Text and images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
Ngoh Hiong, which is essentially means five flavours in Hokkien, also refers to the dialect’s dish of sausage-esque roll consisting of minced pork flavoured with none other than five-spice powder, rolled in bean curd skin and deep-fried.
While the traditional version can be found at the two famous ngoh hiong stalls at Maxwell market, Hup Kee Wu Xiang Guan Chang and China Street Fritters, many households have come up with variations on the theme by adding prawns and water chestnuts, creating a cross between hae cho (deep-fried prawn roll) and ngoh hiong.
I make a hybrid Ngo Hiong such as this at home too and I can tell you straight out that it is not easy to make a nice one which is juicy. The problem is that if there are only prawns and pork in the mixture, Ngoh Hiong tends to be dry and tough.
So how can you soften the filling?
My grandmother, as I found out one day, throws in some tau kwa to compound up the dryness of the meat. As I’m curious whether the professionals use this technique too, I sounded it out with Mr Teo Ho Soon of Hup Kee Five Spice Fritter at Maxwell hawker centre.
“There are many ways to soften the meat,” he says hesitantly. And after a long pause: “But I can tell you honestly, your grandmother is right!”
Hail to the wise old lady!
Before you hurry to try out this recipe, just a few more tips: Do not replace tau kwa with tofu because the latter has too much water content. Also, when you buy the minced pork, remember to ask the butcher to mix in some fats because well… that’s where the makers bury the flavours!
350g minced pork meat
150g fresh prawns, deshelled, deveined and chopped
150g tau kwa, squashed
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cloves shallots, minced
4 water chestnuts, minced
1tbsp 5 spice powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp light sauce
3 tbsp corn starch
2 egg yolks (set aside the egg white for later use)
10 pieces bean curd skin, 30cm by 20cm
Mix everything (except bean curd skin).
Lay bean curd skin on a dry table and then use a damp cloth to wipe off the saltiness of the skin.
Rub a thin layer of egg white over the bean curd skin.
Lay the meat mixture 3cm from the top of the length of the bean curd skin.
Roll it over once and then fold in both end of the sheet and continue to roll until you come to the end.
Rub some egg white along the edge and then seal it.
Now steam the ngoh hiong (begin with boiling water) for about 7 minutes. Make sure there’s a gap between each roll so that the skins do not stick together.
Remove the ngoh hiong from the heat and leave them to cool.
Cut into small pieces and then fry over medium heat until golden browned.