Street food in Kuala Lumpur can be damn tasty.
But nothing beats comfort street food served in the comforts of your own home.
On a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur with my long-time school friend David to attend our high school reunion, we not only relished the chance of meeting up with classmates of yesteryear but made sure we also savoured some of the best street food this food-loving city has to offer.
Among the litany of smoky char and full-flavoured kway teow, Hokkien mee and satay, what surprised me after the trip was David telling me one of his favourites was the plain and simple Malaysian style fish ball noodles. He enjoyed this bowl of noodles so much, he began replicating this dish when he got back to Perth.
“What’s wrong with you bro?” I asked. “Fish ball noodles among all the deliciously spicy food is like plain Jane among beautiful and sexy women.”
Of course I was only joking.
For I know too well plain Jane can be the most exciting person just like the hidden virtues of a dish so seemingly plain but pack so much goodness.
Malaysian style Fish Ball Noodles
Thanks to David for his efforts in replicating this beautiful bowl of street food at home, I have become a devout fan ever since.
The key is getting all the correct ingredients and among the most important (clockwise from image above) are silky smooth fresh rice noodles or hor fun, tung choy or preserved lettuce, sprightly and bouncy fish balls, fresh shallots, fish cake and fresh beansprouts.
The most important ingredient for this bowl of noodles is crispy bits of pork lard and oil that add a smoky dimension to the noodles.
Walk into your local Asian butcher and ask for pork fat. I bought about 200 grams at a Chinese butcher near Chinatown that retails at $3.50 per kilo.
With just 2 drops of vegetable oil in a small saucepan, these diced bits of pork fat will slowly render and what you have is golden brown bits of crispy pork fat with is so addictive especially when you are holding a can of beer or a glass of white wine.
“The taste of the broth that we know so well from school days comes from the fish cakes, fish balls and tung choy” David tells me over the phone from Perth.
So, after simmering a couple of rinsed chicken carcasses for about half an hour, I chuck in the fish balls, slices of fish cakes and tung choy which had been rinsed under cold running water.
Blanch rice noodles and beansprouts for 2 minutes in hot water and drain. Place noodles in a large bowl then ladle in fish balls, fish cakes and soup.
Then garnish a la KL style fish ball noodles with finely diced shallots, crispy pork lard and a drizzle of pork oil and a sprinkle of pepper,
Find your favourite brand of white fish ball that is fresh and sprightly.
Hakka-style fish cake is so versatile in Asian cooking that is inexpensive, delicious and so readily available in most Asian grocers.
The Recipe ~ Malaysian style Fish Ball Noodles
- 2 packets white fish balls * (about 24 pieces)
- 1 packet fish cake * thinly sliced diagonally
- 4 – 5 tablespoon tung choy or preserved lettuce * rinsed in cold water to rid salt particles
- 2 chicken carcass / bones, trimmed of fat and rinsed and cleaned under hot water
- 1 packet fresh beansprouts
- 1 packet (500gm) of rice noodles or rice vermicelli
- 200 grams pork fat, diced and fried to golden brown using small sauce pot
- 1 bunch shallots, finely diced white ends only for garnish
- 6 -8 fresh birdeye chillies finely diced and added to light soy as dipping sauce
- Simmer chicken carcass in 3 litres of water for about half hour until carcass is well-cooked. Remove carcass from pot and set aside to let cool;
- Add fish ball, fish cake slices, tung choy and simmer for another half hour in low heat;
- Add salt and white pepper to stock to taste;
- Blanch rice noodles and beansprouts in hot water, drain and transfer into serving bowls;
- Ladle onto the noodles fish balls, fish cakes and soup;
- Garnish with diced shallots, sprinkle of white pepper, crispy pork lard, pork oil and serve immediately.
Serves 5 – 6 people
- There is a chicken sandwich recipe below that can be easily made with chicken meat from the carcasses.
- Preparing crispy pork lard : Freeze these slabs of pork fat so they are easier to dice into small little cubes when semi solid. Heat only 2 – 3 drops of vegetable oil in sauce pot then add diced pork fat and it will render almost immediately. Simmer in low heat and do not overcook or pork fat will become bitter. Turn down heat when pork fat starts to become brown. Remove crispy pork fat and drain in kitchen paper. Set aside pork oil to be drizzled onto noodles when serving.
- Preserved lettuce or tung choy needs to be rinsed under running water to rid of salt and impurities.
- Leave the lid slightly open when simmering fish balls so they don’t expand and become large balls due to pot pressure.
I love this recipe for its simplicity using good quality store bought fish balls and fish cake. This bowl of noodles is especially good during cold weather but I am happy to have it any time of the year.
So there you have it … one of the most popular Malaysian street food right in the comforts of your own home.
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Subsidiary recipe ~ Chicken sandwiches and chicken salad
Even though chicken bones are very inexpensive, I always felt it’s a waste to throw them out after simmering to make stock because there is a fair bit of meat on the bones.
Simply remove the meat from the bones into a bowl, then add salt, pepper and Japanese kewpie mayonnaise and mix well.
Whalla! Now you have the perfect ingredient to make chicken sandwiches for lunch the next day.
Just add slices of cool cucumber to go with your favourite toasted wholemeal bread.