NOTE: This post is also submitted to celebrate
Merdeka Open House 2011: Makan Through Malaysia which is in conjunction with Malaysia’s National Day on 31 August 2011.
Growing up as kids in Malaysia, a dish that is child friendly among the array of curries and spicy Malaysian food is the Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun or Ipoh Sar Hor Fun as it is commonly known. Kids with a more adventurous and spicy palate are usually “elevated” by their parents to laksa status whereas those who are a little meek and bashful are fed with this more “bland” noodles.
Kai Si means shredded chicken while Hor Fun is rice noodles in Cantonese. This humble bowl of delicious noodles was made famous in Ipoh, a town located two hours north of Kuala Lumpur.
One particular stall in Kuala Lumpur that is famous for this noodles is what is now known as Restoran Pau Kee off Jalan Imbi.
It is strange that we never knew the names of the couple despite having patronised their stall for over thirty years and I suspect it might be the same for many of their loyal customers.
Everytime I am in KL, I try to frequent their stall and I refer to them as “Aunty” and “Uncle”, the husband and wife team who continues to dish out these delicious noodles.
It was probably back in the 1970s where this couple started business and they must have sold many thousand bowls of these noodles in the last 30 odd years or so. Their stall have since shifted from Tong Shin terrace to Jalan Imbi where they are now the sole operator specialising in their famous noodles, prawn wontons, chicken, curry noodles and vegetables.
The items on the wall menus are not extensive but loyal customers who come here know exactly what they are looking for. The classic Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun is merely rice noodles in chicken and prawn stock with slivers of chicken, prawns and vegetables.
Through the years, I have found this simple bowl of noodles to be tasty and easy to eat as the smooth silky noodles would just sliver down my throat. The serving is quite standard for Malaysia but small by Australian standards and one bowl is definitely not quite sufficient.
Therefore, on hand are other offerings where the chicken and beansprouts are smooth with a tasty concoction of soy sauce.
The prawn wontons are soft and delicate whiles the prawn cutlet inside is fresh and crunchy.
A serve of kai lan in soy sauce and deep fried spring onions is always popular, the vegetables fresh and crunchy.
Restoran Pau Kee
10 Jalan Utara off Jalan Imbi
(Building next to the Honda showroom)
Kuala Lumpur 55 100
Tel: +6 016 375 1360
7.00am – 5.00pm daily
Closed on alternate Tuesdays
Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun
– My mother’s beautiful “chicken soup for the soul” recipe
Back in Sydney where I now live, I occasionally crave for a hearty bowl of Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun, especially on a cold and wet winter day.
I learnt this recipe from my mother many years ago. Not only is it tasty, this dish has the potent quality of melting girls’ hearts. This bowl of noodles is Mysaucepan‘s perennial favourite and a smile comes to her face whenever we decide to cook these noodles at home. This is one of the earliest dishes that I learnt when I first started cooking many years ago and to this day, this dish has a special place in my heart because it is my mother’s recipe and my wife’s favourite Malaysian food.
Whenever I cook these noodles, I fondly remember my mother because it is simple and she imparted the details to me through a casual conversation without any written recipe. A picture paints a thousand words and I used to stand next to her in the kitchen observing how she prepares these delicious noodles.
But I’m glad that whenever she visits us in Sydney now, I am able to cook this meal for my parents.
Over the years, I have refined this recipe time and again and have thrown countless of Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun parties at home that have proved a winner with our Aussie and Malaysian friends alike.
Thanks mum! Here’s your recipe to be shared with the world.
25 – 30 medium to large green prawns
2 pieces chicken carcass, fat trimmed and rinsed
3 -4 large pieces pork bones, fat trimmed and rinsed
10 pieces chicken drumstick
2 one-kg packets of fresh rice noodles
2 bunches garlic chives
1 bunch coriander (optional)
2 stalks shallots
1 – 2 tablespoon white peppercorn, pounded with pestle and mortar
Half cup vegetable oil
5 – 10 fresh birdseye / large red chillies and soy sauce (as dipping sauce)
Deep fried spring onions for garnishing
Salt to taste
1. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, trim prawn heads, remove from body and slit prawn lengthwise down its back and devein.
2. Put prawns into 4 litres of boiling water and cook prawns for 2 minutes. Remove and drain prawns in cold running water to stop its cooking.
3. Trim fat off drumsticks, chicken carcass, pork bones and rinse in hot water. Then insert into the same stock pot with the 4 litres of water and let simmer slowly for approximately 2 hours.
4. When the stock is simmering, add the pounded white peppercorns.
5. Remove drumsticks after about twenty minutes when drumstick meat is soft and yielding to a knife. Remove meat from drumsticks with a kitchen scissors and set aside.
6. Remove shells from prawns, leaving tail and slice prawns lengthwise into halves.
7. Remove head shell from prawns and in a separate small saucepan, gently simmer prawn heads in vegetable oil until heads are slightly crispy.
8. Drain oil and set aside. The oil should be flavoursome with a bright orange colour.
9. Turn heat down on stock pot when carcass bones are soft and gradually add between 3 – 4 large tablespoons of salt to taste.
1. Diced fresh chillies and add soy sauce as dipping sauce.
2. Blanch garlic chives for 20 seconds with boiling water to cook it and set aside.
3. Blanch and drain fresh rice noodles with boiling water to warm and get rid of excess oil.
4. Place warm noodles, garlic chives, slivers of chicken drumstick meat and prawns in serving bowl and ladle boiling stock over it.
5. Garnish noodles with diced shallots, coriander, deep fried spring onions and a sprinkling of white pepper.
6. Drizzle a tablespoon of the prawn flavoured oil onto the top and serve hot.
This recipe serves between 8 – 10 medium sized bowls.
Some common mistakes on this recipe include:
1. There are ingredients that don’t belong in this beautiful bowl of noodles but seem to have crept into the recipe, and these are: hard boiled eggs, beansprouts and sambal. I have seen these ingredients in certain recipes and to me, these items simply spoil the clean and fresh flavours of the chicken and prawn stock.
2. Cooking the entire prawns in the stock pot without going through the process of extracting the prawn flavours by simmering the prawn heads in oil. The resultant stock becomes less flavoursome and natural fats from the ingredients combined in the stock produces a dull yellowish film of oil at the top of the stock pot. Tip: Go through the extra step of simmering fresh prawn heads in oil to extract the bright orange prawn flavoured oil.
3. Using dehydrated instead of fresh rice noodles.
4. Adding soy sauce or fish sauce into the stock.
5. Insufficient white peppercorns and salt resulting in a bland broth.
The verdict: Restoran Pau Kee vs my mother’s recipe
Restoran Pau Kee with its tried and test recipe is probably the quintessential yardstick for Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun in Kuala Lumpur. Their resilience and success over more than three decades are testimony to their efforts in maintaining quality and consistency.
From my most recent bowl of these noodles at Restoran Pau Kee in July 2011, I would humbly say, with all due respect to “Aunty” & “Uncle”, that I believe the stock from my mother’s recipe has more depth, complexity and intensity of flavour. This is probably due in no part to my cooking skills but more to do with the fresher and probably far more superior quality prawns and other key ingredients that I have the privilege to cook with in Sydney. Cooking smaller and more intimate portions at home as opposed to larger portions in a commercial environment probably makes a big difference as well.
Having said this, I never fail to still visit Restoran Pau Kee each time I visit KL because this place is an institution. It is a place of familiarity and comfort where their faces remind me of my childhood.
Most importantly, I believe in paying homage to the pioneers of food culture who have in their own way shaped my thinking and belief about food and how food has affected my life in general.
Slitting the prawns down its back makes it easy to peel after being cooked.
Run the prawns under cold water to stop its cooking to ensure meat is firm and to prevent being soft and powdery.
Gently simmer drumsticks until cooked, removing any scum and excess oil / fat on the surface of the stock.
Gently pound a large tablespoon of white peppercorn seeds with a pestel and mortar and only add to stock when it is boiling to infuse its peppery flavour.
The key to this recipe is using very fresh prawns which we are lucky that Sydney has plentiful. The prawn heads can be gently rinsed under a running tap to remove excess innards (optional). Do bear in mind the intense prawn flavours come from the prawn heads and its innards.
The important process of separately simmering the prawn heads in a small saucepan allows maximum flavours to be infused into the oil.
Drain the oil from the prawn heads and set aside later to be used as a drizzle when serving the noodles.
Pour a few ladles of boiling stock onto the drained prawn heads in the small saucepan to extract any extra flavour then add this stock back onto the main stock pot.
The prawn flavoured oil is the key to bringing this entire bowl of noodles to life by imparting its strong prawn flavours as well as adding a beautiful orange hue on top of the soup.
The prawns have always been slit lengthwise by hawkers who sell this noodles in Malaysia.
I suspect the reason for doing so is to make the prawn portions look bigger. The cross-section slit down the middle of each prawn can also absorb more of the fresh red chillies and soya dipping sauce to make each morsel more tasty.
Fresh rice noodles is important as it is a lot smoother and silkier than dried rice noodles that need to be rehydrated. Substitute with dried rice noodles as a last resort if fresh noodles are not available.
Drizzling a generous spoon of the prawn flavoured oil onto the noodles adds the intense prawn aroma and taste that sets this bowl of noodles apart from those without this flavoursome oil. Its vibrant orange colour is testimony to the freshness of Sydney’s fresh green prawns and seafood in general.
In the thick of a cold winter’s night, this bowl of heart-warming noodles is Malaysia’s answer to a bowl of “chicken soup for the soul”.
So dear readers,
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