I volunteered to host the first meeting and the topic was stir-frying, of course! My goal was to cover technique as well as introduce some common Asian ingredients. I provided noodles, rice, tofu and all the sauces we were going to use. The attendees brought the other ingredients and their woks, if they had one. Bringing the woks worked out perfectly because we discussed the different materials and their advantages or disadvantages. I laid out a sample of all the sauces and special ingredients and allowed everyone to taste them. The only thing that scared the group a little was the fermented shrimp paste. Most of them passed on the taste test; the smell was quite enough!
Thai fermented shrimp paste. Some call it stinky. I prefer "odoriferous". It will keep indefinitely in the fridge. You may want to store it in a Ziploc bag for extra protection.LOL It's also used in Thai curry pastes. It's also a good substitute for Indonesian fermented shrimp paste.
The meeting turned out to be a success. Everyone enjoyed tasting the different sauces and how the flavors changed or complimented other ingredients in the final result. One person said she never tasted tofu before the meeting. She’d heard so many people say they didn’t like it, but she loved it. Yay! A convert! I love when that happens.
One of the dishes we prepared was Indonesian-style egg noodles. I chose this recipe because I wanted to demonstrate how to cook noodles in a wok and introduce some common ingredients in Indonesian food, namely kecap manis and fermented shrimp paste. After the taste testing though, I was afraid to use the shrimp paste. The original recipe called for 1 tbs of the stinky stuff, but I brought it down to just ¼ tsp dissolved in water to give a total of 1 tbs. Turns out I shouldn’t have toned it down. Everyone liked the dish very much but agreed it could have used more of the shrimp paste flavor. We ended up sprinkling on fish sauce to make up for the lost umami.
I made the recipe again, this time using more shrimp paste, although not the entire 1 tbs, and it was really delicious. Kecap manis gave it sweetness as well a bit of saltiness. The shrimp paste shined! It came through to give a nice complexity and it was not fishy at all (although it was quite odoriferous when it hit the hot wok ☺). I recommend using it if you can get your hands on it. It’s available from any Asian market that sells SE Asian ingredients. If you can’t or don’t want to find it, fish sauce will compensate for some of the lost complexity, although it’s not quite the same.
Notes: The recipe calls for 1 pound fresh, thick egg noodles. They may be labeled yakisoba-style noodles. I couldn’t find any, so I used 8 oz Filipino dried egg noodles. They simply needed to be boiled for like 2 minutes, drained, rinsed in cold water and tossed with a little bit of oil to keep from sticking.
Hey manggy or Marvin, are the noodles actually called pancit canton? Or are they just trying to show these are the noodles to use for pancit canton? I'm kinda confused.
The original recipe called for topping with a fried egg, but I didn’t have any left after breakfast. How disappointing because the creamy yolk goes so well with the flavors and adds another texture. Otherwise there’s not any real protein in the dish. If you wanted, you could add tofu (which is what we did for the food club version) or chicken or shrimp.
Don’t forget the condiments, especially the fried onions! They add a wonderful textural component. I prefer to use an Asian brand, but Trader Joe’s fried onions are also fine. I don’t like the texture of French’s fried onions. They bread them or something. I also always serve noodles with lime wedges, sambal oelek and of course fish sauce (I can't help it, I'm Thai!) so that people can adjust the taste to their liking.
Indonesian-style Stir-fried Egg Noodles
From The Food and Cooking of Indonesia and the Philippines
Serves 3 or 4
- 1 pound fresh thick egg noodle (or 80z dried noodles; see note above)
- 2 shallots, minced
- 3 spring onions, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 2 tsp fermented shrimp paste (called belacan or kappi shrimp paste), dissolved in 1 tbs water
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 2 tbs kecap manis
- 4 eggs, fried over easy or over medium for serving (optional, but highly recommended)
- fried onions for topping
- 1 or 2 scallions, finely sliced for garnish (optional)
Combine the mined herbs together in a small bowl. They will go into the wok together.
Dissolve the shrimp paste in water, making sure to break up the clumps. Don't fret about the smell. It will taste good!
Mix the tomato paste and kecap manis together until thoroughly combined. Set aside until needed.
In a wok over medium-high heat, add about 2 tbs oil (grapeseed, peanut or a vegetable oil are best). When hot, but not smoking, add the minced herbs and stir-fry until fragrant and softened, about 20-30 seconds or so. Don't let them burn! Add the shrimp paste and stir to coat the herbs. Fry for about 30 seconds. Add the noodles then the kecap manis sauce. Turn the noodles in the sauce. Make sure they are well-coated. I found that using tongs to turn the noodles works well. Just be careful not to smush the noodles. Adjust flavor with salt or fish sauce, if needed. When the noodles are heated through, they are done! Remove to a plate and keep warm while you fry the eggs (unless you are good enough to fry the eggs while stir-frying the noodles; I am not!).
Serve on individual plates, each portion topped with a fried egg and garnished with fried onions and/or thinly sliced scallions.