In hawker centres all over Malaysia, a profusion of street foods are served in big, open-air complexes. Various stalls prepare cheap, cheerful and incredibly delicious dishes of Malay, Chinese or Indian cuisines. All you need to do is choose. Since everything is so tempting, you often end up with a table piled with delicacies and no stomach capacity. The attraction in this type of dining is that it is both fresh and complex. Many dishes are prepared from raw in front of your eyes, using great ingredients, making it far superior to many western solutions for quick food. This Malay dish takes only a few minutes to make (once you get a little bit of prep out of the way) and is unique in its many layers and depth of flavours.
2 tbsp groundnut oil
½ onion, peeled and diced
220g firm tofu (tau kwa), cut into 0.5cm thick strips
100g french beans, trimmed and cut in half on an angle
100g choi sum (or pak choi), leaves and stems, cut into large chunks
300g fresh egg noodles
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sambal olek (or other savoury chilli paste), plus extra to serve
2 tsp thick soy sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
50g bean sprouts
1 handful shredded iceberg lettuce
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots (available from oriental grocers; alternatively, use dry onion flakes)
Lemon wedges, to serve
- Put a wok or large pan over high heat. Once hot, add the oil, then the onion and cook to soften it for a minute. Add the tofu and french beans, and cook to give the tofu a bit of colour - two to three minutes. Stir gently as you cook, so as not to break the tofu.
- Add the choi sum and, when it wilts, the noodles. Spread them in the wok using tongs or chopsticks - you want them to get a lot of heat, almost to fry. Mix gently, cooking the noodles for about two minutes. Now add the spices, sambal olek, soy sauce, bean sprouts and a tablespoon of cold water, and toss carefully. Cook for about a minute, or until the noodles are semi-soft.
- When ready to serve, transfer the noodles into bowls and top with shredded lettuce and crispy shallots. On the side, serve lemon wedges and a small bowl of extra sambal.