Prawn Noodles and an Essay on Boiled Eggs

As far as dishes go, this one’s a doozy. It’s embarassingly easy and I can’t even call it a recipe. It came courtesy of a friend of mine who was offloading all her food stores before going home for summer to finish off her MBA thesis. I love her! She had all these instant packet pastes her mum had lovingly individually packed and sent in a care package. Don’t you just love parcels from home? They remind me of how the boarding school girls of St Clare’s and Mallory Towers fame used to receive them and how they snuck about flouting school rules preparing for a midnight feast (I really am showing my age here). Ooo the excitement of opening the brown box and wondering what delights you’ll uncover! Back when I was a poor university student I used to get a package every Chinese New Year from home to soothe the double anguish of not being able to go home and having to study for term exams at the same time. Regular appearances were made by pineapple tarts, chocolate chip cookies, chicken floss and barbecued slices of pork (illegally undeclared. Heh) I had to resist the overwhelming temptation to stuff my face and ration my cookie supply so it would last as long as possible!

But I digress. This packet was from the Tean’s Gourmet range and all I needed to do was boil some water and add the paste in. Throw in some egg noodles, bean sprouts, kangkung (ong choy in Cantonese/water convolvulus/water morning glory), shredded chicken, prawns and you’re set for an amazing meal. I also topped mine up with boiled eggs, fried shallots and some lime juice. Heaven! Now, I’m all for making pastes from scratch and all that, but when it tastes as good and authentic and is as simple to make as this, it’s a win-win situation really.

What I’m really chuffed about is how well my boiled eggs turn out! (just about the only other bit of this dish I ‘cooked’) The white is firm and the yolk has reached this equilibrium of gooey-ness and state of set-ness. I’ve refined my technique to this: Bring water to a boil. Lower egg gently into water and let bubble away merrily for 4.5 to 5 minutes. My eggs are usually on the smaller side of medium, so I aim for somewhere in between. If you use large eggs, I would err for closer to the 5 minute mark. Don’t knock the half minute, it makes a world of difference. I was watching Nigella Kitchen the other day and she was espousing her boiled egg technique: Put egg in cold water and let boil for 1 minute. Switch off fire and let egg stand for 10 minutes in the hot water. Voila, perfect boiled egg! More like overboiled in my case, but it might have been something to do with letting it boil for 2 minutes and letting it stand for 11 minutes. Also, my eggs were smaller than hers. Insert dirty joke comparing Nigella’s voluptuousness with my lack thereof. My egg yolks even had that horrible outer green tinge. I was horrified!

Prawn noodles are also called Hokkien noodles and are commonly served in Penang, Malaysia. Obviously it’s also available in other parts of the country, but the best ones are still in that gastronomic island up north. Not to be confused with the KL (Kuala Lumpur) version which is fried in a dark soya sauce, these noodles are gloriously soaked in a flavoursome broth derived from boiled prawn heads and shells.

If you want to try making it yourself, recipes are available online on Rasa Malaysia and Malaysian Food.

Oh and my friend? Lucky girl got a job in London and she’s moved down south. I still have her food packets though!

Edit: I recently tried boiling eggs within the timings I specified above and cut through a terribly runny yolk. The lightbulb moment came after some puzzled ruminations (both silent and out loud) – those were the times I used for eating whole boiled egg with soy sauce! I would probably add a couple of minutes, so around 6.5 to 7 mins to get egg yolks that are almost-just set. And why is it that an egg will cook no further in boiling water after being shelled?


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