get rid of excess oil.

Garnishes would be chopped spring onion for the nice green specks – which no one really cares about but it has to be there nevertheless. And some fried shallots. See the plastic bag? I cheated and bought a bag from the market. I didn’t make my own. There you go.

Also, hard boil some eggs. I forgot to take shots of the eggs.

Combine shallots and shrimp paste in a mortar and grind to fine paste.

Add ground chili powder.

All mixed well? Alright then.

Heat some oil in a wok. Add chili paste.

Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously. Let the spices cooked nicely and the oil merged with spices.

When the spice is fragrant and turn a shade darker, add sugar. Cook a bit longer till the sugar slightly caramelized

Remove from heat and store in a clean bowl or container for later use. See how the oil has turned into chili oil? This paste can keep for a long time if refrigerated.

Fill a medium sized stockpot with water and toss ginger into the water. Let boil.

Add prawn shells (head and feet). The water is slightly reddish because I rinsed the mortar using a bit of hot water and pour the leftover into the pot. The spring onion is not really supposed to be in there too. It was a bit too wilted to be chopped, so I threw it in there too.

Let boil for a bit and strain the shells off the stock.

When the stock is cleaned off prawn shells, add dried anchovies into the stock. The dried anchovies are to be washed with cold water and drained in advance.

Add half of the spice paste into the water.

Season with sugar and salt.

Add prawns.

Add chicken.

Let the stock boil. Again. Over medium heat.

Take prawns out of stock. Peel off shells. Set shelled prawns aside. Get rid of the shells for real this time. It seems like a serious pain and messed up steps to do this, don’t you think so? Why don’t we just peel shells off prior to cooking? Well, the reason is that boiling shelled prawns would cause the prawns to shrink into really small coils of striped meat. That is not sightly. By boiling them with skin on, the prawns would stay roughly the same size, so that when they are arranged on the bowl, they are as pretty as wax-made fake noodles models on Japanese noodle shops.

Take the chicken out after 30 min to an hour. Let cool and shred the chicken meat. Get rid off the skin.

Turn heat to low. Quickly blanched water spinach in stock.

Do this to all of the spinach and set aside.

Arrange everything in a serving bowl. To assemble, place egg noodles in the middle of the bowl. Arrange water spinach right on top. Then a couple of boiled prawns and shredded chicken side by side. Pour stock on top of everything. Place half of boiled egg on the side. Sprinkle spring onions on top and top with shallot flakes. Serve with more chili paste.

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Prawn Noodle, Hae Mee

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

100 g shallots
50 g shrimp paste, belacan
25 g ground chili
1 cup cooking oil
3 tbsp sugar, plus 2 tbsp for stock
3-5 litre water
25 g fresh ginger, halved and bruised lightly
500 g prawn, with shells on and remove the head and feet for stock
300 g chicken, drumsticks or breast
50 g dried anchovies, soaked and drained
2 tbsp salt
300 g water spinach, or kangkung
50 g spring onions, chopped finely
50 g fried shallot flakes
1 kg egg noodles, blanched

Directions:

Grind shallots, shrimp paste and ground chili to fine paste using mortar and pestle.
Heat cooking oil in a wok. Stir-fry chili paste till fragrant over medium heat, about 3 minutes.
Add sugar and cook for 2 minutes till sugar melted and slightly caramelized.
Remove from heat and set aside for later use.
Boil water in a medium stockpot. Add prawn heads and ginger into the boiling water.
Let boil again over high heat.
Strain prawn shells off the water.
Add soaked dried anchovies into the stock. Add half of chili paste into the water as well, about 3-4 tbsp.
Season with salt and sugar. Let boil again.
Add prawns and chicken meat into the boiling water.
Cook for about 5 minutes and remove prawns from water.
Let cool and shell the prawns completely.
The stock should be cooking for another 30 minutes with chicken and anchovies still in the pot, simmering.
Turn off heat and take the chicken out of the stock. Shred chicken meat into bite sizes.
Strain stock and get rid off anchovies.
Blanch water spinach using stock if desired, or just hot water. If you are blanching using stock, turn heat back on.
Assemble noodles, water spinach, prawn, chicken in a serving bowl. Pour stock into the bowl. Sprinkle chopped spring onions and fried shallot flakes. Serve with half of boiled egg and some chili paste for dipping sauce.

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32 Responses to “Prawn Noodle, Hae Mee”

  1. 1

    mycookinghut — July 19, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

    This is my all time favourite!!

  2. 2

    Lyndsey ~The Tiny Skillet~ — July 19, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

    Wow, is all I can say…wow!

    Your aunt sure puts a lot of love into her cooking…and you won’t even share? loan her out? :D This was such a great post it gave me so much information and instructions. I almost felt like I was tight there with you…except for the fact that I couldn’t smell any thing. I want to make my own chili paste now too…just to say that I did it! :D

    Thanks for sharing this much with us! Hehe! You are a pleasure to read!

  3. 3

    Pierre — July 19, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

    Gila… look at that fried sambal paste. It’s sooo sinful.
    That would be a bowl of fiery heaven on the last shot. Definitely makes me wanna go to penang too!

  4. 4

    pickyin @ LifeIsGreat — July 19, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

    I have in the deep abyss of my freezer some prawn heads and shells and chilli paste I made months ago for my Penang Char Kuey Teow but I suspect I may need more prawn shells for a batch of flavorful soup.

    How does separating the kangkung leaves from their stems get into your head?

    • Jun replied: — July 19th, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

      She always scolds me and criticizes me for not cutting veggies neat enough. Mine would be all different sizes but would get my hands slapped. Ladies in my house are the type who ‘clean as you go’ type. Me, not so much. LOL

  5. 5

    mochachocolatarita — July 19, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

    mantepppp…ok you’re so dedicated to have made this from scratch, i’d just cheat using the ready made mix :D hehehehhh lazy meee

  6. 6

    Apex@blueapocalypse — July 19, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    It looks delicious, I really enjoyed all the step by step photos.

  7. 7

    bblossom — July 19, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing your aunt’s (or yours now) hae mee recipe. I love the homemade chili powder, it looks so intense. You just inspired me to make this noodle soup from scratch. slurp…

  8. 8

    Pepy@Indonesia Eats — July 20, 2011 @ 3:51 am

    Totally different style with the one that I used to have in Java; Jakarta to be exact. It us enhanced with tauco manis beside shrimp, ebi and chicken. Love yours too, thou!

    • Jun replied: — July 20th, 2011 @ 9:14 am

      Taoco manis in noodle soup sounds very interesting

  9. 9

    Wendy Leow — July 20, 2011 @ 7:58 am

    I really love reading your blog & look forward to each new post!!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  10. 10

    Holly — July 20, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    I really love looking around here -learning so much!Your step by step photography never ceases to inspire me. It is simple and direct and I really feel confident to try and make some of them (although I know that none will come close). Keep up the good work.!

  11. 11

    Agnes — July 20, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    I never had hae mee but seeing your version here really makes me want to make it. I wish it was possible to buy a batch of prawn heads :(

    Btw, I also separate the stem of water spinach (yes, my mom told me to!) … then add the leaves a bit later than the stem, as I want everything to be slightly crunchy :)

    And your auntie is awesome.

    • Jun replied: — July 21st, 2011 @ 8:56 am

      At the end she dropped everything into the pot to blanch them at the same time. Hilarious

  12. 12

    Reese@SeasonwithSpice — July 20, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

    Hi Jun – this is a gorgeous dish! Very glad to see you talk about Penang. Coincidentally, one of my aunts used to sell prawn mee (we call it Hokkien mee in Penang because it is a unique Hokkien dish) at a food market.

    My aunt is selling satay and koay teow now, but I really miss her prawn mee. She used pork ribs instead of chicken for the stock. A more common practice in Penang. Our chili paste for Hokkien mee is a blend of garlic, shallots, palm sugar and chili paste, excluding the belacan. Is that an Indo practice? Interesting..

    Tough work to make this dish in a large batch. Kudos to both our aunts:)

    • Jun replied: — July 20th, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

      Prawn mee is not popular here at all. I haven’t seen it here. The addition of belacan is to compensate the lack of prawn skin for the stock and make up for the shorg time for cooking it. I should try using palm sugar next time. Thank you!

  13. 13

    Doug — July 21, 2011 @ 3:47 am

    As with all your posts, nice clear directions with beautiful, instructive photos. I especially appreciate your explanation why not to peel the prawns before cooking them.

  14. 14

    tigerfish — July 23, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

    What can I say? This is just pure heaven!!! Look at what is going into the soup/broth. WOW!

  15. 15

    kankana — July 23, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    That dish looks super delicious and gorgeous clicks!

  16. 16

    Emilia — July 24, 2011 @ 11:43 am

    Oh God, this dish looks amazing, all the great flavours and beautiful colours. Your photos are so great, I can almost taste this dish, just by seeing them.

  17. 17

    Dhita Beechey — July 28, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    Hi Jun, wow, this posting is a real drool-worthy. Manteeeebbbbsss. Has all the ingredients I love – kangkung, mie, prawns and of course, noodles. Will make this some day for sure

  18. 18

    Melissa Loh — July 30, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    Awww man! You have me totally drooling and aching for some hae mee now. I will have to make some next time I head to the seafood market and pick up some prawns. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  19. 19

    asianfoodophile — August 3, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    My suggestion would be to skip “Strain prawn shells off the water”.and continue with adding soaked dried anchovies.

    Then follow up by adding chicken/prawns to cook for 5 minutes and remove the prawns to let cool and peel. The new prawn shells can be thrown into the stock to boil for another 30 mins to get extra flavour.

    After all, we need to strain the stock after turning off the flame and taking out the chicken meat to shred.

    We strain only once instead of twice. Hope you don’t mind my method. I will definitely try cooking this one day. Will try to get some cheap pig bones from the pork seller to boil with the prawn shells as I have seen some prawn mee hawkers do for their soups.

    • Jun replied: — August 4th, 2011 @ 9:42 am

      Yes I like your more efficient method! After reading others’ blogs on prawn mee, I am dying to try preparing the stock with pig bones.

  20. 20

    Rasa Malaysia — August 8, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    Aiya June, too bad we live so far apart. I will have to buy a second home in Medan, too, and we can just play masak-masak Penang-style. Love love Hokkien Mee, can’t get enough. I just made Assam Laksa for Eat A Duck I Must when she came to visit. :)

  21. 21

    Rasa Malaysia — August 8, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    BTW, one of my favorite stalls in Penang adds mantis prawn as the extra topping. OMG!

  22. 22

    Panda — January 3, 2012 @ 1:18 am

    Interesting to chance upon your recipe. Did your aunt sell this in a Singapore’s school cafeteria? My high school cafeteria used to have a stall that sells chilli prawn noodles soup and I couldn’t find this anywhere else since I graduated.

  23. 23

    Lenny — July 18, 2012 @ 11:26 am

    Hi Jun, there is a prawn noodle at Jl Taruma, Medan. If you come from Zainul Arifin, make a left turn. It’s the first house on the left!

    • Jun replied: — July 19th, 2012 @ 10:58 am

      Yes! I just heard about it last month, a friend mentioned about the place and she thinks the prawn noodle is very, very close to the Penang version. What do you think? I think it would be a couple of month before I can try it out. I really can’t wait!

  24. 24

    Lenny — July 19, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    IMO, it is the best so far! :P

  25. 25

    Lenny — July 20, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    I have just found out it is called Jl. Teuku Cik Ditiro :)

    • Jun replied: — July 21st, 2012 @ 4:58 am

      LOL. Thank you so muchfor the info Lenny

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