Javanese Noodles (Mee Java)

This dish, from one of Junior Kitchen’s favorite cook books, was modified slightly but was truly yummy. You know you have a hit on your hands when the table is silent because everyone is so busy eating. Don’t let the length of the recipe put you off! It’s not as involved as it looks at first glance, especially if you make the soup ahead of time.

For the soup/sauce

  • 1 cup of black-eyed peas (We had fresh ones on hand but you can use dry ones; just be sure to soak them overnight. The original recipe calls for pigeon peas, but these were handy – and delicious.)
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil (We used peanut oil.)
  • Generous pinch of ground asafetida (Found at Indian groceries.)
  • 1 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds (We used yellow)
  • 1 medium mild onion, cut finely
  • 1 fresh, hot chili pepper, cut into slivers.
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, give or take
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (The original recipe calls for tamarind pulp, but offers lime as a substitute.)

Put the black-eyed peas in 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer on low very gently for one hour. Mash the peas against the sides of the pan and set aside.

Put the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the asafetida. Five seconds later, put in the mustard seeds. Wait another 5 seconds and add the onion and chili pepper. Stir and cook 2 minutes or until slightly brown. Add the curry powder and stir twice. Add the tomatoes and stir for a minute. Add the cilantro, salt and 3/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft. Now add the tomato mixture to the cooked black-eyed peas. Add another 1 1/2 cups of water and the lime juice. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low, simmer for 15 minutes, and the soup’s done. It can be cooked ahead of time and reheated when needed.

For the Garnishes

  • 4 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into slivers
  • 2 fresh red or green chili peppers
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs

Put the oil in a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the onion. Stir and fry, turning the heat down as you proceed, until the slivers are dark reddish-brown and crisp (this took us a little over five minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and spread out on paper towels. Save the oil in the small frying pan. Cut the chilis into fine slivers. Peel hard-boiled eggs and cut them into quarters. The original recipe also called for fresh bean sprouts as a garnish, but we didn’t have any and didn’t feel like getting any. The onions are really essential, though.

For the Pasta

  • Salt
  • 3/4 pound pasta (We used Chinese wheat noodles and spaghetti mixed together; fettucini would be a good substitute, too)
  • 1 whole hot red chili pepper (We substituted a generous pinch of dry pepper flakes.)

Just before you sit down to eat, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt. Stir. Drop in the pasta.

While the noodles cook, put the frying pan with the reserved oil on medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start to pop, a matter of seconds, put in the red chili. Stir once or twice, or until the chili darkens, and pour the oil and seasonings into a large bowl. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix. As soon as the pasta is ready, drain it and put it into the bowl with the oil. Toss thoroughly.

To serve, stir the soup from the bottom and put about 3/4 cup in each of 6 soup plates. Divide the pasta and put a mound in the center of each plate. Scatter the garnishes evenly over the top. Serve immediately.

boy eating javanese noodles