I remember eating noodle as a main meal or snack when I was growing up in Penang, Malaysia. It is in our Chinese genes eating noodle and rice daily as our main staple food because it is cheap!
Where I grew up in Penang, I was exposed to the sight, smell and taste of a noodle dish from an early age. There are many types of noodle food in every eating places – street food, wet markets, food courts, cafes and restaurants – but there is none that comes as close as the “economy noodle”, which reins the supreme as the cheapest noodle available on the food scenes of Penang.
This simple humble noodle dish is common and popular street food available at a wet market. I remember my mum buying at least one packet a day from the market, sometimes 2 packets. It is usually cooked and sold separately as “economy bihun”, “economy mee” and “economy koay teow” but they are always just plain stir fry noodle. “Bihun” is rice vermicelli, “mee” is hokkien noodle, and “koay teow” is flat rice noodle. That is why they are cheap and known as “economy” a reference to being economical, and cost $0.50 cents in Malaysian currency (in Ringgit) when I was still a young kid, but now anywhere between $1-$1.50 Ringgit a packet, an equivalent of $0.25 cents in US currency or $0.35 cents in Australia currency. It is good enough as a light snack in the morning, afternoon and evening. Although it is just a plain noodle, it is still tasty.
This recipe is my home version on the popular street food “economy noodle” of Penang, a simple stir fry noodle. I added some fried firm tofu for protein and texture, and spinach leaves for fibre, vitamins and minerals to balance the high carbohydrate from the noodles. It goes very well with a small bowl of Malaysian style chicken and potato curry. You can catch up on my curry chicken video HERE.
Here is how I made my home version of “economy noodle” a simple stir fry noodle reminiscent of my childhood years.
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Economy stir fry noodle
- 8-10 french shallots
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- Hokkien noodle 1 packet (about 500 gm)
- rice vermicelli 1/2 packet (about 200 gm)
- 1-2 cups bean sprouts
- 1 block of fried firm tofu (optional)
- some baby spinach leaves or any Chinese leafy greens (optional)
- 2 tablespoons light soy
- 1 tablespoon soy caramel dark soy
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Peel and discard skin of shallots and slice thinly. Set aside
- Peel and discard skin of garlic cloves and chop finely. Set aside
- Blanch bean sprouts 15-30 seconds then rinse and cool down in cold water. Set aside
- Blanch rice vermicelli (read and follow the packet instruction) then rinse and cool down in cold water. Set aside
- Blanch hokkien noodle (read and follow the packet instruction) then rinse and cool down in cold water. Set aside
- Mix the sauce in a small bowl by adding 2 tablespoons light soy, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon soy caramel dark soy, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a bit of water. Adjust to taste
- Cut fried firm tofu into smaller cubes (optional)
- In a hot wok, add shallots. Fry until soft and lightly browned
- Add chopped garlic then fried firm tofu. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes
- Slightly push tofu to the side of wok, then add hokkien noodle in the middle. Add rice vermicelli on top of the hokkien noodle and the mixed sauces. Let side for 30 seconds before mixing and stir fry by flipping the noodles together for 2-3 minutes
- Add spinach leaves and lastly the bean sprouts. Another quick toss and flip of noodles to mix through then remove and plate