Sang har meen brings back wonderful memories. Growing up, I would visit my relatives in Bukit Bintang whenever I came to Kuala Lumpur. The neighbourhood was a hotspot for sang har meen, a popular Chinese restaurant dish featuring giant river prawns atop a bed of crispy noodles swimming in a rich briny sauce. Yum!!
The price of sang har meen has soared like crazy over the years. The last time I had sang har meen in a restaurant was years ago, when a serving for one cost RM60. These days, it must cost at least RM100 or so per plate!
So what’s a cheapskate homecook to do? Try to make her own, of course 🙂 Luckily for me, I had a very good guide. For the base recipe, I referred to The Best of Ipoh Street Food, a wonderful cookbook by former industrialist turned F&B operator, David Tan.
What I did was to simplify the recipe and make it slightly healthier.
In most recipes for sang har meen, you have to deep-fry the noodles to get that desirable crispy texture. I wasn’t keen on that. Not healthy. Plus, what do you do with the oil after deep-frying?
Then one day, I stumbled upon Marion Grasby’s video on Hong Kong crispy noodle. She took a bundle of wan tan mee, shook it to loosen it, spread it out like a pancake over a non-stick saucepan and shallow-fried it, using just a thin layer of oil. Bingo! Healthy AND easy!
Good sang har meen relies on one critical ingredient – a rich, briny prawn stock.
Now there are several ways to make it.
- Boil prawn heads and shells with water. First fry the heads and shells in a bit of oil; this intensifies the flavour. To boost the flavour even more, try to extract as much juices as you can from the prawn heads. I have a tip for you: use a potato masher. Press the masher down on the prawn heads and all the juices will squirt out. After that, add water into the pot and boil for at least half an hour, if possible longer, to extract all its prawn-iness 🙂
2. Blend the shells and heads with water, then strain the liquid. (Tip courtesy of Chef Francis Cheah)
3. Dehydrate the prawns (this step intensifies the flavour) and then boil with water. (Tip courtesy of Cheryl Teh)
The rest of the ingredients are standard stuff you’ll find in most Malaysian kitchens. In fact, I don’t use actual “sang har” or river prawns. They are hard to obtain and expensive. Instead, I substitute them with whatever big prawns I can get my hands on. Trust me, these noodles are so flavourful you won’t miss them! ☺
Sang Har Meen
- wok, nonstick saucepan
- 2 cakes wan tan noodles
- 6-8 big prawns, shell-on, head-on,butterflied
- 2 cups prawn stock
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bulbs shallots, sliced thinly
- 4-5 fresh ginger slices
- 1/2 small carrot, sliced
- 1/2 cabbage, thinly julienned
- 1 stalk spring onion, cut into 2-inch sticks
- salt, sugar and white pepper to taste
- water for gravy
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbs water
- Lightly oil a large nonstick saucepan. Take a handful of loosened wantan noodles (See Recipe Notes 1) and carefully arrange them in a pancake shape on the saucepan. Cook till the bottom is crispy and lightly browned, then flip to cook other side. Place pancake on serving plate.
- Now, prepare the gravy. In a wok, heat up 1-2 tbsp of oil. Add in ginger, garlic and shallots. Fry until fragrant. Put in the prawns shell side down and let cook until shells start to turn red.
- Into the wok, add prawn stock and bring to the boil. Once prawns are cooked, remove from wok and arrange them on the noodle pancake.
- Back to the wok, add carrots and cabbage. Bring to the boil again. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add some water if gravy gets too dry. Add spring onions. Stir in cornflour solution.
- Turn off heat and stir beaten egg into the gravy. Add salt, sugar and white pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce over prawns and noodles. Serve at once.
- The best is to use fresh wan tan noodles, which are "loose" already. But it's not always available, so I usually get the ones from Megah and chuck them into the chiller until I need to use them. The problem is, the noodles will harden into a hard lump after a while. How to solve this - before using them, take them out of the fridge and leave them at room temperature until they are soft enough to manage. Then, shake and run your fingers through the noodles, like your hair, until they become loose enough to handle.
- This is a basic recipe based on my personal preferences. To let the prawn flavour stand out, I only use salt and pepper for seasoning and let the prawn stock contribute most of the umami. However, if you like a stronger taste, feel free to add soy sauce, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, etc to enhance the flavour.