A comfort food dish from Malaysia (it’s popular in Indonesia and Singapore too), mee rebus literally means “boiled noodles.” Like many great Asian dishes, versions abound - some are made using potatoes, some contain beef, some feature lime leaves and lime juice. Some have a thick gravy and others, a thinner one. While not hard to make, there are a number of ingredients involved so it’s worth making mee rebus for a crowd. The beauty of this dish are the myriad accompaniments - you can just plonk them all in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves.
- 800 g (about 2 medium) orange sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1.5 L (6 cups) chicken stock
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) fermented soy bean sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 125 ml (½ cup) coconut milk
- 60 g (⅓ cup) shaved palm sugar
- 2 tbsp potato starch
- 800 g fresh thin yellow noodles
- 300 g (3 cups) bean sprouts, ends trimmed
- 12 fried tofu puffs, sliced
- 6 eggs, soft boiled and halved
- large handful coriander sprigs
- 3 small red chillies, thinly sliced
- lime wedges, for squeezing
- 2 ½ tbsp dried shrimp
- 10 dried chillies
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 4 large red shallots (about 150 g), chopped
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, white part only, chopped
- 5 cm piece of galangal, chopped
- 8 candlenuts
- 2 tsp Malay curry powder
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 30 minutes
To make the spice paste, place the dried shrimp and chillies in a small bowl, add enough boiling water to cover then stand for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain well then combine in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
Meanwhile, combine the sweet potato and stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then cover and cook for 15 minutes or until sweet potato is tender. Transfer the mixture, in batches if necessary, to a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the sweet potato mixture, soy bean sauce, soy sauce, coconut milk and palm sugar and bring to simmer. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow flavours to develop, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the potato starch with 60 ml (⅓ cup) cold water to make a smooth paste. Stirring constantly, add to the sauce and cook, stirring, until it simmers and thickens.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the bean sprouts and cook for 1 minute or until softened then remove to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Return the water to the boil, add the noodles then cook for 3 minutes or according to manufacturers instructions until tender. Drain well. Divide the noodles among large bowls and ladle the gravy over. Divide the sprouts, tofu puffs and eggs among the bowls, scatter over the coriander and red chillies and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over. (Alternatively, place all the garnishes on a platter and let everyone help themselves.)
• Fermented soy bean sauce is a brownish, thick, lumpy, salty sauce that gives a lovely savoury edge to dishes and is used a lot in Thai, and other South East Asian, cooking. It’s easily found in Asian food stores. Some are lighter coloured than others and the one to get for this recipe is a yellow one.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.