Thursday, May 27, 2010


There's a reason why 'prawn brain' or 'otak udang' (oh-tuck oo-dung) is  a Malaysian idiom used to describe an extremely stupid person. It's because prawns pile poop in their heads. And along a little vein on their backs too.

So the next time you're cleaning prawns snip the front half of their heads off in addition to removing the little 'vein' along the curve of their backs. 

The reason I'm telling you this is because this recipe for fried rice noodles uses a sweet, rich and creamy pink prawn stock made by blending the shells and heads of sauteed prawns to a mush and the juice drained and squeezed out. So it is a pretty good idea to make sure your prawns are poop free. Agree?

Having said that, can you imagine how delicious this noodle dish is? Prawn/prawn juice is one of the many natural flavour contains umami......the fifth primary taste in addition to sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Put simply umami is a pleasant savoury taste imparted by glutamate that makes food taste delicious. Click here if you would like to learn more about umami or if the grey cells are feeling exceptionally  frisky today.

I love umami but I love not chemistry. Or was that biology? (( boggle )). Anyway what I'm trying to say is .........Stir Fried Rice Noodles is not rocket science. It's not even is Art.

Now to the art. Fried rice noodles is a street food. It's disgustingly cheap and may be stir fried,  soup-ed up or sauced up in countless ways. Usually bought in its dried form, it is given a soak for an hour or so to soften up. It's then drained, given a few shakes in a colander and tossed into a  sweet, spicy seasoned sauce, bubbling away deliriously in the wok waiting to be puckered up by the noodles.  

How to clean the prawns. Well.

Using a small paring knife, make a little incision between where the head joins the body. You'll be able to see the 'vein' joining up into the head. See how the poop track is connected to their heads?

With the tip of your knife lift off a tiny bit of the 'vein' and then tug gently at it. The 'vein' will slide out quite easily like a little grey thread. You have just removed prawn poop ~ in a very cool way. Then snip off the front half of their heads to get rid of the rest. Now your prawns are really clean and ready to be cooked.Woo-hoooo..........

The recipe ~
The amount of rice noodles is an estimate. I had forgotten to weigh them in their dried form before soaking. But its was more than enough for 2 persons.

About 150 - 180 gm of dried rice vermicelli/skinny rice noodles, soaked in cold water for an hour and drained. Keep aside. Note : The noodles will not go completely soft. But don't worry. It will soften further in the cooking.

6-7 medium sized prawns, cleaned as above leaving the shells and heads intact.
Some thinly sliced beef, seasoned with a little light soy sauce, salt pepper 

Some sliced cabbage or any green you like
Chinese chives, chopped into 1 inch lengths ( I LOVE chives in stir fried noodles dishes)
Some bean sprouts if you like
Some sliced shitake mushrooms

1/2 large red onion
2 pips garlic
1//2 inch fresh ginger

1 tsp or more chillie paste (store-bought or made like here)

1 1/2 T oyster sauce

1 T light soy sauce
1 T dark soy sauce
1 cup or more water or chicken/beef stock
salt 'n pepper

2- 3 T cooking oil

Blend or pound the onion, garlic and ginger to a paste. Prepare and clean the vegetables and keep aside. Prepare the prawns as above and season the beef slices.

Heat up a wok. Pour in 1 T of the cooking oil. When hot stir fry the prawns for a minute or two, adding salt n pepper to season, until they go completely pink and are cooked. Lift out and keep aside on a plate to cool a while. 

When cool, peel prawns and place all shell and heads into a small food processor and blitz until very fine. You may add a little water to help it along. Take the mush out and strain, squeezing out the juice into a small bowl. Discard the squeezed ground prawn shells. Keep the juice.

Pour the remainder of the oil into the wok and warm it up till fairly hot. Throw in the ground onions, garlic and ginger and chillie paste and stir fry until aromatic and the paste is cooked. About 2-3 minutes. 

Throw in the seasoned beef, mushrooms, veggies (except chives) and finally the cooked prawns, stirring all the time. Put in the oyster sauce, the 2 soy sauces, salt and pepper to taste, the prawn juice and finally 1 cup of water or chicken/beef stock. Stir. Bring to the boil. throw in the drained noodles and mix well to ensure the noodles are enveloped by the sauce. Add in the chives at this point and continue to mix well, cutting through the noodles if necessary. The sauce will be soaked up by the noodles and the noodles will become softer and cooked through as you stir fry. If you find it a little dry add more stock or water. Season with more salt n pepper if necessary. 

Once everything is well mixed the final dish should be a little moist and not too dry. Serve hot.

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