Singapore Crab Vermicelli
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Enjoying seafood seasonally isn't just about using seafood when in season. Many species are available across multiple seasons and some like crab, are available all year round. Sometimes it's what accompanies the seafood particularly well whose time of the year becomes the factor of interest. Fresh peas are a summer treat, and strictly summer only, so the fact that their sweetness partners perfectly with the flavour of crab inspired me to put together this recipe whose starting point was one of my favourite "Chinese Takeaway" dishes, Singapore Noodles.
There is probably not much time left now before fresh peas are no longer available. However, with tubs of fresh white crab meat on the stall all year round, this dish can be enjoyed at any time, since frozen peas are a perfectly good substitute. Indeed, it is often said that frozen peas are one of the greatest frozen food success stories.
Consensus seems to suggest that the origins of Singapore Noodles lie not in Singapore but in 1950-60s Hong Kong, though a similar dish called Xin Chow Bee Hoon is, apparently, indigenous. The article from the South China Morning Post, linked below, provides an insight. Of note, and in reference to the flavours, is the connection between Singapore, as a trading post, and its trading neighbours. The dish does strike of India-meets-the-South-East, the same sense that struck me of the country itself when I first visited Singapore.
One thing that is ubiquitous with Singapore Noodles is their yellow colour, imparted by turmeric for sure. Prawns are the most usual seafood ingredient, accompanied by a cooked pork called Char Siu and vegetables (see article by Felicity Cloake). Chicken may feature, but crab loves a noodle and a hint of curry spice so it’s a clear contender for a take on this dish. The omelette, to my mind, is essential and, without doubt, it would be cooked in the wok by those who have the skill to do so. To make things a little easier I suggest to (mostly) cook the omelette in a frying pan in advance.
Although there is some preparation involved for this recipe, the cooking time is only about 5 minutes, so the advance preparation is essential. School of Wok have devised the logical idea of the "wok clock", but it’s very similar to an equally simple approach I have long used, which is to line up the raw ingredients on the work surface, first one to go in the pan the closest. For the line-up in this recipe, see the tip below.
The ingredients list given is for 1-2 servings. This dish is only to be eaten with chopsticks... But you’ll reach for a spoon at the end to retrieve the evasive peas!
Singapore Crab Vermicelli
Ingredients (serves 1-2)
Rice vermicelli noodles, 1-2 nests
1 egg (this makes a little too much for 1 serving, sufficient for 2 servings)
1-2 spring onions, white parts sliced, green parts shredded
Red pepper, finely-sliced, 1-2 handfuls
Green chilli, sliced, quantity to taste
½-1 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp turmeric
Pinch or two of cayenne pepper, to taste
½-1 150g tub of white crab meat
Fresh peas (or frozen), cooked, 1-2 handfuls
Beansprouts, 1-2 handfuls (optional)
2-3 tsp light soy sauce
½-1 tsp sesame oil (plus a little extra to make the omelette)
Coriander, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Red chilli, shredded or finely sliced, for garnish
Salt and ground white pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil
Prepare the noodles. Soak them in a bowl of just-boiled water for 3 minutes then drain them, rinse under cold running water and lay them loosely separated on a clean tea towel for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the omelette. Mix the egg with salt and ground white pepper in a bowl. Heat a little sesame oil in a small frying pan and cook the omelette until just before done. Remove to a plate and when cool enough to handle, roll it up and cut into 1cm slices.
Mix the curry powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper and a few pinches of ground white pepper in a small bowl or ramekin.
In another small bowl or ramekin combine the light soy sauce and sesame oil, for the sauce.
Arrange all the prepared ingredients in the order that they will be used (see Tip).
Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium-high heat. Stir fry the peppers, green chilli, and white part of spring onion for about 1 minute. Add the omelette slices and beansprouts, if using, and give them a quick stir. Then add the noodles and the spices and stir well so that the spices lose their raw taste and coat the noodles, about 1 minute. Next add the sauce, allow to bubble and reduce a little, and then add the crab and peas. Stir fry until the crab and peas have warmed, taking care not to break any chunks of crab too much.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the green part of spring onion, the red chilli and the coriander. Serve immediately.
To help with the quick-cook nature of a stir-fry it's handy to arrange the prepared ingredients in the order they will be used, with (A) closest to the pan, (G) furthest: (A) Red pepper, green chilli, white part of spring onion (B) Cooked omelette slices, beansprouts (if using) (C) Soaked noodles (D) Spices (E) Sauce (F) Crab, peas (G) Green part of spring onion, red chilli, coriander
Whilst on a trip to the Far East encompassing visits to Singapore and Thailand amongst other countries, I was amused to find that in Singapore they drink Tiger beer, whereas in Thailand they drink Singha beer. Surely it should be the other way round!? Anyway, the fact is the beer they drink in Singapore is Tiger, so let’s skip the wine for this one and keep our eye on the Tiger.
"Where are Singapore noodles from if not from Singapore?", South China Morning Post, accessed 19 August 2019: https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/news-trends/article/3004285/where-are-singapore-noodles-if-they-are-not-singapore
"How to make perfect Singapore noodles", Felicity Cloake, The Guardian, accessed 19 August 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/oct/02/how-to-make-perfect-singapore-noodles
"Singapore Noodles (Recipe & Ingredients)", School of Wok, accessed 19 August 2019: https://schoolofwok.co.uk/tips-and-recipes/singapore-noodles-1
"Delicious Singapore Noodle Stir Fry Recipe! Wok Wednesdays", School of Wok, YouTube, accessed 19 August 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdkuNC9ne5Y