This warming Chinese soup is full of slippery homemade noodles surrounded by a full-flavoured anchovy stock. If you’ve never made noodles before, never fear, they are very easy. If you have a pasta machine you can use that for rolling and cutting the noodles; if not, just roll the dough as thin as you can and slice into strips with a small, sharp knife.
To make the noodles, add the flour, oil, egg, salt and 75ml cold water to a food mixer. Use the dough hook to mix together and knead until smooth, about 4–5 minutes. Alternatively, mix and knead by hand. Wrap tightly in cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour, or up to 24 hours.
In a large pan, add approximately two-thirds of the anchovies to 2 litres cold water. Add the garlic, the peelings from the shallots (they will give the soup a great colour) and the peppercorns. Set the pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook uncovered for an hour. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan, discarding the solids.
Place the vegetable oil in a wok and set over a high heat. Once hot, tip in the shallots and fry, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Add the remaining anchovies and fry until crisp, again scooping out and draining on kitchen paper. Roughly chop and set aside.
To make the noodles, unwrap the chilled dough and cut into 4 even pieces, dusting each lightly in flour all over. If you have a pasta machine, roll each piece of dough as thinly as possible. Then switch to the cutting roller and cut into long, thin strips (like tagliatelle). Dust the noodles in more flour before mounding on to a plate or baking tray. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. If you are rolling by hand, dust the worktop and roll each piece into a long sheet, trying to get it as thin as possible. Then use a small, sharp knife to cut into strips, dusting them as you go and piling them on to the plate or baking tray.
Bring the strained stock back up to the boil and add the mushrooms. Simmer for a minute before adding the prawns and choi sum or pak choi. Simmer for another minute or two until the prawns are just turning pink all over. Add the noodles, stirring with a fork as you go to stop them from clumping, and let them simmer for a couple of minutes until almost tender but with a little bite. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and a little sesame oil.
Crack in the eggs, spacing them out as much as possible. Let them simmer, undisturbed, on top of the soup until they are just cooked to your liking – a minute or two for softly poached.
Serve the soup immediately in deep bowls, making sure everybody gets an egg, three prawns and plenty of noodles. Garnish with the fried shallots and crisp anchovy pieces, then some hot chilli sauce to shake over as you eat (or slurp!).