Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodle Prawn Mee for Bak Kut Teh Fans
By KF Seetoh - Monday, Jul 13, 2015
Yes, you heard and read it right. That was the first impression I had after a sip of their soup. Prawn mee soup or hae mee is not a complicated dish- it the stock or soup that makes or breaks it. On surface, it sounds simple. Use prawn heads and shells with garlic, onions, and dried shrimps with pork or chicken bones and you will get somewhere there. I know some hawkers who swears by using just prawn head and little else, plus a bit of seasoning and rock sugar. The trick is how you do it, like what kind of fire is introduced at what stage and when and if the ingredients need pre-frying and how. The noodles, toppings like slices of fish cakes, prawns, lean meat, bean sprouts or kangkong, are not rocket science.
“It’s our old Long House recipe from my father” and owner James Tan adds that his father still runs a fishball and laksa stall just across from his stall at the food centre. The older Tan began hawking fishball noodle back in the day and decided to add hae mee in their repertoire for a simple and practical reason “can sell at higher price”. Today, they went one up, use only big prawns and their prices are reasonable- from $5, using huge ang ka or sway ka prawns. Their all-important prawn soup, has the usual prawn head flavour and aroma but it has a distinct pork bone aroma and taste, punctured with pepper and a very gentle breeze of herbs. I noted some light use of dang kui. It felt like a combo of Kuala Lumpur style bak kut teh lurking in prawn stock.
James and his wife Mary Quek with a few chefs run the stall and when I was served their prawn and pork ribs noodle, I was not initially blown away. Something was amiss. “We leave the customers to spoon in the soy sauce on their own” James explains. Indeed, a splash of it over the noodles was all it took to bring it to life. Admittedly, some will like the natural flavour and can give the salt a miss. Just shoot some of the “gunpowder” or chilli powder over to give it a boost. If you don’t like how noodles can mar the flavour of the soup, go for their equally popular dry version which comes with a separate bowl of soup redolent with halved giant prawns. My only peeve- that the sambal did not slap me in face, but was made for the popular genial palates.
They recently introduced a new item which I felt went well with the hae mee- Teochew prawn cakes. They turned mashed pork neck and shoulder meat with shrimp meat with bits of water chestnut in to a patty and pan fried it wrapped in thin crispy soy bean skin. It was hard to stop eating this one, especially with the chilli dip. When I asked what prawns would be used for which order “They all come in one big box and it’s all mixed. Sometimes more of one than the other, so I sell what is available”.
Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodle
411, Balestier Road, Balestier Market
Close alternate Mondays