I miss Malaysia. My trip there last April affected me greatly; it was one of the most hardcore eating trips I've done. After day 3 I forgot how it felt to be hungry and instead felt only 'full', 'really very full' and 'ohmygod-I'm-going-to-barf'. The ease of getting a quick bowl of noodles for next to nothing made me giddy. I hit the noodle soups hard and one of my favourites was curry mee.
Thick, spicy and coconutty soup contained chunks of congealed pigs blood and little cockles as well as tofu puffs and prawns. Alas, it's not as easy to get hold of pigs blood and cockles so my replica version leaves these out, you may well be relieved to hear.
Instead, spongy tofu soaks up the soup so that they're nice and juicy when you bite into them. There are slices of fish cake lurking in there too, underneath the mound of yellow egg noodles. For a bit of texture variation, I also added a little rice vermicelli, a tip I picked up in Penang. A few green beans in there added some crunch, and once all the sambal olek (chilli sauce) was mixed into the broth, a squeeze of lime made the dish complete. Most noodle soups in Malaysia that we tried were served with a hard boiled egg; I prefer mine a bit softer so a barely poached egg was dropped in.
The key to this lies in the paste, where most of the flavours are. You can get most of the ingredients in an Asian supermarket; in London, I use New Loon Moon on Gerrard Street.
For the paste:
15 small purple shallots
7 cloves of garlic
3" of ginger
4 sticks of lemongrass, soft innards only
6 dried red chillis soaked in boiling water till soft
1 tsp shrimp paste (belachan)
2 tsp ground coriander
Roots or stems of a bunch of coriander
1 tsp sugar
Chop all of the above roughly and blend into a fine paste, adding some oil as you go. Any leftover paste should be kept in the fridge with a film of oil on top.
300gr yellow eggs noodles, fresh
100gr rice vermicelli, cooked and cooled
1 branch of curry leaves, fresh
4 lime leaves, fresh
A handful of green beans
100gr Chinese fish cake, sliced thinly
20 tofu puffs, halved
A handful of beansprouts
1 tin of coconut milk
250mls chicken stock
1 limes, quartered
A handful of coriander to serve
Sambal Olek to serve
In a large pan, fry 2 tbsp curry paste per person, so 8 tbsp in this instance. Fry slowly for 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk, the chicken stock, the lime leaves and the curry leaves. Leave the curry leaves on the branch when you add them in as this makes it easier to remove them. Simmer gently for 35 minutes. Add the tofu puffs in the last 15 minutes, the fishcake slices in the last 5 and take off the heat. Remove the curry leaf branch.
Add the eggs to boiling water and leave for 6 minutes - take off the heat and run under cold water. Peel carefully.
In another pan, blanch the beansprouts and simmer the green beans for 3 minutes. Cook the egg noodles as per cooking instructions (mine required just plunging into boiling water for a couple of minutes) and drain.
To serve, divide the egg noodles and vermicelli noodles among 4 deep bowls equally. Top with beansprouts and green beans. Heat the soup base up till simmering, then distribute soup base equally. Halve each egg over the bowl and place in carefully, then add the coriander sprinkled on top with a quarter of lime per bowl. Serve with the sambal olek.