Kerabu meehoon is a simple salad that comprises rice vermicelli noodles, some chicken and prawns, and lots of vegetables and aromatics. It is essentially a peranakan dish where all the ingredients are finely and meticulously sliced and then tossed together in a spicy tangy dressing.
If you’re looking for a refreshing idea for lunch on a hot day, this dish gives you a balanced meal without creating too much heat in the kitchen because the only ingredients that need to be cooked are the chicken and prawns which are just steamed. The other ingredients are either eaten raw or just scalded in hot water and drained.
Remember not to soak the noodles in hot water for too long or they will get soggy. Drain them after 15 minutes and set aside in a wire mesh strainer to get rid of any access water.
Even the dried shrimps only need a brief soaking in hot water so that they retain a bite.
The traditional method for preparing the chicken is to steam them, then shred them by hand to create the pulled meat texture. To prevent them from drying out after shredding, return the meat to the steamed juices to reabsorb the stock.
You may also steaming the prawns separately, but I find that steaming them with the chicken adds a dimension of flavour to the chicken. Just remember to remove the prawns after 5 minutes to avoid overcooking them. The rest of the chicken can then finish cooking with the broth.
If you prefer, you may pound the sambal belacan by hand with a mortar and pestle. The trick to this method is to aim for the seeds with the pestle until no white remains. By then the rest of the skin and pulp would’ve been nicely pounded. Remember to add freshly toasted belacan so that the residual heat will “cook” the sambal and help it keep longer. Finally, season with salt, sugar and calamansi juice to taste.
All the components of this dish may be made ahead of time and set aside until ready to eat. You’ll just need to assemble and then bring to the table to toss and serve immediately as an appetiser or as part of the main meal.
Ready a few additional calamansi halves and sambal belacan for those who like more kick in their noodles. You may also add crushed toasted peanuts for additional crunch.
- 200g rice vermicelli
- 1 boneless chicken leg quarter
- 100g prawn meat, split lengthwise
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 tbsp dried prawns
- 3 bulbs shallots, finely sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass, finely sliced
- 1 bud torch ginger flower, finely sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
- 100g string beans, finely sliced
- 2 tbsp calamansi juice
- 1 tbsp castor sugar to taste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Sambal Belacan:
- 5 red chillies
- 2 bird’s eye chillies
- 25g toasted belacan
- ¼ tsp salt to taste
- ¼ tsp sugar to taste
- 1 tbsp calamansi juice
- Soak rice vermicelli in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain well and set aside.
- Combine all the sambal belacan ingredients in an electric mill and blend into a puree, then set aside until needed.
- Season chicken and prawns with salt and pepper, then steam over boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Remove prawns when cooked, and continue steaming the chicken for another 10 minutes until cooked.
- Remove chicken and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Shred the chicken flesh and return to the steamed liquid for the stock to be absorbed into the pulled meat.
- Prepare all the ingredients, dressing and sambal, and set aside until ready to assemble.
- To assemble, place vermicelli in the bottom of a large bowl and pile each ingredient over the noodles in a colourful arrangement including some stock from the steamed chicken and prawns.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad with a dollop or two of sambal belacan and toss until combined. If noodles are dry, add as much stock as needed but not too much to avoid being soggy or soupy.
- Serve immediately with additional sambal belacan and calamansi lime.