The Noodle Series: Wat Tan Hor


And so it begins; my noodle series. Over the next few days, weeks and even months, I shall attempt many of my old time favourites from home. This series idea came to me whilst I was tossing and turning in bed last night (as usual); I’m not sure if it was the sudden hunger pangs or the rather disappointing plate of Beef Hor Fun J and I shared at Minh Xuong in Richmond last week. Whatever it is, it made me dream the most awesome dream; a glowing bowl of Har Mee (Prawn Noodles), a Yin and Yang arrangement of yellow noodles and bee hoon (rice vermicelli) swimming in a reddish rich and spicy prawn-ish broth, flanked by perfect hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, thin slices of pork and shrimp. Oh look! a pair of chopsticks and a soup spoon miraculously appear. I lift the spoon of broth to my mouth in anticipation of my first slurp and then my dearest hubby woke me up! <sobs>    

To inaugurate my Noodle Series, I have decided to cook Wat Tan Hor which can be translated into Slippery Rice Noodles in Egg Gravy. This is my favourite ‘Tai Chow’ dish especially when ordered as a Yin Yong (mixed) Cantonese Fried Noodles. In my book, Tai Chow is synonymous with super-quick-cooked-to-order-on-a-flaming-wok extravaganza and could include Hokkien Mee, Wat Tan Hor, Fried Tung Fun (Glass Noodles), fried rice, fried salt and pepper squid etc. The flavour is accentuated by that smoky wok-hei (intense wok heat) possible only when you have a huge-as gas flame and a strong arm to boot, to toss the wok contents until it catches that spectacular fire which is like flambé minus the alcohol. It’s been awhile since I had great Wat Tan Hor and I particularly love the one at Mo Tak Teng Restaurant in Taman Tun, a long time ago; I don’t even know if it’s still there or whether the same people still run it. 

For tonight’s Wat Tan Hor, I’ve used fresh flat rice noodles which is as far as I know, available in most of Melbourne’s asian grocery stores. I’ve been a bit too generous with the prawns and have omitted meat, substituting it with fish cake alongside squid/calamari. Previously, my Wat Tan Hor failed because I forgot the key part of this dish; frying small portions of the rice noodles with soy sauce beforehand to impart that smoky flavour. So this was a new thing to me and I was rapt with the result although I desire MORE of that wok hei smokiness. My stove couldn’t cope. So I’ve resorted to probably the most absurd idea but hey! if you don’t try, you don’t know. I fired my noodles further with a blow torch! Hehehehehe. Did it work? I think best to leave the blow torch for Crème brûlée. 😀  

The gravy was pretty simple; chicken stock, soy sauce, salt and pepper, added choy sum (a leafy mustard green veggie), thickened with cornstarch and importantly, whole eggs stirred vigorously through the thickened sauce immediately after turning off the flames.
Simple ingredients with simple flavourings but oh so difficult to achieve that unique Tai Chow flavourIn summary, Wok Hei is the essence of all great Tai Chows. 

 Stir-frying portions of the rice noodles 

No finesse when frying the noodles; you must be rough!

I thought this might help with the smoky flavour

 Fried Rice Noodles

Making the gravy

Still toying with the blow torch

Wat Tan Hor in a big plate

until I realised why not present it ‘ta pow’ (take away) style like back home 😀

not bad for a first attempt

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10 comments to The Noodle Series: Wat Tan Hor

  • Helena

    looks delicious….is this like cha hor fun?
    some noodle suggestion: curry laksa, asam fish laksa, keow teow teng,wan tan mee just to name some of my favourites hehehe

  • Mei Sze

    They’re all in the list… 🙂

  • Kenix

    how u make the gravy ?? ;p

  • Yu May

    Love it!! But I don’t think I wanna try the blow torch method =P

  • Mei Sze

    Hehehe..Just me and my crazy ideas. It doesn’t work. Afterall, it’s called ‘Wok Hei’ so the heat has to come from the bottom..not up…hehe

  • Mei Sze

    Will post recipe soon.

  • Vyanne

    Wah Tan Hor is my favourite dai chao of all times! The last picture is killing me…

  • Sue

    Hi, could you kindly post me the recipe for this delicious wat tan hor. Thanks.

    Best regards,

  • Lysha

    HI Mei Sze

    Great blog! I am a Malaysian too living in Melbourne so I can identify with all the Malaysian food you are trying to replicate over here.

    Do you mind telling me if you bought your wok from Malaysia? Is this carbon steel or cast iron type..I am in search of a good Chinese wok which can impart wok hei if it’s used properly with the right amount of flame =)

  • Mei Sze

    Hi Lysha,
    Thanks! I’ve only just started blogging again 🙂 and already have assam laksa and har mee on my mind for the coming weeks. I have used a few woks. I can’t quite identify what my mini wok (pictured in this post) is made of though I suspect it’s more steel-based; definitely not cast-iron. It’s really thin and heats up super quick so I do get that wok hei and smokiness from it. My mother in law brought it over because she’s petite so the wok’s just the right size for her. Previously I used a cast iron wok (now with my sister and also brought over from Malaysia) but I find it a little rough and not so great for fast-stir frying. Having said that my own mom has been cooking with the same cast iron (those old fashioned ones) for 30 years now. It’s so well seasoned and heats up very fast but only my dad gets that wok hei flavour out of it . Personally, I think go with carbon steel. But it also depends on how high your flame is. I have a friend who purposely got a Rambo stove to cook her Char Kuey Teow.