As I sit at my desk in my beloved man cave on New Year’s Eve writing my first recipe for 2018 (last twelve months were very short-changed in the output department), I look back at 2017 – a sodding awful year for so many reasons – hopeful that 2018 will compensate for the 365 days that preceded it. To top things off, my beloved Canon EOS 7D, barely 3 years old, died. I am still in mourning. My New Year resolution is, like last year, to dedicate more time to Love the Kitchen. It is not as if I have not had time to cook or be creative with ingredients during 2017 – far from it – the real struggle I face is finding time to photograph dishes in good light, or before they get eaten.
I had a wonderful Christmas this year entertaining my folks, Marlini, Roni and Mayanne – enabling me to whip up many of my favourite dishes – I do not think I’d win a popularity contest if I decided to go a bit David Bailey on what they were about to devour. Plenty of good food was cooked and eaten – I just do not have any reasonable photos to show for it! In addition, the day job is very screen-intensive, I try to get away from a computer as much as possible during my ‘down time’ – far from ideal when needing to write up recipes. It is what it is.
Last year, Marlini bought me for Christmas a Moleskine recipe journal – a great idea for budding cooks like me to jot down recipes and foodie ideas – it was always at hand and, to my dismay, seemed to have vanished without a trace. Then today, as I was decluttering my desk I found it buried under all sorts of boring paperwork and unfiled ‘stuff’, flipped through the pages and landed on a recipe I had written a good few months ago. Better still, I even had uploaded the photos into Adobe Lightroom, but for the life of me couldn’t remember how I had made it. Solution found! This being the case, I thought it would be a good recipe to kickstart 2018. The recipe in question is my take on a Char Kuey Teow – stir-fried flat rice noodles – very popular dish in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia (according to Google – As I have never yet ventured to Asia myself, I often have to rely heavily on other sources). A much-belated visit to Malaysia features heavily on my 2018 ‘to do’ list for reasons which should become very clear over the next few months – and I cannot wait to try Char Kuey Teow from where it originates.
Marlini was the first person to introduce me to cooking flat rice noodles – an ingredient which up until recently I had never incorporated into any of my recipes. I had certainly eaten them before – just never cooked with them. Due to the absurd working hours she frequently puts into her job (and gets next to no recognition or gratitude for doing so I might add), Marlini has had to master the art of quick and nutritious dishes and noodles serve as a very effective base for this. What surprised me was that rice noodles only needed to be soaked in warm water for a few minutes – and that is it. She will regularly whip up something delicious and in turn introduce to so many wonderful ingredients and flavours she brings back from Malaysia (dried scallops spring to mind). I thought it was high time to give my treatment to a flat rice noodle dish.
Marlini has been a great asian food mentor to me and who better a critic than a food-loving Malaysian to judge my efforts? I have also been introduced to a technique I have started to employ more and more- pound or blend the ginger/garlic/ red chilli base and fry it first in oil – the flavours permeate beautifully through the other ingredients.
Preamble over, welcome to my Seafood Char Kuey Teow with Spinach recipe. The addition of spinach (an ingredient I am using more and more) is ‘unusual’ to say the least compared to a more traditional Char Kuey Teow dish, but I think really works. Marlini also gave her stamp of approval – what more could I ask for? ;o)
- 1 x 250g bag frozen raw tiger prawns, defrosted*
- 200g frozen Squid tubes, defrosted and sliced into rings*
- 250g frozen whole leaf spinach, defrosted, fully strained, and torn into smaller pieces*
- 200-250g flat rice noodles
- bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced
- 1-2 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
- 1 thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 x red chillis, deseeded
- 200-250g flat rice noodles
- 2-3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- juice of 2 x limes
- 2 x free-range eggs, beaten
- First of all, ensure that the tiger prawns, squid, and frozen spinach are fully defrosted (see notes before).
- Next, place flat rice noodles in a large bowl, and cover with hot (not boiling) water and stir. Soak for noodles for approximately 6-8 minutes, and stir occasionally. You may find that noodles bind together - with care, these can be carefully prised apart. Once an al dente texture has been reached, strain in a colander and rinse with cold water to get rid of starch. Set rice noodles aside.
- Whilst noodles are soaking, combine one and a half of the red chillies, garlic, and fresh ginger in a pestle and mortar (or small food processor bowl) and pound into a paste.
- Heat up a large wok to medium-high heat and add cooking oil. Add the chilli/ginger/garlic paste and heat through for a minute or two until the oil is infused. Turn down heat slightly then add the sliced spring onions and sweat for a minute.
- Add seafood (mixing thoroughly), and as the prawns turn pink, add the lime juice and light soy sauce.
- Next, add the spinach and warm through, then add the flat rice noodles, mixing thoroughly to ensure that the ingredients and flavours are evenly distributed.
- Turn up the heat, then pour over the beaten egg and stir throughly for a further minute or two, or until cooked through.
- Transfer to warm pasta or noodle bowls, garnish with red chilli slices, lime wedges and spring onion. Enjoy!
Frozen spinach can be defrosted a similar technique, but will take significantly longer. You may need to allow up to an hour. To speed things along, you can always refresh the water more regularly, or leave in a colander for a while.
As a last resort, you can always microwave the spinach but be careful not to cook it.