Singapore´s hot and exciting streets
After a year of living in Australia it was time to go back to Europe. However, being on a tight budget and not feeling completely ready to return just yet I decided to make a stop-over in Singapore for a week. Crazy enough, this would save me money. But more importantly, it would be a great opportunity to visit some university friends and to finally get a first taste of Asia. I had the feeling it would be a perfect introduction to this varied continent where I had never been before. And to say I wasn´t disappointed is a large understatement.
Arriving late in the evening, sweaty from the flight and the hot and sticky weather, I already got excited to what would come next by the first glance at a temple decorated with massive statues of tigers in the street of my hostel. Over the next days I set out to discover as much of this city-state as possible. Diversity certainly is the first thing that comes to my mind when summarizing this place. First of all in the difference between modern and traditional. There are clean modern buildings with interesting architecture. When those are lit up in the evening it looks like a modern fairy tale. But there are also the areas that seem a bit more messy, that are full of life, colours, temples, and tradition. Then there is diversity in the different areas of the city. Going from Chinatown to Little India one seems to visit separate worlds. Not only the buildings look different, but also the people, the things that are sold in the stores, the atmosphere, and of course the food.
Probably not surprisingly, the food was one of my favourite things in Singapore. Everywhere in the city there are hawker markets, places with little stalls that sell cooked food. In the middle there are tables where young and old sit around enjoying the noodles, the chicken, the indian curries, the shaved ice, and everything else. On some of those markets I didn´t see other western people, which amazed me in a city that is so frequently visited by tourists. I started appreciating Asian food during the year in Australia, but visiting Singapore made me really enthusiastic about all those different flavours with which I am not that familiar. Clearly I tried many dishes while being there, and fortunately I also had my friends who could show me some of the highlights. They told me that some food stalls are famous for a specific dish, so that people from all over town come to eat it there. Hence the long queues for some places…
The recipe here is inspired by the food I had in a hawker center close to the botanical gardens. Clearly, I am not a specialist in the Asian or Singaporean cuisine, even though I have recently been trying to learn more about it. But it´s a tasty dish that does bring me back to the hot and exciting streets of Singapore.
Noodle soup with pork meatballs
If you want to, you can prepare the broth in the morning or a day before you want to eat the dish.
Ingredients (for 2)
For the broth
- Pork bones – around 500 grams
- 3 carrots
- 1 leek
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Ginger – a large piece
- 3 sticks of lemongrass
- 3 star anise
- Cardamom – 1 teaspoon
- Cloves – 1 teaspoon
- Fish sauce – 4 tablespoons
- Vegetable oil – like sunflower oil or peanut oil
For the noodles and other bits and pieces
- Flour – 200 grams, plus a bit extra for rolling out the dough
- 3 eggs
- Pork mince – 300 grams
- Bok Choy (or spinach) – 250 grams
- Shimeji mushrooms – or another type of mushrooms, 150 grams
- 3 spring onions
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Hot chilli sauce
- Corn flour (optional)
- Vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
To start with the broth, heat up a grill pan and coat it with a little bit of vegetable oil. Meanwhile, clean the carrots and the leek. Slice those vegetables lengthwise in halves and chop in pieces of around 2 centimeters long. Peel the garlic cloves. You don´t need to peel the ginger, but also slice it lengthwise and chop in 2 centimeter pieces. Cut the lemongrass to the same length and bash it with the back of your knife so that the fragrance comes out.
Once the grill pan is hot, add the pork bones, carrots, leek, garlic, and ginger. Grill this on the hot pan for around 20 minutes, or until all ingredients are charred on all sides. Take a large pot, add a splash of oil and place over medium heat. Add the lemongrass, the star anise, cardamom, and cloves. Fry this for around 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Next, add the pork bones and the other ingredients you have charred. Deglaze the pan with the fish sauce and add enough water to cover all ingredients, around 1 liter. Bring this to a boil and turn the heat down. Leave it to simmer for 45 minutes till an hour while stirring now and then.
After this time, check the flavour of your broth and pour it through a fine sieve. There will usually be some grease floating on top, so make sure to remove this. When you prepare the broth in advance, it will be really easy to remove the fat once the broth has been in the fridge: it will have settled on top so you can easily scoop it out.
Now it is time for making the noodle dough, which is quite similar to Italian pasta, but uses water in addition to eggs. Place the flour on your working surface and create a well in the middle. Add some salt, a splash of vegetable oil, and one egg. Start mixing this. When the egg has been mixed into the flour, begin adding water while continuing to knead the dough. You will need about 75 ml of water. Continue adding water and kneading until you have a soft, elastic dough that doesn´t stick anymore. Wrap this in some plastic foil and place in the fridge to rest.
For the pork meatballs, mix the minced pork meat with 2 table spoons of soy sauce, 2 table spoons of sesame oil and a bit of pepper. Optionally, you can add a tablespoon of cornflour to make the mixture stick together better and, if the mixture is too dry, a splash of water. Mix the ingredients well and form small balls out of the mixture.
Wash the bok choy and cut the leaves lengthwise in half. Clean the mushrooms as well. When you use shimeji mushrooms you can leave them whole, if you have bigger ones you might want to halve them. Finely chop the spring onion and set aside.
Next, take the noodle dough out of the fridge. Divide it into three pieces and roll out thinly. Then fold the longest side of the dough and cut it across from how you folded it into small strips. Unfold the dough so that you are left with long noodles, like tagliatelle.
Finally it is time for the last, most fun part: cooking everything and bringing it all together. Heat up the broth again. Once it simmers, add the meatballs, the mushrooms, and the noodles. Boil the noodles for around 4 minutes. Take them out and divide over two bowls. Then add the bok choy to the broth. Let this simmer for around 3 minutes until they are not raw anymore but still crunchy. Take the mushrooms and the bok choy out of the broth and add to your bowls as well. Now, carefully break and egg into a cup and tip into the broth. Stir around it to create a little whirlpool, so that the white folds around the yolk. Do the same with the other egg. Poach them for around 3 minutes, until still runny. Take the eggs and the meatballs out of the broth and carefully place them in your bowls. Now, taste the broth to see if any adjustment to the flavour is needed. When you are satisfied, strain the broth and carefully divide over the bowls. Serve with the spring onions and hot chilli sauce. Enjoy!