An Excerpt From:
Noodles Every Day
Delicious Asian Recipes from Ramen to Rice Sticks
by Corinne Trang
Photographs by Maura McEvoy
Chronicle Books, San Francisco
Available on Amazon.com here.
Excerpt by permission of the publisher.
Here I explore the idea that these small Asian snack dishes can be the foundations for quick, healthful, and wondrously varied meals, which can be prepared by any home cook. Most include only a few ingredients, go from package and cutting board to skillet and table in about 30 minutes or less, and require no special skills or foreknowledge of Asian cooking to prepare. They can be enjoyed by dyed-in-the-wool meat eaters, vegetarians of all stripes, and serious vegans--depending on the recipe selected and how the ingredients are parsed out. Almost everything you need to succeed in creating great recipes and bold flavors can be found in the international foods aisle of your local supermarket. And the recipes in this book will allow you to extend your range once you master the basics. In essence, if you can make spaghetti, you can cook these dishes.
My hope, then, is to wrestle the extraordinary diversity of Asian noodles into a few categories, and to proceed wtih a sense of adventure and invention. Broadly speaking, you can group Asian noodles into dry and fresh types, and break them down by main ingredient from there. Surprisingly, perhaps, you won't need any extensive understanding of country of origin because most of these noodles are used all throughout Asia. When it makes sense, I give the name of the Italian pasta that is roughly equivalent as a sort of shorthand. When an item is unusual or especially suited to a dish, I do identify it as such. And I give the traditional names of specific dishes and note their roots when appropriate.
Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Fish Sauce
This sweet and sour fish sauce dip is made spicy with chopped chilies and garlic, while fresh-squeezed lime or lemon gives it a sour edge. Called nuoc cham or nuoc mam cham in Vietnamese, it is the ubiquitous condiment of the Vietnamese table. Drizzle it over grilled meat set atop thin rice noodles tossed with shredded vegetables for refreshing fare, perfect for summer.
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced or minced
1 to 2 fresh red Thai chilies, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced or minced
In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the lime or lemon juice and add the garlic and chilies. Let steep for 20 minutes or so before serving. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Asian-Style Kirby Pickles
I don't know about you, but I like to nibble on sweet, salty, and tangy vegetable pickles with my meals. They help digest food and provide balance during the meal, especially when you are eating starchy foods like noodles. They also whet the appetite, which is probably why they are served the minute you sit down in many Asian restaurants. I call for kirby, Persian, or Japanese cucumbers, all of which are slender when compared to regular cucumbers. Kirby and Persian pickles are 4 to 5 inches long, while Japanese cucumbers are a couple of inches longer. The pickling liquid here is traditionally used for pickling sliced cucumber, carrots, and daikon, so feel free to try these vegetables as well. The amount of pickling liquid may look inadequate, but there will be enough because the cucumbers give up some of their natural water while sitting in the brine.
12 kirby, Persian, or Japanese cucumbers, quartered lengthwise (see Note)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup rice vinegar
1 to 2 red Thai chilies, stemmed, seeded, and halved or coarsely chopped (optional)
In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the salt. Let stand for 1 hour. Drain, wipe, and transfer them to a large resealable plastic bag.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and rice vinegar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into the large plastic bag containing the cucumbers, and add the chiles (if using). Seal the bag, squeezing any air out. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. The longer the vegetables macerate, the more pickled they will taste.
Note: If you like a milder flavor, pickle these small cucumbers whole. Serves 6.
Udon with Braised Sweet and Spicy Beef Short Ribs
Beef short ribs are rich, and they make for great winter dishes. Here the short ribs are braised in a caramel sauce spiced with chilies, star anise, and five-spice powder until fork-tender. Green beans are added to the stew and cooked until just tender. The succulent meat and green beans are served over the noodles with some of the braising liquids. If you like, serve Japanese pickled ginger on the side for a delicious counterpoint to the sweet and spicy flavor notes.
The longer it rests, the tastier this dish will be, so braise the ribs the day before you plan to serve them, if possible. I tend to serve less noodles than normal with this hearty dish. The pork butt (shoulder) makes for an equally delicious variation.
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
4 12-ounce bottles amber ale
3/4 cup thin soy sauce
3 ounces ginger, thinly sliced
6 dried whole red chilies or fresh red Thai chilies
8 scallions, trimmed and lightly crushed
1 garlic head, cloves peeled and lightly crushed
6 whole star anise
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
4 pounds beef short ribs, or 4 pounds pork butt, cut into large chunks
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 pound fresh or 8 to 10 ounces dried udon, or 12 ounces fresh Chinese wheat noodles
In a large pot, heat the sugar and vinegar over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and turns into a rich golden color, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the ale and soy sauce and stir to melt the hardened caramel. Add the ginger, chilies, scallions, garlic, star anise, and five-spice powder and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the meat, and simmer partially covered, until the meat is fork-tender or falls off the bones about 4 hours for short ribs and 2 hours for pork butt.
Before you're ready to serve, scatter the green beans on top of the meat and cook, covered, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium to large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until tender yet firm, about 5 minutes for dried udon, 10 seconds for fresh udon, or 2 minutes for fresh Chinese wheat noodles. Drain. To serve, divide the noodles among individual shallow bowls, and top with the tender braised beef or pork, green beans, and juices.
Somen Noodles with Shrimp Curry and Peas
Thin wheat noodles, such as Japanese somen, are perfect for light dishes such as this. The bright green color of the peast is complemented by the yellow turmeric-based curry marinade in which the shrimp are cooked The pungeng flavors of garlic and lemon zest offer a subtle, bitter counterpoint to the sweet and tangy character of the dish.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 ounce ginger, finely grated
Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces dried somen
24 small headless tiger shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise, and deveined
1 cup fresh shelled or frozen green peas, or 1 1/2 cups edamame (thawed if frozen)
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
In a medium bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic, ginger, curry powder, lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the shrimp, toss, and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the somen until tender yet firm, about 2 minutes. Shock in ice-cold water. Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
In a large skillet over high heat, add the remaning 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté the shrimp with the marinade for about 1 minute. Add the peas or edamame and toss for 1 minute more. Add the shrimp and peas with their sauce to the noodles. Mix well and divide among large individual bowls or plates. Serve garnished with scallions.
Wonton Strips with Spicy Crab and Bacon Stir-Fry
Square dumpling wrappers are not just for making dumplings. They can also be cut into short, 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide strips and cooked with delicious results. This spicy crab-and-bacon stir-fry combination was given to me by an Indonesian friend living in New England. Indonesians love hot, spicy foods, and this dish is no exception. Feel free to add the fresh chilies to your taste. I do not use oil for this stir-fry. The bacon usually has enough fat for stir-frying the other ingredients.
1 pound fresh square dumpling wrappers, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide strips or 1 pound fresh broad rice noodles
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces sliced bacon
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 scallions, trimmed and minced
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed to 8 to 10 inches and grated (see page 23)
3 to 4 red Thai chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced
12 to 16 ounces lump crabmeat
1 cup fresh shelled green peas, or frozen peas, thawed
Freshly gound black pepper
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the dumpling-wrapper noodles until tender yet firm, about 1 minute. Drain, toss with the oil, and divide among individual soup bowls or plates.
In a wok or large skillet over high heat, stir-fry the bacon until it renders its fat and is crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, shallot, scallions, lemongrass, and chilies, and continue to stir-fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the crabmeat and peas and toss well. Season with the fish sauce and pepper to taste and divide among the servings of noodles. Serve hot.