I write with much trepidation. Even as I think about the title of this recipe, I shudder to think what vitriol I might invite. This is, after all, the quintessential fabric of every Singaporean growing up. Bee Hoon or Vermicelli, every household has their own take. Saying 'me too' doesn't quite give me the right to potentially bastardise it, or say, by implication, here's how you do it.
So, this is not a 'how you do it'. This is my version. Through trial and fire, quite literally. You can adapt it any way you like. I always thought the char bee hoon was simply bee hoon fried with dark soy. Which, on the surface, one wouldn't be wrong. But I've never quite gotten the flavour right. There is a umami hit that arrives through the nose landing right at the back of your head, sending oxytocin moments of sheer joy and mild panic. Panic because you know something that tastes so decadent is truly going to demand some pay back down the waist line.
I had quite forgotten, that I used to toss up a bunch, entertaining friends when I was living in North Melbourne. It earned me some kind of community fame being this uncle who could toss up a dish or two from the Asian South East.
It did take me a while to remember the recipe as it has been almost a decade since I have had a kitchen to play with. But here it is.
Singaporean Fried Beehoon / Rice NoodleINGREDIENTS
- 400g Dry Bee Hoon (14oz)
- A pot of warm water, enough to soak beehoon
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp minced ginger (optional but this will add a nice kick)
- Shao Xing Chinese Cooking Wine You will also need a pair of wooden chopsticks to stir noodles.
- 1 tbsp Chicken Stock Powder/ 1 Chicken Stock Cube
- 1 tbsp Shao Xing Chinese Cooking Wine
- 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
- 1/2 tsp Light Soy Sauce
- 1 Cup Water
- 1 tsp Dark Mushroom Dark Sauce
- 1 tsp Red Date Thick Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Sweet Soy Kecap Manis *To make life easier, you can just substitute the last three dark sauces with 1 tbsp of Sweet Soy Kecap Manis. I understand not everyone is sauce crazy like me.
- Thinly Sliced Shitake Mushrooms (soaked and softened in water for at least several hours or overnight)
- Fried Omelette/Sunny Side up Eggs
- Thinly shredded Cabbage
- Bean Sprouts
- Pan Fried Spam
- More Sesame Oil
- White Pepper
- Start by soak bag of bee hoon in pot of warm water for about 3-4 mins. You may salt the water if you like with 1 tbsp of salt. Note: I usually boil half pot of water to a simmer, then top up with room temperature water. The key here is to soften the noodle, not cook them through. Because if you do, you will end up with really broken strands of beehoon when you stir fry them with the sauces, which is not what you want.
- Prepare stock mix by combining all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Make sure all stock powder/stock cube is properly dissolved.
- Check that the noodles are properly softened. You should be able pick them up with chopsticks without the noodles being stiff. At this stage, drain off the water and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil on high heat and sautee 1 tbsp minced garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil. If using shitake mushrooms, add them now and fry till fragrant, about another minute.
- Turn down to medium heat and add 2 tbsp Shao Xing Wine. The wok should sizzle quite nicely. Let it simmer for another 30 seconds.
- Add softened beehoon and stir to let liquid absorb for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add pre-prepared Stock Mix into the pan and use chopsticks to stir until the colors are evenly distributed. Keep stirring till noodles absorb most of the liquid. Depending on how dry you like it, you can keep stir frying until you see crispy burnt bits of noodles. This whole process should take about 15 - 20 mins. You may taste test your noodles for flavour and Al dente-ness.
- If you are adding cabbage and/or bean sprouts. Add them in around 2-3 minutes before noodles are cooked. Cabbage and sprouts cook very fast and they always taste better when they still have a raw crunch to them.
- Once beehoon are more or less cooked, turn off fire, douse a good drizzle of sesame oil (about 1 tbsp worth) and a generous sprinkle of white pepper over the top of the noodles, toss lightly and cover with lid. Let noodles rest for a few minutes.
- To serve, garnish with optional sliced egg omlette, fried egg, shallots, pan fried spam or anything you fancy.
Stock Mix (Combine into a bowl and set aside)
Bonus Ingredients (Optional)
Takes , Serves 4 - 6 or more.
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Asian Australian food adventures in and out of the kitchen. Around the world. Like an oyster searching for it's pearl.