Spicy Fried Noodles


It’s good to eat spicy things during the cold winter months. Legend has it that before Mao Zedong (AKA Chairman Mao) crossed a series of snowy mountains with his ragtag band during the Long March, he made his troops each consume a bowl of hot chili pepper soup. The heat in your mouth distracts you from the cold outside, at least in theory. With this in mind, I bring you a simple and fast spicy Asian dish: fried noodles.

Fried noodles is a very simple dish with many variations and cooking methods. Some fried noodle dishes call for using a mixture of corn starch and water to create a thick sauce. For this particular dish, my vision is to create a light, dry fried noodle dish that concentrates all the flavors and aromas in the ingredients.

Ingredients

Which cuisine reigns supreme? THE HEAT WILL BE ON! (kudos if you get the reference ;0)

Listed ingredients are approximations for a single serving. Multiply as needed.

5-6 oz noodles*
1/2 tbsp Garlic chili sauce
1/2 tbsp Spicy black bean sauce
Garlic**
Cooking oil
Cooking wine
Salt
Pepper
Coriander***
2 oz ground pork
half an Onion, cut into strips
2 oz bamboo shoots****

Optional*****:
2 oz bean sprouts
green onions, cut into strips

*This wouldn’t be a TGC installment without impromptu substitutions. I use angel hair pasta. Italian pastas are fantastic in general because they are cheap, easy to find, and very sturdy (as in they do not tear/congeal easily). If you look in your nearest major Asian goods store you should be able to find a wide variety of noodles suitable for stir-frying. These noodles often come raw and have a nice bouncy texture. If in a pinch I think you can even use instant ramen noodles. I don’t recommend you use actual ramen noodles, however.

**I didn’t have any, but they are nice. Garlic powder is an acceptable ghetto substitute.

***Coriander is nice but it can be annoying to get the little seeds stuck in your teeth. If this is a problem for you, pour a teaspoon of coriander seeds onto your cutting board. Place the flat of your knife over the seeds and apply pressure with your hand to crack open the seeds. Soak in 1/4 cup of warm water at least half an hour beforehand. Strain the seeds out and use the coriander flavored water when necessary.

****Kind of optional, but they definitely fit my vision for this dish. Bamboo shoots are great vegetables because they maintain their crispy texture even after being cooked for a long time. You can try substituting artichoke hearts, asparagus, or just adding more onion.

*****These are ingredients I did not use, but feel free to experiment. Add them if you want your fried noodles to have a bit of light, refreshing counterbalance to the heavy spiciness.

Make sure your bamboo shoots are from the Porn Coconut Company. I'm certain this is somehow important to the outcome of your dish.

Cooking

About an hour before cooking, slightly marinate your ground meat by flavoring it with salt, pepper, and a dash of cooking wine. Refrigerate.

Start by preparing your pasta. Fill a large pot with water, add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil. Cook your pasta/noodles as per the directions on the box for al dente, minus one minute (cook for 1 minute less than instructed on the box). Drain the pasta, then dump it into a container. Toss the pasta with about a tablespoon of cooking oil to prevent it from sticking. Set aside.

Pouring oil all over your mother's body. I mean your mother's boobs. I mean the noodles. THE NOODLES.

While the pasta water is boiling, slice your half-onion and drain your bamboo shoots. On the off chance you’re using fresh bamboo shoots (yah right), slice them into slivers.

It's not the onions. I'm teary eyed because Thorzain isn't winning the IGN proleague SXSW votes. *sniff*

Now it’s time to really start cooking. I recommend using either a large non-stick pot or a wok. Crank the heat up to medium-high and add about a tablespoon of cooking oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add garlic (if you have it), onions, and ground meat. The key is to lightly brown your onions and ground meat. Do this by refraining from stirring too often. Stir the mixture a bit, let it sit for 30 seconds, then stir it again. This will let the pan-side of the onions and meat become slightly burnt (brown), resulting in a ton of flavor.

Here be onions and pork in a pot

Meat, onion. Onion, meat.

Once this mixture has been cooking for a few minutes, add your chili garlic sauce and spicy black bean sauce. Adjust to your taste. If you like very spicy, add more sauce, but also remember that the sauces add salt as much as they add spiciness. With the amount of sauce I added (1/2 tablespoon of each) I only needed a very small pinch of additional salt. Cook the mixture for about a minute while cranking the heat up to high.

Add your noodles and bamboo shoots at the same time. Stir vigorously. I recommend using chopsticks for this stage since it can be hard to toss noodles about with a spatula. Salt and pepper to taste at this stage.

The most important thing about frying the noodles is that they shouldn’t stick to the bottom of your wok. If they do, then either the heat isn’t high enough, you’re using the wrong type of pot/pan, or you aren’t stirring often enough.

The noodles should also be very dry. Once you’ve cooked the noodles for about a minute, it should be safe to add the coriander water. Continue to cook until all the liquid has dried. If you are also using green onions and/or bean sprouts, add them two minutes before the dish is done. Plate and serve hot.

Result

This is like, what would happen to the flying spaghetti monster if he ever gets caught in China

4.5 / 5 I’m fairly satisfied with this dish, although I do feel that something is missing. I’m not quite sure what, but I’ll be sure to re-explore this dish in the future. It’s quite good in its current form. The dryness of this dish allows the individual ingredients to stand out and speak for themselves, when otherwise the might be buried under a heavy sauce.

EDIT: I figured out what was missing! Five-spiced bean curd, sliced into strips. They are a type of aromatic soy product with a texture similar to extra-firm tofu. Not exactly the most obvious of ingredients to be “missing”, but they should complete the flavor of this dish. Here is a photo (courtesy of Google) of what it looks like:

Five spice bean curd

They can be found in your nearest Asian supermarket and come in blocks packaged with laminated plastic. These should be added to your dish at the same time as the bamboo shoots. Be careful while stirring though, since bean curd can easily fragment if handled roughly.

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