Like many items on a Chinese-American menu, Singapore Noodles aren’t actually of the provenance that its name implies. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dish called “Singapore Noodles” on a menu in most of Asia, much less in Singapore itself. So how did it get its name?
My best guess is that a creative chef was trying to recreate Hokkien Mee or Kerabu Bee (both dishes from the area) and they added curry powder because it’s a prominent flavor in the region’s cuisines. Instead of calling the creation something that Americans wouldn’t recognize, they went with the simple, exotic sounding solution of naming it after the region by which it was inspired.
So Singapore Noodles may not be a traditional dish, but it is a delicious one, and the spindly, vibrant, curry flavored impostor has found its way into the hearts of food lovers across the English speaking world. Growing up, it was my favorite dish from our local Chinese take-out and our standard order always consisted of Singapore Noodles (my favorite), Sweet and Sour Pork (step-dad’s favorite), Mongolian Beef (mom’s favorite), and Cashew chicken (sister’s favorite). Driven in part by my need to scratch a nostalgic itch, and in part by a desire to make awesome versions of each dish, I’ve created my takes on each one, which you can get to using the links above.
As you might expect in a dish this colorful, it does require a fair number of ingredients, but none of them should be too hard to find. I tried to stay true to my taste memory of this dish, but you can substitute out most of the vegetables and use proteins that work for you (beef, chicken, squid, and tofu are a few that come to mind).
The noodles for this dish are very thin rice noodles which are usually labeled rice vermicelli, bee hoon, or maifun. I’ve found that the best way to work with these, is to soak them in boiling water just long enough so that they aren’t brittle anymore. Once they’ve become flexible, you can rinse them in cold water and pull them apart so that they don’t stick together when you stir-fry them.
The proteins get marinated to infuse them with flavor and to lock in their juices with starch so that they don’t get dried out in the intense heat of the wok.
The sauce for my Singapore Noodles is a blend of chicken stock, fish sauce, and oyster sauce, which imparts a ton of umami into the noodles while keeping them from sticking into a clumpy mess. Finally, I like to stir-fry the curry powder together with the vegetables before adding the sauce, as the high heat helps to release the aromatic oils in the spices.
Because Singapore Noodles (or any stir-fry for that matter) come together very quickly, it’s imperative to have all the vegetables prepped and ready. Otherwise, your food is going burn while you’re running around your kitchen. I know it’s no fun having extra dishes to clean up, but this is one dish you want to set up like a cooking show, with all the ingredients prepped and in bowls so that they’re at hand when you need them.
For shrimp & pork
- Put the noodles in a heat-proof tray or shallow bowl and cover with boiling water. Start separating the noodles with tongs or chopsticks and when the noodles are no longer brittle, drain and rinse them with cold water. Put the noodles back in the tray and cover with cold water, pulling them apart so that they don't stick together. Drain and set aside.
- Put the shrimp, pork, soy sauce, Shaoxing and potato starch in a bowl and mix well to combine. Let these marinate while you prepare everything else.
- In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, oyster sauce, and chicken stock.
- Once you've prepped the vegetables for the stir-fry, heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until very hot. Add a tablespoon of oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the egg, swirling, and then scrambling. Transfer the egg to a plate and set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil, and then add the garlic and ginger. Fry until fragrant.
- Add the marinated shrimp and pork and stir-fry until the pork just loses its pink color (it doesn't have to be cooked all the way).
- Add the onion, red and green bell peppers, bamboo, and bean sprouts. Stir-fry, alternating between tossing the ingredients in the pan and stirring vigorously until the vegetables are a bright color.
- Add the curry powder and stir-fry until fragrant.
- Add the noodles and return the egg to the pan. Pour the sauce mixture over the noodles and use chopsticks or tongs to toss the noodles and evenly coat them with sauce. If the noodles start sticking, add a bit more water.
Garnish your Singapore Noodles with scallions and serve hot.