Bittergourd, dried shrimp and fried beehoon?
Sounds strange? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, though. When this dish appeared at a table in a Chinese restaurant in Kuching a few years ago, I was skeptical as well. Seeing the look on my face, my Kuching host merely smiled and told me that it’s a local dish available in some Kuching restaurants but not commonly known. Swallowing my misgivings, I took a tentative bite and went, “Woah! This is freaking delicious!”
Everyone who has tried this dish has the same feedback. Skeptical at first, won over at first bite.
When making this dish, make sure you fry the dried prawns until golden brown and crispy.
This is very important because a huge attraction of the dish lies in the savoury umami and crunch from the hae bee. The worst is to have raw-tasting dried shrimp, yuck!
Fear the bitterness of bittergourd? Fret not. You can easily tone it down. Remove the white pith, rub it with salt and soak it in water. Voila, all you get is a mild background flavour that lends a pleasant edge to the noodles. I find my tastebuds changing as I get older – I’ve started developing a liking for foods that I used to hate and bittergourd is one of them. We all turn into our mothers/fathers eventually? Haha!
You can use any kind of rice vermicelli or beehoon to make this. For me, I like using the brown rice vermicelli from Cottage Farm Not only is this healthier, but brown rice vermicelli has more bite compared to conventional white beehoon. A friend who tried using it also says it’s nicer!
Speaking of health, this dish is also a tasty way to incorporate a healthy vegetable into your daily diet. Did you know that bittergourd helps reduce high blood pressure?
Final note: As bittergourd and dried shrimp are strongly flavoured ingredients, some people may want more or less of them. Also, the size of bittergourd can vary. Do use your personal preference as a guide.
Watch how to make bittergourd fried beehoon!
Bittergourd Fried Beehoon
- Dried beehoon for 2 pax
- 1/3-1/2 bittergourd see Recipe notes
- 2 tbsp dried shrimp see Recipe notes
- 3 shallots, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 eggs
- light soya sauce or fish sauce
- white pepper powder
- 2 tbsp cooking oil for frying
- Soak beehoon in cold water for 20 minutes or so, until soft. Drain. (see Recipe notes)
- Scrape off the skin of bittergourd using a vegetable peeler. Cut into half lengthwise and scoop out the soft seedy part, then slice as thinly as you can. Rub salt generously over the bittergourd slices and soak in water, preferably cold, for 15-20 minutes to remove bitterness. Remove and pat dry with a tea towel or paper towels.
- In a small bowl, soak dried prawns in enough water to cover. After 20 minutes, drain, keeping the water. Squeeze as much water as possible out of the prawns using paper towels. Then finely chop or blend in food processor until it's roughly minced.
- Heat up 1 tbsp of oil, put in minced prawns and fry until fragrant and light brown. Monitor closely to avoid burning prawns. When the prawns start foaming, get ready to take them out. Prawns should be golden brown in colour.
- Using the now dried prawn-infused oil, saute garlic and shallots.
- Add in bittergourd and fry for a few minutes. Spread them out so that you can get a nice sear for additional flavour.
- Crack in eggs and scramble. Add beehoon and the other condiments. From time to time, add shrimp water that you’ve kept from just now, so that the beehoon doesn’t get too dry. Toss thoroughly so that every strand is coated with the dried shrimp-garlic-and-shallot infused oil.
- Season with soya sauce/fish sauce, and white pepper. Toss thoroughly so that everything is evenly mixed. Dish up and serve!
- A lot of the beehoon package instructions recommend you soak them in hot water. I don’t do this because it makes the noodles to soften too much and clump together in the hot wok. You can also cut the beehoon strands to make frying easier.