In my search for a tasty recipe for the bakmi goreng of my childhood – one that could be reproduced here in our apartment without a gas stove, giant age-old and well-seasoned black wok, or the generally long list of ingredients required for Indonesian dishes – I kick myself for having not asked my mum for her recipe earlier. My recipe? my mum would say, there’s no recipe.

Mum professes to not really enjoy cooking, but all that means is that the tasty dishes she does cook are dead easy. The first time we cooked this together, I had asked mum to do a vegetarian version with bean curd. Mum was incredulous that the dish would work without some kind of animal protein (usually chicken, pork or chinese barbeque pork), but it worked a treat. To do this version, you can follow the recipe below and simply substitute cubed firm bean curd for the prawns. Stir fry the bean curd cubes until golden on all sides. Next we tried a version using prawns and I think it worked out even better. This is my attempt to transcribe mum’s non-recipe.


Stir-fried hokkien noodles with prawns

300g peeled raw green prawns
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
450g pack thin hokkien noodles, soaked in hot water and separated according to packet instructions
1 bunch gai lan (chinese broccoli), chopped into 3cm lengths and with the thicker stalks separated out
150g sugar snap peas
1 large carrot, cut into 3 cm chunks and par-cooked
2 tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
1 tablespoon light Chinese soy sauce
white pepper
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
fried onion bits* for garnish

As with all stir-fries, it’s good to prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. You can par-cook the carrot chunks in the microwave or in a stovetop steamer for a few minutes.

Heat a wok on high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is hot, add the prawns all at once and stir-fry quickly until the prawns are opaque. Season with some salt and white pepper. When prawns are cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.

Keeping the wok on high, add 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the garlic. After just a few seconds, add the pile of thicker stalks of gai lan. Stir fry for 1 minute, add the sugar snap peas, carrot and gai lan leaves and stir-fry for another minute.

Add the noodles and the sauces, and the sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste. You will need a good amount of seasoning, depending on the strength of your soy sauces – perhaps up to 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of white pepper. Stir through the prawns to heat.

Garnish with fried onion bits and serve as is or with steamed jasmine rice.

* I used fried onion bits bought in a jar in an Asian supermarket. If you can’t find these, finely sliced spring onions (green part only) would do very nicely.