Singapore noodles

13 September 2018

Singapore noodles

I’m not sure I can get away with describing these as Singapore Noodles, predominantly because I decided to cut the quantity of noodles by half. I wanted something with the flavour, and with the texture, just with fewer noodles. Still, given that the dish doesn’t actually originate from Singapore (as people from Singapore get slightly sick of pointing out) I suppose it’s all fair game. 

If you cook quite a bit of South East Asian food, the thing that most strikes you about this dish is the completely incongruous use of curry powder and / or turmeric - spices you associate with India, not China or even Singapore. 

We don’t know exactly where the dish was invented - one theory goes that it was at the British Library, which would at least explain the odd juxtaposition of food traditions. But more likely it is Cantonese. It hardly seems to matter - a real example of how cultural traditions can be so much influenced and cross-pollinated that we lose sight of where it all started. Folks who spend their lives fretting about “cultural appropriation” would have a field day if it happened today.

It’s another one of those dishes that is a loose formula, rather than a strict recipe. Generally it’s agreed that you should properly use rice vermicelli noodles. The protein can be anything you fancy - prawns, chicken, barbecue pork, all is good. You should use the counter-intuitive curry powder, and as well as some vegetables (again, flexible) finish it off by adding an egg.

It’s also one of those dishes that can be deceptively time-consuming for just one reason - although the actual cooking of the dish happens really quite quickly, it’s very easy to under-estimate the amount of time it takes to do the initial prep. I allowed half an hour - and it took me 50 minutes. Grating and slicing and hot-soaking. If you’re sensible and do all your prep well in advance, then it can indeed be quick to actually churn out. 


Singapore noodles

Read around for recipes for Singapore Noodles, you will find a number of variables. These are mine - they don’t fit exactly any single version I’ve seen, but I wouldn’t claim any of the differences are remotely creative - I just went with some of the defaults, and used the quantities that made sense for me.

Serves: 2

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 medium red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
Half a tablespoon turmeric
150g raw tiger prawns
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
3 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
1 carrot, cut into long matchsticks
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
1 handful bean sprouts
2 spring onions, sliced lengthways
100g vermicelli rice noodles, pre-soaked in hot water until softened (I used half - just 50g)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil


Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large pan or, ideally, a wok and stir-fry the ginger, chilli, mushrooms and curry powder / turmeric for half a minute. Then add the prawns, the bacon and the chicken and continue to cook until the prawns have started to go pink. Add the vegetables and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Add the drained noodles and continue to stir fry for another couple of minutes before adding the soy sauce, oyster sauce and vinegar. 

Finally, add the beaten egg and stir in. Within a minute, the egg should be cooked through. Drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil, mix together and then serve.

Food waste

Bean sprouts are one of those things. You can’t buy them in the small-ish quantities you want, and they don’t last for long. You can apparently extend the time they keep by putting them in water with a few slices of lemon added, covering them and putting them in the fridge. I should add that I haven’t tried that technique yet myself, so this isn’t a personal recommendation.