outRIAAge | Nov 9, 201603:17 PM     14

This is pure Malaysian food, which is always a good thing if life is looking dull. To quote Lucky Peach, the dish is: "heaps of noodles, random proteins, cooked in lard." There is no way to make it a pretty dish. The essential ingredients are fermented shrimp paste (belacan), smoked oysters, and fresh wide rice noodles, which are a giggle to ask for because they're called Ho Fun.

The rest of the ingredients are negotiable. There's a lot of nonsense written about how you must use kecap manis (quite literally the original ketchup), but it's not a very distinct ingredient: soy sauce and sugar will set you right. Feel free to swap in chorizo for the lap cheong, and you won't kill the dish by adding leftover chicken, tofu or whatever you have. Come to think of it, it would be good with tofu as the main ingredient, but it'll never be vegetarian: the lard is a fairly big deal.

1 1/2 tsp fermented shrimp paste (belacan)
3 chilies de arbol (standard Chinese long red dried chilies)
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
2 TBS kecap manis or standard soy sauce with a bit of sugar added
1 TBS + 1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp sugar
8 prawns, peeled, tails left on, "deveined" if you're squeamish, but I prefer them whole, with heads on.
1/2 tsp pepper
3 TBS lard
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
8 oz Chinese sausages (lap cheong), sliced thin
3 oz smoked oysters, finely diced
2 C mung bean sprouts
Liquid Smoke
1 lb fresh flat rice ­noodles (ho fun)
2 eggs
8 Chinese chives, standard chives, or green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces

Get the nasty part out of the way first: Wrap the shrimp paste in aluminum foil. Stick it under a broiler or hold it in a gas flame until it smells utterly disgusting, which doesn't take long. Put outside to cool - don't worry: the cat won't go near it.

Soak the dried chilies in warm water for 20 minutes to soften. Drain and blend with the shallots and shrimp paste, until broken down and pulpy, but not pureed. In a separate bowl, mix together the sweet soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce, and fish sauce, then dissolve the sugar in it.

Toss the prawns with 1 tsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of white pepper, and 1/2 tsp of sugar. Separate the noodles with your fingers. It may help to do while submerged in water. Everything else—garlic, sausages, oysters, bean sprouts, eggs, chives, other random proteins —should be at hand, ready to go.

In a well-seasoned wok or wide pan, heat 1 TBS of lard over medium heat. Add the chili paste (it should hiss when it hits the pan) and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape the chili paste out and set aside.

Spoon the remaining 2 TBS of lard into the pan and crank the heat to high. Add the garlic, cook until fragrant and gold around the edges, about 30 seconds, stir the chili paste in for another 30 seconds then add the shrimp and sausage. Stir until shrimp start to turn pink, add the oysters and bean sprouts. Add a few drops of Liquid Smoke to taste.

Toss in the noodles along with the soy sauce cocktail. Stir madly (taking care to not tear the noodles) until everything is uniform muddy brown.

Clear a space for the eggs, scrambling them to the point of being just barely set, then mix into the dish. Toss in the chives, stir for another 30 seconds. Serve.

The reason your version is unlikely to be as good as restaurant versions is "wok hei" or wok-breath. It's the incredible smoky flavour that characterizes a good chow fun, only attainable with a searing-hot wok. I fake it here with Liquid Smoke: it's better than nothing, but it don't fool nobody.

Last time I was at Malay Satay Hut in Redmond WA (my favourite restaurant), I was inhaling it when the woman at the next table noticed she had the same dish I had, and asked if I liked it. I responded (in my best Scottish accent) that it was my favourite dish in the world, and she promptly offered me hers.

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