100 mlvegetable oil300 gmfirm tofu, cut lengthwise into 2cm thick slices500 gmgreen school prawns, peeled and with tails intact400 gmbean sprouts, tails trimmed150 gmgarlic chives, cut into 3cm lengths (see note)500 gmdried rice vermicelli, soaked in cold water until soft2long red chillies, thinly sliced8wedges of lime8hard boiled eggs, peeled and quarteredChilli spice paste40-60dried long red chillies, soaked in boiling water to soften250 gmred shallots, thinly sliced (2 cups)4 clovesgarlic, coarsely chopped1 tbspbelacan (see note)125 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil1/3 cup dried shrimp, pounded1 tbspwhite sugarTamarind sauce1onion, finely chopped5 tbspyellow bean sauce, crushed (see note)1.5 litres light coconut milk1/3 cup tamarind pulp, soaked in 1 cup of warm water, strained, reserve water75 gm (1/3 cup) white sugar
Heat oil in a wok, add tofu and fry over medium heat for 2 minutes each side or until crisp. Drain on absorbent paper, cool and cut into 2cm cubes. Set aside.
For chilli spice paste, coarsely chop chillies and place in a food processor or mortar. Add shallot, garlic, belacan and process or pound to a fine paste. Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry paste with dried shrimp for 10-15 minutes or until aromatic and oil rises to the surface, then add sugar and 1 tsp salt. Divide mixture into three and set aside.
For tamarind sauce, combine one third of chilli spice paste, onion, yellow bean sauce and coconut milk in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until simmering. Add tamarind water and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add sugar and salt to taste, then cook for 3-5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Keep warm.
Cook half the remaining paste, prawns, bean sprouts and half the chopped chives in a wok or large frying pan for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups of hot water, bring to the boil, add noodles and stir to combine.
Divide noodles among bowls, pour over some hot sauce, top with eggs, tofu, chillies, lime wedges and remaining chives. Serve remaining paste and sauce passed separately.
Note Substitute green onions if garlic chives are not
available. Belacan is a paste made from fermented prawns, available
from Asian grocery stores. Yellow bean sauce is made from soy beans
that are salted and then fermented. Look for sauces with whole
beans. Available from Asian grocery stores.
Considered by many to be from Thailand, though I've never come
across it there. Nevertheless, its hot, sweet and sour flavours
make it a Nonya favourite. The addition of yellow bean sauce gives
the dish a Chinese nuance. A one-dish meal, it's packed with rice
noodles, prawns, garlic chives, crisp tofu and eggs. It's served
with a coconut sauce redolent of tamarind and while quite a wet
dish, has just enough gravy to coat the noodles. It is best
finished with fresh lime juice.