Ban Mian with Anchovy Soup (Block Noodle)

Ban Mian, a handmade noodle served in anchovy soup, or as it is more commonly called in Malaysia: Ban Mee, is a popular noodle dish in Malaysia and Singapore.

Traditionally, it was called Mian-Fen-Guo (wheat snack) but what we can find at hawker stalls is generally called Ban Mian. The current style is a mix between the Hakka (Ke Jia dialect)traditional method and the Hokkien (Fu Jian dialect) traditional method. The Hakka initially made the noodle by shaving off a dough, whilst the Hokkien would roll the dough into a flat piece then hand-tear into bite-size. The name Ban Mian (block noodle) came from the Hakka's method of cutting the noodle into straight strands using a wooden block as ruler. In Hakka, some might call it Man-Foon-Char-Guo.

However, the modern day Ban Mian is a combination of both cultures, and mainly made by using a pasta maker which cuts noodles in all sizes. It is a highly economical dish and you can cook your own at home because it is a fairly easy process. This one is served with soup, you can also try the dry version with soup served separately.

Ingredients - Noodle:

  • 250 gram flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 60 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • Some extra flour for dusting

Ingredients - Soup:

  • 300 gram dried anchovies
  • A handful of dried Mu-Er (wood gungus/black fungus), soaked and cut into thin strips
  • 2-3 Chinese mushroom, soaked and cut into thin strips
  • A pinch of freshly ground pepper and salt
  • 1 bunch of sweet leaf bush (pucuk manis in Malay)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced

Preparation - Noodle:

  1. Place water in a large mixing bowl, gradually add in flour and sea salt and mix well.
  2. When flour and water is mixed into a dough, create a well in the middle of the dough. Pour egg and oil into the well and slowly mix well and knead it till not sticky.
  3. Place the dough in an airtight container or cover it with a cling film, and put aside for about 20 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough into 2-3mm-thick sheet, hand-tear into bite-size pieces or cut into strands with a pasta maker.
  5. Dust the Ban Mian in the extra flour to avoid being stuck into a chunk.

Preparation - Soup and Serving:

  1. Fill up half a large stock pot with water, add in half the amount of anchovies and bring it to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for another 1 hour.
  2. Whilst the stock is brewing, deepfry the remaining anchovies till crispy. Strain and set aside.
  3. Deepfry the onion till crsipy, strain and set aside.
  4. In a medium stock pot, bring about half the pot of water to boil and cook the black fungus strips till soften. Strain and set aside.
  5. Repeat step (3) with Chinese mushroom strips.
  6. Rinse the sweet leaf bush and remove all the leaves into a bowl. Set aside.
  7. Rinse the medium stock pot, fill it with 2 medium bowls of the anchovy stock. Add in the leaves of sweet leaf bush and bring to a boil. Then put in the prepared Ban Mian (whatever amount you wish to eat - usually a handful will feed one). Constantly stir the Ban Mian with a pair of wooden chopsticks to prevent it being stuck together.
  8. When the noodle floats to the surface, turn heat off.
  9. Divide the Ban Mian into 2 serving bowls and pour the soup over. Sprinkle over heaps of mushroom strips, black fungus strips, deepfried anchovies and deepfried onion. Add some freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
  10. Serves 2, with a little more for a small second serving.

Versatility Note:

  1. To remove leaves from the sweet leaf bush stems, hold the stem at the bottom end with your thumb and index finger, run them all the way up to the other end, pressing each leaf off with the finger tips.
  2. You can have either Chinese mushroom or black fungus, or both.
  3. Some meat balls can be added to the stock to add more taste and variety.
  4. Add some chopped spring onion to garnish.
  5. In the event of not having the time to make your own Ban Mian, the dried ones can be found in most supermarkets in Malaysia and Singapore. However, it can never beat the fresh one.