The Singapore Hor Fun is a classic hawker centre (street food) dish of Chinese origin. Soft, flat rice noodles on a bed of gloriously, silky and thick sauce, this is Singaporean Zi Char food at its best!
Zi Char – a Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) term referring to the Chinese stalls found in hawker centres and kopitiams all over Singapore.
Hawker centres – any collection of food stalls selling a variety of dishes. These are found all over Singapore and can be out in the open, with or without covers, or in enclosed, air-conditioned buildings.
Kopitiam – a traditional coffee shop, selling not just coffee and tea but also local food favourites.
Shiok – is what you will say when you eat this and go yummy, that was awesome! It’s a word to describe anything enjoyable or good.
That’s right, stick with me and you’ll pick up some Singlish along with the recipes. That’s Singaporean English!
Let’s talk about the Singapore Hor Fun, or to be grammatically correct, the Singaporean Hor Fun. Beef Hor Fun is probably one of the more popular types sold at hawker centres around the island, but you can also find it made with (and without) so many other meats too: chicken, pork and seafood. What is quite common, is a mixture of meat and seafood, a surf and turf hor fun, if you like, as in the recipe here. Needless to say, this dish is also easily made vegetarian, as you will see below.
Not to be confused with Chow Fun, the dry fried noodle dish many non Singaporeans are familiar with, the Singapore Hor Fun is an entirely different plate of noodles. The Singaporean dried rice noodle dish is called kway teow, or Char Kway Teow to be precise. Char means fry, and Char Kway Teow can be found in many guises all over Singapore and Malaysia; one of my favourites being the Penang Kway Teow, made with cockles. Click here for my Kway Teow recipe.
How to Make Singapore Hor Fun at Home
These are flat, wide and white, rice noodles, wider than the Thai noodles used for Pad Thai. Traditional hor fun noodles are pretty wide and not particularly in long strands. But using kway teow noodles is pretty common practice, so if you can get your hands on those, you’re off to a good start.
Here in the UK, the noodles come folded in packets of about 400g (14 oz) which is enough for 2-3 people depending on whether you intend to have seconds – you will! I usually soak mine in hot water for about 10-15 minutes until they’re pliable enough to untangle without breaking too much.
If you can’t get them, look for any type of rice noodles, the Thai ones will be a good substitute, and if you can’t get those, the thin rice vermicelli ones will have to do.
And if you can’t get any rice noodles? Well, beggars can’t be choosers and all that, grab what you can, and you will still get an awesome noodle dish! There are similar types of noodle dishes found in the region using yellow egg noodles, but those will have to be recipes for another time, eh?
You will need quick cooking cuts of beef, as we will only be flash frying it:
Sirloin – lean and boneless, great for all quick cooking, my favourite
Rib Eye – probably with the most flavour but fattier
Fillet Steaks – very lean and tender
Rump Steaks – firmer but full of flavour
Feather Steaks – taken from the blade, not as well known and are relatively inexpensive. I quite like these, you get flavour without the price tag
I’ve gone for just prawns (shrimps) and squids. Use what you fancy or leave them out completely if you don’t want any seafood in your noodles.
We are using 3 different types of soy sauces in this recipe: light, dark and sweet. Click here to read more about them. You should be able to get them if you live in a large city, or near an Oriental store. Amazon is also always a good source.
As the noodles are made from rice, this is perfect as a gluten free meal. Just be sure to use wheat free/gluten free soy sauces. Tamari, the Japanese soy sauce, is gluten free, and you can always add a large pinch of sugar to make up for the sweet soy sauce.
Vegetarian Hor Fun
Leave out all the meat and use vegetables like mangetouts, sugarsnap peas, beansprouts, and Chinese cabbage, besides the Chinese greens already in the recipe.
Use vegetable stock, which you can make up using a good quality vegetable stockpot or cube, if you like.
Eggs in the Gravy
An optional step is a lightly beaten egg gently stirred into the sauce right at the end, further thickening the sauce/gravy, before pouring it over the noodles. I usually skip the egg.
One last thing: see that tiny little sauce dish in the background in the first picture? That’s a traditional accompaniment to the hor fun and so many other noodle dishes. It contains sliced chillies (fresh or pickled) in light soy sauce. I always have some pickled ones in storage from our excess bounty in the summer. They are, however, very easy to come by. Outside of Asia, you’ll find them at delis or the Mexican aisle of supermarkets.
There you have it folks, another childhood recipe. I did recently make a promise to all my Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian readers for more recipes from the old hometown, and I always deliver!
Let me know what you think. And if you fancy more recipes from Singapore, check out the page here.
- 400g (14oz) fresh flat rice noodles
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp sweet soy sauce (kicap manis)
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp vegetable or peanut oil
- 200g (7oz) quick cook beef
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese Rice wine (not vinegar)/dry sherry
- half tsp ground white pepper
- half tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock (homemade or made up using good quality shop bought stockpot/cube)
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- pinch of sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 Tbsp water
- 2 squid tubes
- 6 large pawns (shrimps)
- 4 stalks Chinese vegetables, like choy sim, tat soi or pak choi (or just the good old spinach)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- some ground white pepper
- Drizzle the sweet and light soy sauces all over the noodles and mix thoroughly, without breaking up the noodles. This is best done with your hands. Set aside.
- Slice the beef up thinly and add all the other ingredients to the beef strips and mix thoroughly. Again, best done with your hands. Set aside to marinate.
- Slice up the squid tubes into thin rings.
- Clean and de-vein the prawns, leaving the shells or at least the tails intact. The shells help to add flavour to the hor fun sauce.
- If your vegetables are large, cut them up in two, separating the green leaves from the stems. Otherwise, leave them whole.
- Heat 1 tsp of vegetable oil in a wok over a high heat and fry the garlic for 15 seconds.
- Throw in the noodles and fry for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring constantly. At the end of the 2 minutes, some of the noodles will be sticking to each other, that's when you know they're done. Dish up onto a serving plate and keep warm on the stovetop as you continue cooking everything else.
- In the same wok, heat the 1 Tbsp of oil, on medium high heat and quickly fry the beef strips for 2-3 minutes. You want the beef to be just cooked, still slightly pink on the inside. However, if you prefer your beef well done, go ahead and do so. Tip the cooked beef strips over the noodles, along with any juices and fat from the wok. Keep warm.
- In the same wok, with no added oil, wilt the vegetables for about 20-30 seconds, you're going for a dark, glossy green. Tip the vegetables onto the beef and noodles.
- Pour your chicken stock, the light soy sauce, the dark soy sauce, the oyster sauce and the sugar into the wok and bring to a boil on high heat.
- When it's boiling, add the prawns, cook for a minute.
- Add the squid, cook for a minute.
- Add the cornflour mix stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
- Take off the heat, drizzle the sesame oil all over and sprinkle a dash of the white pepper.
- Pour all over the noodles and serve immediately.