Rubber noodles with chicken

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One of the most popular street cart foods in Indonesia is Chinese-Indonesian mie ayam (chicken noodles), invariably served in a white bowl painted with red cockerels. I like that they are sometimes called rubber noodles for their springy, chewy texture. Buy medium thick, yellow egg noodles. Stir-fried chicken and fresh greens are spooned over with an optional ladle of chicken stock to transform a sticky glazed dish to a noodle soup. Bakmi meatballs or preserved vegetables can be added, but I keep mine more pared back - well, slightly more! The ingredient list is long, each element combining for an irresistible explosion of flavour, but the preparation is simple.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass sticks, bruised
  • 3 lime leaves
  • 2 salam leaves (optional)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut to a very small dice, about 5 mm (¼ inch)
  • bunch of spring onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kecap manis
  • 1 teaspoon dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved
  • 3 pak choy, sliced
  • 400 g (14 oz) egg noodles
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 800 ml ( cups) fresh chicken stock, hot (optional)

Bumbu spice paste

  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 6 small red Asian shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) turmeric, peeled, or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) ginger, peeled
  • 3 can dlenuts or 6 blanched almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt

To serve

  • crisp-fried shallots or garlic
  • kecap manis
  • chilli sauce

Method

Start by making the bumbu. In a food processor, whizz all the bumbu spice paste ingredients together, adding a little water to help the blades bring everything together.

Prepare all the ingredients for stir-frying. Preheat a wok over a medium heat, add the oil and soften the onion. Add the bumbu, lemongrass, lime leaves and salam leaves and fry until very fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the spring onions, all the sauces and palm sugar and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and glazed with the sauce. Remove from the heat, taste for seasoning and set aside.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the pak choy until the leaves are wilted and the stems tender crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Cook the noodles in the same water, making sure they keep some chewiness. Drain and toss with sesame oil to prevent sticking.

Divide the noodles into four bowls. Top with pak choy and the chicken. If using, ladle over the hot broth and bring to the table with crisp-fried shallots or garlic (or both), kecap manis and chilli sauce for everyone to tailor their bowls to their own taste.