Piquant Hokki En-Style Prawn and Noodle Soup

Preparation info

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In Malaysia there are many Chinese. Understandably, therefore, Malaysian cuisine has many Chinese characteristics. This dish is Malaysian, but ‘Hokkien’ refers to that region of southern China from whence many Chinese migrated centuries ago, bringing with them, of course, their regional style of cooking. By all accounts, the Malaysian influence greatly improved the Hokkien approach to food.

In China, Hokkien is not regarded as a gourmet’s paradise. However, this dish is certainly a fine blending of Malay and Chinese influences. I first enjoyed it as a speciality offering at one of the many street food stalls one finds in every city throughout Asia. The wok, together with a fierce and fiery heat, is the implement of choice in such places. These food stalls and the open air food markets are marvellous spectacles to behold. Most impressive are the stir-fried dishes, the quick fried noodles, and the simple soups one can see being made and enjoy, produced as if on assembly line. I have simplified this recipe, adapting it to rely upon what ingredients can be readily found locally. Even with this modification, it remains a delicious treat.

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  • 225 g (8 oz) fresh Chinese egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 225 g (8 oz) rice noodles, rice vermicelli or rice sticks
  • 450 g (1 lb) raw prawns
  • 4 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 175 g (6 oz) shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoonchilli bean sauce
  • 1 tablespoonMadras curry paste
  • 1.75 litres (3 pints) Chicken Stock 2 teaspoons salt

For the Garnish

  • 225 g (8 oz) bean sprouts, blanched
  • 3 tablespoons spring onions, thinly cut on the diagonal


Cook the egg noodles for 3-5 minutes in a pan of boiling water. Drain and plunge them into cold water. Drain thoroughly and toss them in the sesame oil. (Tightly covered with cling film, they can be kept in this state for up to 2 hours in the fridge.) Soak the rice noodles, vermicelli or sticks in a bowl of warm water for 25 minutes. Drain them in a colander or sieve. Peel the prawns and discard the shells. Using a small sharp knife, remove the fine digestive cord. Wash the prawns and pat them dry with kitchen paper.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, turn the heat to low, add the shallots and fry until they are lightly brown and crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon arid drain well on kitchen paper. Re-heat the wok and add the remaining oil. When it is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the chilli bean sauce and curry paste and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Pour this into a bowl and set aside.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large pan, add the salt, then add the prawns and cook gently over low heat for 2 minutes. Now add the garlic-chilli-curry mixture and continue to simmer for to simmer for 1 minute. Add the egg and rice noodles, vermicelli or sticks and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Turn the contents of the wok into a large soup tureen, garnish with the bean sprouts, spring onions and fried shallots and serve at once.