Vegetarian Bee Hoon (Zai Mi Fen): This is a favourite (but not so healthy) breakfast food in Singapore. My healthier version uses less oil and zero MSG, with just one small indulgence – crispy mock goose – without which zai mi fen wouldn’t quite be zai mi fen.
Do you like to eat Zai Mi Fen (Vegetarian Bee Hoon) for breakfast? Every week after doing our marketing, my husband and I would usually adjourn to the hawker centre for our breakfast. After walking a few rounds, we would ultimately end up at the Zai Mi Fen stall, because for a long time we perceived it to be a ‘healthy food’ because it is vegetarian. Of course we were wrong.
As you know, Zai Mi Fen is basically bee hoon (or rice vermicelli) fried with carrot, cabbage and bean sprouts which often has not much taste on its own. To make the vegetarian bee hoon more palatable, heaps of monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to enhance the taste when you buy it from outside. Moreover, Zai Mi Fen from the hawker centre is often accompanied by deep-fried mock meat, deep-fried bean curd, mock char siew and greasy vegetables, all of which are laden with MSG, colouring, flavouring and oil – a lot of hidden calories! After a few times, we decided to strike this off our list of hawker breakfast options.
However because we still love our Zai Mi Fen, I decided to make my own healthy version at home – less oil and minus the MSG, flavourings and colourings of the mock meats. My version is made of all vegetables and bee hoon, except for one small indulgence – crispy fried mock goose (made of sweet bean curd) – because Zai Mi Fen simply would not be Zai Mi Fen if there was no crispy mock goose! To me, the crispy mock goose is one of the best parts of the dish that I can’t do without. Remember to keep it stored in an air tight container after it is completely cooled, in order to retain the crispiness.
Are you also a Zai Mi Fen fen? If so, why not try this out my healthier recipe at home one day and see how it compares to the hawker versions that you love?
- 400 grams Bee Hoon 1 packet
- 1 sheet Mock Goose
- 1 rice bowl Oil For frying
- 4-5 cloves Garlic
- 250 grams Carrots About 2 medium sized
- 200 grams Cabbage
- 700 ml Vegetable Stock
- 1 1/2 tbsp Mushroom Sauce
- 1 - 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Light Soy Sauce
- 2 tsp Shallot Oil See our Crispy Shallot recipe (link below)
- 1 dash Pepper
- Bean Sprouts (Tow Gay) 50 cents worth
- 2 sprigs Spring Onion
- 1/2 bowl Crispy Shallots See our Crispy Shallot recipe (link below)
- 1/2 bowl Pickled Green Chilli , 1/2 bowl
- Soak the Bee Hoon in room temperature / tap water for 30 - 40 mins until soft. Drain and rinse, then drain dry.
- Peel off the skin of the carrot and shred thinly.
- Remove the roots of the bean sprout. Wash and drain dry.
- Wash the cabbage and cut into pieces of about 1 inch wide and 2 inch long.
- Wash the spring onion and cut it into small pieces.
Cut the mock goose into 1-inch squares. Do not wash.
- Remove the skin of the garlic and chop finely.
In the wok, add about 1 bowl of oil over medium low heat, then deep fry the mock goose in small batches until golden brown.
Remove and place it on a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. Place immediately into an air tight container once it cools to room temperature. Pour out the excess oil from the wok into a bowl.
- In a wok, add 2 TBsp of oil over medium heat. Add 2 tsp of chopped garlic and fry till aromatic but be careful to stir constantly so it won't get burnt.
Next add in the bean sprouts and fry for about 3 mins. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
In the same wok, add 2 tsp oil over high heat. Add in 1 tsp of garlic and fry till aromatic. Next, add in the carrot and fry for a minute or two, then add in the cabbage. Fry until the cabbage and carrot are limp. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Pour the vegetable stock into the wok over high heat.
Then add in 1 1/2 TBsp of mushroom sauce, 1-1 1/2tsp salt, 2 tsp light soya sauce, 2 tsp of shallot oil and a dash of pepper to the stock and let it boil.
Once it's boiling, lower the heat to medium, add in the bee hoon and toss it with a pair of chopstick constantly until the stock has been absorbed by the bee hoon.
- Taste to see if it is salty enough and the bee hoon is soft enough. More water and light sauce can be added if it is not salty or the bee hoon is still hard.
Lastly add in the cabbage, carrot and bean sprouts, and toss with chopsticks until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Transfer to serving dish and garnish with spring onion, crispy shallots and mock goose. Serve with pickled green chilli.
- You can get the mock goose (or sweet crispy bean sheet) from any stall which sells vegetarian ingredients at the wet market (these stalls will have the word Zai displayed in front of it). The stall holders commonly refer to the mock goose as Zai(1) Er(2) (Mandarin for Vegetarian Goose). Here's a picture of the brand that I used - tastes very good. So far I've not been able to find this at the supermarket, only at the wet market, and only at the vegetarian stalls.
- Soak the bee hoon in room temperature room, not boiling water, otherwise it will break easily during frying.
- I like to buy Chilli Brand bee hoon - I find that it does not break so easily compared to other brands I have tried.
- Be careful when you fry the mock goose as it gets burnt very easily. You need to control the heat. Initially to heat up the oil, you can use medium heat, but not high heat, because the mock goose is oily and therefore gets heated up very fast. When the oil is heated up, add in the mock goose. Once it starts to change color, lower the heat to medium low. When it turns light brown, lower the heat further and continue to fry until it turns golden.
- You need to fry the vegetables separately because each one has a different cooking time. For example if the bean sprout is overcooked it will become too soft, whereas we want it to be slightly crunchy to complement the bee hoon which has a soft texture.
- If you plan to keep some leftovers, set aside a portion of the vegetarian bee hoon before you add the bean sprouts to the bee hoon to fry. Bean sprouts turn bad very quickly, so once it is added to the bee hoon, it needs to be consumed shortly after, and it is not advisable to store it overnight.
- You can make your own vegetable stock in advance. Please look out for my vegetable stock recipe which is on the way.
- You can also add in French Bean ( shredded) and mushroom (shredded) to the Zai Mi Fen if you like.
- You can save time chopping garlic by doing all the chopping in batches and always keeping a jar of chopped garlic in your refrigerator because it is used in so many Chinese dishes. Best to use a glass jar with a metal lid to help keep the garlic fresh and aromatic!
- The best garlic to use is mature garlic which is sold as a single clove, rather than young garlic which is sold in an entire bulb. Young garlic tends to turn greenish in colour once chopped, and it is not as flavourful as mature garlic!
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Baby/Toddler-Friendly: Suitable for toddlers and up.
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: Skip the crispy mock goose as the soya sauce used to flavour the bean curd is likely to contain gluten.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Vegan: No modifications needed.
- Vegetarian: No modifications needed
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