This is one of those dishes that really reminds me of home and a good hawker stall. Fond memories of warmth and family as we share a fresh Wat Tan Hor, the smell of that delicious noodle and burning wok, and the clanging of the wok as the chef cooks, ah bliss. I can almost feel the humidity of the nights in Asia.
Wat Tan Hor 滑蛋河 is made from Hor Fun – rice noodles. I don’t make my own because it’s tedious though I am not keen on the shop bought ones either. I buy them from Chinatown. As we have banned the use of microwave at home, I can’t microwave them for a minute. So, I have to run them under the tap, soak them for a few minutes then gently loosen them. This is quite time consuming. But of course, if you have a microwave oven, put them in for a minute and apparently they will loosen nicely.
The most important element of Cantonese Cooking is all about the ‘Breath of the Wok’ or what the Cantonese call ‘Wok Hei’. It is very difficult to achieve this at home and especially if you are using induction hobs. Commercial kitchen burner hobs will easily give you enough heat to get that ‘breath of wok’, but of course you will need some skills too. It’s about the complex interplay of a multitude of factors; part science, part art, part flair and part magic! This is indeed the hallmark of a good chef. That charred aroma can only be achieved under intense heat.
Wok must always be heated (until it just begins to smoke) before adding oil. Heating the wok with oil is a faux pas. This will cause the food to stick and char. Food must be constantly moved around and never overcrowd your wok. This will cause the temperature of the wok to decrease and you end up steaming your food instead of an actual stir fry! Let’s give this a try and get your wok out for a breather!
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 500g Fresh Hor Fun (Rice Noodles)
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp black Chinese vinegar
Prawns, Fish Balls:-
- 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- Ginger 1 x 2 cm (finely chopped)
- 300g Prawns
- 250g Fish Balls (make your own or buy from Chinatown)
- Vegetable (Choy Sum, Kai Lan, Pak Choy or Spinach)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- ground pepper
- 500ml stock (I like to use chicken stock made from chicken bones and vegetables that I pre-cooked and frozen)
- 50g cornflour
- 50ml water
- Spring onions x 3 sprigs
- Sesame oil
- Chillies (optional)
First, clean the prawns and ensure you remove the vein. I usually get the organic pre-peeled ones from a local supermarket. Set aside. Cut the fish balls. I prefer to quarter them but you can also slice them.
Microwave the fresh rice noodles for a minute or like me, soak in water for a few minutes, then gently peel them. Even then, I still break some of them! Drain the rice noodles and set aside.
Chop the garlic and ginger finely. I like to prepare and mix the sauces in advance so that when I get the wok to the correct heat, I can do the cooking quite quickly.
First, sauce for the rice noodles, mix 2 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce and 2 tsp of black Chinese vinegar. The black Chinese vinegar helps give that smoky caramelization flavour of ‘wok hey’.
In another bowl, prepare the sauces for the gravy, add in 2 tbsp light soy sauce and 2 tbsp oyster sauce into the 500ml of stock.
Lastly, in a bowl, mix 50g cornflour with 50ml of warm water. Mix well and ensure there are no lumps. Beat 2 eggs in another bowl and set aside.
Now, lets cook. Heat up your wok, until it’s hot to the point of smoking, then add a tablespoon of oil, don’t use too much oil. Pour the rice noodles in and fry them. Ensure you move the noodles constantly. After 2 minutes, add in the sauce for the rice noodles – light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and black Chinese vinegar. Fry for a further 2-3 minutes. Pour them into a bowl and set aside.
Next, add a tablespoon of oil to the hot wok. Add the finely chopped garlic then ginger. Fry until golden, then add in the fish balls. Fry for two minutes until lightly brown. Now add the prawns and fry for 2 minutes. Don’t overcook them. You will be putting the prawns back into the gravy, so about 80% cooked is good at this point. Dish up and set aside.
If you are using Choy Sum, Pak Choy or Kai Lan, then stir fry them for a few minutes with some garlic and oil. If like me you are using spinach then skip this step. Nothing worse than overcooked spinach!
Pour the gravy (stock and sauces) into the wok. There is no need to wash or clean the wok in each stage, it adds to the flavour. Add spring onions. Slowly add the cornflour mix. Bring to the boil and then lower to medium heat to simmer. You can now put in the spinach for a few minutes.
For the next step, I prefer to get a chopstick to stir the beaten eggs into the gravy. Ensure you pour slowly with one hand and the hand is constantly stirring the gravy in a circular motion with a chopstick. as soon you finish pouring, take the work off the heat.
Add in the prawns and the rice noodles. Mix well, garnish with spring onions and dish up. Enjoy your own homemade 滑蛋河! Serve with chillies in soy sauce and some pickled chillies. I use jalapeños, the pickled taste is amazing with 滑蛋河!