Another week, another episode of Top Chef Masters to look forward to, so I thought I’d put judge (and Saveur magazine editor) James Oseland’s Cradle of Flavor to the test again. This time it’s the Penang-Style Stir-Fried Kuey Teow Noodles. I was pretty well-stocked from my shopping the week before, so I just had to pick up some bean sprouts and scallions (instead of the Chinese chives).
If you don’t already know, shrimp paste has a strong odor. Okay, it kind of stinks. If you’ve got a kitchen window, I suggest you leave it open. The recipe has a technique I’ve never heard of before. You start with a little of the paste on a piece of aluminum foil.
Then you fold up the foil to make a packet and toast that over a burner on the stove. It doesn’t take long to roast the paste.
I’m simplifying things a bit here, but you mash the roasted shrimp paste with chiles. He calls for using a food processor, but it was a lot more fun using my Thai mortar and pestle.
Again, I’m streamlining this (you really need to check out the book for yourself), but you cook the paste in peanut oil, and then you put it aside (see it in the bowl above). It’s quite a bit of work. I have a sneaky feeling I could tweak the method and get similar results, but it sure was interesting to follow the recipe this time.
Surprise… the recipe has shrimp. Yeah, yeah, I doubled the shrimp measure (and all of the ingredients). Here it’s cooking in peanut oil and garlic. Eventually you add that crazy paste you made.
The recipe gives an option for dried rice noodles, which is what I used (shown here uncooked, obviously). It also calls for Indonesian sweet soy sauce as an option, which you might have to do some searching for if you really want to try this recipe. And another cool method is when you make a well in the center of everything in the pan and start scrambling an egg in the middle. Before it sets, you mix everything up and the egg coats the noodles, adding to the richness of the dish. The bean sprouts and scallions go in last. The suggested little bit of salt really helps this dish, and I added a some more of the special soy sauce too. The flavors are sweet, salty, and spicy, all at once. Is the recipe worth all the effort? If you’re up for a culinary adventure, then the answer is yes.