My freezer contain many treasures. It is full of delicious leftovers from all my culinary adventures. Food that I just can't simply bear to let them go to waste. They are perfect for times when I can't be bother to cook. A little bit of defrosting and reheating and Bob's your uncle. The freezer is also packed with piles of hasty ad hoc purchases from my many trips down to Chinatown. Fresh beancurd sheets, wanton skin, dumpling skin etc. But amongst all these exciting wonders, there is always a bag of prawn heads and shells that had been lovingly tucked away in one of the compartment, waiting patiently for me to be used up to make my favourite Hokkien Prawn Noodles / Hae Mee 虾面
I have a habit of making sure that I only ever buys fresh shell-on prawns for any cooking session, even if the recipe do not call for them. Then what I do is to remove the heads and shells, pack these into a zipper bag and pop them in my freezer. And when I accumulate enough of these, I will treat myself to this truly amazing Singapore hawker's classic.
This is not a difficult dish to make but it does takes a bit of time in order for the soup broth to develop a rich and umami laden flavours. The perfect hae mee broth should have a dark brown appearance with puddles of red-tinted oily sheen from the prawn shells. It should also have a gutsy porky depth and a rich prawny (if that's even a word) flavour. Once the broth is done, the rest is a matter of assembling and then you'll be able to enjoy your labour of love.
For an even more special treat, I would sometimes add half a soft-boiled egg for the toppings too but on this occasion, I forgot. Oh well, hopefully it won't be long before I'll have another bag of frozen prawn heads and shells for this again.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the broth:
250g pork spareribs
250g fatty pork chop, remove the fat to make the crispy lard cubes for garnish(see method in my Char Kway Teow post)
16 large raw tiger prawns
2 tbsp lard (use sunflower oil for a healthy option)
2 tbsp crushed rock sugar (from any good Chinese supermarket, alternatively use granulated sugar)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 litres water
30g dried anchovies/ikan bilis (optional but will yield a tastier broth)
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
For the garnish:
Fried shallots (you can buy these ready made from any good supermarket)
1 spring onions, green parts only, cut into rings
Crispy fried lard cubes
400g fresh egg noodles
200g kangkong (water spinach)
100g bean sprouts
2 large red chilled, cut into rings
2 tbsp light soy sauce
Cut the pork spareribs apart into manageable size pieces. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the ribs and blanch for 2-3 minutes before draining and rinsing with plenty of cold water to get rib of any visible blood. These will give you a clearer stock. Set aside.
Prepare the prawns. Remove and reserve the heads and shells. Cut a slit along the back and remove the thin black thread intestines, Wash thoroughly and pat dry. Set aside in the fridge.
(Note: If like me, you have plenty of frozen prawn heads and shells laying about in the freezer, you can use them instead and leave these prawns whole and skip this step. )
Heat the lard or oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Once smoking, add the prawn heads and shells to the wok and fry for 1 minute before adding the rock sugar, garlic and peppercorns and continue to fry for another 3-4 minutes, until the prawn heads and shells have turned a deep red colour and coated with glossy lightly caramelised sugar.
Pour in the water, add the blanched ribs, trimmed pork chop and anchovies and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Skim off any floating foam occasionally.
Remove the pork chop from the simmering stock after 30 minutes, which should now be cooked and tender and set aside to cool. Once cooled, thinly sliced the pork and set aside.
Bring a pan of water to the boil. Blanch the noodles until just heated through, then drain using a slotted spoon and divide into separate serving bowl.
Using the same pan of boiling water quickly blanch the kangkong and bean sprouts for a few seconds, until just cooked through. Divide the vegetable, cooked prawns and sliced pork and arrange neatly onto the noodle among the serving bowls. Pour enough hot stock over these to cover the noodles and top with the garnishes.
Place some light soy sauce in a small sauce dish with some sliced red chillies on the side.