Sunday, April 06, 2014

Accidental Cantonese Bak Chor Mee - In The Mood For Noodles

My Cantonese-ified bak chor mee - a vegetarian version with eggplant
So I received in the mail a hefty box of Kang Kang noodles (thanks, Catchon, and no, this is not a sponsored post) and to be honest, I'm not a natural noodle fan. I don't hate them, they're just not the kind of carb I can have all the time, I have to be in the "mood"*. I was going through the box - kway teow, silver needle noodles, Hokkien yellow noodles - nope, nope, nope, not feeling it - and then I saw Hokkien flat noodles and ding! ding! ding! I felt like having 濕炒 (sup chao, or wet-fry. Sounds yuck in English but basically a stir-fry with a heavier "wetter" gravy).

I found some pork mince in my fridge, and pictured a glossy coffee-hued gravy, so I dug out my dried shiitakes, some dried morel crumbs and Mrs. So's mushroom sauce, and oh, vegetarian oyster sauce, which tastes nothing like oyster sauce but more like hyper-concentrated mushrooms with the consistency of oyster sauce. As I was cooking, I found it all a little too savoury, so I added a couple of glugs of dark Chinkiang (Zhenjiang) vinegar and finished it off with palm sugar, Chiuchow chilli sauce and black & white pepper.

It was delicious - and I feel weird about saying this about my own cooking, because I'm not exactly a genius cook (which is why I like restaurants... maybe?) and almost immediately after eating it I realised that I was, in fact, subconsciously trying to recreate bak chor mee.

Bak chor mee from plusixfive cookbook
On one of my trips to Singapore ages ago, I discovered bak chor mee, noodles tossed in a dark, pork and mushroom sauce - think SE Asian ragu, or zhajiangmian. I now know that you can have this sauce on a variety of different noodle types/shapes, but I had my first bowl on flat yellow Hokkien noodles, and a first love is hard to beat.

I went and consulted my Singaporean food bible (aka. the plusixfive cookbook) and realised I did sorta make bak chor mee, but there were loads more ingredients and steps I didn't take - it's probably more Cantonese than Singaporean, because I didn't have things like shrimp paste and sambal in my primarily Canto pantry... So here's the sorta-recipe.

Cantonese-ified bak chor mee

Serves 2


200g minced pork
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
White pepper
Black pepper
2 tablespoons dark Chinkiang/Shanghainese vinegar
1 teaspoon palm sugar
2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
Chiuchow chilli sauce
Hokkien noodles or other noodles of your choice (or even rice)
1 clove of garlic, minced

Vegetarian option - replace pork with anything you like - I like eggplant, sliced firm tofu (the kind that's been marinated in five spice) or deep-fried firm tofu. If you do so, you might not need as much vinegar as these tend to absorb the vinegar more readily. You also won't really need to marinate them beforehand. Eggplant will need a bit of pre-cooking, eg. steam and tear apart roughly with a fork, or diced and quickly braise.


1. Soak shiitakes in room temp water for at least 20 mins. Reserve soaking liquid. Cut off mushroom stems (reserve), and roughly dice mushrooms. Add 1 tsp soy, mix and let it marinate a little.

2. Add light soy, white pepper and a pinch of salt to minced pork. Mix to evenly distribute seasoning. You may want to add a little sprinkle of water if the pork is too 'dry' to mix. (It tends to happen if you use good soy sauce, because it's slightly thicker than the industrial kind). Let it sit for a few mins but don't sweat it if you don't have much time.

3. Prep your carb of choice (noodles, rice, whatever).

4. In a pan or wok over low-medium heat, add a touch of oil and minced garlic. Let the garlic sizzle and when it has gained a little colour, add mushrooms and a few tablespoons of the mushroom soaking liquid (enough so that the liquid covers the mushrooms). Turn heat to low and let it simmer until mushrooms soften (I'm guessing around 4 mins) and most of the liquid had been reduced.

5. Turn heat up to high, add pork mince and toss the mixture around swiftly until all the pork looks seared (no pink bits).

6. Combine remaining mushroom liquid with vegetarian oyster sauce and vinegar, and add to the wok.

7. Add dollops of chilli sauce (to taste), a couple of cracks of black pepper, and finally palm sugar.

8. Ladle onto your carb of choice, or, for noodles, you can also toss it altogether into the wok with a little noodle water (a la pasta cooking technique) - voila my "wet-fry".

* Carbs I can have all the time are rice, bread and (plain) steamed buns. Why do you care anyway.

1 comment:

  1. This blog entry made me laugh. Maybe because I'm Singaporean and cannot believe a foreigner would crave for sometime as commonplace as Bak Chor Mee - you find it at every hawker/food centre in Singapore! Anyway, thanks for posting the recipe. I know I will try it to satisfy my own craving while I'm in HK. :)