Monday, 9 May 2011

Before There Was Instant Noodle

It may be hard to believe…but there was a time when instant noodles didn’t exist. And when one wanted a quick snack, one had to scoot down to a nearby coffee shop for a fish ball noodle or kaya toast.

In those days (I think instant noodles appeared sometime early-70s), the equivalent of instant noodles was the dried cakes of noodles sold by the shops making fresh noodles and wonton skins (see my previous post). You’d see these noodle cakes displayed in huge glass containers lining the wall of the shop, and they’d be sold by the cake or by weight.

Every household had a few of these dried noodle cakes in the larder. There were different flavors – plain, egg, dried scallop, and more. I remember even having them for breakfast, made into fried noodles by hawkers.

Unlike instant noodles, the cake noodles were not fried and didn’t come with little sachets of soup flavoring and seasoning – but were packed with flavor nonetheless. That’s because the noodle itself contained ingredients such as egg, prawn, or abalone. And what it didn’t contain was msg, so it tasted of the natural ingredients and not of artificiality.

All you actually needed, to go with these noodles, was a good home-made broth, or, as I would do, a home-made oyster sauce, sesame oil, vegetables, and chilli – tossed and eaten neat.

Yes, I make my own oyster sauce, and the recipe is below. I find that it tastes worlds apart from any off-the-shelf equivalent, and totally transforms any dish it is used with.

So here’s to eating minimalist-ically….but incredibly well!

Noodle with Home-made Oyster Sauce

Water                                      2 litres
Egg noodle                            90 g
Oyster sauce                          1 tbsp
Soy sauce                              1 tsp
Chilli sauce                            1 tbsp (optional)
Oil                                           ½ tbsp.
Vegetable                               50 g
Sesame oil                             a dash
White pepper                                   

Home-made Oyster Sauce
Fresh oysters                         500 g
Corn flour                               2 tbsp
Garlic                                      4 cloves, minced
Ginger                                    15 g, minced
Shallots                                  6, minced
Oil                                           ½ cup
Salt                                         2 tsp
Sugar                                      1 tsp

Oyster sauce
 1.      Mix corn flour and oysters thoroughly. Rinse with water until clean. The corn flour helps to remove impurities in the oyster.
 2.      Heat oil under low flame. Add garlic, ginger and shallots and continue to cook under low flame until it turns slightly golden.
3.      Remove the garlic, ginger and shallots and blend them with the oyster until smooth.
4.     Return the oyster mixture to the infused oil and continue to cook. Initially, there will be a lot of foam in the oil. Continue to cook in medium heat until the foam subsides.
5.     Cook the mixture for another 30 minutes.
6.     Turn off the heat and let the oyster sauce cool.
7.      Pour into a bottle and chill it.
8.      The oyster sauce must be eaten within 2 weeks.

To assemble:
1.    Cook vegetables in boiling water. Remove the vegetables and drain completely. Place the vegetables on a serving plate.
2.    Place the noodles into boiling water and cook them until al dente. Rinse the noodles in cold water to give it a crunchy texture. Return noodles to the boiling water and cook for another 30 seconds.
3.    Meanwhile, mix the oyster, soy, and chilli sauces thoroughly in a bowl. Toss noodles with the sauce and place the noodles on top of the vegetable.
4.    Drizzle sesame oil and white pepper and serve immediately.

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