First impressions: despite the low prices that you see outside, cooking hawker food at home is neither cheap nor easy. For Meatmen’s Hokkien mee, I had to make about two litres of stock to feed four people, which entailed a whole 1.5 kg of prawns, and 1kg of pork bones. Added up, the ingredient costs came to about $7 a person, not counting time and effort for prep; and time and effort you will need to put in.
Starting from scratch, the recipe will require you to shell a preposterous number of prawns; render lard (which also nets you crispy lardons that you will mindlessly snack on, and then immediately regret); make prawn stock; and par-cook many ingredients—all before you can start frying. Like any fried noodle dish, a well-seasoned wok and a roaring fire helps tremendously to achieve that wok hei flavour. If you, like us, are working with a standard hob and a nonstick pan, there are workarounds.
While the book gives advice on the sequence of frying, it doesn’t mention how long to fry the noodles for, or how long—and rightly so, since every pan and fire is different, so you have to judge by sight and smell. You’ll want the eggs and noodles to take on a little char before adding your garlic and stock. The black bits of burnt egg and noodle will dissolve into the stock, lending it a subtle smoky flavour. The noodles also soak up a surprising amount of liquid, so stick to the recipe, which asks you to prepare more stock than seemingly necessary at first.
The end result is Hokkien mee richer and tastier than the average hawker-bought one (thanks largely to the tasty stock infused with a generous amount of prawn heads and pork bones), making all that tedious prep well worth it.
TESTED BY WEETS GOH
30 MINS + 1.5HR FOR STOCK
CHEAPER TO EAT OUT, TASTIER TO MAKE AT HOME
Cooked by SALT