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It’s five months to go until our planned Malaysia trip with our new Canberran friends – who are really like family – and I can’t stop thinking about it. Or talking about it. I’m sure people are sick of me waffling on, but I’m constantly contemplating all the street food we’re going to eat, all the shopping we’re going to do – and I suppose we’ll get out and see some sights too. But mostly the food thing.

My #1 piece of advice? Bring loose pants. In fact, don’t even wear pants. Opt for a sarung. “It’s like a kilt, but adjustable”. “No, you don’t have to wear underwear if you don’t want to.” 

I had to explain that Malaysians work off a base of about 5 meals a day – breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper, with the optional morning tea break/elevenses.

Then I started thinking about what we would have for each meal, which brings me to wan tan mee. Wan tan mee, or kon loh mee (dry noodles) is typical Malaysian market fare and in the exclusive group of food that you can eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Malaysian wan tan mee is usually quite dark, and relies on the magic of the mushroom sauce. Hardcore fans eat it with chicken feet in sauce, but I can’t quite bring myself to eat feet. In case you were wondering, it’s mostly cartilege and skin, and makes for rather finicky eating.

Thank goodness, a fellow food blogger, To Food with Love, had a recipe as a starting point as I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. Her recipe relies on making a lot of things for scratch, including pickling chillis and making garlic oil. I’ve decided to pare the recipe back to the basics, so that it doesn’t take too much fussing around in the kitchen. In a few months, I think I’ll do it all from scratch, including making my own noodles and char siu – but in the meantime, here’s the pared back recipe, and a cheat sheet.

Traditionally, each batch of noodles is cooked in boiling stock and tossed in seasoning sauce, so the recipe for the seasoning sauce is in individual serves.

It’s a good idea to double the amount of wan tans and freeze half as the other parts of this dish are easy to prepare. It’s a quick dinner if you already have them made.

**For this recipe, you should use a 15ml tbsp measure. Aussie tablespoons are traditionally 20ml.

Wan Tan Mee
adapted from To Food with Love
serves 3-4

400g fresh wonton noodles (thin egg noodles) at Asian grocers
½ bunch kai lan (chinese broccoli), washed and cut into 5 inch lengths*
Approx 300g (10 oz) char siu (red bbq pork), at Asian roast restaurants – you’ll see it  hanging in the window. Ask for a chunk and slice it finely yourself.
Pickled green chillis, in a jar at Asian grocers

wan tans
1 packet square wonton wrappers (about 40 sheets)
150g (5 oz) pork mince
150g (5 oz) prawn meat only, chopped into 3-4 pieces per prawn
1 tbsp egg white
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tbsp oyster sauce
½ tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
dash of white pepper

mushroom sauce
5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup hot water
½ tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed with the back of a knife
1½  cups water
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1½ tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vegetarian mushroom sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
½  tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp water

seasoning sauce, per serve – you’ll need 
2 tbsp mushroom sauce, from above
1 tbsp dark soy (Cheong Chan brand thick caramel)
1 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp soy sauce
½  tsp sugar

*Traditional wan tan mee uses choy sum, but I’m not a fan of the mildly bitter taste and have found that it can be chewy, so I’ve opted for kai lan instead.

To make wan tans:

  1. Start by making the wan tans. Mix all the ingredients (except the wrappers, of course) in a bowl.
  2. Peel ten wrappers and line them up.
  3. Place a teaspoon of the mixture in the middle of each wan tan wrapper, and then lightly moisten the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold the wrapper across to form a triangle shape, then press the edges to thin out the dough a little.
  4. Bring the three corners of the triangle together to form a money bag shape – you may need to do a few folds in between to get the rounded shape.
  5. Repeat until you run out of filling, making sure to place each wan tan on a floured surface to stop sticking.
  6. If you are going to freeze some, toss in a bit of flour, allow to dry for about ten minutes then place into a ziploc bag.

Make the mushroom sauce:

  1. Soak mushrooms in 1 cup hot water until softened. Squeeze out excess water from mushrooms, slice and set aside, and reserve the soaking liquid for later.
  2. Heat up ½ tbsp vegetable oil in a small saucepan. Fry the garlic and mushrooms for 1 minute. Then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cornstarch solution. Bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cornstarch solution and stir until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan and set aside.

Cook your ingredients:

  1. Boil some water and quickly blanch your kai lan. Remove from boiling water, place into a colander and quickly run some cold water over it to stop the cooking process.
  2. Cook your wan tans in the same water – they should take about 3 minutes. Drain and place into a bowl.
  3. Before cooking the noodles, take them out of the packet and separate them a bit to make sure there are no clumps when you cook them. Cook your noodles in the same boiling water. Like most hawker stalls, I have a little netted basket that I put the noodles in. It could take anywhere between 30 seconds to 3 minutes. My noodle packet said 30 seconds, but they took a full 2 minutes to cook.
  4. Refresh the cooked noodles in cold running water for 5 seconds, then briefly plunge into boiling water to heat again – all this sounds like a lot of work, but it will only take about 6-7 minutes.

Assemble the wan tan mee:

  1. Set out 3-4 bowls. Put the ingredients for the seasoning sauce into each bowl. Give it a quick stir with your chopsticks.
  2. Make sure the noodles are properly drained, or the seasoning won’t stick to the mee and you’ll have watery sauce. Place 100g of noodles into each bowl and toss in the sauce.
  3. Top with wan tans, blanched kai lan, sliced char siu and pickled green chillies. Serve hot.

Cheat sheet

So, you’ve only got 15 minutes to make dinner? As long as you’ve got most of the ingredients on hand you can make a cheat’s version that doesn’t taste half bad. Cross my heart, it takes just under 15 minutes – I timed it yesterday.

You’ll need all the stuff above, except we’ll skip the mushroom sauce and if you want, you can substitute pre-made or store bought wan tans.

So –

400g fresh wonton noodles
½ bunch kai lan (chinese broccoli), washed and cut into 5 inch lengths*
Approx 300g (10 oz) char siu (red bbq pork)
Pickled green chillis, in a jar at Asian grocers (optional)
Frozen wan tans (optional)

Seasoning sauce
2 tbsp vegetarian mushroom sauce
1 tbsp dark soy (Cheong Chan brand thick caramel)
1 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp soy sauce
½  tsp sugar

Alright, 15 minutes – have your ingredients all out on the table in front of you and put some water on to boil.

  1. Blanch the kai lan in the boiling water – takes about 30-45 seconds.
  2. Cook the wan tans, if you’re using them.
  3. Cook the noodles – about 2 minutes. While they’re cooking, set out your bowls and start putting the seasoning sauce ingredients in each.
  4. Noodles cooked! Run them under cold water for about 5 seconds, then plunge back into boiling water to reheat.
  5. Make sure the noodles are mostly dry before placing into individual bowls. Toss the noodles in the seasoning sauce.
  6. Top with char siu, wan tans, kai lan, pickled green chillis and serve.