What is prawn mee made off?

Prawn mee (Penang Hokkien mee) is a specialty noodle soup popular among the Malaysian Chinese. The uniqueness lies in the soup base, prepared with a humongous amount of prawn heads and shells coupled with pork bones concentrated to a thick, creamy, and highly aromatic broth. 

Prawn mee is well-known in Penang, where you will find street vendors selling this delicacy with a long queue of customers. Many of them are family businesses of a few generations, cooking up their prawn mee / Hokkien mee with the well guarded secret recipe. 

This article is about how to prepare prawn mee at home. If you are yearning for a bowl of prawn mee, or a Malaysian living abroad, or one who just likes to cook some unique noodles, you are at the right place. 

Other names for prawn mee

Prawn mee is called 虾面 in Chinese. Since it is the Hokkien specialty, it is also referred to as Hokkien mee, mee yoke, and hae mee in Northern Malaysia.

Note: Hokkien mee is referred a stir-fry noodle dish in Central Malaysia, a completely different street food. It is also called Hokkien char in Kuala Lumpur.

Prawn mee is a specialty noodle soup popular among the Malaysian Chinese. The uniqueness lies in the soup base, prepared with a humongous amount of prawn heads and shells coupled with pork bones concentrated to a thick, creamy, and highly aromatic broth.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my privacy policy for more info. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to make prawn mee

1. Prepare the prawn broth

Below is my detail explaination on how to make Penang style prawn me.

a. Prawn heads and shells

The first hurdle to make this Hokkien mee at home is to get enough heads and shells. I am fortunate to live in Malaysia, where these items are in demand, sold in the wet market. I suggest you reserve the heads and shells each time you purchase prawns, and once you gather a sizable amount, it’s time to hold your prawn mee feast. 

Here are the steps:

  • Clean the prawn heads and shells with water thoroughly. Sometimes it is pretty dirty, so please clean them thoroughly. 
  • You may want to wear a thick glove or clean them gently with your hands as they are pretty sharp. 
  • Place them in a colander to drain for half an hour or until there is no more water dripping from the shells. You should make sure they are reasonably dry since we will fry them in the following step. 
  • Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan or wok. 
  • Pour the heads and shells into the wok and stir fry over medium heat. 
  • The duration of stir-frying depends on how dry the heads and shells. Generally, it takes about ten minutes before the water dries out. 
  • Meanwhile, you can add a few dried chiles to the pan if you prefer a spicy broth, which is optional. 
  • Once the water has evaporated, the color of the shells will change to a beautiful pink color. You can add some more oil if it starts to get sticky. 
  • Continue stir-frying until the prawn aroma wafting from the wok, filling up the entire kitchen. 
  • Remove from heat. 

Now let’s move on to the next step. 

Prawn heads and shells
Prawn heads and shells

b. Pork bone 

The broth always includes bones, although the name of the noodles is prawn mee. Sometimes I feel that Penang Hokkien mee is a better name to avoid confusion 🙂

The most common bone is pork, but chicken bone can be used for a pork-free version. 

Here are the steps:

  • Place the bone in a stockpot. Add sufficient water to submerge the bone entirely.
  • Bring it to a boil. Skim off the scum floating on the surface from time to time.
  • Reduce the heat to just enough to maintain a slow simmer. Simmer the bone for two to three hours.
  • Place the pork loin in the broth and let it simmer until fully cooked at any time while simmering the bone. Pork loin is one of the two essential ingredients besides the prawn.  The time required depends on the pork loin’s thickness, which takes about half an hour to cook thoroughly.  You can use a kitchen thermometer to check the doneness. The pork is thoroughly cooked when the internal temperature reaches 160 ºF/70°C.
  • Remove the pork from the broth once it is fully cooked, as prolonged cooking will toughen the meat. You can replace the pork loin with chicken breast if you are preparing a pork-free prawn mee.
  • Add some rocking sugar to the broth and continue to simmer. You may use regular white sugar should rock sugar is unavailable.
  • After removing the meat, continue to simmer the bone for three hours or until the flavor is released fully. Remove the bone.  (Note: If you use chicken bones, just simmer for 1.5 hours should d be sufficient to extract the flavor.)

c. Crush the prawn heads 

  • Since the shrimp oil might be trapped inside the shrimp heads, I crush the shrimp heads with mortar and pestle to ensure all the flavor is extracted while boiling.
  • You can use an electric food blender to crush the heads, but suggest not to crush them too fine until they can escape through the strainer when we filter the broth later. The perfect broth is certainly quite thick, but I do not want to overdo it until it becomes too murky.
  • Now return the crushed head to the broth and continue to simmer. You may need to add more water should the broth have reduced too much. Once you add the shrimp heads, the broth will immediately turn red due to the prawn oil.
  • Bring it back to a boil, then simmer for an hour over low heat. This duration should be enough to extract the flavor as these are crushed shrimp heads.
  • Season with salt and sugar before removing it from heat.

d. Strain the broth

  • Place the shrimp shells on a wire mesh strainer and press with a spatula to extract as much broth as possible. Discard the bones and shells.
  • Pour the broth through a wire mesh strainer to get a clean broth.

The broth is now ready. It has an unbelievable flavor and is concentrated. It is intended to be that way, though, as we will add the noodles into the broth to serve.

Prawn mee is a specialty noodle soup popular among the Malaysian Chinese. The uniqueness lies in the soup base, prepared with a humongous amount of prawn heads and shells coupled with pork bones concentrated to a thick, creamy, and highly aromatic broth.

2. Cook the ingredients 

There are a few ingredients you need to make prawn mee besides the prawn. Here are the details and what you need to do with them.

Rice vermicelli and yellow egg noodles

Yellow egg noodles are wet noodles made with alkaline salt (Kansui), making the noodles has a slippery feeling in the mouth. It may not be available widely, so head towards the Asian grocery store if you live outside Asia.

I am sure you do not like the slightly alkaline taste, although kansui is edible and is used to make other delicacies such as zongzi and the pastry of mooncake. Remove the noodles from the packet, then rinse it thoroughly with plenty of water and drain.  

Rice vermicelli is called bihoon 米粉 in Malaysia. Soak it in water until it is fully hydrated and soft, which takes twenty minutes to half an hour. You can speed up the hydration by soaking the rice vermicelli in hot water.

Bean sprouts

Bean sprouts add crunchiness to the soup noodles. 

Place the bean sprouts in a large container, then fill with water until the bean sprouts are floating.

Stir the bean sprouts with your hand. The bean shell (which is grey/black) color will detach from the sprouts. Discard the bean shells.

Wash the bean sprouts thoroughly and drain.

Some bean sprouts come with roots, which you should remove before cooking.

Beansprouts can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one to two weeks.

Kangkung (Water spinach)

Remove the root and part of the stem that is hard. You may also use only the leaves, but I like to include the small stems close to the leaves for their crunchiness. 

Pork loin or breast meat

The pork loin is cooked in the broth during simmering and fish out when it is done.  Cut it into thin slices before serving. Some switch-up version of prawn mee uses Chinese roast pork.

Fish cakes

I used the store-bought fish cake, which has been pre-fried. You can keep it in the freezer for a few months if you do not use it. I leave it on the table until it returns to room temperature and lightly fry with some oil before cutting them into slices.

Hard-boiled eggs

Prawn mee is not complete without hard-boiled eggs. It sounds easy to make hard-boiled eggs, but very often, many hard-boiled eggs served at restaurants are tinged with a layer of grayish coating on the egg yolk.  The color is unsightly although it does not cause any harm to our health.

There is an article on this blog that explains how to prepare the perfect hard-boiled egg without any greyish layer. The egg white is firm but not rubbery.  It is better to prepare the hard-boiled eggs in advance as they can be kept in the refrigerator overnight.

Sambal

Sambal is essential for prawn mee as it is a slightly spicy soup noodles dish.  The sambal suitable to serve with prawn noodles is sambal tumis.  There is a recipe on this blog explaining how to prepare the sambal tumis with belacan and dried shrimps, which is ideal for prawn mee.

Alternatively, you can use the store-bought sambal tumis to save tim.

Prawn

Place the prawn in the broth to cook until they turn color. Remove and place them on the noodles before serving.

Fried shallots and chopped scallion

Fried shallots and chopped scallion are sprinkled on the noodles right before serving. There is a section of my Chicken Soup Noodles video explaining how to fried the shallots in detail. You can check out this video, between 0.34 to 1.20 minutes.

Clck here if you choose to use the store-bought fried shallots.

4. Assemble and serve Penang Hokkien mee

Prawn mee is always served hot, and therefore only ladle the boiling broth onto the noodles when is required.

Here are the steps:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. 
  • Place the kangkung, beansprouts, yellow egg noodles, and rice vermicelli in a colander/strainer basket.  I have one which is relatively deep, ideal for this purpose.
  • Place the strainer with all the ingredients to blanch for about one and a half minutes. Drain and pour the vegetables and noodles into the serving bowl.
  • Arrange the cooked prawn, pork slices, fish cake slices, and half of the hard-boiled egg on top of the noodles.
  • Ladle the boiling prawn broth into the bowl.
  • Sprinkle the fried shallots and scallions on top to garnish.
  • Place the sambal in a soup spoon and serve along with the prawn mee. The sambal is supposed to mix into the soup before eating.
Yield: 4

Prawn Mee (Malaysian style)

prawn mee thumbnail

Prawn mee is a specialty noodle soup popular among the Malaysian Chinese. The uniqueness lies in the soup base, prepared with a humongous amount of prawn heads and shells coupled with pork bones concentrated to a thick, creamy, and highly aromatic broth.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients for the broth

Ingredients for serving prawn mee

Instructions

For the broth

  1. Clean the prawn heads and shells, drain thoroughly.
  2. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan or wok. Stir fry over medium heat. 
  3. Add a few dried chiles, which is optional. 
  4. Continue stir-frying until aromatic. Remove from heat.
  5. Add sufficient water to submerge the bone in a stockpot.
  6. Bring it to a boil. Skim off the scum floating on the surface from time to time.
  7. Cook the pork loin in the broth until fully cooked, fish out the pork and cut into slices,
  8. Add some rocking sugar.
  9. Simmer for three hours. Remove the bone.
  10. Crush the shrimp heads with mortar and pestle.
  11. Now return the crushed head to the broth and continue to simmer for an hour. 
  12. Season with salt. 
  13. Strain the broth

Assemble the prawn mee

  1. Remove the yellow noodles from the packet, then rinse it thoroughly with plenty of water and drain.  
  2. Soak the rice vermicelli in water for half an hour. Drain.
  3. Place the kangkung, beansprouts, yellow egg noodles, and rice vermicelli in a wire mesh strainer and blanch in boiling water for one and a half minutes. Drain and pour the vegetables and noodles into the serving bowl.
  4. Arrange the cooked prawn, pork slices, fish cake slices, and half of the hard-boiled egg on top of the noodles.
  5. Ladle the boiling prawn broth into the bowl.
  6. Sprinkle the fried shallots and scallions on top to garnish.
  7. Place the sambal in a soup spoon and serve along with the prawn mee.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 895Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 742mgSodium: 4210mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 4gSugar: 11gProtein: 93g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 3/19/2021

    3 replies to "Prawn Mee"

    • KP Kwan

      Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am pleased to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

    • Lai Ying

      Love your har mee recipe. And I enjoy all the Malaysian recipes you provide. Being from Ipoh but have been living in a US city without a huge Malaysian population for many many years, I crave for all Malaysian dishes especially hawker food. Your recipes are pretty much spot on. Thanks for providing us who don’t have access to such foods locally an outlet to satisfy our cravings. I do have a question. The one thing I haven’t been able to find here is the yellow egg noodle. The ones that say it’s ‘yau mean’ just doesn’t taste the same. Like you said, it’s not ‘slippery’. Do you have a recipe for that? Thank you once again!

      • KP Kwan

        Hi Lai Ying,
        I do not have the recipe for making the noodles:)
        You may have to settle with other noodles, but these types of noodles are made with alkaline water/kansui. So if you find any noodles made with kansui, perhaps it will be the substitute you need.
        KP Kwan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy