Home cooking Chow Chai Mee Fern (Foochow pronouciation is Chow chai hung gan) is simple but the taste level is normally not quite there. Many good cooks in my family have attempted at this but somehow we could never match the ones in the shop. The homecooked ones are somehow lacking in its sourness & fragrance.
There are a few factors to consider, one of which, is the treatment of chow chai. Chow chai needs to be chopped, and i mean hand chopped (not blended into small bits), and then add Foochow Red Wine to it to season before using. This will increase the sourness factor. And of course good sour chow chai is important as well. Also note that you should only chop and season the amount you want for the coming mea(s). Do not leave seasoning for more than a week. The sour factor tends to go away with time. I found that out when I used the ones I chopped three weeks ago.
The soup base is another factor for tastiness. Use only superior stock. What we are talking about here is not chicken stock cubes. This is like 8 cups of water boiedl with big huge pork bones (1kg) and some chicken bones (400 to 500 gm) and simmer for at least an hour. The longer the simmer, the 'sweeter' the stock.
Foochow Red Wine (Ung Chew in Foochow) plays such an important role in this dish. Sub standard ones which are usually diluted and missing the sweet sourish taste does not do justice to the mee fern. You should see the amount of Red Wine that is dumped into the noodle and soup at New Happy Cafe.
And finally of course the ingredients. New Happy Cafe uses Tapah fish fillets and/or king prawns and they cost about RM18 to 25 per bowl. Those are really superb. My version is RM4.50 according to Greg. Cause it only has meat slices, meatballs and medium prawns. What I also learned from them is that you don't need flaming fire to give the mee fern the fragrance. In fact, I find out through experiments that it will just kill off the sour taste in the soup.
8 cups of superior stock
6-8 heaped tablesp of chopped, seasoned chaw chai
1 tbsp of ginger, minced
1 tbsp of garlic, minced
3 nos. of big tomatos, sliced to wedges (use sour ones)
3/4 to 1 cup of good foochow red wine
3-4 stalks of choy sum, clean and cut to 3-4 parts
50gm of black fungus, sliced
400gm of fish fillet o prawns
200gm of pork slices/chicken meat, treat with a little salt and pepper and light soy and some cornstarch, set aside
4-5 tbsp of light soya
light soya, pepper and msg to taste
300gm of thick mee fern, soak in room temperature water til soft. Drain and set aside.
Fish like tapah, patin, red snapper, filleted
Prawns, clean sand bags, whether shelled or unshelled is very personal
King prawns, cut half, cut the legs off
1) Prepare superior stock. Keep it simmering.
2) In a heated wok, with 3 tbsp of oil, stir fry ginger and garlic with high fire till fragrant. Add meat slices. Stir fry to seal the meat. Add superior stock. Let it boil.
3) Add seasoned chow chai (please don't fry this, the sourness is lost if you do so). Then, add harder to cook items like meat balls and king prawns and boil for about 2-3 min. Add fish fillets, fungus, tomatos, pork liver next. Boil for another 2-3 min. Add light soya and 1/2 of red wine now.
4) Find a permanent spot in your soup to put your mee fern in. You dont want to stir the mee fern all over the soup cause you want to take it out first and place nicely on each individual bowl later. Continue boiling til mee fern is cook. Add vegies. Add seasoning to taste and rest of red wine.
5) Dish out mee fern and distribute evenly on each individual bowls. Should make 5 medium bowls. Then, look for meatballs, meat, fish and prawns and others to dish out evenly onto each bowl. Arrange them nicely. Finally, scoop out the soup into the bowls. Drizzle with more red wine. Serve with pickled chillis with soya sauce. If you have the heart to take it, drip a few drops of pork lard.